His set was a roots festival in itself. THE HERALD
The power of Rab Noakes performance also reminded me of Bob Dylan痴 description of the night he saw Buddy Holly just days before he died. Dylan was mesmerised and took the ghost of Buddy with him through his career. CELTIC MUSIC RADIO
One of this country's finest songsmiths. THE HERALD
RAB NOAKES is a force to be reckoned with in the world of music in Scotland and beyond.
2014 saw the CD release of no less than three albums plus one EP from Rab Noakes. So far, the 40th anniversary edition of ‘Red Pump Special’ has been issued, along with ‘Demos and Rarities Vol2 – adventures with Gerry Rafferty’. The EP ‘Reunited’ with Barbara Dickson is also now available.
Early in 2015 his most-recent, ‘21st Century Skiffle’, recordings will be issued as a Double CD entitled ‘I’m walkin’ here’.
So, 2014 was busy and productive for Rab. A sold-out January concert at Glasgow's Celtic Connections featured the whole of the 1974 album 'Red Pump Special' in the first half followed by selections from his forthcoming album 'I'm walkin' here' in the second.
Other recent highlights in his performing life have been a continually well-received series of solo shows plus the production of, and performance in, celebratory commemorative concerts on Gerry Rafferty and Michael Marra.
He is also involved in creative collaborations. These include the 'Reunited' tour with Barbara Dickson. He is also planning an outing with acclaimed Gaelic singer Kathleen MacInnes in the late summer/autumn which will be a variation on their 'Love, Ballads and Murder' show.
Rab's first fully-professional engagements were in 1967. Over 40 years and more than 20 albums later he remains a vital, popular, prolific and acclaimed songwriter and performer.
In his history are such highlights as being a founder-member of Stealers Wheel.
His own ‘occasional’ band, The Varaflames, is a loose grouping of highly-accomplished musicians.
Rab is also to be found in creative collaborations with artistes as diverse as Barbara Dickson, Allan Taylor Kathleen MacInnes and Fraser Speirs.
He has also enjoyed successful co-writing with the likes of Sweden’s Johanna Demker and Pink Floyd’s Richard Wright.
Rab is hard to pin down in terms of influences. His celebrated interpretations feature songs from sources as diverse as Elizabeth Cotten to Beck Hansen.
His professional life also embraces such activities as media production.
It’s clear Rab Noakes is no ordinary performer as his voice, at age 67, is at least as good as it’s ever been and his creativity is clearly flourishing. No leaning back on retreads and crowd-pleasers here. A Rab audience comes expecting to be included in the here-and-now event that his shows are. As he was about to perform in BBC Scotland’s 2011/12 Hogmanay TV show someone suggested he had been singing at parties at the festive season for some time now. He thought for a moment then replied, “Yep - 60 years”.
Rab's first album ‘Do you see the lights?’ was released in 1970. Thirty years later in the year 2000 he, along with his wife Stephy, formed their own record label, Neon, and produced a couple of new releases. In the intervening years he has made his presence felt as a creative entity across music and media. From being one of the singer-songwriters of the 1970s to his present activities he has released several acclaimed albums and toured extensively. The once sought-after hit single remained elusive but didn't significantly impede his progress. In the longer term that can even be regarded as advantageous. In recent years he has been involved in a rich mixture of production, writing and performance.
Before he and Stephy set up Neon in 1995 he spent an eight-year spell at the BBC where he produced music and entertainment shows radio in Manchester for Network Radio and subsequently headed the entertainment department at Radio Scotland. A formal job in that medium was appropriate as the radio had played a major part in Noakes's creative development from an early age.
Born in 1947 Rab Noakes enjoyed the benefits of growing up as rock'n'roll was born and of being present as new sounds - from Little Richard to Woody Guthrie drifted across the Atlantic.
Impressed by the success of Scots Bert Jansch and The Incredible String Band he dusted down an old guitar and began touring in Britain and Denmark with a set embracing pop, country and folk. Prior to the release of his first album in 1970 five Noakes songs appeared on albums by Archie Fisher and Barbara Dickson.
A relationship with Gerry Rafferty continued from the time Rab was a founder member of Stealers Wheel. He played guitar on one of Rafferty's later albums, 'Over my Head'.
Lindisfarne and Rab met in the North East of England when they were each playing regularly in that part of the world. The group demonstrated its respect for Rab by recording one of his songs on each of their first two albums. They also shared a producer in Bob Johnston who had introduced Bob Dylan to working in Nashville with the Blonde on Blonde record. Rab himself recorded in Nashville in 1973 with acclaimed producer Elliot Mazer. The resulting album, 1974's Red Pump Special, remains a collectors' item and is cited as an influence by several young upstarts.
