Review of There Was A Time

by Nigel Schofield for Living Tradition

In 2013, Allan Taylor was invited to participate in a unique event – a performance of a selection of his songs with a symphony orchestra at a Festival in Northern Italy. Knowing it would be a challenge, he worked on a sequence of songs with the Festival Director and arranger Valter Sivilotti, adding to his own songs translations of two songs by Italian songwriters. The concert and the entire project were such a success that, despite the fact the event was recorded, it was decided to go into the orchestra’s rehearsal room and make a full SACD recording of the piece. This CD is the result.

Lavishly packaged in the form of a hardback full-colour book, the set features photographs from the concert and the recording as well as images illustrating the songs, each of which comes with full lyrics and notes. There is also an introductory essay describing the project.

The twelve songs are drawn from over thirty years, but this is no mere chronological overview or “greatest hits”: instead the songs form an implied narrative, rendered continuous by the arrangements which not only accompany the songs but also bind them together. “Now the roads have come together and led me to this place”: there is no shoehorning and one is left to fill out the story from impressions, descriptions, lyrical snapshots of people, places and events from a life on the road.

The songs – it goes without saying – are all strong. The arrangements more than do them justice, highlighting nuances and introducing musical references. Allan, who admits uncertainty at tackling a new approach to performing, delivers some of the most powerful and most authoritative performances of his career.

An utterly satisfying album – entirely classy and instantly classic.

Review of There Was A Time

by journalist and broadcaster Nigel Schofield

On the other hand, Allan Taylor’s latest release is a total contrast. It’s lavishly packaged in a 52 page glossy book, with lyrics, commentary, background and a plethora of stunning photographs. You can’t always judge a CD by its cover but here all the virtues of the packaging apply, and more, to the album itself.

A meticulous labour of love by all concerned, this is a collection of 12 songs, 10 originals plus two translations, that span thirty years of Allan’s career – not, in any way, a “best of” or “greatest hits” but something much richer. Let me explain…

A couple of years ago, Allan was asked by an Italian Festival Organiser whether he would like to appear with a symphony orchestra. Arrangements of his songs were created and his role would be to accommodate himself to them. The arrangements, recreated here with the Göttinger Symphony Orchestra, are sublime, richly appropriate, utterly empathetic and redolent of the folk settings of George Butterworth. Allan’s performance, while in many ways untypical, is perfectly suited to the new context…all of which goes to render even the most familiar of these songs fresh and totally valid. Moreover, the sequencing – and one should say the album, though divided into tracks, in effect plays as a continuous piece – creates a fresh, subtle narrative. There is nothing laboured, no “story” that songs are shoehorned into, but one senses the correlation of songs from different times and eras as if they are different elements of a story retold anew.

It is a work of art, a thing of beauty and, I would hazard to suggest, a joy forever.

Review of There Was A Time

fFroots, issue 398 pp65-66

This album has its origins in a concert given in July 2013 where, at the instigation of Andrea del Favero, director of the Folkest Festival in Friuli, northern Italy, Allan performed, with the backing of a full symphony orchestra in arrangements by composer/arranger/conductor Vatler Sivilott, a selection of his own songs and two by Italian songwriters which he had translated. Playing the guitar and singing with the orchestra proved more difficult than it might sound in pure conceptual terms, but on this subsequent CD recording of the songs using comparable instrumental forces (in this case the Gottinger Symphonie Orchester), Allan and the Stockfisch crew rise effortlessly above these challenges, producing a sumptuous yet admirably detailed sound that's ideally balanced.

The songs span the past three decades, and have been chosen very carefully since not every song lends itself to orchestration. Allan's singing seems to take on an extra dimension of expressiveness here too, assuring the status of the songs as true modern-day chansons. The sonic splendour of the orchestral tapestry, typical of the classic-romantic period, is perceptively and sensitively managed in these arrangements, realising the potential of timbres to convey a mood in counterpoint to the sung lyrics (even on the more overtly dramatic touches such as the Janacek-Sinfonietta-style timpani figure and trumpet flourishes on The Beggar).

The more animated passages in songs such as Win or Lose are creatively steered, avoiding the all-too-easy option of bombast by the ntural momentum in the phrasing. The calm of reflection produces its own drama too, yet the generally pensive air engenders a certain consistency of mood which is always at the service of the song rather than calling attention to itself for its own sake.

The standard of engineering is exemplary, and Allan's guitar, where used, is kept in sensible perspective within the complex, often quite lavish texture. Super-Audio CD at its very finest, housed in a study state-of-the-art hardcover package incorporating a full-colour 54-page book containing a multi-language background essay, an abundance of photos, complete lyrics and song notes and even full personnel listing for the 53-piece orchestra. All told, a beautifully produced release.

David Kidman

Interview with Nigel Schofield

Living Tradition

Allan Taylor has spent his life making music. His immediate career aim on leaving school at 16 was to run a folk club. After a decade honing his craft as a songwriter, singer and guitarist, he made his recording debut with Sometimes which featured members of Fairport Convention, with whom he also toured at the time.

Although his early albums were clearly influenced by English traditional music and the current medieval vogue, he rapidly cast his net wider drawing inspiration from Europe (which increasingly became the focus of both live work and recording) and America, which was the direct inspiration of two mid-seventies albums. Forty-odd years and 18 albums down the line, Allan has just released All Is One, a CD that has been glowingly reviewed in both roots and rock magazines on the continent and is arguably the finest album of his career.

We met up on a bright Yorkshire winter’s day to discuss the album and a few other matters. We started, logically, with the sleeve, which shows Allan as a lone figure in a vast furrowed field beneath a bright blue sky rendered sombre in monochrome. There is a sense of timelessness about the image.

“That was taken in Germany,” says Allan. “It was a colour shot but it was too pretty. It needed to be stark, very real. It’s dominated by the sky and the earth, so I am quite insignificant in the middle. That’s the way I wanted it. We’re all alone, one, a single speck. It’s also outdoors and in a place that’s impossible to identify.”

Before talking about the album’s individual songs, I remark on the critical acclaim it achieved immediately and add my own opinion that it is his masterpiece - a term which causes a simultaneous raised eyebrow and smile of acknowledgement.

“It’s not for me to say how good or bad an album is. I can say when I achieved what I set out to achieve. I also know when I didn’t quite get it right – though that may not be obvious to anyone else, of course. There’s an important difference between achieving what you set out to and producing something that works anyway. My wife loves the album – and that is certainly not always the case. She says the same as you; that it’s the best thing I’ve done. That is very gratifying to me because she was integral to the process of creating the album - that’s particularly true of the way I sang – she was a great help to me. That’s the thing, I suppose: it doesn’t matter how good I think an album is; it’s what other people make of it, people whose opinions I value, whether it’s my wife or someone like you or a fan who regularly comes to a concert. What I will say is that I have listened to the new album right through, at least eight times. That is more than I have ever listened to one of my own albums in the past.”

The masterful production is one of the elements of the album which has captured the attention of rock critics. Like the image on the sleeve, the album’s sound is crisp, open, uncluttered and clearly delineated. It has a sound that is full of space.

Allan agrees: “Absolutely. I had this idea right from the start. Because Stockfisch Records are so good at capturing an aural environment, I knew they were the ideal company to create the sound I had in my head, a kind of wide open landscape with lots of space between the sounds. There’s a difference between space and emptiness: it’s possible to have a very spare or sparse sound – very few instruments – and yet the final record can still sound full. That’s precisely what I was aiming for when I started making the record. Each sound can count for much more when it has space around it. It’s as if it allows your brain to take in more of the implications of what’s going on in terms of both the sounds and the lyrics. That’s starting to sound a little pretentious, but it’s the best way I can explain what I set out to do with these songs and this album.”

Allan has certainly achieved it. I mention the soprano sax heard off in the distance playing along to Let The Music Flow, the second song on the album.

“Interesting you should pick that one out, because it came about quite differently from most of the album. You know me; I like to plan well ahead. I need to know in advance what I am trying to achieve so I can communicate it to the other people involved – singers, musicians, producers, engineers and so on. Sometimes they might not agree and we can discuss it. They might have a different view and that’s fine, but I need a definite starting point and a fixed objective. It’s the way I like to work.”

