RAB NOAKES – Welcome To Anniversaryville (Neon Records NEONCD021)

AnniversaryvilleI was delighted to receive a review copy of the new Rab Noakes CD Welcome To Anniversaryville – scheduled for release on the 13th July 2018 – especially as I had previously reviewed and enjoyed his EP The Treatment Tapes. I mention the earlier EP because it was released in the wake of his recovery from tonsillar cancer. It’s good to hear him again sounding so comfortable with his own voice performing an outstanding collection of songs, in the company of a fine assortment of players and singers. The recording session followed his 70/50 in 2017 concert in Glasgow, using the songs and the band from that concert as the jumping-off point for the album.

  1. Rab’s ‘Let The Show Begin’, with its line “there’s no stoppin’ now“, is described as “a remnant reference” to the previous CD: I have to agree that it makes a perfect start to the CD.
  2. ‘It All Joins Up (In The End)’ is appropriately described in the booklet as “a celebration of a ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll lifespan’“, despite having its origins in that slightly dizzying moment when you realize that you’re older than your father was when he died. (Yes, I know that one…) A fine example of Rab’s ability to generate a positive experience from what in other hands might be steeped in sadness.
  3. This new recording of ‘Together Forever’ may bring back happy memories of Lindisfarne, champions of Rab’s songs in the 70s. But if you don’t remember the song from that era, you have a treat in store.
  4. ‘Gently Does It’ is Rab’s song from 1985, a tribute to Alex Campbell, by then a “shadow of his former, formidable self“, urging him to slow down. (Sadly, Alex died a couple of years later.)
  5. ‘Oh Me, Oh My’ recalls (perhaps deliberately) the folk/country crossover feel of later Rick Nelson.
  6. Though a prolific and talented songwriter in his own right, Rab has never been reluctant to cast his nets wider than his own work. In the first few tracks, we see this in the references to ‘We Can Work It Out’ in the second track or to Alex Campbell’s ‘Been On The Road’ in the fourth track, but there are also a few cover versions in this set. ‘Just One Look’ was a 60s hit for co-writer and well-known session singer Doris Troy, though UK readers may remember it better as a hit for the Hollies, among others. Nice backup harmonies here.
  7. ‘TCB (Working Man And Working Woman’ takes a sideswipe at class-ridden British society, recalling the theme of the last verse of his 1970s song ‘Turn A Deaf Ear’ (not included here): “Every peg into its own hole was what he seemed to say/And that no one should go looking for a better place to stay“.
  8. ‘The Handwash Feein’ Market’ also essays a little social content, inspired by the resemblance of the hiring process at his local carwash to the agricultural feeing markets of yesteryear.
  9. ‘Long Black Veil’ is the country ballad first recorded by Lefty Frizzell in the 50s and subsequently recorded by Joan Baez, Johnny Cash and many others.
  10. ‘The Twa Corbies/An Dà Fheammaog’ is a fascinating meld of an ancient and chilling Scots ballad – with Rab singing lead – and a version translated into Scots Gaelic by Seonaidh MacIlleathain, sung by Kathleen MacInnes.
  11. ‘Tramps And Immigrants’ is also performed as a medley of ‘Tramps And Hawkers’ and Dylan’s melodically very similar ‘I Pity The Poor Immigrant’. It works rather well.
  12. ‘Still In Town’ is a classic country song recorded at least twice by Johnny Cash.
  13. ‘A Voice Over My Shoulder’ is another of Rab’s own songs, apparently in remembrance of long-time musical associate Robin McKidd.
  14. ‘Jackson Greyhound’ is a bluesy reminiscence of a 2013 road-trip in the US.
  15. Rab’s song ‘London Town’ rings quite a few bells with me, having lived in and enjoyed a love/hate relationship with the city for some 25 years. However, for me it’s better revisited in song than in person at this point…
  16. ‘Anniversary Song’ is the song by Al Jolson and Saul Chaplin you may know better from its first line, “Oh how we danced on the night we were wed“.
  17. Kathleen MacInnes takes lead vocals on the country classic ‘Tennessee Waltz’: this was the encore at the concert, and is, as Rab notes, “the ideal way to close this album.

