about ian mcnabb
Robert Ian McNabb (born 3rd November 1962) first rose to prominence with 'The Icicle Works' when they scored two major hit singles—"Birds Fly (Whisper to a Scream)" (Top forty US) and "Love is a Wonderful Colour" (Top twenty UK). Their eponymously titled debut album was also a hit on both sides of the Atlantic, achieving gold record status in Canada. 'The Icicle Works' released four albums between 1983 - 1988, all achieving top forty placing, until they broke up immediately after their swansong Blind. The other two members of the band were Chris Layhe (bass & vocals) and Chris Sharrock (drums), the latter now enjoying great success playing in Robbie Williams' band. Ian went on to record one more album under the name 'The Icicle Works,' signing to Epic in 1989 and using session musicians in place of the now departed Chris's. Permanent Damage was released in March 1990, but fared badly in the midst of the then exploding 'Madchester scene.' Ian comes from Liverpool. Ian split with Epic that same year and over the next few months he began preparing songs for what would become his first solo album Truth and Beauty. Self-financed, and released on Andrew Lauder's new label 'This Way Up' in March 1993, the album was rapturously received by both fans and critics alike, finding its way into magazine end of year polls, and even making it into Q magazine's 'best albums released during Q's lifetime'!
Now on both a creative and commercial roll, Ian and his new record label knew they had to up the ante for the next release. Ian had written a song called "Fire Inside My Soul" which musically resembled the sound of, 'Neil Young & Crazy Horse.' Andrew Lauder had suggested to Ian that it might a good idea for him to record his next album with producer John Porter, who lived and worked in Los Angeles. Ian didn't relish the idea of recording out of his native surroundings, undeterred, Andrew insisted his idea was a sound one. Rather facetiously, Ian suggested that if the services of Neil Young's band could be assured, he would gladly make the long journey to California. When Crazy Horse eventually met with Ian in November of 1993, they all got on famously and spent five days creating the music which would end up being exactly one half of the new record. Released in July 1994, Head Like a Rock was an immediate success. The album returned Ian to the upper reaches of the top forty once again, cementing his position of a great British singer-songwriter in the minds of both the public and the industry. Further weight was given to this fact when the album was deemed worthy of a nomination for the prestigious 'Mercury prize'. Ian ultimately lost out to 'M people' but reckons he had more fun at the party than they did.
For his next album, Ian decided to put together a new band. Ian christened them 'The Afterlife.' The resulting album, 1996's Merseybeast, was once again a top forty success. The tour ended on a high note when Ian got to share the bill at 1996's Phoenix festival with Young and Crazy Horse. In 1997, 'This Way Up' went belly-up. Ian decided to take a break for a while. He packed his bag and flew off to Jamaica where he proverbially 'hung out.' Upon his return, still reluctant to jump back on the treadmill, he accepted the job of playing bass in former Waterboy Mike Scott's new touring outfit. He began writing new songs in January of 1998. In May/June of that year Ian was offered a week-long residency at Ronnie Scott's club in Birmingham. Playing solo night after night, Ian quickly rediscovered his muse. New songs came fast. He decided he would record an all-acoustic album. Accompanying himself on acoustic and (very quiet) electric guitars with a sprinkling of piano and mellotron, Ian released the sublime A Party Political Broadcast on Behalf of the Emotional Party. Danny Thompson (Pentangle) played upright bass on five tracks, while Mike Scott and Anthony Thistlethwaite (Waterboys) provided some beautiful acoustic guitar, mandolin and saxophone between them. The stark confessional nature of the songs, combined with the stripped down approach produced a work of dazzling intensity. ...the Emotional Party was released with little fanfare in October of 1998, accompanied by the longest tour Ian had yet undertaken in the UK. It was, once again, warmly received by all concerned and fared well, though not achieving a chart placing this time. A late 1999 show at Liverpool's Life Café resulted in a live acoustic recording released as Live at Life. The album features a mix of McNabb classics as well as Icicle Works favourites. Originally only available in limited quantities, this disc was later released by Ian's new label, Sanctuary. The full-tilt rock band appeared once again on McNabb's eponymous album released in April 2001 on Sanctuary. This album is a relatively short collection of rocking numbers that express Ian's love for classic 60s and 70s power pop and rock, with clear nods to the likes of Badfinger, the Who, T Rex, the Beach Boys, and others. It is largely a no-holds-barred rock explosion, through which Ian's knack for melody and pop sensibility always shines through.
Ian broke with Sanctuary due to their ongoing U.S. distribution troubles. Teaming up once again with Andrew Lauder, this time under the name of Evangeline Records, Ian released a collection of unreleased and demo material that the fans had been clamoring for over the years. Waifs & Strays consists of material from 1993-2000 and demonstrates Ian's ability to craft winning songs. This outtake material is stronger than many artists' regular releases. Originally seen as a 'fans only' disc, this album surprised everyone by selling strongly well beyond the circle of die-hard fans, demonstrating McNabb's widespread appeal.
The Gentleman Adventurer, a fourteen track album featuring Ian playing almost all the instruments himself was quietly released in 2002, available firstly only on mail order, although proving popular enough outside of Ian's dedicated fanbase to eventually receive a high street release. This album contained many fine songs including the enduring in-concert favourites "All Things To Everyone" and "Lady By Degrees". Ian also used whizz-kid-up-and-coming producer/engineer Mike Cave (The Charlatans/John Martyn) on these sessions, who has appeared to breathe life into recent recordings, and continues to work with Ian up to the present.
July 2004 saw the release of Potency - The Best Of Ian McNabb. A long overdue career summary of his post-Icicle Works years, and a fine introduction for the uninitiated. It also featured a bonus disc of rarities, b sides and outtakes.
Ian's most recent album, Before All Of This, was previewed by the top 40 single "Let The Young Girl Do What She Wants To." This was Ian's first 'hit' in 21 years proving there's life in the old dog yet. The album was divided into two distinct acoustic and electric 'sides' and featured the enchanting backing vocals of Wirral born singer Livia Johnson, as well as powerhouse drummer Steve Barney (Annie Lennox, Jeff Beck). Long time cohort Roy Corkill returned for bass duties.
Ian's autobiography Merseybeast was published in October 2008 and was greeted with great acclaim from both critics and fans. But not ex-girlfriends…
Ian spent January through June of 2009 recording his new album Great Things which is due to be formally released in January 2010. It will be preceded by a single "New Light" which features Ian's old friend Mike Scott (The Waterboys) on guitar and backing vocals.
Ian has been a professional musician since the age of fifteen, when he used to play at workingmen's social clubs in the northwest of England, although he now reckons he's only just getting started. Good start Ian...