“In the case of Let The Music Flow, the saxophone part came about by accident. It was very much a spur of the moment thing. When I played the long introduction to the song on guitar, I thought how great it would be if Beo Brockhausen was playing on it. He is one of the most fantastic musicians I have ever met; he can turn his hand to almost any instrument and play it well. He knows when to come in and when to back off. He’s both inventive and tasteful. So that wasn’t thought of until we started recording. Next day he came in. He chose to play soprano saxophone and you hear the result on the album. Simple as that. The difference between a good musician and a great musician is that a good musician will play well and know when to play (even if he tends to show off a bit); a great musician will also know when not to play. Beo is a great musician.”

If that is the exception to the way Allan works in the studio, what’s the norm?

“When I go into the studio, I make sure every musician who is going to play has a copy of the text. That’s because I guarantee any musician will play differently when he’s read the text. That’s not just what the words say, but things like tone and, of course, ambiguities. Some writers are genuinely poets and what their words say is far less than they mean. A good musician will bring that out.”

“I’m not by nature a team player. The career I’ve chosen in a way requires and dictates that. I’d never be a good member of a group, though I have been in a group and asked to join others. It doesn’t suit me temperamentally and I accept it’s my fault. However, when I am working with other musicians, so long as we all agree what we are trying to achieve, I know it works for me and for them. If it’s my album, I take on the responsibility of briefing people clearly, without restricting their individual creative input which is not only important to me but is actually why they are part of the project. When I have worked on other people’s projects, they’ve done the same for me.”

Despite the fact that the songwriters belonging to Allan’s generation are generally passing beyond what most people think of as retirement age, not many have genuinely tackled the issue of growing old in their songs. But, like Dylan’s Tempest, the stage of life at which Allan finds himself is a recurrent theme of All Is One.

Allan explains: “It wasn’t a policy or, even worse, a concept. However, you are right, one reaches a point in life where you look back down the road you’ve travelled – the good things, the luck or success, the missed opportunities, the diversions, the places you’ve visited, the people you’ve known – and at the same time you look at the road ahead and start wondering just how much of it is left. After all the signs you’ve passed along the way, you know somewhere up ahead will be the Exit sign, so to speak. Some events remind you of that, of course.”

“Then you look at the new generation that’s coming up and you recognise that fire in their belly and the spark in their eyes. Maybe you can even use experience to guess which ones are going to make it. They’re the ones who need to be writing the equivalent of the young men’s songs we wrote years ago. You meet them along the way, shake their hands, wish them well and know they will travel further along the road than you may be able to. It’s handing it on to the next guy. There’s a young Danish songwriter, Jacob Dinesen – he’s 18 – whom I called on stage last year to do three songs with me. He is terrific and I’ve suggested we spend some time together next year, meet up in Paris, sit outside some cafes, try writing a few songs together, see what happens. It’s pretty much what Derroll Adams did for me when I was much younger. We ended up spending time in Brussels and Antwerp. There were people back then who were not happy to hand on the baton – and I am sure there are people like that around today. It’s really a matter of how comfortable you are with who you are and what you have done. But if songwriting and folk music generally is about anything, it’s about sharing and passing things on, so it seems the most natural thing in the world to me. Ultimately, I care less whether someone will be singing one of my songs in 10 or 20 years time than whether someone will be writing their own songs and having the faith in themselves to go out and play those songs to other people.”

“You’ve got everything to gain from helping and supporting people who are just starting out. How can you work in a scene that you know and love for 50 years and not wish that it would continue and develop? It can’t do that without people. I think some people forget the help and encouragement they received when they first started out. It’s easy to sit back and be admired for all you achieved, but it’s pretty worthless unless you can help someone else do the same. If the new people who are coming along are going to continue the tradition that you are part of, you owe it to them and you owe it to yourself to help them along. Of course, if they’re anything like I was when I was 17, they won’t think they need any help. It took me years to realise how much I could learn from the other guys. I’m glad they were still there and willing when it dawned on me.”

I remark that Allan’s sleevenotes – considered and detailed as one would expect – not only identify the performers and writers of each song but also specifically identify where each song was written (often with multiple locations). Is provenance important to Allan? “Actually, the place a song is written is not in itself important but it may be interesting and it’s something a lot of people like to know and ask about. It’s true that a song written in Amsterdam may have a different feel to one written in Berlin or Paris or Leeds or wherever. People like to know because it is part of the process of how a song comes into being: to some people that’s the most natural thing in the world, so natural they can’t begin to explain how it happens, to others it’s an absolute mystery.”

“It’s an insight into a creative process. Imagine sitting at a table outside the iconic Parisian Café, Deux Magots in St Germaine, watching the world go by: most people can picture that….and from there they can imagine how the song written there happened. Maybe I was watching a couple on the other side of the bar or something happening in the street. It’s not so much about location or context as stimulus.”

“For example, Let The Music Flow was written in Leeds and Styria. I started writing it in Leeds and I added the chorus in Styria, because that’s where I was hoping to meet up with Vlado Kreslin. (It’s about a hundred miles from Lubijana where he lives.) He’s a great songwriter and a good friend. A few days before I was about to leave, I phoned him and asked him to meet me there, but as it turned out he was recording in Vienna all that week. I arranged to meet him in Vienna instead, though I still had to go to Styria. I was sitting there, in a great little place on Wienstrasse, thinking how great it would have been if Vlado could have been there. The chorus just came to me: so that’s how it came to be written in two places. I then arrived to see him in Vienna, with a newly finished song which we ended up recording for his album (2010’s Drevored). He added a Slovenian verse. So, two years later, when I came to do my album, I thought it would be a good idea, using a different approach to recording, to do it again, with Vlado singing his Slovenian verse which is now very much part of what the song is about.”

One song in particular, Plenty For The Few, has a very precise beginning – Leeds General Infirmary, 2010.

"Absolutely,” says Allan, “but one has to be very careful there, because it could seem melodramatic to say I wrote it while I was watching someone die. I was in hospital too. Again that was the stimulus of the song, but it would not be right to say it’s about either of those things.”

Allan’s sleevenotes for that track link the thoughts his situation inspired to a much wider world – a homeless man on a Paris street, the Cardboard City of New York’s West Side, the neglected poorer quarters of most major European cities. A paradoxical juxtaposition of ideals and reality; wealth and poverty, hope and despair, encapsulated in the paradox of the song’s title.

“The German songwriter Wolf Biermann (he’s a songwriter and poet and East German political activist - I’ve met him a few times in Mamburg) said: ‘A good cause does not necessarily make a good song.’ He’s right: you can repeat facts, data, statistics, but that is just journalism. A song should have focus: that’s how it provokes a response when somebody hears it.”

And on the evidence of All Is One, Allan has certainly mastered the art of provoking a response with his lyrics and music. He talks more about his songs, what influences him, the writing process and what he thinks makes a good artist in the next issue of The Living Tradition.

Reviews of All Is One

Akustik-Gitarre, Februar/März 2014 (2/2014), S. 20

Hammond B3, Sopransaxophon, Psalter, Cello, Flöte. Fretless Bass - all das kann man hier hören. Doch was wirklich in Erinnerung bleibt, sind diese verblüffend einfachen Melodien, die Gitarren-Arpeggien und diese Stimme. Angesichts der Hauptelemente von Allan Taylors Songs aber darf man die Zutaten anderer Instrumente und Musiker nicht unterschätzen. Sie schmecken das Ganze erst fein ab, machen es sozusagen auf CD langfristig halt- und genießbar, ergänzen das musikalische Kompositum so unaufdringlich, geschmackvoll und geschickt, dass Taylors Autorität als grundehrlicher Folk-Songwriter nie Schaden nimmt durch einen beliebigen Sound.

Und diese Authentizität zahlt sich hier aus. Denn dem Briten gerät zuletzt fast alles, was er schreibt und singt, zum wehmütigen Rückblick auf seinen romantischen Aufbruch als Teenager, auf die Jahrzehnte auf Tour, auf altgewordene Freunde (,Let The Music Flow' mit Vlado Kreslin), bereits verstorbene Kollegen (Derroll Adams) oder Menschen, deren tiefer Zuneigung man nie so ganz gerecht geworden ist (,One last Smile'). In ,The Best I Can' klingt die Zeile „I think I'm living in the past“ wie ein Motto des gesamten Albums; und das Titelstück besingt gar den Tod als den alles und alle vereinenden letzten Tanz. Fast jedem Anderen würde man das in solcher Konzentration als zu eindimensional ankreiden; doch dieser Stimme, diesen Melodien, diesem von Ian Melrose zweiter Gitarre exzellent ergänztem Gitarrenspiel nimmt man einfach alles ab. Und doch: wer würde ernstlich von dem in Ehren ergrauten Spezialisten melancholischer Nachdenklichkeit etwas so Heiteres erwarten wie ,Good Day Sunshine', und das mitten in einem solchen Werk?

