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Old 03-14-2012, 06:57 PM   #1021 (permalink)
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A Celtic tale: the legend of Deirdre --- Mychael and Jeff Danna --- 1996 (Valley Entertainment)


We've already looked at Horslips' musical treatment of one old Irish legend, the Tain, and here brothers Mychael and Jeff Danna tackle another, the starcrossed love story of Deirdre, often known as Deirdre of the Sorrows. It's part of the Ulster Cycle, some of Ireland's most important and well-known myths, and concerns the daughter of the royal storyteller, or seanachai, at the court of the king of Ulster. The king is told that Deirdre will grow up to be very beautiful, but will be the cause of war (ain't it always the case (cough) Helen of Troy (cough)?) and indeed this proves to come to pass.

Using traditional Irish instruments like oileann pipes, fiddles, harp and tin whistle, mixed with electronic synthesisers and ambient influences, the brothers paint a haunting and stunning picture of the legend, gripping the imagination and firing the soul. The album opens dramatically with synth and choral vocals, as “The prophecy” takes us into the legend, with lovely flutes, whistles and lush keyboards, against a background of tolling bells foretelling the birth of the beautiful Deirdre, and the conflict this will one day lead to. A beautiful harp passage a little more than halfway is joined by whistle and powerful, rolling drums, which really paints a scene of drama and majesty.

Harp and whistle joined by low fiddle create the soundscape against which Deirdre's young life is set, as “The child Deirdre” also adds accordion and acoustic guitar, very pastoral and gentle but with a slight edge of unease as the prophecy of the druids hangs like a dark cloud over the young girl's life. We're then taken into her adult life as she meets the man of her dreams, Naoise (neesha) and although promised to the king of Ulster she falls in love with him and the two steal away, accompanied by Naoise's two brothers. “Sons of Uisnach” details how part of the prophecy is thus fulfilled, as had been foretold that Deirdre's beauty would lead to the exile of three of the land's greatest warriors.

Some lovely brass, possibly trombone, carries this piece, and it's very laidback and gentle as oileann pipes join the tune, for what you would have to assume is the love theme of the album, with powerful, swelling strings and fluid keyboards, the slow, measured beat of the drum ever marking out the time. “Under high branches” sounds like it's based on acoustic guitar and flute, another slow piece, again quite pastoral, and may perhaps refer to the couple's meeting and courting. Very relaxing, then “Loch Etive” opens with birdsong and crashing waves, this being one of the places in Scotland to which the four exiles fled and lived for a while, before being tracked down by the spurned and vengeful king.

A low, humming synth is overlaid by oileann pipes and another, higher-register synth, no percussion to speak of (none that I can hear, anyway) then sparkling piano and oileann pipes lead in “The vision”, one of the longer tracks on the album, just over five minutes. I'm not certain what the vision referred to is, as I have only scanty knowledge of the full legend, but it could be a warning that the king is coming for Deirdre and her lover. Deep, powerful synth very reminscent of Jean-Michel Jarre's opus “Oxygene” then flows in, sea sounds crashing in the background --- probably cymbals on the drumkit, the only percussion heard so far --- then everything fades down and the synth carries the tune until strings and much more powerful percussion swell, lending a real sense of urgency and intensity to the piece.

The return of the quartet to Ireland is represented in “South by sail”, where the king's messenger promises them safe passage if they will come back to Ulster. Beautiful fiddle and what sounds like it could be harpsichord, as well as stunningly gorgeous harp carry this tune, and definitely conveys the impression of a voyage across the sea, from Scotland back to Ireland, as Deirdre and Naoise head towards their destiny, unaware of the betrayal that awaits them at the end of their journey.

The first really uptempo track then is “Defeat of the Red Branch”, where guitars and fiddles join with oileann pipes and harder, more insistent drumming with a great little jig in the middle. The Red Branch were Ulster's top fighting men, the defenders of the North, and perhaps comparable to an outfit like the SAS or the Navy SEALS, the men you turned to when invasion was threatened. Naoise and his two brothers are part of the Red Branch, and the men of Ulster fight with them for a time unti the king evokes their oath of loyalty to him, and the brothers, left to stand alone, are defeated and killed. Bagpipes join the fray with some more solid synth and rolling drums, all culminating in a sort of march as the battle rages.

