McDONALD and GILES – ” McDonald And Giles “

Posted: March 31, 2022 in MUSIC

Playing in memory of the legendary Ian McDonald who passed away on 9th of this month. This album called “McDonald And Giles” was damn underrated Prog masterpiece released in 1970 featuring Michael Giles, Peter Giles, Steve Winwood, Michael Blakesley and the one and only Ian McDonald. 

McDonald, who had served for five years in the British army as a bandsman, co-founded King Crimson in 1968 alongside Robert Fripp, Greg Lake, Michael Giles and Pete Sinfield, and went on to record the band’s classic 1969 debut album “In The Court Of The Crimson King“, before quitting the band, along with drummer Michael Giles, to release a lone “McDonald And Giles” album in 1970. 

RIP Ian McDonald, multi-instrumentalist and a founding member of King Crimson. If he had stopped his musical career after the first album he appeared on, he would still belong in the pantheon of progressive music. That album was The Court Of The Crimson King. McDonald played saxophone, flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, mellotron, harpsichord, piano, organ, vibraphone, composed the tracks I Talk to the Wind and the classic title track The Court of the Crimson King and participated in composing the rest of the tracks on that album. The title track originally had a different melody set to Pete Sinfield’s lyrics, and McDonald recalled, “I thought that his lyrics deserved a more majestic environment. Pete was very happy to let me run with it and write completely new music for the song.” His mellotron work on that track is considered one of the best showcases of that instrument.

Multi-instrumentalist Ian McDonald and drummer Michael Giles left King Crimson after the band’s US tour in late 1969 to promote their milestone debut album In the Court of the Crimson King. They found road life and the newly found success too overwhelming and wanted to continue on their own. Robert Fripp’s journal, 3 January 1970, reads: “The American tour was such a total experience of plasticity that Ian and Mike now feel that getting their feelings across on records is more important than performing to audiences.”

While Giles remained as a studio entity for KC’s second album In the Wake of Poseidon, McDonald focused on preparing material for the duo’s album, recorded in 1970. The album, simply titled McDonald and Giles, was released in January 1971 and consisted of music pieces that existed since the early stages of King Crimson. These included Flight of the Ibis, the original melody of Cadence and Cascade, and the side-long epic Birdman, written in 1968.

A favorite track from the album is Tomorrow’s People, written by Giles in 1967 and dedicated to his children Tina and Mandy. Giles talked about this track: “This song is one of my favourites, and like Ian I was influenced by the Beatles at the time, especially John Lennon – hence the exposed voice and solo drums on the first verse. I played a slightly South-American influenced rock beat. The solo section is full of sound percussion objects to add texture and complexity.”

Ian McDonald: “I think it’s a great sounding track and one of the better produced songs on the album. It’s nice when all the instruments come in after the drum solo. Another one of my favourite moments comes just before the trombone section, where the repeat echo on the flute cascades like a waterfall.”

McDonald left the band after their first US tour and returned as a guest musician, playing alto saxophone on One More Red Nightmare and another King Crimson classic, Starless. In between these albums he released the album McDonald and Giles with drummer Michael Giles. In the early 1970s he appeared as guest musician on albums by Linda Lewis, Keith Tippett’s Centipede, T. Rex, Phil Manzanera. Later in the 1970s he found fame with Foreigner, a band he co-founded with Mick Jones and Lou Gramm.

McDonald’s son Max wrote on Facebook: “I’m deeply saddened to tell you that my father passed away yesterday from cancer. He was incredibly brave, and never lost his kindness or his sense of humour even when the going was rough.

“My father was a brilliant, intuitive musician, a gentle soul, and a wonderful dad. He will live on forever through his beautiful music and the love of his fans. Thank you all”.

In a post on the King Crimson website, Robert Fripp noted: “Ian brought musicality, an exceptional sense of the short and telling melodic line, and the ability to express that on a variety of instruments.”

McDonald also had a career as a session musician, notably playing on T-Rex’s 1971 hit Get It On (Bang A Gong) and also producing albums for Irish prog rockers Fruupp and Darryl Way’s Wolf.

He helped co-found Anglo-American melodic rockers Foreigner along with guitarist Mick Jones in 1976, appearing on the bands first three albums Foreigner (1977), Double Vision (1978) and Head Games (1979). He released a lone solo album, Driver’s Eyes, in 1999.

In 1996 he featured alongside Steve Hackett (with whom he guested on several occasions) at two Tokyo concerts that also featured the late John Wetton and drummer Chester Thompson, where they played a series of classic Genesis, Crimson,  Asia and Hackett material, which was released as The Tokyo Tapes in 1998.

Hackett tweeted: “I’m really sad to hear the news of Ian McDonald’s passing. He was a great friend and an incredible musician/songwriter. He will be very much missed.”

In 2002 he was a member of the 21st Century Schizoid Band alongside former King Crimson members Michael and Peter Giles, Mel Collins and current Crimson singer Jakko Jakszyk, performing a repertoire of classic Crimson. He also appeared, alongside Fripp, on the late Judy Dyble’s  2009 album Talking With Strangers.

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