Michael Lohr

Akustik-Gitarre, February/March 2014 (2/2014), p. 20 - translated to English by Eckhard Grabe

Hammond B3, soprano saxophone, bowed psaltery, violoncello, flute, fretless bass – one can hear all of these instruments on this album. But what will really stay in one’s memory are these amazingly simple melodies, the guitar arpeggios and that voice. In view of the main elements of Allan Taylor's songs one should not underestimate the ingredients contributed by other musicians and instruments. They provide the fine seasoning to round it off, making it, so to say, lasting and enjoyable for the long term, complementing the musical composition in such a discreet, tasteful and adept way that Taylor’s authority as a thoroughly honest folk song writer is never compromised by a sound out of character.

And this authenticity pays off here, as lately nearly everything the British song writer writes and sings is a wistful look back: Back on his romantic departure as a teenager, on the decades on tour, on friends grown old ("Let The Music Flow" with Vlado Kreslin), colleagues already deceased (Derroll Adams) or people, whose deep affection one never did quite do justice to ("One Last Smile"). In "The Best I Can" the line "I think I'm living in the past" sounds like the motto for the whole album. The title song even sings about death as the final dance uniting all and everyone. Almost any other artist who tried this would risk being criticized as too one-dimensional; but one believes everything coming from this voice, these melodies, this guitar playing – excellently supplemented by Ian Melrose’s second guitar. However, who would seriously expect something as cheerful as "Good Day Sunshine" from the specialist in melancholic thoughtfulness, who has grown grey in honour – and that in such a great work?

Michael Lohr

Audiophile Audition

Veteran troubadour exhibits wisdom and grace.

At nearly seventy, Allan Taylor has truly lived as a folk troubadour. Starting in the London scene in the sixties, he traveled to Greenwich Village to become a staple of the post-Beatnik musical society. His soothing, deep-register voice and acoustic Martin guitars created songs that defined the singer/songwriter aesthetic. By the mid-seventies he relocated back to England. Since then he has travelled the world, writing and performing material that reflects his personal journey.

As Allan Taylor opens his latest release from Stockfisch Records, his simple narrative of the road imbues “Endless Highway”. The elements that have made him a trademark of his label, baritone voice, simple guitar and great songwriting (“…I found it in the songs of Woody Guthrie, of the lost and the dispossessed”) are merged in an aural framework that fits him perfectly, Taylor sings about himself, but for everyman. Ten songs, with a surprising three covers comprise this poetic melancholy album. “Let The Music Flow” incorporates the muse in a musical journey. Fellow songwriter Vlado Kreslin contributes a verse in Slavic. Session virtuoso Beo Brockhausen adds a timely run on soprano saxophone. The next track, “We Stood As One” benefits from ethereal harmonious backup vocals by Lea Morris. LucilleChaubard adds an exotic touch on violoncello, while guitarist Ian Melrose and keyboardist Lutz-Moller bring the tune to life.

The first of three covers is Tom Paxton’s “I Followed Her Into The West”. There is a melancholy elegance to the arrangement. Lutz-Moller’s piano exudes a gospel vibe and Brockhausen elevates the folk resonance as he plays bowed psaltery. He covers Derroll Adams on “The Sky”. The meditative tune has a rich sound, augmented by keyboards/bowed psaltery (Brockhausen), violoncello (Chaubard) and guitar/flute (Ian Melrose). The 8:29 running time is a departure from the customary Taylor material, and it is prominent.. The final cover is “Like A Cloud (Canzone del Ripensamento)”. This arrangement is scaled down to a trio and showcases the versatility and strength of his voice. Regardless of the song’s origin, Taylor makes them his own with authenticity.

Stockfisch Records SACD process applies modern recording technology to expand the organic tone of Taylor’s vocals. However, the intimate resonance of the material is never lost in the mixing process. Acoustic guitars are front and center to complement the singing. Any shading instrumentation (bowed psaltery, organ, flute) are mixed into the background.

TrackList: Endless Highway; Let The Music Flow; All Is One; We Stood As One; I Followed Her Into The West; One Last Smile; Plenty For The Few; The Sky; Like A Cloud (Canzone del Ripensamento); The Best I Can

Robbie Gerson

Nigel Schofield

I am going to stick my neck out: this album is a masterpiece. For over forty years, Allan has established a reputation as a singer, songwriter and guitarist. In all respects, he is undeniably at the top of his form on his latest CD. These are songs of depth, perception and maturity. They reflect what Allan describes “looking back down the road you’ve travelled, the places you’ve been, the people you’ve met and looking ahead at how much of that road is left.”

Appropriately, the image is picked up in the song’s opening track, The Endless Highway. The title is paradoxical, since, while one’s personal highway does end, one can ‘pass the dream to someone new’ to continue the journey. In Allan’s case, one such dream sharer who steered him onto the right track was Derroll Adams, whose song The Sky is featured in a sweeping eight and a half minute version, a mighty tribute to an important, often-underrated figure. It’s one of two cover versions on the album (in addition, there’s Allan’s translation of Canzone del Ripensamento by Santino de Bartolo). The other is an impeccable interpretation of a much-covered song by his friend Tom Paxton, I Followed Her Into The West, a song of immense economy where whole story-strands spin from a single word or phrase: its subtlety is regularly sledgehammered but not in this version which illuminates every nuance.

Rightly, Allan’s songs dominate from Let The Music Flow about the joy of meeting up with an old friend (the friend in question Vlado Kreslin contributes a verse in Slovenian) through Plenty For The Few (in which the experience of watching a man die slowly in the next bed in Leeds Infirmary becomes a prism for social injustice worldwide) to The Best I Can (a lovesong which is also a mission statement, written during the recording sessions and recorded with an understated solo piano accompaniment.)

Such a brave use of totally stripped back sound, together with the inclusion of unusual instruments (seashell tintabulum, bowed psaltery, violoncello) are just part of the skill and inventiveness which have combined to create the album’s stunningly evocative soundscape. Indeed, one reason for using the M word in my opening sentence is the superlative production of this album. The sound is spatial, the instrumentation economical and imaginative, the arrangements inventive and entirely appropriate. Like the cover shot, the sound of the album sets Allan in an open vastness which provides a sense of scale without ever losing focus or feeling empty.

All of which brings us to the album’s title track, a seven and half minute song with a cascade of complimentary, contrasting and conflicting images, on a par with the best of Leonard Cohen, a dance macabre of lifetime moments that are at once intensely personal and evocatively universal. It has the rich colours, iridescent brilliance and ultimate evanescence of bright autumn leaves carried on a fast flowing stream.

It’s a triumphant album from one of the great singer-songwriters that is both challenging and thoroughly satisfying.

Nigel Schofield

Nigel Schofield - translated into German by Monika Duerrer

Ich traue mich weit vor: dieses Album ist ein Meisterwerk. Seit über 40 Jahren hat Allan Taylor sich einen Namen als Singer, Songwriter und Gitterrist gemacht. In jeder Hinsicht ist er mit seiner neusten CD unzweifelhaft auf der Höhe seines Schaffens angelangt. Das sind Lieder mit Tiefe, Erkenntnis und Reife. Sie reflektieren, was Allan beschreibt als "zurückschauen auf den Weg, den du gereist bist, zu den Plätzen, an denen du warst, zu den Leuten, die du getroffen hast und nach vorne schauen, auf das, was von dem Weg noch übrig ist."

