Friday, 8 November 2013

Rab Noakes - Do You See The Lights (Great and Rare Folkrock, Decca UK 1970)


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Hearing Rab Noakes' debut LP, Do You See the Light, is a bit like listening to a late-'60s folk-rock recording for the Elektra or Vanguard label that somehow wasn't released. As many contributions as those labels made in this genre, however, a comparison such as this isn't necessarily high praise. For though Noakes at times echoes various early singer/songwriters -- Blonde on Blonde-era Bob Dylan, Donovan, Phil Ochs, Tim Hardin, Fred Neil, Tim Buckley, James Taylor, Tom Paxton, The Basement Tapes-era Dylan -- he doesn't project a strong identity of his own, and his material is blander than the '60s work of any of the aforementioned figures. 

It's as if the music has been filtered through a lower common denominator of someone with a large collection of U.S. singer/songwriter LPs with a personal narrative flavor, though sung here with a Scottish accent. Sometimes the triggers of specific comparisons are strong: the easygoing country-rock of "Together Forever" (later covered by Lindisfarne) recalls Dylan's "You Ain't Going Nowhere," and "East Neuk Misfortune" suggests early Tim Buckley as well as the idiosyncratically mild but glowing electric guitar tone heard on numerous Elektra folk-rock recordings. It's all competently done on an even emotional keel, but doesn't mark the artist as possessing distinguished talent of his own.

Rab Noakes (born Robert Noakes, 13 May 1947, St Andrews, Fife, Scotland) is a Scottish singer-songwriter.

He has performed with Lindisfarne, who recorded his songs "Turn a Deaf Ear" on their first album, Nicely Out of Tune, and "Together Forever" on their second, Fog on the Tyne. Barbara Dickson also recorded "Turn a Deaf Ear" on her album Do Right Woman, on which Noakes also performed.

Rab Noakes - UK Single 1972 (Non Album Track)
Noakes also sang backing vocals and played guitar on the first solo album by Gerry Rafferty, Can I Have My Money Back, and became an early member of Stealers Wheel, although he left them before they recorded their first album. Like Rafferty, he became an alcohol-dependant but took his last drink in 1982. In May 1972, the British music magazine, NME, reported that Noakes was to appear at the Great Western Express Lincoln Festival on 26 May that year. Other acts to perform in the 'Giants of Tomorrow' marquee included Budgie, Skin Alley, Tea & Sympathy, John Martyn, Warhorse and Gnidrolog. Noakes best-known recording, "Branch", was released as a single in the summer of 1974 from his album Red Pump Special, and attracted considerable airplay on BBC Radio 1, but without making the UK Singles Chart.

The albums Restless (1978), Rab Noakes (1980) and Under the Rain (1984) followed, but it was 1994 until Standing Up appeared. Noakes subsequently toured with the Varaflames, containing Pick Withers, Rod Clements, and the harmonicist Fraser Speirs.

Noakes became the senior producer for music programmes on BBC Radio Scotland.. He left to create the production company, Neon. In November 2007, his album Unlimited Mileage, again with the Varaflames, was released. In 2012 CDs of Standing Up Again made in 2009 and Just in case (made in 2007) were made available those albums only having been available to Download up until then.

Lindisfarne - German Single 1971
A gift for writing hook-laden songs and sensitively interpreting the work of American singer/songwriters has brought Rab Noakes to the forefront of Scottish pop music. His 1970 debut album, Do You See the Lights, included "Together Forever," which became a folk-pop hit for Lindisfarne. His second album, Rab Noakes, produced by early Dylan producer Bob Johnston, released in 1972, featured guest vocalist Gerry Rafferty. Noakes subsequently played guitar and sang background vocals on Rafferty's debut album, Can I Have My Money Back. Although he agreed to form a band, Steeler's Wheel, with Rafferty, he left the band to resume his solo career before the group recorded their Top Ten hit "Stuck in the Middle With You." Noakes has continued to record on his own. 

His third solo effort, Red Pump Special, released in 1973, was recorded in Nashville and produced by Elliot Mazer. His fifth album, Restless, was released on Ringo Starr's label, Ring O'Records, in 1978. Although he released the equally memorable albums Rab Noakes in 1980 and Under the Rain in 1983, he didn't release another album until 1994 when he recorded Standing Up, a scaled-down recording featuring his solo guitar and vocals. Since the album's release, Noakes has toured with a band, the Varaflames, featuring ex-Dire Straits drummer Pick Withers, Lindisfarne guitarist/bassist Rod Clements, and harmonica player Fraser Spiers. In a review of the band's performance at the Eaglesham Roots 'n' Bluegrass Festival in June 1999, the Herald wrote that the set was "a roots festival in itself as (Noakes) collected Sam Cooke, Rufus Thomas, Fred Rose, Dylan, early Motown, and Beck voodoo blues and a handful of his best originals into a homogenous, hugely satisfying, style."

After working as music director for the BBC television series Your Cheatin' Heart, Noakes accepted a position as senior executive producer for BBC Radio Scotland. He left the post to form his own production company, Neon, which he runs with personal and business partner Stephanie Pordage. In January 2000, Noakes appeared on the multi-artist compilation, ^People on the Highway: A Bert Jansch Encomium.

01. Do You See the Lights? 4:54
02. Song for a Pretty Painter 5:20
03. On my Own I Built a Bridge 3:25
04. Without Me, Just with You 3:09
05. Somewhere to Stay 3:34
06. Together Forever 3:15
07. One More, One Less 2:52
08. East Nuek Misfortune 4:11
09. A Question of Travelling 3:46
10. Too Old to Die 3:21
11. A Love Story 3:23
12. Somebody Counts on Me 4:14

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3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks Chris. I love that Vanguard/Elektra sound.

alixvaldo said...

Lindisfarne!!

George said...

After a few listenings, it seems really, really good. I didn't know him.

Merci beaucoup !