'Little Princess' (Fairfield)

It's the single the fans asked for. McNabb opens his New Year account with an abbreviated edit of 'Little Princess', the gently addictive song that attracted live audience acclaim during his Autumn-Winter UK tour dates.

The 03.46 edit introduces the cut from the Party Political Broadcast On Behalf Of The Emotional Party album to a wider audience, retaining the delay guitar and atmospheric vocal but omitting slices of instrumental material.

Its success out there in the mainstream depends greatly on airplay, and the lobbying of the diehard McNabb heads will be decisive. Write, or ring, your local ILR station today and get the ball rolling. Give the Beeb a try, too.

But the absolute joy of the EP is to be found in the back-up and bonus tracks.

First up is a delicate March 1995 demo of 'Beautiful Old Mystery' (04.15), the cut which wound up on the Merseybeast album here revelling in its own rich melody and simplicity. Rarely has McNabb been in better vocal form.

His voice twists and weaves, swoops and soars around the song, which here ends in an increasingly reverb-drenched fade. The question, perhaps, is why the demo didn't make the album, rather than the finished article.

Third out of the bag is the October 1996 demo for 'Loveless Age' (04.17), and it's an ear-opener for anyone whose only acquaintance with it comes from the acoustic duet with Mike Scott on the Emotional Party album.

Out comes the distortion pedal and the electric axe, transforming the song in to a rock statement which could almost have been an out-take from the Head Like A Rock sessions, but which was recorded in the 'Pool.

McNabb plays guitars, bass and drums - using the former for a liquid wah solo that trickles through the song like a fine claret. Let's see it played this way on the February dates here in Birmingham and the Black Country.

Last but not least is the all-new June 1998 solo recording of 'Out Of Season' (05.22) recreating the song as played onstage at Ronnie Scott's back in December, and based around that tricky delay guitar technique.

It was always one of the Icicle Works' most underrated cuts, and here emphasises both the lyric and the power of the melody.

At least one of the Brit Awards judges nominated McNabb for 'Best British Solo Artist' this time out, but he failed to make the final shortlist because not enough promotional push was given to the current album.

As we start the New Year, let's get the bandwagon rolling big-time. Start writing today and let's get 'Little Princess' the attention she deserves. And what chance a live bonus version, complete with that Led Zepp 'Heartbreaker' solo, next time?

I'm not convinced it's over yet ...

PAUL COLE
Birmingham Evening Mail

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