Harold McNair – The Fence (1970)

Harold McNair - The Fence (1970)
Artist: Harold McNair
Album: The Fence
Genre: Fusion
Origin: UK
Released: 1970/2007
Quality: mp3, 320 kbps
The Fence (McNair) – 6:28
True Love Adventure (Grech) – 5:56
Early in the Morning (Trad.) – 12:12
Scarborough Fair (Trad.) – 10:53
Here, There and Everywhere (Lennon-McCartney) – 12:42


Flute and sax player Harold McNair is best known to pop and rock fans for his work as a session man on numerous Donovan recordings. However, he did come from the world of jazz, and it’s not a surprise to find this that this 1970 album (released shortly before his death) is very much an instrumental jazz recording, not a pop or rock one. At the same time, it’s not wholly devoid of influence from pop, folk, and blues, particularly as some of the players will be recognizable to many rock fans. Those include not only McNair, but also pianist Keith Tippett, Pentangle rhythm section Terry Cox and Danny Thompson, and in the biggest surprise, Family/Blind Faith bassist Rick Grech. With the first two tracks lasting about six minutes and the remaining three a little more than ten minutes each, it’s pretty much a straight-ahead jazz date with a little bluesy soul-jazz groove in the arrangements. McNair himself wrote just one of the five selections (the title track), with “True Love Adventure” being contributed by Grech, and the ten-plus-minute workouts being extemporizations on the Beatles’ “Here, There and Everywhere” and the folk standards “Early in the Morning” and “Scarborough Fair.” This is rather average jazz of its kind, and not apt to dislodge McNair’s work with Donovan as his most enduring image in popular culture. But for those who like circa late-’60s jazz that has some pop accessibility without selling out, it’s modestly enjoyable, and certainly well played.
Review by Richie Unterberger