Later in the 1970s Noakes worked with Terry Melcher at John Lennon & Yoko Ono’s Tittenhurst Park on an album for Ringo Starr's record label.
In the ’eighties Noakes teamed up with some young Glaswegian musicians including Brendan Moon, Lorraine McIntosh and Andy Alston to form Gene Pitney's Birthday. Into the 'nineties this grew into The Varaflames whose members have included harmonica ace Fraser Speirs, Rod Clements of Lindisfarne, guitar hero Jerry Donahue, Pilot’s David Paton, Hilary Brooks, Jim McDermott, James Mackintosh, Kevin McGuire, Colin Macfarlane, Deacon Blue's Ewen Vernal and Pick Withers, ex-Dire Straits.
he has also worked with a selection of interesting singers including Emma Pollock, Jill Jackson, Roddy Hart and Alice Marra.
Rab Noakes has also been involved with some high-profile music production activity on shows such as John Byrne's ‘Your Cheatin' Heart’ and Elaine C. Smith's TV series. Neon continues to provide quality TV and radio programmes from its base in Glasgow's Kinning Park. The unique knowledge and abilities in the Neon team continue to give the programmes an edge.
The first record on the Neon label to become available was 'Throwing Shapes' by The Varaflames. That was followed up with Rab and Fraser releasing 'Lights back on', an album which won him many new admirers. The strong mix of carefully selected versions of others' songs paired with Noakes's own eloquent compositions helped create one of the best albums to come out of Scotland in years.
A limited edition release of the 'stuffhouse ep' has made 750 numbered copies of this future rarity available. 'Demos and Rarities Volume One' was released in 2002. Neon partner and Rab's wife, Stephanie Pordage volunteered to go through the many hours of recordings and has dug out the best and most appropriate material.
Noakes' own record production skills have been much in demand with albums by John Watt and macAlias being released and well-received. In 2003 he recorded with a young group from Aberdeen called Stuka. Fraser Speir's album, 'About Time', was recorded at Glasgow's Celtic Connections festival in 2000 and features guest performances from many artistes, Rab included.
In 2004 Neon expanded to release Karine Polwart's 'faultlines' album produced by Rab. Later in the year Neon released two more Rab productions 'At this Moment' by Karen Dunbar and 'Thai Whisky Tears' by The Cellers.
2004 also saw the Neon release of 'Standing Up', Rab's solo album originally issued on the Mediart label in 1994. Also that year, the River Records label released a CD comprising mostly live recordings made for commercial radio in the early eighties.
Rab's 2007 release of new material on Neon was his second album with the Varaflames - 'Unlimited Mileage'
‘Do you see the lights?’ Rab's debut album from 1970 is now available on CD for the first time. This was released on the Neon label in 2008.
In 2009 Rab joined forces with Allan Taylor for a number of joint shows based on their similar careers and parallel experiences. They have been seen out across Europe performing this show on a number of occasions since and 2014 sees the two of them in various parts of the country.
In 2012/13 CDs were made available of a trio of Rab albums which had been available for a couple of years as download-only.
One is ‘Live at The Reid Hall Edinburgh 2005, a guitar/vocal recording of one his Fringe shows that year.in, one is ‘Just in case’ a collection of songs by Boudleaux & Felice Bryant from 2007 and the other ‘Standing Up Again’ is a new collection from 2009.
2012 was one of his busiest years yet as it began with his prominent participation in three prestigious sold-out Celtic Connections events in Glasgow. The first of these was a two-night commemoration and celebration of the work and life of his friend Gerry Rafferty. The second was his own show, Rab Noakes & Friends. The third was a 40th-anniversary celebration of the UCS Work-in.
2013 started with another commemorative/celebratory Celtic Connections show. This one was dedicated to Michael Marra.
He has been prolific of late and is in the process of completing another album 'I'm walkin' here' which will feature new songs many of which have been cited in reviews and attracted positive comment from audience and journalists alike.
This album was made in John Cavanagh's Muirend studio and features an interesting clutch of musicians, mostly selected by John, including Una McGlone, Stu Brown, Harry Hussey, Ula Zoola and Jim McEwan.
Rab invited a few singers to take part including Emma Pollock, Jill Jackson, Roddy Hart, Jimmie Macgregor, Hilary Brooks, Alice Marra and Barbara Dickson.
On to 2014 and it's yet another Celtic Connections triumph, a tour with Barbara Dickson, a highly-regarded Gerry Rafferty concert in Paisley which featured the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO).