Robert Ian McNabb (born 3rd November 1962) first rose to prominence with 'The Icicle Works' when they scored two major hit singles"Birds Fly (Whisper to a Scream)" (Top forty US) and "Love is a Wonderful Colour" (Top twenty UK). Their eponymously titled debut album achieved gold record status in Canada. 'The Icicle Works' released four albums between 1983 - 1988, all achieving top forty placing, until they broke up immediately after their swansong Blind.
Ian went on to record one more album under the name 'The Icicle Works,' signing to Epic in 1989 and using session musicians in place of the now departed members. Permanent Damage was released in March 1990, but fared badly in the midst of the then exploding 'Madchester scene.'
Ian split with Epic that same year and over the next few months he began preparing songs for what would become his first solo album Truth and Beauty. Self-financed, and released on Andrew Lauder's new label 'This Way Up' in March 1993, the album was well received by both fans and critics alike, finding its way into magazine end of year polls, and into Q magazine's 'best albums released during Q's lifetime'!
In mid 1993 Andrew Lauder had suggested to Ian for him to record his next album with producer John Porter, who lived and worked in Los Angeles. Ian suggested that if the services of Neil Young's band could be assured, he would gladly make the journey to California.
When Crazy Horse eventually met with Ian in November of 1993, they spent five days creating the music which would end up being exactly one half of the new record. Released in July 1994, Head Like a Rock was an immediate success. The album returned Ian to the upper reaches of the top forty once again, cementing his position of a great British singer-songwriter in the minds of both the public and the industry. The album was deemed worthy of a nomination for the prestigious 'Mercury prize'. Ian ultimately lost out to 'M people' .
For his next album, Ian put together a new band,'The Afterlife.' The resulting album, 1996's Merseybeast, was once again a top forty success. The tour ended on a high note when Ian got to share the bill at 1996's Phoenix festival with Young and Crazy Horse. In 1997 Ian released 'This Way Up' but unfortunately performed poorly. Ian decided to take a break for a while. Upon his return he accepted the job of playing bass in former Waterboy Mike Scott's new touring outfit.
He began writing new songs in January of 1998. In May/June of that year Ian was offered a week-long residency at Ronnie Scott's club in Birmingham, playing solo . As a result he recorded an all-acoustic album. Accompanying himself on acoustic and electric guitars , piano and mellotron,
Ian released A Party Political Broadcast on Behalf of the Emotional Party. Danny Thompson (Pentangle, John Martyn. Nick Drake) played upright bass on five tracks, while Mike Scott and Anthony Thistlethwaite (Waterboys) provided acoustic guitar, mandolin and saxophone between them. The Emotional Party was released in October of 1998, accompanied by the longest tour Ian had yet undertaken in the UK. It was warmly received and fared well, though not achieving a chart placing this time.
A late 1999 show at Liverpool's Life Cafe resulted in a live acoustic recording released as Live at Life. The album features a mix of McNabb classics as well as Icicle Works favourites. Originally only available in limited quantities, this disc was later released by Ian's new label, Sanctuary. The full-tilt rock band appeared once again on McNabb's eponymous album released in April 2001 on Sanctuary. This album is a relatively short collection of rocking numbers that express Ian's love for classic 60s and 70s power pop and rock, with clear nods to the likes of Badfinger, the Who, T Rex, the Beach Boys, and others.
Ian broke with Sanctuary due to their ongoing U.S. distribution troubles. Teaming up once again with Andrew Lauder, this time under the name of Evangeline Records, Ian released a collection of unreleased and demo material. Waifs & Strays consists of material from 1993-2000 . The Gentleman Adventurer, a fourteen track album featuring Ian playing almost all the instruments himself was released in 2002. This album contained "All Things To Everyone" and "Lady By Degrees". Ian also used producer/engineer Mike Cave (The Charlatans/John Martyn) on these sessions, who continues to work with Ian up to the present. July 2004 saw the release of Potency - The Best Of Ian McNabb. A career summary of his post-Icicle Works years. It also featured a bonus disc of rarities, b sides and outtakes.
Ian's 2005 album, Before All Of This, was previewed by the top 40 single "Let The Young Girl Do What She Wants To." This was Ian's first 'hit' in 21 years. The album was divided into two distinct acoustic and electric 'sides' and featured backing vocals of Wirral born singer Livia Johnson, as well as drummer Steve Barney (Annie Lennox, Jeff Beck). Long time cohort Roy Corkill returned on bass .
In Autumn 2006 Ian resurrected The Icicle Works for a sold-out 25th Anniversary tour.
Ian’s autobiography “Merseybeast” was published in October 2008.
Ian spent January through June of 2009 recording his new album “Great Things’ which is due to be released in January 2010. It will be preceded by a single “New Light’ which features Mike Scott (The Waterboys) on guitar and backing vocals.