While his vocals here are not as strong as I remember from the 70s, this is an excellent album. After all, any album that includes Rab Noakes songs is fine by me, and the covers have their usual idiosyncratic charm. And the band is very good indeed: not in terms of show-stopping ‘look-at-me’ solos, but exactly the right vocal and instrumental support for a fine and varied selection of songs.

David Harley

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist’s website: www.rabnoakes.com

‘Together Forever’ – live but not too long ago:

Rab Noakes announces new album

Welcome to Anniversaryville released on Friday 13th July 2018

Rab Noakes
Photograph by Brian Aris

In February of 2017 Rab Noakes performed a well-attended, highly-acclaimed concert, with his ‘70/50 in 2017’ band of musicians at Glasgow’s Old Fruitmarket, as part of that year’s Celtic Connections festival. That concert, its songs and its players form the backbone of this record. The songs are mostly by Rab and span nearly 50 years of songwriting from ‘Together Forever’ [1969] to ‘It All Joins Up (In The End)’ [2017]. They form a sequence which contains interpretations of songs from a diverse range of sources from Scots traditional to Scots Gaelic to Al Jolson to Doris Troy to Pee Wee King to Marijohn Wilkins.

The band members are a rich mixture of people, some of whom Rab has worked with before and some he hadn’t. Some of them had played together before and some hadn’t. They are Stuart Brown – drums; Christine Hanson – cello; Jill Jackson – guitar, singing; Kathleen MacInness – singing; Una McGlone – double-bass; Lisbee Stainton – 8-string guitar, banjo, singing; Innes Watson – fiddle, guitar, singing. A broad range of songs was chosen, and rehearsed, for the concert. It was an easy decision to reach to arrange to visit the recording studio on the weekend immediately following it. Over those three days, the backbone of this record was laid. Some of the songs were performed live in the studio.

Some were laid as backing tracks. New tunes, awaiting lyrics, were laid and Welcome To Anniversaryville  was well underway. In no hurry, so not using up a large amount of days, John Cavanagh, Stephy Pordage and I were in John’s upstairs room, in Muirend, with musicians coming to complete this work. Sometimes they were alone, at other times there were two, even three, of them at a time. Guest musicians appeared such as Davie Craig – fiddle, singing; Alex Gascoine – violin; Sue McKenzie – baritone plus soprano sax and Emily Tse – bass trombone. In time the seventeen tracks were worked on to a satisfactory conclusion.

Rab says, “It’s all too easy for artists to believe their latest is their best work. It’s seldom true and, in any case, it takes time for that to be proved. In this case though, for me, it may well be true. The quality of the contributions from all involved, the attitude and sound achieved alongside the subject matters of the songs and their provenance does seem to add up to something. I always strive to make a record only I can make. I leave it to you to put that to the test”.

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist’s website: http://rabnoakes.com/

‘Jackson Greyhound’ – live with Jill Jackson:

RAB NOAKES – The Treatment Tapes EP (Neon Records NEONCD018)

Treatment TapesI haven’t heard much of singer/songwriter Rab Noakes since the early 1970s, when he was associated with Lindisfarne, Gerry Rafferty and others, as well as working as a highly-rated soloist. So I jumped at the chance of reviewing The Treatment Tapes EP – due for release on January 20th 2017 – not least because I have fond memories of his 1975 album Never Too Late. When it arrived, it turned out to be very different to that album, and with good reason.

As Rab himself notes: “The background to this collection of songs is the aging process and some of the things that visit us as we progress through the years.” Well, few of us of his vintage write or perform in the same way that we did in the 70s. However, when I realized that one of the things that had visited him was tonsillar cancer, and that the songs here were written in the period subsequent to his radiotherapy and chemotherapy, I fed it to my stereo with some trepidation. But there was nothing to fear. This is emphatically not an exercise in self-indulgence, but the well-crafted, life-affirming music of an artist who’s gone through a frightening experience and used it to create art. Or, in his own words: “…it’s what we do creatively. We utilise experience and observation of, and response to, life’s ingredients, add a helping of imagination and deliver a work.” Certainly these songs will stand well alone even for listeners who aren’t aware of the backstory.

While the CD notes mention the possibility of a “wee rasp” such vocal rasps evaded my elderly ear. There is, perhaps, a slight fragility about his delivery in places – due, perhaps, to the “phlegm and saliva-based” issues mentioned in the notes – but it doesn’t detract from the overall impact of the project, as far as I’m concerned.

