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2023/4 Albums Thing 354 - Ian Prowse “Who Loves Ya Baby ?”

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Now that we’ve dealt with Springsteen’s catalogue it’s time to attend to a few new additions that have come along before returning to our alphabetised journey, and what better way to follow The Boss than with a “new” release by Merseyside’s chief exponent of the Springsteen-ian (see what I did there) arts ?  I said about Ian Prowse’s most recent album, “One Hand On The Starry Plough”, that I was done writing about him, until his next album…and then he goes and re-issues this…

Originally released in 2014 on CD only, Ian Prowse’s first solo album has been re-issued in 2024 including 3 songs that didn’t make it onto the original release (“Maybe There Is A God After All”, “Rise Like A Lion” and “Here I Am”, all written for this record but hijacked by the record label for the 2012 ‘Best Of…’ album) and, most importantly for the purposes of this piece, this time on vinyl. This hasn’t been re-mastered, it has finally been mastered. Financial restrictions meant the original release never was mastered which may be one of the reasons it’s my least played of his solo albums, it didn’t sound very good on first release, muddy and limp.

“God And Man” should have been a classic, thundering track 1 side 1, setting the tone for what was to come after it…but it found itself a victim of the overall sound in 2014…here, properly mastered it reveals itself as the huge opening statement it should always have been. Packed full of that self mythologising they’re so good at up in Liverpool (“Born in the city, One of our own, Baptised in the river, Tore down the town, Danced in the Cavern, Scaled the heights, Walked out in the morning, To the Mersey lights”). What was a timid thing hiding its beauty on CD is now a bold, bewitching thing made of shining acoustic guitars, rumbling bass and the sound of The Waterboys big music (I’m guessing Prowsey won’t mind me saying that).

Other songs that I’d not initially been so keen on reveal themselves to have been hiding their lights. Live favourite “I Did It For Love” finally sounds as slinky on record as it promises on stage, a jazzy, soulful tale of fighting the good fight with a hint of Gil Scott-Heron about it (as a later remix confirmed) which I’ve played out in DJ sets more than once since I got my hands on this record. 

There's more, so much more. “Lift Up Thine Eyes” is a hymn to England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland and the part all have paid in building Liverpool as the city it is. “Lest We Forget” tells the story of the pals who went off merrily to fight WW1 and were scarred by it for life, if they came back at all. It’s somewhere around “The Band Played Waltzing Mathilda” seen through the memoir of Harry Patch “The Last Fighting Tommy”. “Raising Up The Clans” sits inside a beauty of a picked guitar riff and is a call to arms for us all, with the obvious message that we’re stronger together, cos as Jason Isbell put it in “Hope The High Road”, “There can't be more of them than us, There can't be more”.

On and on it goes “Anger Mountain”, “We Were Men”, “Bring On The Healing”, “Coming Up For Air”…the whole album is a lesson in melodic songwriting with a lot to say for itself. Prowsey has said “World War I, racism, the Cuban revolution, the NHS, it’s all there”. This is modern folk music, music of the folk, for and about the folk. 

If you have been aboard the good ship Prowsey for some time and were, like me, a little underwhelmed by this album 10 years ago then I can absolutely recommend this fully mastered beast. If you still need to buy a ticket for that voyage then this is as good a place to start as I could point you to.

God And Man - https://youtu.be/VuPYZH406aA?si=BqpSkMIosoAprorU

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