15 tracks: Greenland (Barbara Dickson) * The 8-3-0 (Sheena Wellington) * Sidmouth Festival Blues (Mike Whellans) * High Ground / Vogrie (Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham) * Shian Road (Isla St Clair) * Wrecked Again (Allan Taylor) * Bound To Go (Davy Steele) * Wha’s Like Us? (Jim Malcolm) * War Outside (Dick Gaughan) * Scotland (Sangsters) * Highlands Tomorrow (Janet McCalman) * WMD (The McCalmans) * Seagull Cry (Derek Moffat) * Edinburgh and Strange Dawn (Ian McCalman).
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The album showcases the songs and music of The McCalmans’ frontman, Ian McCalman.
Ian’s songwriting is prolific and here some of Ian’s songs are given new interpretations by some well known friends in music. Ian was a founder member of The McCalmans in 1964.
“A little classic…”
“This is the sort of disc where the artists are as important as the music * here the range of talent runs from Barbara Dickson, Sheena Wellington and Sangsters to Phil Cunningham and Aly Bain, Jim Malcolm and Mike Whellans, plus the much-missed sounds of the late Davy Steele and Derek Moffat. Another name that may not be quite so familiar is London-based blues and jazz singer Janet McCalman, Ian’s niece. This delightful album provides an opportunity to listen to the cream of Scottish song-writing sung by the cream of Scottish voices on a multiplicity of Scottish themes…”
Ian McCalman says:
“Ian Green of Greentrax phoned me. He’s a good lad but a trouble-maker and he knew what my answer would be to his question: ‘Would you be interested in recording a solo album for Greentrax?’ Answer: ‘No!’ Question ‘Why not?’ Answer ‘I can’t sing that well.’ Question ‘Well it never stopped you before, did it?’ So it went on until I managed to convince Ian that I would rather bunjee jump nude from the Scott monument than record a solo album. Ian then asked if I was aware that I had over 50 of my own compositions recorded and… ‘what about an album of your own songs sung by friends?’ I’ll be honest and confess that I don’t think I’m any great shakes as a song-writer and so the conversation drifted into our usual chat about world economy and the state of his flowering japonica.
Round about that time I coincidentally received a mysterious, anonymous cassette. My pal, Allan Taylor has long been at the forefront of the movement to keep my songs in their proper place (rubbish bin) and in particular he has a notion about ‘Wrecked Again’ (one of my more flamboyant efforts) and its lack of merit. Of course the cassette turned out to be Allan and he had recorded my ‘masterpiece’ with an overly miserable ‘Taylor-made’ arrangement. It was very, very funny and after playing it a couple of times I realised that if a few singers put their own personality into my songs then Ian Green might be on to something.
When Barbara Dickson and family come to Edinburgh we always meet up and strong drink is occasionally taken. I talked over the ‘Greenie’ idea with Barbara and she immediately said that she would be ‘up for it’, so things started to look very positive. Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham (I used to change their nappies at ‘Sandy Bells’) were the next unsuspecting targets who said ‘of course’ then Dick Gaughan announced that he was keen to join in and by that time I knew we were ‘up-and-running’.
At this stage Ian Green was getting quite excited and almost bought me a drink but he quickly regained his composure and asked about others that might join the project. By this time I had decided to keep the list to old friends and I managed to contact Isla St Clair who travelled up from England to sing ‘Shian Road’ at my studios whilst my old mate, Mike Whellans recorded the ‘Sidmouth Folk Festival Blues’ about an ambitious blues singer who goes to a folk festival with high hopes and finds only disappointment and despair. Mike is a great blueser but he hams it up for the sake of art!
I’ve engineered and recorded the last two albums for ‘Sangsters’ and they tackled my song, ‘Scotland’, with a complicated unaccompanied arrangement which they recorded in one take… real pros.
The Macs recorded my song 8-3-0 for the Honest Poverty album and I remembered that Sheena Wellington came to the launch and asked if she could steal the song for her own repertoire. She’ll never make that mistake again. Sheena is not famous for singing A Man’s a Man For a’ That at the opening of the Scottish Parliament. She is famous because she did it so bloody well. She’s a star!
Jim Malcolm is one of Scotland’s best singer/songwriters who takes a wry look at our country from different angles and it’s just as well he’s good at words because my song, Wha’s Like Us? has twenty per square inch. I was shocked… nay, astounded, when he came into the studio without a crib sheet. Smart ass!
Janet McCalman, my niece, sings blues and jazz so I thought I’d ring the changes and ask her to sing my song of unfulfilled dreams, Highlands Tomorrow. Janet lives in London and she was worried that her singing would be closer to Eastenders than Chewing the Fat but I told her I would accept anything other than CSI Miami.
I had an idea of finding suitable songs from the late greats, Derek Moffat and Davy Steele. They were two special friends and I refuse to get morbid about two guys who enjoyed life so much. For Derek’s song I lifted a track from an old McCalmans’ album and I was fortunate that Davy had recorded Bound to Go with Drinkers Drouth so The Drouth kindly gave us permission to use it, good lads!
I also managed to get Maartin Allcock (Jethro Tull and Fairport Convention), Fiona Forbes and Stephen Quigg to help with the sessions by offering them untold wealth or (failing that) the McCalmans’ album of their choice. They all chose untold wealth.
The only condition Ian Green made about the album was that I had to sing a couple of songs myself… sorry, his fault. Before I recorded my songs, Allan Taylor heard the completed mixes and said, ‘It’s all absolutely fantastic, you should do more albums that you’re not on’. Dear boy!
I’ve never had so much fun with such a great bunch of musicians. They gave their services with tremendous willingness and enthusiasm and it turned into the ultimate feel good album and I thank them for it. Not only that, if Bob Dylan hadn’t been doing his hair on the night the studio was free, he would have done The Sickening Thank You Song and as for Kylie…? Well!”
Ian Green says:
“I have known Ian and The McCalmans’ since shortly after the group was formed in Edinburgh in the 60’s and am not only a big fan but have also acted as part-time gig’ driver, compere and even critic over the years. When I started planning Greentrax in 1986, The Macs immediately offered to help the fledgling label by recording Peace and Plenty, adding considerable muscle to other more tentative debut releases. Greentrax and The Macs have continued to enjoy a great relationship during the Greentrax years’ and many other Macs albums resulted from this unique business partnership.
During 2003, in a rare moment of ‘future planning’, it occurred to me that Ian McCalman’s song-writing had been most prolific over the years and had contributed considerably to The McCalmans’ ever-changing repertoire of songs. I was also aware that 2004 was The McCalmans 40th Anniversary and it seemed to me that here was an appropriate time to showcase the songs of the only remaining founder member. It would have been easy to simply compile Ian’s songs from the many Macs albums but my idea was to have Ian re-record a selection for a showcase album.
Ian has already written in a self deprecating but highly humorous manner of what then transpired but Ian’s enthusiasm for the project must not be underestimated and the pleasure he derived from the support of so many musical friends made the entire project very special. I can honestly say that the making of McCalman Singular’ has been one of the most enjoyable and fun-filled recording projects I have undertaken and the final mixes left me gob-smacked! This album is an amazing tribute to someone in his 40th year in the music business!”