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Ian Campbell iTunes Tracks

Ian Campbell

+ {The Ian Campbell Folk Group} + {Ian & Lorna Campbell}

In his early teens, IAN CAMPBELL (born10 June 1933, Aberdeen, Scotland) and his family moved to Birmingham, where he became hooked on the 50s skiffle boom and subsequently formed The Clarion Skiffle Group, in 1956. Two years on, a slight change in musical tack saw them become The IAN CAMPBELL FOLK GROUP, initially comprising a line-up of Ian, his sister Lorna, banjo player Gordon McCulloch and guitarist Dave Phillips.
By the time of the group’s 1962 debut EP release, `Songs Of Protest’ (the first live folk session to be released on vinyl), fiddle maestro DAVE SWARBRICK had joined the ranks, while multi-instrumentalist John Dunkerley had replaced McCulloch and Brian Clark (vocals/guitar) replaced Phillips. CAMPBELL and Co were one of the many acts to appear on the aspiring Edinburgh Folk Festival albums, a project organised by future Transatlantic men Nat Joseph and Bill Leader. Nat, in particular, was impressed by the group and their socially conscious approach, signing them up as the label’s flagship folk act and releasing THIS IS THE IAN CAMPBELL FOLK GROUP (1963) {*7}.
With his Scots accent still very much intact, Ian beamed out traditional renditions of songs such as `Twa Recruiting Sergeants’, `The Unquiet Grave’, the medley of `Rocky Road To Dublin’ and `Drops Of Brandy’ (SWARB in fine fettle), plus PETE SEEGER’s `The Bells Of Rhymney’; Lorna took lead vox on the exquisite `The Waters Of Tyne’ and Mary Brooksbank’s `The Jute Mill Song’. Part-time up until this point, 1963 was also the year the group turned professional, as exposure on ITV’s Hullabaloo show and appearances at the Edinburgh Festival boosted their profile.
ACROSS THE HILLS (1964) {*5} was much of the same, `The Collier Laddie’ and `We’re Nae Awa’ To Bide Awa’ sitting remarkably well alongside LEON ROSSELSON’s title track and The SEEKERS-esque `Come Kiss Me Love’; `Cho Cho Losa’ was their first attempt at the post-calypso song.
A transitional period for folk revival music, it was no different for The IAN CAMPBELL FOLK GROUP as they came within a whisker of the UK Top 40 courtesy of DYLAN’s `The Times They Are A-Changin’ (certainly not the last folkies to cover one of the Bard’s songs). Growing in stature, if not huge commercial sales, the group continued to throw up the odd worker-themed LP, and the excellent COALDUST BALLADS (1965) {*8} typified their empathy with the miners.
Much of the set stemmed from A.L. LLOYD’s `Come All Ye Bold Miners’ album of the 50s, while one of the tracks (the a cappella `Plodder Seam’) was penned by the equally pioneering EWAN MacCOLL. From the savage but poignant `Blantyre Explosion’ and `Blackleg Miners’, to the IVOR CUTLER-meets-DUBLINERS-ish `Pay Friday’ and `Cushy Butterfield’ (plus the Lorna-sung `My Miner Lad’), the record has since become regarded as a Brit-folk template.
CONTEMPORARY CAMPBELLS (1966) {*7} was just as the title suggested, although ye olde folk purists were drifting further away. SYDNEY CARTER’s tongue-in-cheek `Marilyn Monroe’ lay alongside MacCOLL’s `Dirty Old Town’ (a precursor to PENTANGLE) and `The Dove’. Other outside pensmiths were behind gems like `Death Comes Easy’ (HARVEY ANDREWS), `My Donal’ (OWEN HAND), plus `Four Pounds A Day’ and `Liverpool Lullaby’ (both STAN KELLY) – one might recognise the latter Lorna-sung track as a song sanitized by CILLA BLACK; the sanguinary `Bloody Orkney’ could be offensive to anyone living north of John O’ Groats.
Now without SWARBRICK (who’d find folk fame with FAIRPORT CONVENTION), NEW IMPRESSIONS OF (1966) {*5}, failed to capture an audience already impressed by the similar CORRIES, SEEKERS or American counterparts PETER, PAUL & MARY, although it did feature the flighty `New York Gals’ and SYDNEY CARTER’s `Lord Of The Dance’.
In 1968, three IAN CAMPBELL albums surfaced, the first as the collaborative IAN & LORNA CAMPBELL set THE COCK DOTH CRAW {*5} (also including Dunkerley), his solo TAM O’SHANTER {*5} (featuring poems and songs from Robert Burns) and The IAN CAMPBELL GROUP’s THE CIRCLE GAME {*6} (featuring pre-FAIRPORTs bassist DAVE PEGG).
As well as the obvious JONI MITCHELL title track cover (and her `Doctor Junk’), the group – notice the FOLK part was removed from their moniker – went all quasi-psychedelic with compositions by David Morgan/Uglys (`Private Harold Harris’), LEON ROSSELSON (`Do You Remember’), GORDON LIGHTFOOT (`I’m Not Saying’), TIM HARDIN (`The Lady From Baltimore’), EWAN MacCOLL (`The Iron Road’), HARVEY ANDREWS (`On The M1’) and Randy Newman (`I Think It’s Going To Rain Today’).
Dismissing the Argo-issued oldies rehash LP THE SUN IS BURNING (1971) {*4}, the IAN CAMPBELL FOLK GROUP (Ian, Lorna, John and Brian) returned courtesy of back-to-basics set SOMETHING TO SING ABOUT (1972) {*6}. Featuring uplifting and rousing versions of `The Ox-Plough Song’, `The Iron Horse’ and the traditional `The Cutty Wren’, the set is actually presented best by Wally Whyton’s protest gem `Leave Them A Flower’ and Ian’s Doric-like `No Courage In Him’ (sung by Lorna and seized later by The SILLY SISTERS).
From this point on the group went through numerous personnel changes, recording sporadically until the mid-70s when the departure and subsequent death of Dunkerley (from Hodgkin’s Disease) dealt a blow to the band’s future. Although Ian and Lorna soldiered on, the former’s decision to become a mature student necessitated the recruitment of various session players to fulfil live commitments. On the recording front, it’d be almost 20 years before the group re-emerged, releasing AND ANOTHER THING (1997) {*4} for the Yorkshire-based Celtic imprint. More prominent in the 80s and 90s were Ian’s sons, Ali and Robin, who formed chart-topping pop-reggae outfit UB40, their earliest, politically-inclined material echoing their father’s left-wing sentiments of old. Sadly, Ian passed away on 24 November 2012.
© MC Strong 2002-2010/GSM-GFD // rev-up MCS Aug2015

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