1970 - DO RIGHT WOMAN (DECCA)
Melody Maker - 1970
With so true and warm a voice, Barbara can't do much wrong in my ears, but I dare say some of her folk-music admirers may be perturbed by this essay into pop territory, with strings and comtemporary things.
Have no fear, for Archie Fisher and Rab Noakes are here to lend strong acoustic guitar support, and Barbara covers just about as wide a range of material as one singer could contemplate: from the "Hair" number, "Easy To Be Hard," to the traditional "Garten Mother's Lullaby," where, incidentally, Fisher and Noakes chip in with some wide-awake, rock-a-bye guitar.
Barbara's best moments probably come in James Taylor's pop-ish "Something's Wrong" and the traditional "Lover's Ghost," where the strings are held low and steady instead of being allowed to prance around in a distracting backdrop.
1972 - FROM THE BEGGAR'S MANTLE... (Decca)
The Scotsman - 1972
After her adventures with orchestral backings and pop-orientated songs, Barbara Dickson returns to a more traditional roost with a new album, "From The Beggar's Mantle" (Decca), which not only strikes a perfect balance between past and present but also serves to clear any blurring of Barbara's identity as a singer.
There are contemporary songs here, it is true, but they are sung without a quasi-American accent and they make a lot of sense within a traditional context. Indeed, Archie Fisher's "Witch of the Westmorelands" could pass as one of the great classically-built narrative ballads that have been handed down through the centuries. Barbara tells this story with impressive authority and the instrumental setting is just right, with Nic Jones fiddling effectively.
The traditional "Recruited Collier", "Fine Flowers In The Valley," and "Lord Thomas of Winesberry" are all beautifully sung and I like, too, Barbara's treatment of "The Climb," a knowing little song in which Archie Fisher looks behind the singing scenes.
The whole album hangs together, and Barbara's voice has never sounded better. Full marks, too, for the sleeve design.
1976 - ANSWER ME (RSO)
Sounds' - April 10, 1976
Like the lady said herself - if you're going to make a single, then you might as well make one that sells. And she has. Twice. After "sleeping" for a couple of months, her boppy up-tempo version of 'Answer Me' (the old Nat King Cole smasherooni) finally grabbed the pop charts by the balls, and her current get-up 'n dance version of the Curtis Mayfield classic 'People Get Ready' looks like making it even bigger. Unfortunately, both songs, reworked in cahoots with whizzo-kiddo producer Junior Campbell, are big enough to get her labelled forever as a here-today, gone-tomorrow singles artist.
But that's not really where she's at. While the hits are included, her debut album gives a surer indication of just what she can do, almost in spite of its slickly commercial self. For starters, this gal isn't immediately classifiable into any of the female vocalist stereotypes of rocker, straight folky or more than MOR chintzy cabaret performer.
Get ready, people... here comes Barbara Dickson's scintillating new single, "People Get Ready", due to hit your friendly neighbourhood record bar next Thursday. The svelte Scots chanteuse has wisely opted for a complete change of mood and tempo in this follow-up to her recent chart smash, "Answer Me". And the new disc, a fresh interpretation of the Impressions' old soul hit of a few years back, has all the hallmarks of another biggie for Barbara.
1977 - MORNING COMES QUICKLY (RSO)
Cumbernauld News - 16th July 1977
With songs by Troy Seals, Doug Flett and Guy Fletcher and three by Barbara herself, this album continues to establish Miss Dickson as one of the best singers to emerge from Scotland during the past two years. Barbara, from Dunfermline, first came to prominence with the hit "Answer Me", taken from her first album. This second solo LP was recorded in the States, and it shows.
The release of the album coincides with Barbara's short concert tour and tracks include "Lover's Serenade", "Deep Into My Soul" and "When You Touch Me This Way". Barbara is a very sensitive singer and performs all of the tracks with great feeling. With a few hits from this LP - and the material is here - she could establish herself as a major solo artiste both here and in America.
1978 - SWEET OASIS (CBS)
Daily Mail - 10th November, 1978
Stunning new repertoire from the under-rated Scots girl with the crystal voice. Happy lyrics and arrangements dominate the album, but her range is demonstrated with 'Jesus Train', 'Second Sight', Gerry Rafferty's 'City To City' and her own ambitious 'Saint Joan'. It adds up to a smash hit.