Passenderweise ist dieses Bild im ersten Song des Albums aufgegriffen, The Endless Highway. Der Titel ist paradox, denn während der persönliche Highway eines jeden einzelnen endet, kann er "den Traum zu jemand neuem weiterreichen", um die Reise fortzusetzen. In Allans Fall ist einer derjenigen, die seinen Traum teilten und ihn auf den richtigen Weg geschubst haben, Derroll Adams. Sein Song The Sky ist als eine 8,5-minütige rauschende Version inszeniert, ein großartiges Tribut an eine bedeutende, häufig unterschätzte Persönlichkeit. Es ist eine von zwei Coverversionen auf dem Album (zudem ist da noch Allans Übersetzung von Canzone del Ripensamento von Santino de Bartolo). Die zweite Coverversion ist eine untadelige Interpretation eines häufig gecoverten Titels seines Freundes, Tom Paxton, I Followed Her Into The West. Ein Song von enormer Sparsamkeit, bei dem ganze Erzählstränge von einem einzigen Wort oder einer Redewendung entwickelt werden. Diese Spitzfindigkeit ist normalerweise vernichtend, aber nicht in dieser Version, die jede Nuance hervorhebt.

Zu Recht dominieren (auf dem Album) Allans eigene Songs von Let The Music Flow, von der Freude, einen alten Freund wieder zu treffen (der besagte Freund, Vlado Kreslin, steuert dem Song eine Strophe in Slowenisch bei) über Plenty For The Few (hier wird die Erfahrung, einen Mann im Nebenbett in einem Krankenhaus in Leeds langsam sterben zu sehen zu einem Prismen-Glas für die weltweite soziale Ungerechtigkeit) bis hin zu The Best I Can, einem Liebeslied, das zugleich ein Leitsatz ist, geschrieben zwischen Aufnahme-Sessions und aufgenommen mit der unaufdringlichen Begleitung eines Pianos.

Solch ein mutiger Einsatz von völlig reduziertem Sound zusammen mit der Einbeziehung ungewöhnlicher Instrumente (Seemuschel-Schellen (Tintinnabulum), Streichpsalter, Violoncello) sind Teil des Geschicks und des Ideenreichtums, die kombiniert die atemberaubende und bewegende Klangkulisse des Albums kreieren.

Gewiss ist ein Grund um in meinem Eingangssatz das M-Wort zu gebrauchen die brillante Produktion dieses Albums. Der Klang ist räumlich, die Instrumentierung sparsam und ideenreich, die Arrangements originell und absolut angemessen.

Genau wie das Coverfoto, setzt der Klang des Albums (All Is One) Allan in eine offene Weite, die eine Idee für den Maßstab bietet ohne jemals den Fokus zu verlieren oder sich leer anzufühlen. Alles dies bringt uns zum Titelsong des Albums, ein siebeneinhalb-minütiges Lied mit einer Kaskade von gegensätzlichen, kontrastierenden und konfliktären Bildern, ebenbürtig dem Besten von Leonard Cohen, ein Dance Macabre (Totentanz) von Momenten des Lebens die zugleich intensiv persönlich und weltbewegend sind. Das Album hat die reichen Farben, die schillernde Brillanz und das ultimative Dahinschwinden von leuchtenden Herbstblättern, die auf einem schnell fließenden Strom getragen werden.

Es ist ein triumphales Album von einem der großen Singer und Songwriter, das in gleicher Weise fesselnd und zutiefst überzeugend ist.

Nigel Schofield


This newly-recorded album from the quintessential Travelling Troubadour follows a period of recuperation after a severe shoulder dysfunction (thankfully now healed) which prevented him from playing guitar. The disc’s opening song links directly in from Allan’s previous work, whose perennial preoccupation with journeying-on now encompasses the extended metaphor of movement through time, “to ride that endless highway”, and literal movement through purely physical territory. By way of Let The Music Flow, connecting the passage of time through the music that leads to the forming of friendships, we come to the album’s title song which posits the key recognition that the march of time is “one final dance [that] unites us all”. Allan’s troubadour stance embraces the freedom to decide to take the road less travelled, and We Stood As One examines the moments when the complex conundrum of hindsight brings the emergence of doubts and regrets. One Last Smile continues that stream of thought by encouraging us to try to make life count in and for the company of friends, and this philosophy ultimately leads through to its sanguine, and natural, conclusion, a modest resolve to do simply The Best I Can.

All Is One is unusual for an Allan Taylor album in that among the self-penned songs it includes three covers. Two of these are the creations of writers who have been close personal friends, and to whose own life-philosophies Allan has always been keenly attuned:
Derroll Adams’s powerful meditation The Sky receives a wonderfully affectionate reading, and Tom Paxton’s I Followed Her Into TheWest carries deep resonance in the context of Allan’s own material. The third cover, Allan’s translation of a Canzone by Santino de Bartolo, links all various themes. All Is One is also unusual because, for all that songs like One Last Smile and We Stood As One are shot through with the distinctively memorable melodic contours of classic Allan Taylor, the entire set is imbued with a special, almost mystical quality in its musical settings: quite unique, with the almost unearthly timbre of Beo Brockhausen’s bowed psaltery imparting an eerie elusiveness in direct contrast to Barnaby Taylor’s more earthbound piano, between which planes Allan weaves his trademark Martin guitar lines (subtle yet mellifluous, the archetypal inter-dimensional traveller) with atmospheric fills from Ian Melrose (guitars, flute), Lutz Möller (keyboards), and other musicians on cello, basses and percussion.

But on the other hand, All Is One is not unusual among Allan Taylor albums in that its principal unifying factor is the warmth and sincerity of the man himself in the expression through song of his personal vision.

David Kidman

Wolfgang Giese,

Original (in German)

Mit angenehmer Regelmäßigkeit veröffentlicht der britische Barde seine Platten - wir haben ihn bereits mehrfach gewürdigt, zuletzt mit Old Friends - New Roads.

Mich begleitet der Musiker mit der besonderen und angenehmen Stimme bereits seit 1980, als ich mir die LP "Roll On The Day" kaufte und die Musik mich sofort in ihren Bann zog. Auch die neue Platte "All Is One" fasziniert mich erneut ungemein und gefällt mir besser als die vorherigen Veröffentlichungen. Denn hier habe ich das Gefühl, dass mir die Musik viel näher ist - die Stimmung berührt mich tiefer und inniger. Musik für Herbsttage geeignet, auch für die Stimmung des 'inneren Herbstes', mit einem kleinen Hauch Wehmut inklusive, aber immer mit viel Wärme und dabei eine gewisse Ruhe und Zufriedenheit ausstrahlend.

Vielleicht geht mir die Atmosphäre auch deshalb in die Tiefe, weil Allan selbst offensichtlich selber dahin vorstößt. Denn er hat sich wohl stark dorthin begeben und so zeugen die Texte von viel Lebensweisheit. Sie bieten viele Möglichkeiten der Identifikation, gerade der Titelsong ist sehr ergreifend und berichtet vom Schicksal, das da Leben heißt und mit dem wir in all seinen Schattierungen umgehen müssen - von der Geburt bis zum Tod. Ein sehr anrührender Text, in ein wunderschönes musikalisches Gewand gepackt. Diese Atmosphäre durchzieht jedoch die ganze Platte und mit Instrumenten wie dem Sopransaxofon, mit Cello und Flöten sowie dem erneut ganz prägend eingesetzten bundlosen E-Bass von Hans-Jörg Mauksch wird ein herrliches Klangerlebnis geboten. Wieder dieser Klang, wie man ihn eben kennt von Stockfisch: Also Fertigung als Super Audio-CD; eine Hybrid-SACD mit 16bit CD-Audio Layer, die auf jedem herkömmlichen CD-Player abgespielt werden kann.

Ich betrachte die Platte für mich persönlich als Konzept-CD, weil von Anfang bis Ende etwas entstanden ist, das ich ungern unterbrechen möchte. Keine Titel, die es für mich hervorzuheben gibt, die Einheit ist dieses Mal unvergleichlich geworden, auch wenn sich bei einzelnen Titeln Unterschiede ergeben, die sich aber nur in Nuancen zeigen, wie zum Beispiel die zerbrechlich wirkend eingesetzte Perkussion auf "I Followed Her Into The West", das ansonsten nur vom Piano und dieser Streichpsalter, der 'Bowed Psaltery', begleitet wird. Sonstige Besonderheiten, die sich ein wenig aus dem Gesamtbild abheben, findet man auf dem zweiten Song, wo die in slowenischer Sprache gesungenen Textteile von Vlado Kreslin mit eindrucksvollem Ausdruck übernommen werden. Auch der Einsatz des Sopransaxofons unterstreicht diese Aufforderung, die Musik einfach fließen zu lassen.

