Ralph McTell

Not Till Tomorrow

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In signing Ralph McTell, already known for his song "Streets of London" and his critically acclaimed fourth album, You Well-Meaning Brought Me Here, Reprise/Warner Bros. probably was hoping for a rival to Cat Stevens -- a British folk-rock artist who could cross over to America -- as well as a complement to homegrown superstar James Taylor. And there were moments on McTell's Reprise label debut Not Till Tomorrow when he sounded a little like each of them, especially on "First Song." But the album revealed an artist uncomfortable with his growing renown, unlikely to spend much time in the States, and more interested in local concerns. Pulling back from the string settings that had characterized the ambitious You Well-Meaning Brought Me Here, producer Tony Visconti (who had contributed some of those string charts) recorded McTell alone with his acoustic guitar or piano, adding only occasional instrumental colorings. And McTell, who had turned You Well-Meaning Brought Me Here into a concept album with big subjects, turned inward and wrote about much smaller matters, many of them pastoral English topics like "Nettle Wine" and the childhood reminiscence "Barges." All in all, his American record company would have been justified in concluding that he was too English to have stateside appeal and not likely to want to go after it anyway. Not Till Tomorrow was McTell's first album to chart in the U.K., presaging a commercial rise that would culminate with the singles success of a re-recorded "Streets of London" in late 1974. In the U.S., the album passed unnoticed, and though McTell remained contracted to Warner Bros. until the end of the 1970s, the label never again released one of his albums in America, an injustice both to the artist and his potential audience.

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