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Star Smile Strong (2017) Fairfield Records. FAIR CD/LP 15.

2016: I'd made two albums with Cold Shoulder (Christopher Kearney and Andy Lord-Ashton and whatever drummer was available at the time - so far that would include Nick Kilroe of Echo And The Bunnymen and Tony Mac from The Real People); Eclectic Warrior (2013) and Krugerrands (2015) and just issued an album of cover versions; Respectfully Yours (2016). I was very keen to get the band I'd been working with live since 2002 (We now proudly call ourselves The Icicle Works) into the studio; Roy Corkill (bass/vox), Mathew Priest (drums/vox) and Richard Naiff (keyboards/flute).

It's a problem to get Richard and Mathew up north because they both work during the week and their calendars dictate they can't both make the same weekend, so my idea of having us all in a room at the same time is a non-starter. We are gifted free time at Elevator Studios in Cheapside in Liverpool by owner Tim Speed, and Roy and I (along with producer Ciaron Bell and our friend and tech Skinnie) oversee fourteen drum tracks being printed by Mathew in two days. Richard came up a few weeks later and put all of his parts down in one long and hot day.

Three things happened with this album that were notable apart from my touring band being present for the first time; I wrote a song with Ralph Molina (Crazy Horse) for inclusion, we struck a deal with Zal Cleminson and Ted McKenna from the Sensational Alex Harvey Band that I could use a sample of their song Who Murdered Sex? And when we were mixing at Ciaron's space in Wallasey, Chris Sharrock (original Icicle Works drummer) came and played percussion on some tracks. That was nice. I got him so drunk he can't remember the session and isn't entirely convinced it happened.

Hev Parson did a lot of backing vocals along with Chris Kearney who also played slide guitar and dobro, Martin Winning played tenor saxophone and Martin Smith trumpet. We sampled Brian Cox talking about outer space and eventually got his permission to issue the recording in April 2017.

I like the album a lot. The songs are strong and it has a consistency of mood only shattered briefly by the rave-up that is Hotter Than The Sun. I love the space in the sound and I feel I sang really well on these sessions. It's easily my most commercial album since the debut Icicle Works one. It doesn't scare women, which some of my stuff does. Clarabella... is the best lyric I've written so far IMHO.

The album is currently sold out on CD but is available from the McNabb store on double gatefold 180g vinyl. If that's not your thing or it's a bit pricey for you, you can download it in high quality, with complete artwork scans from or stream/download from all the regular platforms.

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