"One Last Smile" - dieses Stück scheint auf einem beschwingten Rhythmusteppich dahinzuschweben, der bei allen Titeln sehr gut ohne Schlagzeug auskommt. Inhaltlich fühle ich mich 'ertappt', wenn Allan offenbar vom Älterwerden singt, »Time is moving faster now, time enough to know, time to make it count somehow, before it's time to go.« Ja, in vielen Texten beschäftigt er sich mit der Endlichkeit des Lebens, aber ohne dass es traurig oder niederdrückend wäre. Es ist eher Melancholie als Depression oder Hoffnungslosigkeit, die ausgedrückt wird. Vielmehr scheint Allan Taylor eine Art Bestandsaufnahme geschaffen zu haben, mit einer Beschreibung der Realität, der wir alle ausgesetzt sind. Diese wird ganz einfach ohne Umschweife und schnörkellos beschrieben.

Auch die drei Fremdtitel des Albums fügen sich nahtlos thematisch und musikalisch in dieses ein, das mit der Aussage Allan Taylors - es sei das Beste, was er könne, tun werde, obgleich er kein perfekter Mann wäre - endet, nur von Lutz Möller am Piano begleitet.
Diese Musik macht nachdenklich und vielleicht mag auch ihre Schönheit von den realistisch gefärbten Texten ablenken, aber wie heißt es im Titelsong: »One final dance unites us all, one grand romance before we fall, one stands alone when all is gone, when one is all and all is one.« Danke, Allan, für dieses vorzügliche Album.

Translated to English by Vivi Heere

With nice regularity the British bard releases his records - we have already dignified him several times, last mentioned with "Old Friends-New Roads".

The musician with the special and pleasant voice already accompanies me since 1980 when I bought the LP "Roll On The Day" and the music captivated me right away. The new record "All Is One" fascinates me as well and appeals to me more than the previous releases. Because I've got the feeling the music is much closer to me - the mood affects me deeper and more intimately. Suitable music for autumn days, also for the mood of the "inner autumn", incl. a little whiff of melancholy but always with much warmness and radiating a certain calm and contentment.

Perhaps the atmosphere affects me so deeply because Allan obviously moves to that level himself. The lyrics are evidence of much worldly wisdom. They feature many options of identifications, in particular the title song is very moving and refers to fate, named life, which we have to deal with all its shades - from birth to death. A very moving text, packed into a beautiful arrangement. This atmosphere is present throughout the whole record and with instruments such as soprano saxophone, cello and flute as well as the distinctive fretless bass by Hans-Jörg Mauksch a great sound experience is provided. Again that sound one knows of Stockfisch: Produced as Super-Audio-CD; a Hybrid-SACD with a 16bit hybrid layer which can be played on any conventional CD-player.

Personally I see the record as a concept-CD because something was created from start to finish that I'm reluctant to pause. No tracks which I prefer, this item is unique, even if individual tracks vary but it's only a nuance such as the percussion with fragile effect in "I Followed Her Into The West", accompanied only by piano and bowed psaltery. Other specific features which distinguish a little bit from the whole can be found on the second song. Some text components were sung in Slovenian language by Vlado Kreslin with grandiose expression. Also the entry of the soprano saxophone underlines the demand just to let the music flow.

"One Last Smile", this track seems to float on a lively rhythmic background that goes very well without drums on any tracks. With regards to the topic I feel found out when Allan sang obviously about ageing, "Time is moving faster now, time enough to know, time to make it count somehow, before it's time to go." Yes, in many songs he concerns himself with finiteness of life but without being sad or depressed. It's rather melancholy than depression or despair. In fact Allan Taylor created a sort of inventory with a description of reality that we all have to face. That is simply specified in plain language.

Also the three non-owned tracks of the album fit in smoothly, taking up the issues and music. It ends with Allan Taylor's statement "I may not be the perfect man, I guess I'll do the best I can", only accompanied by Lutz Möller on piano. This music makes you pensive and perhaps its beauty may detract from the realistic coloured lyrics, but as the title song goes: "One final dance unites us all, one grand romance before we fall, one stands alone when all is gone, when one is all and all is one."
Thanks, Allan, for this excellent album.

Grem Devlin, The Living Tradition, Issue 99, December 2013:

There cannot be many unfamiliar with Allan Taylor and his universally loved songwriting style and performance ethic. This album, his sixth under the Stockfisch brand, sums up what attracted many of us to his songs in the first place (in my case, the Lakes Folk Club, Ambleside, early 70s). The guy can simply tease exactly the right emotions out of what appears, on first listening, to be the simplest of lyrics – but in truth possessing the ultimate depth and scale.

On this occasion, he seems to have unwittingly performed tributes to seminal influences – The Best I Can could have been a Randy Newman original, the title song is uncannily reminiscent of Jacques Brel and One Last Smile smacks of Tom Paxton at his best. Indeed, he offers his own take on Paxton’s I Followed Her Into The West – and nails it. The subject matter includes tales of homeless street folk and a translated love song by Santino de Bartolo, but really, as you might expect from somebody that’s populated his own corner of the scene for upwards of 40 years, there is a lot of reflection and stories of life on the road.

The supporting cast are also of the highest order – pianist Lutz Möller plays superbly on most tracks, although AT’s son Barnaby also shines on The Endless Highway. Ian Melrose contributes brilliant complementary guitar alongside Allan Taylor’s own measured playing. There are high production values and excellent packaging with copious notes from the man himself. I get the impression that Allan Taylor has never been more comfortable in his own skin and this CD is triumphant evidence of the same.

BBC Radio Scotland - Album of the Week:

BBC Radio Scotland - Iain Anderson’s programme - one track every day for the week

Album of The Week
'All Is One' by Allan Taylor.
In the course of a career spanning over 40 years, Allan may just have recorded his best album to date. If you're a lover of fine songwriting, ace guitar playing and adventurous soundscapes, this is unmissable.

Reviews of Stuhr Concert - 25 October 2013

Stuhr - Weyher Zeitung

Traumwandlerisch durch die verschiedenen Genres
Allan Taylor beeindruckt mit Stimme und Gitarrenspiel im Stuhrer Rathaus

Von Sandra Hellmers

STUHR • Alte Bekannte haben sich am Freitag im Ratssaal getroffen: Zum wiederholten Mal war der englische Singer/ Songwriter Allan Taylor zu Gast, und wieder enttäuschte er sein treues Publikum nicht.

Ein Stuhl und zwei Gitarren - das reicht Taylor, um einen ganzen Abend zu bestreiten. Der gebürtige Brightoner stammt aus einer Generation, die das Genre prägte. In den1960er-Jahren verdiente er sich erste Lorbeeren in seiner Heimat, ehe er in die pulsierende Metropole New York ging und über Jahre Teil der dort blühenden Liedermacher-Szene wurde. Er spielte in allen maßgeblichen Clubs der Ära und machte die Bekanntschaft mit unzähligen Musik-Legenden. Seitdem schrieb er wohl hunderte von berührenden Songs. Taylors Stücke werden heute von Künstlern aus aller Welt gecovert, zu seinen Verehrern gehören Hannes Wader und Reinhard Mey.

Wer von der Woche gestresst zum Konzert nach Stuhr kam, dürfte danach tiefenentspannt ins Wochenende gestartet sein. Allan Taylor ruht ansteckend in sich selbst. "Ich habe beschlossen, im Sitzen zu spielen, denn ich möchte euch nicht den ganzen Abend dominieren. Ich hoffe, ihr könnt mich trotzdem alle sehen", verkündete er zu Beginn. Dann bedient er sich zwei Stunden lang aus dem schier unerschöpflichen Fundus seiner Werke, griff mal hier, mal dort zu - und hatte zu jedem Stück eine Menge zu erzählen. Mal war es die Entstehungsgeschichte, dann der Ort des Geschehens oder eine Anekdote am Rande; Stücke zusammenhanglos aneinanderzureihen und "abzuhaken" ist seine Sache nicht. So dankte er für die deutsehe Erfindung des Eintopfs. "Der ist nahrhaft und billig und hat manchen armen Troubadouren schon das Leben gerettet", erklärte Taylor - und prostete den Gästen gelegentlich mit Rotwein zu.

