First launched into the public eye as a member of The Small Faces in the mid-1960s, Ian “Mac” McLagan rode the wave through the band’s Steve Marriott-led Mod and psychedelic years and the rockier Rod Stewart-Ronnie Wood incarnation (known simply as “Faces”). When Stewart went solo and Woody joined the Rolling Stones in 1975, Ian began what was to become a long and storied career as one of the most talented and popular sidemen in rock and roll. The prototypical rollicking keyboard player; his work for the Stones, Dylan, Bonnie Raitt and others has always been as invaluable as it is tasty.
Ian McLagan’s third solo record has been a long time coming—almost 20 years, to be exact. His previous platters, Troublemaker (1979) and Bump In The Night (1981), are a mixture of rock, boogie-woogie and bluesy soul. I’m happy to say that Best Of British picks up right where he left off, and with timeless music like his, the dates don’t mean a damned thing. Surrounded by crack musicians like guitarists Gurf Morlix and Scrappy Jud Newcomb, songs such as “This Time” and “Suzie Gotta Sweet Face” are ass-shakers that rock you out of your seat, although he’s just as effective slipping into mid-tempo sweethearts like “Warm Rain”. Ronnie Wood pays an effective visit on a few songs, and shares a bittersweet moment on the live “Hello Old Friend” (dedicated to the late, great Ronnie Lane). Mac’s voice is ragged but right—although he is not a powerful voice, his range is well-suited for the material.
In 35 years, McLagan has seen it all—lunatic egos, shape-shifting musical styles, more money than one could count and eras where you couldn’t give a great song away. Yet by all accounts, his survival is as attributable to his amiable nature as it is to his stellar chops. He’s the kind of chap you could imagine sitting at the pub with on a rainy afternoon, pints in hand, sharing a laugh and a tale. And now you can. His recently issued book, All The Rage, is an historical document of the times as much as it is his autobiography. Perhaps taking a cue from Ray Davies’ success with Storyteller, Mac’s upcoming tour dates will include reading excerpts from the book along with a potpourri of musical selections. I heartily recommend that you clear your calendar for this!
Best Of British, previously available only on Mac’s own label, is now getting full distribution through Gadfly Records. Those interested in more information can visit him at www.macspages.com and, in his words, “have a look, have a laugh, have a listen!”
// Notes from the Road
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