Brothers' Living Too Close To The Ground is a surprising exception, and it is easy to see why these songs, melodically strong and lyrically rich, caught Dickson's attention years ago. Without dismissing the work she has done in the other three decades of her career, this is Dickson at her most engaging.
'THE IRISH WORLD' - September 2004 (Review by Jim Giltrap)
In 2001 Barbara Dickson was made an OBE for her services to music and drama. An accomplished singer, actress, songwriter and presenter 'Full Circle' is her first new studio album for nine years. As my copy was just a pre-release copy it was short on detail and information but a pleasure to listen to. It represents Barbara's return to her musical roots in Scotland where she started out singing in local folk clubs and the material reflects this.
It was nice to hear The Unquiet Grave given a different treatment since I am more familiar with Luke Kelly's version and I confess to playing Faithless Love more than once. Singing Bird is beautiful but the last track Eriskay Love Song produced a wave of nostalgia as it brought me back to my school days where we learned the song in Irish.
It is obvious that a lot of thought and work lie behind the arrangements and the beautiful vocals and overall production combine to produce a CD that should more that satisfy her fans and deservedly gain her a whole new audience.
'HMV CHOICE' - October/November 2004
A dark mix of folk, classical and contemporary music, the self-proclaimed "folk singer who got lucky" goes back to her musical roots with her first major studio album for nine years.
Barbara Dickson's first studio album since 1995's Dark End Of The Street marks a return to her folk roots. Barbara Dickson is nothing if not multifaceted, and production by Uilleann pipes maestro Troy Donockley from Irish band Iona gives much of Full Circle a polished Celtic sound. And by continuing to work with several of her regular musicians, including multi-instrumentalist and singer Pete Zorn (who has played with Dickson for 30 years), the album also retains something of the feel of her more commercial recordings. Faithless Love in particular is a pop ballad aimed squarely at the mainstream, but elsewhere the 11 tracks often dwell on the darker side of folk.
The Unquiet Grave and When I Am Laid In Earth soberly address mortality, the latter offering a particularly affecting and soulful vocal performance set against sparse piano accompaniment. Stripped to a core of raw emotion, this is the most powerful track on the album. Elsewhere a string arrangement brings a chamber-music beauty to Singing Bird, while the seven-minute Eriskay Love Song delivers plaintive nostalgia in an expansive arrangement - with powerful results. Squaring the circle of her career, Barbara Dickson's new album will perhaps divide long-standing fans while thrilling the folk constituency with an imaginative return to basics.
'THE FOLK MAG' - October 2004 (Review by Dave Brookes)
'Full Circle' is partly retrospective in that all eleven tracks are traditional drawing from Irish, English as well as Scottish folk song. However, the arrangements (presumably with a recording budget way out of reach of the artists normally reviewed here) have a very contemporary feel. But the question is: does it work? With a voice as gorgeous as Barbara Dickson, how could it fail?
'TRADITION MAGAZINE' - Winter 2004 (Review by Elaine Samuels)
Barbara Dickson began her career singing in Scottish folk clubs at the age of 17, building a reputation on that circuit and working with the likes of Rab Noakes and Archie Fisher. It was through the folk circuit that she first met Willy Russell, who then managed a folk club in Runcorn. He gave her the role in Blood Brothers that started her acting career and later led to her winning a Laurence Olivier Award.
Although best-known for this, her appearances in the TV drama Band Of Gold, plus her biggest musical hits Another Suitcase In Another Hall and I Know Him So Well, Barbara now appears to be going full circle back to her roots.
This album is a unique collection of moving and emotional songs, including a lot of traditional folk material. Production is by Troy Donockley who has a formidable reputation both as composer/arranger and musician/performer, including being a virtuoso of the Uilleann pipes.
The album begins with the lilting Garton Mothers Lullaby. The first section gives us Barbara's rich unaccompanied voice before she's joined by atmospheric strings and Uilleann pipes. The Sky Above The Roof' is a slow number in which Barbara is joined by piano and strings. Across The Hills is a faster rhythmic piece which tells of war coming to a place across the hills. Barbara is joined by a fine male singer here and they're supported with sparse ethnic drum, pipes and whistle; things then build up to a rockier treatment which includes electric guitar. The Unquiet Grave is another well-known traditional song which has been given a very interesting instrumental backing.
The next track, Faithless Love, provides piano, strings and whistle accompaniment for Barbara's dusky voice. Again the song builds up to a fuller section with drum and string arrangements. Westron Wynde, is a short unaccompanied piece which drifts straight into Corpus Christie; here an organ drones mysteriously, Barbara sings "Lu lay lu lay.." until she's gradually joined by tinkling bells, drums and pipes - very medieval.
Singing Bird begins with some haunting violin and other strings, evoking the image suggested by the title - another slow number supported by guitar as well as piano and strings. When I Am Laid In The Earth is a mournful song, sparsely accompanied by piano mainly. The album finishes with the slow and lilting Eriskay Love Song.
This is a beautiful, well recorded album with some stunning arrangements and excellent instrumental playing. Barbara's voice comes over superbly. Lovers of Barbara's voice as well as lovers of traditional ballads will enjoy this album.
FULL CIRCLE (2004)
'DAILY TELEGRAPH' - September 2004 (Review by Colin Randall)
Sifting through one of her father's old shirt boxes, where she habitually stored bits of paper with the words of songs she picked up while touring the folk clubs of the British Isles as a young woman, Barbara Dickson found the material for this return to her pre-Blood Brothers, pre-Band Of Gold roots.
It is no exaggeration to describe Dickson as a great singer. She stood out a mile among the Scottish folk singers of her generation, and she has consistently shown her class when performing for a wider public.
From the first notes of Garton Mother's Lullaby to the last strains of Eriskay Love Song, Full Circle maintains those fine standards. Dickson takes each ballad in her stride, ably produced by Troy Donockley, who also contributes moody uillean pipes. The content is predominantly traditional, though the Everly