Er packte das Publikum im nicht ganz gefüllten Saal sofort. Neben den bewegenden Songs bewirkte das sicher seine angenehme Stimme, die hörbar durch die amerikanische Kultur beeinflusst ist. Besonders eindringlich ist allerdings sein Spiel. Taylor ist ein herausragender Gitarrist; nur zeigt er es nicht inflationär. Er geht sparsam mit dem Potenzial des Instruments um, das so vielseitig ein setzbar ist. Schlagen, Zupfen, Hammering, Bottleneck, verschiedene Stimmungen - Taylor beherrscht das alles. Aber er zeigt es nur, wenn es passt. Dabei zieht er traumwandlerisch sicher durch die Genres, von Folk über Blues zu Cajun und Country.

Taylor brachte zwei Zugaben; dann war es wieder vorbei, das Konzert in Stuhr. Nach seinen Auftritten geht man vielleicht nicht elektrisiert nach Hause. Aber man geht mit dem Gefühl tiefer Zufriedenheit - und der Erkenntnis, dass ein Konzert genauso sein muss.

Weser Kurier
Regionale Rundschau

Mit Allan Taylor auf die Reise gehen
Englischer Songwriter ist erneut im Stuhrer Rathaussaal zu Gast / Seine Lieder erzählen von seinem Leben

Allan Taylor hatte am Freitagabend von der ersten Minute an ein Heimspiel: Längst ist der Songwriter ein gern gesehener Gast im Stuhrer Rathaussaal. Seine Stimme erzeugte Gänsehaut, sein Gitarrenspiel war sparsam, aber äußerst stimmungsvoll.

Von Anke Bayer-Thiemig

Stuhr. Mit einem herzlichen "Welcome" begrüßte der Engländer Allan Taylor am Freitagabend sein Publikum im Stuhrer Rathaus. Es war spürbar: Der Gitarrist und Sänger fühlte sich wie zu Hause. Kein Wunder, war er doch nicht zum ersten Mal hier und hatte längst seine Fans dabei. Und so nahm der Troubadour die Besucher erneut mit auf seine ganz persönliche Reise und ließ das Publikum an den unterschiedlichsten Eindrücken und Erfahrungen seiner Trips teilhaben.

Nur mit Gitarre und Stimme gelang es dem Songpoet, die Zuhörer in seinen Bann zu ziehen. Schon nach wenigen Minuten verstand es Taylor, eine intime und vor allem in sich gekehrte Atmosphäre zu erzeugen - fast so, als würden alle den Künstler bereits kennen und auf ihn gewartet haben. Vielleicht lag es auch an seinen sehr ausdrucksstarken Formulierungen. Oder daran, dass er nicht vergessen hatte zu träumen, wie er seinen Fans bei "Some Dreams" bewies. Mit seinen in gefühlvolle Balladen gepackten, detaillierten Beobachtungen des Lebens gelang es dem englischen Liedermacher trotz aller Melancholie, seinen Gästen eine große Portion innere Freude und Wohlgefühl zu vermitteln.

Mit "Creole Girl" setzte Taylor ein absolutes Glanzlicht. Später raunte er "The Big Hotel" ins Mikrofon und erzählte zu jedem Lied eine passende Entstehungsgeschichte - oft auch von seinen Erlebnissen mit Helmut Debus, die meist in Bars stattfanden und mit einer kreativen Idee endeten. Für die Besucher war erkennbar: Dieser Edel­Barde hat die Welt gesehen, er hat siebereist und genossen, er hat sie besungen und in seinen Liedern zu künstlerischer Heimat verdichtet. Es war allein die Präsenz, die Authentizität, die Taylor ausstrahlte. Er hat die Gabe, mit seiner sanften Stimme zu faszinieren. Lieder des Bedauerns, über Liebende und Reisende, jedes Mal kunstvoll arrangiert, sang er direkt aus dem Herzen. "Es ist ein gefühlvoller Abend", fand eine Besucherin und verriet weiter: "Ich habe schon beim ersten Lied Gänsehaut bekommen." Auch in der Pause nahm der Künstler sich Zeit, Antworten auf die Fragen der Fans zu geben und Autogramme zu schreiben. Im Gepäck hatte der Künstler sein neues Album "All Is One". Wer so langsam auf die 70 zugeht und sein Album so nennt, der hat etwas zu sagen.

Taylor lebt, arbeitet und denkt global - in New York, Paris, Amsterdam und anderswo, und das seit übervier Jahrzehnten. Er erzählte offen von seiner Vergangenheit als Musiker, die ihn quer durch die Welt und wieder nach Hause führte. Allan Taylor ist ein gern gesehener Gast auf internationalen Bühnen und fand nebenher sogar Zeit, seinen Doktortitel in Philosophie zu machen und BBC-Dokumentationen zu präsentieren. Taylor ist einer dieser großen Musiker, dessen Lieder von Künstlern wie Alex Campbell, Hannes Wader, Fairport Convention oder Nana Mouskouri gesungen werden.

Der Beifall am Ende war noch kräftiger als schon zu Anfang. Allan Taylor hatte die Zuhörer mit seiner sympathischen Art und der Ausdruckskraft seiner Musik begeistert.

Ungebändigte Lebensfreude erklang in seinem zweistündigen Konzert, bevor er sich mit einem Song vom hingerissen applaudierenden Publikum verabschiedete, wie er passender nicht hätte sein können: "I'm Going Horne".

Review of Old Friends In Concert

February 2013

Original (in German)

Hannes Wader und Allan Taylor - Zusammen Stark

Der eine einer der letzten großen deutschen Liedermacher‚ der andere sein britisches Pendant: Hannes Wader und Allan Taylor. Beide verbindet nicht nur ein ähnlicher Status und die Liebe zur Musik, in erster Linie sind sie eines: langjährige Freunde. Was von Fans schon lange herbeigesehnt wurde, fand im Mai 2011 endlich seine Umsetzung, Wader und Taylor gingen erstmals gemeinsam auf Tour.

„Liedermacher sind letztendlich alle Einzelgänger, umso schöner ist es, wenn sie dann doch mal zusammenkommen“, kommentierte Wader lakonisch dieses musikalische Happening der Extraklasse. Leicht haben es sich er und Taylor dabei nicht gemacht, mit größter Sorgfalt wurde ein Programm erarbeitet, das einen gewissen Anspruch erfüllen sollte und das beiden sehr viel abverlangte.

Man merkt, aus Freundschaft allein entsteht eben noch keine abendfüllende Show, etwas Bewegendes zu erschaffen fordert gegenseitiges Entgegenkommen. So wurden Strophen abwechselnd vorgetragen, von Wader in Deutsch und von Taylor in Englisch, wobei sich diese Rollen manchmal auch verkehrten, was Letzterem sicherlich mehr abverlangte als Wader, der wiederum sein Tempo dem des Freundes anpassen musste.

Hier treffen zwei Ausnahme musiker aufeinander, deren Klasse sich in dem fulminanten Höhepunkt „Gut wieder hier zu sein / It's Good To See You“ offenbart, bei dem in einer Acapella-Passage beide Künstler ihre Stimmen in Einklang bringen - ein großer Moment für die Ewigkeit.

Translated to English

Hannes Wader and Allan Taylor – Strong Together

The one is one of the last famous German Songwriters, the other his British counterpart: Hannes Wader and Allan Taylor. They are bound together not only by a similar status and by the love towards music, but most of all: they are long-time friends. What fans have been yearning for a long time came true in May 2011, Wader and Taylor toured together for the first time.

“In the end songwriters are loners, which makes it even more special when they get together once in a while”, Wader laconically commented on this extra-class musical happening. He and Taylor didn’t make it easy for themselves; with the greatest of care they worked out a program which is sophisticated and demands a great deal of them.

Obviously, friendship alone doesn’t lead to a full-length show – creating something that touches the people requires each one to cooperate with the other. Thus, verses were sung in turn: by Wader in German and by Taylor in English and sometimes the other way round, which demanded surely more from Taylor than from Wader, who, on the other hand, had to slow down and adapt himself to the timing of his friend.

Here, two exceptional musicians meet, whose brilliance reveals in the brilliant highlight “Gut wieder hier zu sein / It’s Good To See You”, at which both artists bring their voices in line in an a cappella part of the song – a great moment for eternity.

