Ralph McTell – The Journey 1965-2006 (Leola Music Ltd)
“… The wind and spray on my face was exhilarating. The offshore breeze sent a shiver through my two-shilling jacket and thin clothes, but part of the shiver was anticipation. Something else was in the air”.
I want take the inspiration from these words of the last paragraph of the second volume of his autobiography (Angel Laughter) that contains the whole McTell’s poetry both man and artist.
When in the 1980 I listened for the first time to his historical LP "Ralph, Albert & Sydney" (the only LP published in Italy) I was fascinated by it : I liked the music, the words so perfectly played by a passionate singer’s voice. But listening to his LP I felt a great emotion. Ralph McTell was able to communicate me some vibrations and very particular emotional moods, even if I heard his recording voice
Now 26 years are passed from that first listening and Ralph McTell goes on to take up acting of British Folk/Blues with the same enthusiasm of his debut. And to celebrate his long career he publishes in this time a box with four CD. In this box there are songs from 1965 to 2006. Many unreleased tracks and unreleased versions of his more famous songs and some covers of Bob Dylan, Beatles and Hoagy Carmichael.
Concerning the most important stages of the McTell’s artistic life, the four cds represent a good starting point for those people who want approach to his music; a musical journey that transmits some feelings and such emotions to more sterile listener.
His lyrics involves you so much that his words became your words, his ideas and feeling your ideas and feelings. The author and reader are the same people.
It has already happened other two times to analyze the bonds between poetry and music, but the case of Sylvia Plath is enough particular. From her verses an extraordinary musicality is emitted and that it doesn't catch us the result of the vibrating and electric version of “The Applicant”, inserted by the Blue Aeroplanes in the album “Swagger”, it doesn't stay us whether to quote one of the most beautiful songs written by the English singer songwriter Ralph McTell and dedicated to the great American poetess: “Sylvia.”
We are in 1972 and in England there is a real flowering of the folk rock. On one side there are bands as Fairport Convention, Pentangle or Steeleye Span, protagonists of a raising of the English tradition in key rock; on the other side singer-songwriters as John Martyn, Richard Thompson, Iain Matthews, Nick Drake, Al Stewart, Allan Taylor and of course Ralph McTell, that put to the center of their songs an universe sonorous and literary tied up to their reality.
At that time, McTell has already written the songs that will make him popular and beloved from the public of English language: among all “Streets of London”, that will enter in the British Top Ten in 1974; but when he records “Not Till Tomorrow” he is only still a promise known from a group of estimators. The album is justly considered one of his masterpieces and it still today preserves an indisputable charm.
Produced by Tony Visconti and played by the same McTell (guitars, piano, organ) with Danny Thompson (contrabbasso), Laurie Allan (percussions) and Mary Visconti (choirs), “Not Till Tomorrow” has the breath and the simplicity of a classical. A part of the worth must be recognized to Viscounti, that he doesn't limit him to coordinate the sessions, but he participates playing flutes, sitar and singing in the choirs with her wife, the blonde Welsh folksinger Mary Hopkin, discovered and launched by Paul McCartney with “Those Were The Days”; but we have to admit that the songs of McTell need of very little to strike who listens to them.
“Sylvia”, become shortly one of the most important moments of his concerts, it’s performed in “Not Till Tomorrow” with the alone accompaniment of the piano and it is a sort of thanksgiving to the Plath to have helped who writes to overcome a particularly difficult moment of his own existence. A tender and intense homage to the great disappeared writer.
The Blue Aeroplanes Ralph McTell
Swagger Not Till Tomorrow
Ensign Records, 1990. Reprise, 1972.