1980 - THE BARBARA DICKSON ALBUM (Epic)
Smash Hits - April 17, 1980
In which this brilliant singer at last finds the punchy production and melodic material she needs for her superb voice to truly shine. A tuneful mixture of her own fine songs and Alan "January February" Tarney's beaty pop-rock, every track on this immaculately executed album is a potential jukebox favourite and should finally establish Barbara Dickson as a chart regular - not before time. A real gem.
1981 - YOU KNOW IT'S ME (Epic)
Melody Maker - May, 1981
Good, straight, unpretentious pop music that makes few demands on the listeners? Yes, but there's a subtle difference, for with the aid of her producer Alan Tarney, Barbara Dickson has written some excellent songs which thankfully place her in no category except her own individual corner.
There's a refreshing slice of country music on "I Know You, You Know Me", a daring dash of Gary Numanesque synthesizer splashes on the catchy "Little By Little In Love", and a winning, soulful delivery of a song written by Barbara called "I Believe In You".
Much more than on the concert stage...she has a pleasing, distinctive recording voice which gains here from tasteful musicianship and Tarney's canny ear for giving a singer the right sound and material. His own best song here is the off-beat "My Heart Lies", a slow ballad handled with tenderness by Barbara.
A smashing little pop album with no flaws.
1982 - ALL FOR A SONG (Epic)
Evening Telegraph - May, 1982
Barbara Dickson is one of the most talented female artists to emerge in recent years and 'All For A Song" (Epic, EPC 10030) is a splendid resume of her career to date. Surprisingly only a couple of tracks are her own work. Mike Batt contributes three including 'Caravan Song' which would have been a six week No. 1 if there was any justice in the pop world, while 'Long And Winding Road' and 'With A Little Help From My Friends' are culled from the Lennon/McCartney songbook.
1987 - AFTER DARK (Theobald Dickson)
Music Week - October, 1987
This 12-track collection showcases one of the UK's mot popular female artists, albeit a singer who does not depend on top 30 hit singles for her consistent success.
Barbara's immaculate taste in good song material is reflected by the composer credits to be found here : Sting ('Fortress Around Your Heart'), Randy Newman ('I Think It's Going To Rain Today' and 'It's Money That I Love'), Mike Batt ('Caravan Song'), Gerry Rafferty ('The Right Moment'), Graham Gouldman (the Herman's Hermits oldie 'No Milk Today'), and James Taylor ('Only A Dream In Rio').
There's also a solo version of 'I Know Him So Well', the song from 'Chess' which took both Barbara and Elaine Paige to the top of the British charts.
Barbara Dickson has been a star for almost 15 years now, an artist who has appeared successfully in the theatre (most notably in Willy Russell's 'Blood Brothers'), and on TV. Her concerts are always major attractions, packed out with the Dickson faithful. She is blessed with a voice that has clarity and which is always tuneful... It is an idictment of the British record industry that there are many singers of Ms Dickson's ilk, with vast fan followings, but whose music is often overlooked by those same record companies, who prefer to focus their marketing attentions on today's top 20 acts.
1992 - DON'T THINK TWICE IT'S ALL RIGHT (Columbia)
Sunday Express - August, 1992
At the end of her successful UK tour, Barbara Dickson has released an album of 12 Bob Dylan songs, 'Don't Think Twice It's All Right' (Columbia).
With the clarity of her voice and her ability to make any song her own, this promises to be one of the best-selling CDs of the year. The songs include 'Maggie's Farm', 'Blowin' In The Wind' and 'A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall'.
1994 - PARCEL OF ROGUES (Castle Communications)
Daily Telegraph - February, 1994
Longer ago than anyone may wish to recall, a pleasant and slightly bookish Scots girl with a stunning voice stepped on to a makeshift stage in a northern folk club and sang her heart out with a trio called Bitter Withy. For this, she received her share of about £18, plus beer and petrol money.
The next time I encountered Barbara Dickson was just before Christmas, when she was in cabaret at London's Cafe Royal, undoubtedly earning more than necessary to keep up with inflation.
Since 1974, Dickson has not needed to set foot in a folk club. Fortunately, despite the demands of a middle-of-the-road stage and singing career she never entirely abandoned her musical roots. With 'Parcel Of Rogues', she returns to them in admirable fashion.
On hardly any occasion during the past five years have I found a folk album so completely impressive; and you do not need to vote SNP to agree.
1995 - DARK END OF THE STREET (Transatlantic)
Daily Telegraph - November, 1995
With satisfactory versions of songs written by Sandy Denny, Lal Waterson, Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger, Dickson just about dispels fears that last year's splendid 'Parcel Of Rogues' album might be no more than a solitary return to folk roots.
