Ian Prowse (Pele / Amsterdam) releases Does This Train Stop on Mersyside (The very Best of Ian Prowse) on April 9th.
The phone rang at Ian Prowse’s home. It was Christy Moore. The living legend of modern folk music was about to enter the studio to record his own version of Ian’s evocative lament to his home turf, Does This Train Stop On Merseyside?
Would it be OK, Christy asked, if he didn’t do a wholesale cover of the song? Ian’s reply was something along the lines of: “You’re Christy Moore, you can do whatever the hell you like.”
As it transpired, a couple of verses were sacrificed for the sake of brevity, but not a single word was changed. Christy, one of the all-time great interpreters of popular music (“folk” is, on reflection, too small a word), connected with the heart and soul of Ian’s lyric and had, rightly, concluded it couldn’t be improved upon.
Moore’s attraction to the song had less to do with the “stop” in its title, and more to do with what Ian saw out of the window along every mile, the images in his head during the journey, and how he conveyed those images to listeners. Christy wasn’t on the train, but he knew exactly what Ian had seen - because Ian had already told him in painstakingly sharp detail.
As a musically social comment conduit, Ian Prowse is a bit Woody Guthrie, a smidgen of Paul Simon, a cap-doffer to Costello and Springsteen, but never less than his own fiercely intelligent and articulate man; a man drenched in the rudiments, theory, passion and joy of popular music in its many varied stripes.
That might be too many references already, but here’s a couple more. If Hank Williams and Hal David had a baby, it might have turned out something like Ian Prowse; a rootsy troubadour with an eloquently “pop” worldview.
It’s all here on the 18 tracks of this compilation; a thrill-packed journey cherry-picking the highlights of a career at the helm of two hugely respected bands, Pele and Amsterdam. The former’s highest-charting single, Fair Blows The Wind For France, marks out the DNA of Prowse’s music, as do the activist rallying cries of Raid The Palace and Fireworks – Celtic folk motifs allied to equally contemporary melodies and words with something to say.
The same principles and sonic architecture are also hallmarks of Amsterdam’s records, from their first release ‘Love Phenomenon’ and its images of Liverpool nightlife onwards, Prowse painting across an ever widening musical canvas.
It’s no surprise to discover links to two long time Prowse heroes on this compilation; famous fan Elvis Costello saddles up with Amsterdam on a vibrant cover of The Searchers’ hit Don’t Throw Your Love Away, and Ian pays tribute to Joe Strummer on the self-explanatory Joe’s Kiss.
The evidence offered by all of the songs here convinces us that Ian Prowse is cut from the same cloth as these men. He’s a poet, a pragmatist and a pop enthusiast to be cherished. This is what he’s been up to these last 20 years, and the next 20 promise to be just as intriguing.
You can see Ian live around the UK on the following dates in April :
19 – London Borderline
20 – Bristol Thunderbolt
21 – Liverpool Kazimier
24 – Manchester Band on the Wall
25 – York Duchess
27 – Glasgow King Tuts
28 – Wolverhampton Slade Rooms