The songs here are ordered chronologically, All are credited to Rab except for ‘Mindful’, which is co-credited to his wife Stephy Pordage. The songs vocals and guitars are credited to Rab, supported by Stuart Brown (percussion), Una McGlone (double bass), Atzi Muramatsu (cello) and Anne Rankin (oboe).

As is customary, here’s the track-by-track listing.

  1. ‘Fade (To Shades Of Black)’ is vocally a little uncertain but underpinned by muscular guitar, and perhaps we should all take its message to heart about living in the moment.
  2. Rab describes ‘By The Day (One More Shave ‘n’ Haircut)’ as “a wee bit of a diary of sorts“, and while the tone is a little dark on the surface – “One more shave ‘n’ haircut/and that’s it for me“, there’s actually an undercurrent of humour. ‘Shave and a haircut – two bits’ is one of the names given to one of those scraps of tune that musicians sometimes use to finish off a tune with vaguely comic effect. The vocals are stronger here, especially in the double-tracked chorus. It wouldn’t surprise me to hear this one picked up by other singers.
  3. ‘Mindful’ may not be the first song ever to benefit from exposure to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), but its “Be here now” message, supported by some strong fingerpicking and oboe, succeeds in raising the spirits.
  4. ‘That Won’t Stop Me’ has a blues-y feel, accentuated by “New Orleans marching band” percussion. I think it might find its way into my own repertoire at some point.
  5. ‘I Always Will’ is a love song. Nice fingerpicking which reminds me vaguely of Richard Thompson, if less showy, and I enjoyed the thoughtful background cello.
  6. ‘Water Is My Friend’ is a suitably exuberant finish to the set, with its reference to “…people looking after me/who don’t get paid enough“.

And I’m thankful they were looking after him. I wouldn’t have missed hearing this set for anything. And now I need to start thinking about catching up with some more of his music that I’ve missed since 1975.

David Harley

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist’s website: www.rabnoakes.com

Rab Noakes – new album

Rab Noakes - new album

The latest album from Rab Noakes, his 19th solo release, represents in many ways, a narrative containing references to his whole working life as a songwriter and performer. He describes it as 21st-century skiffle. It is a Double-CD with CD1 consisting of a clutch of Rab Noakes songs written within a fairly close space of time. CD2 contains songs from a variety of sources from traditional to Elizabeth Cotten to Michael Marra to Beck Hansen to the group Garbage plus some more Noakes compositions.

Working with John Cavanagh as producer an engaging range of musicians and singers were assembled for the sessions. Una McGlone on double bass and Stuart Brown on drums are joined by Ula Kinderyte on violin, Harry Hussey on accordion Richard Merchant on coronet and Emma Roche on flute and piccolo. Rab plays most of the guitar parts himself both as live accompaniment with the vocal on the track and a variety of overdubbed parts. Singers Hilary Brooks, Barbara Dickson, Roddy Hart, Jill Jackson, Jimmie Macgregor, Alice Marra and Emma Pollock join Rab on vocals on a number of the songs.

Rab said at the outset of the recordings that he wanted to make an album that nobody else could make. He made that comment with regard to the reference points and to the combination of experience and circumstance that make up its uniqueness.

This is an album full of heartfelt performances of first-rate songs. It is possibly Rab’s best but that’s for you to decide. It certainly hangs together as an album and contains some outstanding performances.

Rab Noakes is a force to be reckoned with in the world of music in Scotland and beyond.

2015 has been eventful in unexpected ways and has not quite been the continuation to 2014 that was anticipated. Later in the year Rab’s most-recent, “21st Century Skiffle”, recordings will be issued as a Double-CD entitled I’m Walkin’ Here which will feature new songs many of which have been cited in reviews and attracted positive comment from audience and journalists alike.

Rab is hard to pin down in terms of influences. He is an accomplished songwriter whose songs reflect his lifelong interest in the popular song, in folk song and in songwriting. Alongside his acclaimed performance skills as applied to his own compositions his celebrated interpretations feature songs from sources as diverse as Elizabeth Cotten to Beck Hansen.