Reviews of Down The Years I Travelled...

Dai Woosnam, The Living Tradition, Issue 94:

I often wonder what would have happened if Allan Taylor had been born not with a musician gene, but with the gene of a painter instead. What style of art would he adopt?

Methinks he would steer well clear of being an Abstract painter: he never wants his audience to have to guess at his meaning. But by the same token, naked Realism surely would not be his bag either: yes, he'd be drawn to showing people as they really are, but Realism could never quite deal with people's nuances. And to Dr Taylor, nuances are at the very core of things.

No, it's not rocket science: it's obvious that he'd be an Impressionist. For Impressionism was not heavy on detail, but was all about catching the mood. And that's pretty much what one can say about almost every Allan Taylor song. For instance, he has a particular penchant for songs that give one a view of the more mundane side of his life as a troubadour: and on this double album we have examples. And remembering that Impressionism is all about making things look “shimmering”, there is nobody better than Allan Taylor for catching the shimmering of reflected car tail lights on wet roads (seen through steamy windows and a miasma of cigarette smoke, whilst sitting in bars in various places in Europe). But don't look to Allan if you want songs with a beginning, a middle and an end. They are not his speciality. Instead, he will usually give you a glimpse of the truth, as he sees it.

This double CD features Allan with a stellar list of musicians, too numerous to list here, but from whom Mike Silver stands out with his sheer musicality and harmony vocals. It is a collection of songs from Allan's albums from 1982 to 1995, with one new song especially written for the project. The songs have been re-mastered by Stockfisch Records in Germany, and the resultant production is of High End quality. The presentation booklet is a joy to behold: it is more “book” than a booklet, and houses the two CDs. No expense spared here, folks. It oozes quality, and is a joy to hold, let alone read.

The tracks contain true gems like Jimmy's Song and Come Home Safely To Me, but if it is Allan's Greatest Hits you are looking for, you won't find them here. What you will find are a selection of songs that are reasonably successful in holding your interest and capturing something of the essence of the subject - like his tribute songs to his friends Derroll Adams and Alex Campbell - even if some of us might have hoped that those two giants would have warranted bigger songs.

That said, Allan's melodic voice and assured guitar style fit these low-key observant numbers like a glove. Every Allan Taylor fan should want this double CD, and many non-fans should consider buying it, as I reckon that his understated style would charm them... and that understatement strikes gold with the standout track of the whole album, on CD2. It is a riveting version of Dylan's Don't Think Twice It's All Right. A song I have heard a thousand times, yet he makes it sound as fresh as a daisy. He goes straight to the gently beating heart of it. I will let Allan's own words explain:

“This particular recording was not meant to be part of the album; I simply played it while I was waiting for the sound engineer to organise the equipment. I did not realise that he had the tape recorder on “record”, and hence it was recorded. We added nothing to it – it was one of those special moments that can sometimes happen on a recording when all of the elements come together at the same time.”

Let's have many more such “accidents” please!

Mike Kamp, Folker, 2013/1(German):

Es führt kein Weg an der Tatsache vorbei, dass sich Allan Taylor in der zweiten Hälfte seiner Sechziger befindet. In diesem Alter widmet sich der übergroße Teil der Bevölkerung erfüllenden Rentnertätigkeiten wie der Gartenpflege oder der Beaufsichtigung der Enkel. Nicht so Allan Taylor! Ob er es muss oder will, ist schwer zu sagen.

Sicher aber ist, er kann es noch, das, was er all die Jahre gemacht hat: Konzerte geben, von Ort zu Ort reisen auf jenem magischen und für Taylor zentralen Objekt der Begierde – on the road. Aber auch ein Allan Taylor wird im Alter reflektiv, und er kann sich glücklich schätzen, für solche Aktivitäten mit Günter Pauler und seinem Stockfisch-Label die passenden Partner zu haben.

Lange Jahre fand Taylor seine musikalischen und technischen Qualitätsansprüche bei keiner Plattenfirma erfüllt und veröffentlichte konsequenterweise von Mitte der Achtziger- bis Mitte der Neunzigerjahre auf seinem eigenen Label T Records. Ein Best-of dieser Alben gibt es nun sorgfältig remastert in edel reflektierender Verpackung: einem 57-seitigen Buch mit Texten, Bemerkungen, Anekdoten und Credits. Exzellente Musiker begleiteten Allan Taylor damals: Rick Kemp (Steeleye Span), Maartin Allcock (Fairport Convention/Jethro Tull) oder der Singer/Songwriter Mike Silver. Neben dem Titelsong als einzigem neuen Stück hören wir viele alte, die heute noch in Taylors Repertoire zu finden sind – „Banjo Man“, „Chimes At Midnight“ oder „Let’s Go To Paris“ sind nur Beispiele. Aber es sind ausnahmsweise auch drei Fremdkompositionen zu hören, und gerade der Bob-Dylan-Song „Don’t Think Twice, It's All Right“ beweist, dass es einen definitiven Allan-Taylor-Stil gibt – der Dylan-Klassiker klingt hier wie von Taylor geschrieben. Steht zu hoffen, dass Meister Zimmermann das zu schätzen weiß.

Michael Lohr, Akustik Gitarre, February 2013 (German):

Es sei seine kreativste Phase gewesen, schreibt Allan Taylor im Booklet: Zwischen 1984 und 1995 habe er gleichzeitig studiert, an Projekten für die BBC gearbeitet, ausgiebig getourt, all diese Songs geschrieben, sie auf vielen Alben arrangiert und aufgenommen.

Und dabei versucht, die faszinierenden Erkenntnisse aus seiner universitären Beschäftigung mit Volksmusik nicht allzu sehr die Quellen seiner Lieder überlagern zu lassen: die Eindrücke und Gespräche von unterwegs, aus Kneipen und fremden Strassen, die ihm bald selbst zur Heimat geworden seien. Es ist angesichts solcher Hektik und Zwänge kaum zu glauben, dass der Mann es auch damals geschafft hat, seinen einfachen folkigen Songs im Studio noch jene betörende Ruhe und unaufgeregte Melancholie zu verleihen, die sein Werk seit jeher auszeichnet.

Die jetzt getroffene Auswahl spiegelt häufig die Auseinandersetzung des Engländers mit seinem beruflichen Umfeld; schon der Titelsong der Anthologie arbeitet Jahre des Musikerdaseins auf; „Win Or Lose“ beschäftigt sich mit Begegnungen unterwegs als Musiker, wenn eine Bar in Brüssel wirkt wie eine, die man aus Paris oder Amsterdam kennt.

Berührende Hommagen thematisieren Szenenkollegen wie Alex Campbell und Deroll Adams. „Wasn’t it good when the music played?“ fragt Taylor einmal. Und die Doppel-CD selbst gibt die Antwort: Ja, das war gut. Alles gerät ins Fliessen, wenn Allan Taylor spielt, der die Härten des Lebens Nicht verschweigt in seinen sensiblen Songs. Er macht sie zum Teil einer Poesie, in der man sich geborgen fühlt, gerade weil sie inhaltlich Keinerlei billigen oder ästhetischen Trost anbietet.
Und das hinzukriegen – das ist grosse Kunst.

Review of The Endless Highway
fRoots, June 2010 No. 324

For over 40 years, master songwriter Allan Taylor has resolutely followed his creative muse wherever it might take him, resulting in music that has accurately been dubbed “cinema for the mind and soul”. When a young man, Allan’s formative, direct inspiration was Kerouac’s iconic book On The Road, the reading of which proved the catalyst for embarking on his own personal and spiritual quest.
The Endless Highway, essentially the brainchild of Belgian director Patrick Ferryn (who has a particular empathy with Allan and his music), is itself a kind of road movie, albeit one of the superior art-house kind perhaps, that chronicles Allan’s own life-journey as a travelling troubadour. This journey took him initially from Brighton Beach to Long Beach (New York) before he realised that the American culture he so craved, though undeniably influential, was not properly his own culture, and that therefore spiritually he belonged elsewhere. Returning to Europe, Allan explored Brussels, Amsterdam and Paris, and it was in the bars of those cities that he was to find his niche, in his role as the “outsider looking in” on the microcosm of life itself that such locations will by their nature inevitably embrace.
Through Allan’s own narration, interspersed with excerpts from a handful of his key songs, we experience the true genius loci that invariably connects Allan with his observed worlds, and through the lyrical sketches of urban beauty that are mirrored in Allan’s literate vignettes, we gain an insight into the essence of his special artistry.
On this DVD Allan’s journey is laced with atmospheric archive footage and brief extracts from live concert performances. The disc’s state-of-the-art sound quality brings you right close in to the music (the guitars sound predictably magnificent too!), while the intimacy of Allan’s experiences is tellingly conveyed; importantly, the songs themselves are ideally chosen for their relevance to Allan’s philosophy. Steadfastly, Allan has never compromised, in life or music, and his ideals are concisely summarised in the lines of For Those We Knew which serve as a poignant final sequence in this affectionately realised hour long documentary, one of the few films of its kind which really does distil and epitomise the essence of the man and his music.

