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Monday, 26 November 2012

BARBARA DICKSON: A sneak preview of the new album


For decades, the lovely Barbara Dickson has been a familiar figure on stage and television, often singing songs by people like Andrew Lloyd-Webber. But before her life changed and she hit pop stardom in 1974, she was a well-known figure on the folk club circuit. Many of her folk club appearances were recorded, and the best of them have been collected together on a new album.

She explains: "Well, it’s deliberately called Before '74 which actually is exactly what it is. It is what it says on the cover. It is a set of recordings prior to 1974, 1974 being significant in my career in that that is the year that I went off to work in the theatre in a show called John, Paul, George, Ringo... and Bert, which was the first big show written by Willy Russell. And it was such a success I found myself being whisked from folk clubs into the West End, and so 1974 being the date that everything changed for me and I went from working in folk clubs to being a pop star basically in the space of two year.

So these recordings are a set of recordings – there’s 40 tracks – and they are from various sources. But they are all to do with my work in folk clubs, every single one of them is from that time.

There are some duets, with Rab Noakes, who is one of the people on it, there’s a Scottish band called The McCalmans and Mike Whellans, he‘s a Scottish artist still going strong, so I’ve got duets with these people – there’s a track with Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick and there’s – as I say – three tracks with Rab Noakes with whom I’ve worked on the album and he’s the producer. So the rest is stuff that I was performing in folk clubs so they are all basically recordings of me singing live from the days that I was in folk clubs, from various sources. One set of songs is from a place in Leeds, one is from Leicester, there’s some recordings from The Elbow Room in Kirkcaldy and there is some from Leith Town Hall in Edinburgh and just general right across the board – recordings which Rab has compiled for me into an archive and I’ve decided to put it out, so that people who are interested in me can hear what I was doing prior to when I became famous. It’s an archive.”

For an artist who has been active for so long, it must be strange to go back over material recorded so many years ago. She revealed:

“I was astonished as to how quality some of it was. Some of the recordings are not very high quality but the performances are of a high quality and actually I was surprised because even when you hear yourself that time ago, you don’t expect… I don’t want to be pompous here … but I really was surprised at how assured the performances are and my friend Rab Noakes, who has helped me put it together has said there was so much charm in the recordings and in the introductions to the songs as well, because a lot of them are on there as well, we have left the introductions to the songs on there because like a lot of folk clubs, introductions to songs, they are quite interesting in themselves, you know we were trained to talk to the audience. I don’t know who trained us, but we just knew how to do it, to talk to the audience about the tracks and songs. We just did it, you know, so they’re really good….. so I think that for people who are interested in me and who think that I’m Elaine Paige, I think it is going to be a real shock to the system because it is nothing like what people know me as a pop star or a person who sang I Know Him So Well would expect from me, so that’s another reason to put it out really”. But Barbara was never a typical folk singer, even back in the beginning… “…most of the songs are traditional, but significantly some of the songs, the 20th Century songs, which were contemporary at the times I was recording them.

There’s a song by Gallagher and Lyle, there’s James Taylor, there’s a lot of songs that I chose to sing at that time, because I was never entirely committed to singing traditional music. A lot of people I knew only sang traditional music, but I didn’t feel that way, I just had a fairly Catholic taste in music and I think it comes over in the choices of the songs on this double CD. I’m very proud of the choices I made and the songs that I chose to sing. There’s nothing really naff there at all that I’m thinking ‘oh dear I wish I hadn’t done that’. They are all good songs and well executed, so I think they have a place”.

Tracks: CD1 False Lover Won Back , International , Something's Wrong , The Poachers , Fit Can a Young Lassie? , The Laird o' the Dainty Dounby , Jamie Raeburn , Steamboat Row , Jock o' Hazeldean , Ythanside , Fareweel tae Whisky , Fareweel tae Whisky pt2 , A Parcel of Rogues , Johnnie Cope , Dainty Davie , The Rigs o' Rye , Lord Franklin , Call on Me , CD2The Plooman Laddies , The Early Morning Rain , Do Right Woman , Love of My Life , Something's Wrong , Spoken word/Bob White , Highland Harry , The January Man , The Enniskillen Dragoons , O'er the Water tae Charlie , The Dreadnought , I am Lonely, I am Lost , The Blacksmith , Gartan Mother's Lullaby , The Band o' Shearers , The Seeds of Love , Westron Wynd , The Shipyard Apprentice , The Foggy Dew , Spoken Word/NK , Sullivan's John , Spoken Word/Bob White.

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