His professional life embraces such activities as media production. Rab is also elected to the Executive Committee of the Musicians’ Union so, at times, he’ll be representing the MU membership somewhere in the world.

In January 2015 Rab played a significant guest role in the prestigious Opening Concert at Celtic Connections, an orchestration of Martyn Bennett’s acclaimed Grit album by Greg Lawson.

As far as recordings go 2014 saw the CD release of two albums plus one EP. The 40th anniversary of Red Pump Special was issued, along with Demos and Rarities Vol 2 – Adventures With Gerry Rafferty. The EP Reunited, a performance-based clutch of songs with Barbara Dickson, is also now available.

So, 2014 was busy and productive for Rab. A sold-out January concert at Glasgow’s Celtic Connections featured the whole of the 1974 album Red Pump Special in the first half followed by selections from his newer songs in the second. This show was also delivered in a more stripped-down version in June.

Not to mention the creative collaborations. These include the Reunited tour with Barbara Dickson. He has also been touring with acclaimed Gaelic singer Kathleen MacInnes with a variation on their ‘Love, Ballads and Murder’ show.

Rab’s first fully-professional engagements were in 1967. Almost 50 years and 20 albums later he remains a vital, popular, prolific and acclaimed songwriter and performer.

Constant highlights in his performing life have been a continually well-received series of solo shows plus the production of, and performance in, celebratory commemorative concerts on Gerry Rafferty and Michael Marra.

Rab’s first album Do You See The Lights? was released in 1970. Thirty years later in the year 2000 he, along with his wife Stephy, formed their own record label, Neon, and produced a couple of new releases.  Before he and Stephy set up Neon in 1995 he spent an eight-year spell at the BBC where he produced music and entertainment shows radio in Manchester for Network Radio and subsequently headed the entertainment department at Radio Scotland. A formal job in that medium was appropriate as the radio had played a major part in Noakes’ creative development from an early age.

A relationship with Gerry Rafferty continued from the time Rab was a founder member of Stealers Wheel. He played guitar on one of Rafferty’s later albums, ‘Over my Head’.

So, further into the 21st century you’ll most likely find Rab on the road, playing in a town near you, either solo or in one of his creative collaborations.

It’ll be some time yet until he stops making songs, TV and radio programmes or some other creative noise.

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist’s website: www.rabnoakes.com

A masterclass in how to get it right.” Stewart Cruickshank BBC Music Radio

‘No More Time’ – written for Gerry Rafferty and performed at Celtic Connections 2012. One of the songs from the new CD:

 

BARBARA DICKSON & RAB NOAKES – Reunited EP released on 14th April

BabRabTo accompany their 2014 tour Barbara Dickson and Rab Noakes have combined their voices to record an EP.

Barbara and Rab have known one another for nearly fifty years and the songs recorded represent many areas they’ve explored together in that time.

They met in the mid-’60s in Edinburgh. The place was the Foresthill Bar, aka Sandy Bell’s. The pub was the known hang-out for anyone interested in folksong and music. They both were, each having arrived there by a similar route. They are both from Fife, born there in 1947, and raised in the kind of quality public-housing that was available then. 

The airwaves of the 1950s pre, during and post-rock’n’roll were full of great songs. All of this impressed Barbara and Rab, particularly the records of the Everly Brothers.

On into the 1960s and the emergence of the Beatles and then Bob Dylan bounced each of them into an appreciation of folksongs. That rich mixture of songs from limitless sources appealed to them, and instilled in them an instinct for songs of interest wherever they’re from.

As an example, later in their lives they found they each had separate seminal experiences with the song ‘Buttons and Bows’. A version of this appears on Rab’s forthcoming I’m Walkin’ Here CD, sung by them both.

They have sung together often over the intervening years and, in 2013, decided to put together a tour with their two voices, two guitars and two rich experiences for a night of quality songs and performance.

Back to the EP, which was recorded in one afternoon in John Cavanagh’s Muirend ganghut studio. It captures the spirit, and the richness, of two people’s unique experiences in the ever-interesting world of the popular song.

Tracklisting:

Do right woman
(Don’t say) Money doesn’t matter
The same sky
Que sera sera
Something’s wrong
Sleepless nights

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artists’ websites:

www.barbaradickson.net

www.rabnoakes.com