David Kidman

Reviews of Leaving at Dawn:

David Kidman, fRoots, August/September 2009:

The latest album from Allan, his 20th, is heralded as showing a return to the more folk-inflected style of troubadour song that characterised his earlier years. Whatever, Allan remains the consummate craftsman-in-song, and he hasn’t in any way abandoned the key themes and concerns that he’s developed and made very much his own over a long and illustrious career. Leaving at Dawn is absolutely quintessential Allan Taylor, instantly recognisable for its telling combination of a uniquely expressive, warm and inviting vocal delivery and an attractive, precisely captured instrumental backing, centred as ever around Allan’s own intricately moulded and mellifluous guitar playing. But it’s also the product of an artist of total maturity and integrity, delivering work of the highest self-imposed standards and exhibiting (in every single aspect of its presentation) supreme confidence without complacency.

This new batch of songs was written(with just one 1993 exception) between 2001 and 2007, each one a prime example of Allan’s second-nature ability to directly share his emotions in simple yet always profoundly literate language, thereby taking the listener on a journey that feels personal yet contains universal truths aplenty. Allan’s musings are affectionate and eloquent, yet often more complex than they appear, primarily because they’re shot through with the perceptiveness and realism that are the hallmarks of a true observer.

Leaving At Dawn is full of songs that follow the songwriter’s eternal preoccupation, reflection with regret, either musing sensitively on love (Lay Soft On Your Pillow, Back Home To You) or embodying a strong sense of genius-loci (Provence, New York In The Seventies), often memorably bringing together both strands in the same song. Especially beguiling here are two songs in traditional vein (Firefly, already celebrated in Tom McConville’s fabulous recording, and The Last Of The Privateers), The Almost Man (a chokingly pertinent tribute to Allan’s father), and Winter (a beautiful and masterfully poetic expression of tender reassurance), while Red On Green is Allan’s own translation of a poignant song of farewell composed by Massimo Bubola based on a WW1 love-letter written my Massimo’s uncle.

The disc’s exceptional, state-of-the-art recording draws you in right close, with Allan’s very special and intimate delivery cocooned by the immaculately judged and empathic contributions of a handful of other musicians (guitar, dobro, accordion, banjo, bowed psaltery, fretless bass). I feel sure that Leaving At Dawn will come to be judged as one of Allan’s finest ever collections.

Nigel Schofield, The Living Tradition:
Everything about this CD declares quality and consideration. Recorded with stunning digital clarity and released on SACD (don’t worry, it plays on your old CD player), it is packaged in a new design of durable jewel case and features a cover shot  which is a little work of art in itself [‘delicate – looks like Vermeer”].
This collection of a dozen new songs is contemplative and elegantly crafted. While many of the songs here are reflective – a meditation brought on by the passing of his father, a translation of a lost soldier’s letter home, New York In The Seventies which does what it says on tin, several songs of discreet departure -, the overall mood is of optimism and possibility: “Let’s get on the road and follow that golden star” is the ultimate response to the arrival of the urn containing his father’s ashes.
What slips by almost unnoticed on first hearing is the narrative power of most of the songs here: they certainly evoke a time; they clearly depict specific situations; but they also subtly tell a story – one reaches the end of a song, having, as it were, enjoyed the view, wondering how you got to where you now are. By the time you’ve figured what’s happening, you’re hit with The Last Of the Privateers – a full-on narrative ballad.
Allan Taylor has always had that felicitous skill of making you want to listen to his latest album – rather than it simply prompting a return to earlier work. Here, it is not just the quality of the writing and singing which draws you back to the CD, but also the spacious, acoustic settings: they are rooted in folk music and are richly textured – among the instruments one hears accordion, banjo, fiddle, cor anglais, bowed psaltery, fiddle, viola, a looping fretless bass and, of course, magnificent rolling acoustic guitars. It is, in short, an acoustic treat.
Speaking of the album’s folk influence, one must quote Allan’s note on the tradition-based Firefly: “Many of the finest songs I know are from the tradition and the British Isles and Ireland are graced with some of the most beautiful and powerful songs in the English language.” Some of the finest songs you’ll hear this year on this CD. To steal a line from The Almost Man, “he’ll smile and say, ‘You did it, Al’ ”.

Reviews of Old Friends - New Roads:

Nigel Schofield, The Living Tradition – December 2007:
This startling collection is a genuine “best of” (as opposed to a “best known” or “greatest hits”) performed in versions which consistently surpass the original version: the brilliance of Allan’s song-writing benefits from the maturity of this skills as an interpreter. … there is a real sense of rediscovery in every performance and a depth of emotion which makes for a richly rewarding listening experience.
David Kidman, fRoots:
Allan’s one of the key songwriters of our time, a true professional as much respected by fellow-musicians as by his loyal audiences. Over some 40 years he’s produced a large number of intense and significantly enduring songs. … this set works fantastically well as a strongly unified offering in its own right which highlights both the mighty consistency of Allan’s writing craft and the unstintingly high quality of his singing and playing.
Mike Kamp, Folker (June 2007) – Germany’s foremost acoustic music magazine (translation from German):
Through the incredible brilliance and delightful concentration on the essentials the songs reach an intimacy that cannot be experienced on stage or in the audience. … Simply a piece of evidence for the timelessness of Allan Taylor’s songs.

Reviews of Hotels and Dreamers:
David Kidman, fRoots (April 2004):
Allan’s Colour to the Moon album presented a series of compelling vignettes largely concerning themselves with bohemian remembrances, and Hotels and Dreamers is, at least in part, both a true thematic follow-up to that album and a development of that concept. This new offering deserves every bit as much critical acclaim, for each and every song is a typically finely wrought and evocative piece of work. While Allan continues to produce albums of such high standard and unstinting quality and freshness, he need have no worries about maintaining a healthy profile.
Jon Sims, Folk 0n Tap
– The folk music magazine of the Southern Counties of England:

By the time Allan Taylor was 24, back in 1969, he had produced his first album with the young Fairport Convention as his backing band. Obsessed with the Beat Generation and inspired by Jack Kerouac, he took himself off to New York and Greenwich Village where he immersed himself belatedly in the American folk revival. This album recalls the effect it had upon … touring the world in search of Steinbeckian humanity. This is so much more than just a bunch of songs; this expresses humanity as folk music should.

Mike Harding – BBC Radio 2:
I think the new CD [Hotels and Dreamers] is brilliant - every track - superb writing, singing, production - great stuff. We've played one track on the show already and I want to play more. I (and everybody I played it to) think it’s a terrific gutsy album.
Clive Pownceby, The Living Tradition, Issue 64, September/October 2005:
A sophisticated musician and a writer of intensity and brevity, most of the material here has an emotional reach that leaves you reeling. Always conveying sincerity, the listener’s ear is prepared for Allan’s straightforward sentiment but his character writing is so subtle, the darkness of the subject matter on this album quietly reveals itself and perception adjusts like vision would do to a dim room. … Peopled by the footloose and the feckless but always the human – ordinary persons coping as best they can, is surely the very stuff of folk-song?

Mike Kamp, Folker (January 2004):

They are traveller's songs about his journey, real, fictitious or
metaphorical; again and again the expression 'on the road' crops up. The songs and the voice are like the red wine that keeps getting mentioned; they are of astonishing maturity.  I am sure that Allan Taylor has delivered a masterpiece. The most convincing Taylor yet!
[NOTE: Folker awarded Allan Taylor the prize of “CD of the Year 2004".]