Ian McNabb: Eclectic Warrior – album review

Ian McNabb – Eclectic Warrior (Fairfield Records)

CD / DL / LP
Out Now

Former Icicle Works frontman and Liverpool legend Ian McNabb has just released his tenth solo album and it’s an absolute cracker. Here’s the lowdown.

Listening to a new Ian McNabb album is as refreshing as the first day of Spring after a long hard winter. This year, both seem to have come together and are all the sweeter for it.

Cards on the table, for me Ian McNabb is up there alongside Ray Davies and Andy Partridge as among the greatest singer song-writers this country has produced, so any release from the scouse song-smith is hotly anticipated round these parts. I also know that, if you ask any group of McNabb fans to name his best album, all of his previous nine would get fervent support and after great deliberation I would probably have gone for the 1996 opus of ‘Merseybeast. That is until now. ‘Eclectic Warrior’ is a triumphant return to recording with a full band for McNabb after last year’s ‘Little Episodes’ and ‘Great Things’ in 2009 where he ploughed a lone furrow (to great effect it must be said). These and all McNabb albums display his phenomenal ability to write and record songs of the highest quality and ‘Eclectic Warrior’ is further proof.

To create an album of such power, McNabb has chosen the quite brilliant Liverpool psychedelic rock band, Cold Shoulder. They fill out the sound so well that it is the heaviest McNabb offering since 1994’s classic ‘Head like a Rock’.  The first track, ‘Smirtin’ leaves no doubt that no quarter will be asked or given as our hero vents his spleen over the legal niceties of the smoking ban. The McNabb wit, that is capable of reducing a live show to hysteria with one comment, blends with power to produce an onslaught of an opener that, even if you don’t agree with his sentiments, will see you ready to fight for his right to say it.

Without labouring the point, each song demonstrates superbly crafted guitar breaks alongside lyrics that, as usual span a range of topics. Second up, ‘No Hero to Me’ is a great rocker that is aimed possibly, according to my comrade Paul, at Tony Blair while ‘They Couldn’t Hear the Music’ is one of the observational narratives that McNabb does so well. If forced to pick stand-out tracks, ‘My Life to Live Again’ would be one off this, and possibly any McNabb album. At over seven minutes, this is a genuine, edge of your seat rocker with a plot and ending that will have you engrossed.

‘I Just Wanna Rock n Roll My Life Away’ speaks for itself really and is spoken with knowledge by the man who does it so we don’t have to. ‘She Don’t Let Nobody’ is probably the gentlest track on the album, one of McNabb’s relationship-type songs that seem to come so easily to him while ‘Woman Killed by Falling Tree’ is a magnificent brooding yet quirky feast of images that occur whilst a reluctant object of our heroes affections dithers over her intentions.

‘Fast Approaching Land’ is one of those tracks that show why so many of us turn to music before religion. Addressed directly at those who are in despair for one reason or another, this song is an uplifting masterpiece and will leave you a lot better than it found you. Another rocker in the shape of ‘House Always Wins’ is followed by the nine blissful minutes of ‘Memory Be Good to Me, Memory Come Back to Me’. The album finishes with the revamped ‘Right on Time’, originally demoed for ‘Merseybeast’ in 1996, but sitting very snugly here seventeen years later.

This is a tour de force of an album with the power to take the roof of many a venue. Ian will be performing it live along with Cold Shoulder supporting Neil Young in the summer. It should be quite a night.

Ian McNabb’s website (where you can buy the album & check out live dates) is here. He’s also on Twitter, Facebook & Soundcloud. Cold Shoulder are on facebook here.

All words by Dave Jennings. More work by Dave Jennings on Louder Than War can be found here. Dave is also on Twitter @blackfoxwrexham.

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  1. Just thought I would say that this is one of Mcnabbs best albums, including Icicle Works. As much as I enjoyed Little Episodes, a full electric album was extremely welcome. Finely crafted songs are to be expected, but I was pleasently surprised by some of the epic tunes created. Ian has lost none of his viterol and still says exactly what is on his mind. Everybody needs a bit of unsubtlety from time to time. A relevent album from a relevent artist. Music still flowing from the banks of the Mersey.

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