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RAB NOAKES - The Treatment Tapes

RAB NOAKES - The Treatment Tapes
Neon Records NEONCD018

The quality and importance of this new release from Rab is belied by its relative brevity. It takes its title from the circumstance of the writing of its six songs – in effect a crucial part of the treatment, the process of getting back into action following an intensive course of radiotherapy to treat tonsiliar cancer (which had only been diagnosed in 2015). The writing and recording of these songs was carried out chronologically, beginning around the time of his November 2015 ‘return’ tour, and reflects the progress of that process. When performing any of the songs in concert, Rab invariably prefaces any rendition by making light of the experience, but this apparent flippancy is counterbalanced, nay outweighed, by the stoicism of the lyrics and the intensity of the sentiments – and, refreshingly, not a trace of self-pity.

The sequence takes us from the easy-rolling west-coast-country gait of Fade (To Shades Of Black) through the laconic limbo of By The Day, to the song that might be regarded as the EP’s emotional and philosophical centrepiece, Mindful, which succinctly combines fragility and resilience (Rab co-wrote this song with his wife Steph) and features a plaintive oboe backing (Anne Rankin). The bluesy-shuffle of That Won’t Stop Me is a further portrayal of that resilience, a gesture of defiance and “getting through it all” that picks up a call-to-arms marching-band-style snare tattoo along the way. I Always Will is nothing less than a beautiful love song, its lyrical guitar figures augmented by tender cello in counterpoint to the deeply affectionate words. Closing song Water Is My Friend voices the essential truth of that mantra in tribute to all those individuals, friends and health professionals who’ve provided support during the period of inactivity.

Rejoice, for Rab’s a survivor; his triumphant smile on the package’s photo says it all.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 118 of The Living Tradition magazine.