2004 - FULL CIRCLE (RandM Records)
Daily Telegraph - September, 2004
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 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.
2006 - NOTHING'S GONNA CHANGE MY WORLD (Universal)
Record Collector - September, 2006
'She loves them, and you know that can't be bad.'
Dickson's first big break outside of her native Scotland was in Willy Russell's stage musical John, Paul, George, Ringo... & Bert', and she's returned to The Beatles' catalogue with subtlety and style more than 30 years later. A veteran of Fife's acoustic circuit, Babs has imbued the Fabs with some nice folky touches.
Mandolins and violins make their mark on refreshingly unobvious selections like Every Little Thing or George Harrison's If I Needed Someone, and even when she does tackle oft-covered chestnuts, she's determined to bring something new to the party.
Eleanor Rigby is stripped to an a cappella ballad (in the traditional sense of the word) which sounds like it could have been written 100 years ago, while Fool On The Hill is reworked as a low-key string quartet chamber piece augmented by the most delicate of piano flourishes.
There's probably millions of Beatles purists who will, without ever hearing a single note, sneer at the thought of anyone else attempting these songs, but Dickson's personal, historical and spiritual connection to the music more than justifies the project, and the results are both respectful and revelatory.
2008 - TIME & TIDE (Chariot Music)
HMV Choice - March/April, 2008
After her 40 years in the business, you'd think it would be easy to predict what Barbara Dickson would do next. But, as this album proves once again, she's not one to rest on her laurels. Yes, she's come up with a rich mixture of traditional numbers, plus one self-penned tune (Palm Sunday) and some tried and tested favourites.
But what makes 'Time And Tide' truly special is the ethereal, quite stunning singing of the Scola Cantorum and Scola Puellarum of Ampleforth Abbey, underpinned by the wonderfully precise, yet spacious, arrangements by Dickson and her producer, Troy Donockley. Plus, of course, the spirited playing of some of their favourite musicians, like accordionist Phil Cunningham, violinist Frank Van Essen and Donockley on everything else.
From the first old Scottish number, Lowlands of Holland, through to Charlie Chaplin's masterpiece, Smile, Dickson is clearly having a ball. She's been thinking about covering the Gerry Goffin and Carole King song Goin' Back for three decades, and it's been worth the wait. Meanwhile, she gives Archie Fisher's Witch of the Westermerlands another run-out, having first recorded it when she started out. She also acknowledges her past by selecting a song, Disremember Me, by one of her old musical partners, Charlie Dore.
But it's with the traditional tunes that this album really takes flight. Rigs O' Rye, The Water Is Wide (O Waly Waly) and Lady Franklin's Lament sound simply glorious as the vocals and instruments soar and swoop around each other.
2011 - WORDS UNSPOKEN (Greentrax)
Sunday Express - February, 2011
Barbara Dickson really does have one of the most beautiful and underrated voices in popular music.
On this pared-down collection she has very much returned to her folk roots with never much more than a guitar or a piano to detract from that voice, especially lovely on a capella track 'Will Ye Gang Love?'
Even her version of Simon and Garfunkel’s heavily-covered 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' somehow sounds fresh and poignant.
Anyone who still thinks of Barbara as the woman who went back-to-back with Elaine Paige on 'I Know Him So Well' should give it a try.
2013 - B4 SEVENTY-FOUR - THE FOLKCLUB TAPES (Chariot Music)
The Sunday Times - May, 2013
Had she never taken the Lloyd Webber shilling, the musical-theatre star Barbara Dickson might have remained a folk-scene phenomenon. This raw double set of reel-to-reel recordings from 1969-73 finds her precision-engineered phrasing and perfectly poised voice, an egoless vessel that contains the old songs' sentiments, set against her stark acoustic guitar in audibly rapt back rooms. This alternate-earth Barbara Dickson is a shadowy legend, ripe for rediscovery.
2013 - TO EACH & EVERYONE - THE SONGS OF GERRY RAFFERTY (Greentrax)
Folk Words - October, 2013
There’s no doubting the compelling presence and prodigious talent of Barbara Dickson – renowned recording artist, wide-ranging theatre and television recognition, Olivier award winner and owner of an exceptional voice. Now Barbara has brought her skills to a new project, an album of Gerry Rafferty’s songs. It’s called ‘To Each and Everyone – the songs of Gerry Rafferty’ – and if you ever mourned this lady departing the folk world for wider musical shores then this is what you’ve been waiting for all these years.
