Ahhh, Ian McNabb, what can I say? He’s been one of my favourite musicians for many years. Back in the 80s, he was the frontman of that fine Liverpool band The Icicle Works, whose cult following never really translated into commercial success. After splitting up the band, Ian began his solo career with Truth and Beauty, full of characteristic passion and with standout tracks such as Great Dreams of Heaven and Presence of the One.
It has been said that Ian wants to be Neil Young when he grows up, and he took a step along that road with his second solo album Head Like a Rock, where he was backed by members of Crazy Horse, who had never been known for playing with anyone other than Mr Young himself. Rawk, and indeed, Roll. A good time had by all.
Since then, Ian has produced a series of albums with some damn fine songwriting. Some of them didn’t get anything like the attention they deserved (and there were a couple where the only way to get them was to send Ian a cheque!). Anyway, here we are with his latest, which is offically out tomorrow, but reached me yesterday, thanks to the nice people at Townsend Records. And I do believe the old Neil Young influence is coming through again. Rather in the manner of Neil’s classic Rust Never Sleeps, Before all of This is divided into acoustic and electric halves. Not only that, but there are two versions of one song. But at least Ian hasn’t gone the whole metaphorical hog and made them the opening and closing tracks. Well, the electric version of The Lonely Ones is the closing track, so perhaps he’s just gone the semi-hog.
I’m only just getting into the album, so what follows are highlights of the songs that stand out on the first few listens.
Acoustic gems include Before All of This and the first version of The Lonely Ones, with Ian signing through some kind of vocal processor thingy, and which sounds oddly familiar. I’m not sure if it’s using a similar rhythm or chord sequence to another song of it’s just one of those songs that just gets into the listener’s brain very quickly.
Now Ian could quite easily get away with doing the acoustic stuff only – he’s got the voice, he’s got the songs. But he does like to, well, rock, and when he does, he makes a damn fine noise indeed. And the electric half of the album is at least as good as the acoustic half. First up is the current single Let the Young Girl Do What She Wants To, then much more, including the seriously loud and rather Crazy Horse-like Lovers at the End of Time:
You will be mine, you will be mine
We will still be lovers at the end of time
Ian calms down a bit after that, with a more tender love song, Picture of the Moon before getting a little more menacing again with The New Me.
Finally, there’s the all-out, bonkers electric version of The Lonely Ones
Talk about the old times as we try to kill the past
We are the lonely ones
This is how we live
We’ve got no-one waiting back at home
We’ve got nothing left to give
It’ll take me a week or two to really get into this album, and really pick up all the lyrics, but my first impressions, as you might have gathered from the length of this post, are very good indeed.
Long after I became a fan of Ian, I learned that he was born on the same day as me, back in <mumble>. Just one of those coincidence thingies, of no real significance, but oddly pleasing…
 It was when Understanding Jane failed to make a significant dent in the charts that I belatedly realised that the music business made no sense whatsoever
 Well, I said it, anyway
 They seem nice, anyway – they email me when Ian has new material coming out, and get it to me before it’s in the shops
 I hasten to add that in my terms, that’s a Good Thing
 Back in ancient history, it would have been two sides of a record or tape…
 Or some such musician thingy, I wouldn’t know, I just listen to the stuff
 Assuming anyone actually reads this far