Adding a touch of folk essence to Rafferty’s songs has resulted in album that not only does exceptional justice to the man’s songwriting talent, it allows you to hear the pure warmth of a glorious voice adding its magic to take the songs to another level. Barbara imbues a personal edge to the songs, the late Rafferty being a close friend, there’s also a stripped-back feel, subtle melodies enhanced with softly emotive vocals.
The classic ‘Baker Street’ opens proceedings and immediately Barbara has you seduced into her reverence for a unique talent.The unadorned combination of voice and harmonium gives ‘Where I Belong’ a simple yet powerful prayer-like quality, while the piano-led ‘Family Tree’ steadily builds into a sumptuous song with a desperately moving message. Listening to this album may prompt a tear for the loss of Rafferty but it will also immerse you in a voice with a touch that’s both precise and delicate. Listen to the tough narrative of ‘Steamboat Row’ or the delight that is ‘Mary Skeffington’ and you’re hearing vocals that could move the hardest of hearts. And as for the title track ‘To Each and Everyone of You’ – it's one of those rare moments when every element works so well you find yourself totally immersed in what you’re hearing.
‘To Each and Everyone – the songs of Gerry Rafferty’ is without doubt the singular most beautiful collection of songs I’ve heard all year. Lovers of Rafferty’s perceptive songwriting will adore this album. Lovers of Barbara’s soul-touching voice will experience the same emotion. The album is released on Greentrax Recordings and is available ahead of Barbara's latest UK tour in October 2013.
2020 - TIME IS GOING FASTER (Chariot)
The Arts Desk - October, 2020
It’s 45 years since the West End success of John, Paul, George, Ringo… and Bert put a young Scottish folkie named Barbara Dickson on the map, launching a career that brought richly-deserved success on stage and screen, as well as in music. She’s since recorded 25 studio albums and enjoyed major singles success. The latter paid the rent but the primped hair and dry ice of 1980s Top of The Pops never was her style and in recent years Dickson’s returned happily to her roots with a series of folk-accented albums that demonstrate the effortless beauty of her voice.
The latest is Time is Going Faster, a collection of ten songs recorded with old friends Nick Holland, Brad Lang, Russell Field and multi-instrumentalist Troy Donockley, whose swirling, skirling Uillean pipes evoke the lore and legend of the Scotland of which Dickson so often sings. This album is no exception, featuring songs by Robin Williamson, Gerry Rafferty and Hamish Henderson, the latter a key figure in the 1960s Scottish folk revival from which Dickson emerged. (The story is told in a new edition of her memoir, A Shirtbox Full of Songs.)
There’s also a trio of Dickson originals, a rarity in recent years – she feels more “artistically comfortable” writing these days, free to be herself unfettered by the commercial constraints of the music business. Among them, “Where Shadows Meet the Light” is a moving and deeply felt meditation on friends lost, while “Goodnight I’m Going Home”, the most “popified” track, reflects on her return to Edinburgh, where she began her career and where has lived these past five years.
She still has a beautiful voice, a rich and true alto which is at its best on the traditional repertoire that, through it all, has remained closest to Dickson’s heart. “Barbara Allen” is probably best known in one of the variants collected by the Harvard scholar Francis James Child. The version here uses words collected by Robert Graves, which Dickson has set to music. It’s guitar-based, in open tuning, with judicious keyboard fills, and Donockley’s magical pipes and whistles, which enter midway through the song behind Dickson’s voice with its always-skilful use of portamento.
“Heyr, Himna Smidur”, a 13th century hymn taken from Icelandic rock-folk-classical fusion band Arstioir, is a remarkable track. Dickson’s voice floats on a cushion of sound which evokes the elements into which the song fades. “Lament of The Three Marys”, an Irish song, more usually heard in the Gaelic, is a keening on the death of Christ which Dickson sings over drone-like keyboards, finally resolving as the song ends.
Dickson reprises “Tell Me It’s Not True”, Mrs Johnson’s big ballad from Willy Russell’s powerful Blood Brothers, for which she won a Best Actress award. What a gifted writer he is and how well he and Dickson were matched, a musical marriage made in Liverpool’s folk clubs. (It would be great if she also revisited “Rita’s Theme”, another Russell song full of clever lyrics and intricate internal rhymes.)
Time is Going Faster is a lovingly crafted album by one of Britain’s most talented female singers, a real musician who knows exactly where her strengths lie but who is never afraid to venture out.