I'm not really certain where “The Druid” fits in to the story, but it's the longest track on the album, almost six minutes, and very atmospheric and eerie, reminding me of “Neptune, the mystic” off Holst's classic “Planets” suite: very ethereal, very abstract, with some dark, dour horns and very low synth creating a feeling of power and menace, drums slowly rolling in like surf against the beach. Very ambient, the track uses a lot of effects and odd sounds, the heavy synth cutting through everything with some choral vocals adding to the mix, then high bagpipes announce “The drowning plains”, which again I have to say I'm not sure I quite understand in terms of the legend. Perhaps the burial of Naoise?

Either way, it's a powerful piece and whereas the previous was atmospheric and ambient, this is anthemic and moving, with slowpaced heavy, muted drums, which would seem to bear out the theory of a funeral, and lush synth, oileann pipes joining the bagpipes in what must surely be a farewell to Deirdre's lover. Coming as a total surprise is “Lament”, the only vocal track on the whole album, a lovely, soft ballad carried on harp and synth, with oileann pipes and a beautiful vocal which is sadly uncredited, and I can't find out who the lady whose voice graces this song is, which really is a pity. Oh wait, the YouTube has told me: her name is Krysia Kocjan. Oh no! Now I find, researching further, that she is no longer with us, having died at the relatively young age of 53. What a sad loss. She had a beautiful, clear and angelic voice.

The story comes to an end, tragically but somewhat expectedly, with the death of Deirdre, and “Two trees”, opened on gorgeous piano, possibly refers to a legend that where the two lovers died, two trees grew and intertwined so that even in death they would be together. Lovely strings section joins the piano, and together they create a fragile, simple and beautiful ending to a really powerful and emotional album.

It's hard enough to tell a story in music and words, but much harder to do so with just music. Here, I have no doubt whatever that the Danna brothers have succeeded, and succeeded well, in translating the powerful and tragic story of Deirdre of the Sorrows to music, and opening the whole saga to perhaps an entirely new audience, giving the legend new life, and ensuring that, as the myth tells us, Deirdre and Naoise will never in any true sense die.

TRACKLISTING

1. The prophecy
2. The child Deirdre
3. Sons of Uisneach
4. Under high branches
5. Loch Etive
6. South by sail
7. Defeat of the Red Branch
8. The Druid
9. The drowning plains
10. Lament
11. Two trees
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Old 03-14-2012, 07:13 PM   #1022 (permalink)
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Old 03-14-2012, 07:16 PM   #1023 (permalink)
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Most of you will know Clannad, if at all, for the theme to the TV series “Harry's game”, or else for the soundtrack to the series “Robin of Sherwood”, but the worm would like to feature a different track here today. This is called “Closer to your heart”.
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Old 03-15-2012, 11:28 AM   #1024 (permalink)
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The Irish abroad
Though not as prolific as UK acts, we Irish have troubled the charts more than you might expect, even scoring a few number ones. Here is a shortlist of Irish artistes who have made it into the UK singles charts over the years.

Gilbert O'Sullivan

One of our biggest and most successful exports of the 70s was Gilbert O'Sullivan, who racked up a total of six top ten hits, including two number ones. Here are some of them. Well, okay, “Matrimony” didn't chart, but I like it so it's here: was one of the first records I ever heard, so it holds a particularly special place in my heart.






The Boomtown Rats

Of course, before he became all knighted and respectable, Bob led the Boomtown Rats on an assault on the charts which yielded two number one singles...


Clannad

As mentioned by the Earworm earlier, Clannad had a hit with the theme to “Harry's game”, and they teamed up with Bono to record another hit, the rather dour “In a lifetime”.


The Corrs

For a while there the Corrs were the real flavour of the month, their biggest hit being “Breathless” --- can't get bigger than number one!

--- although their breakout single, and probably most popular in Ireland, though it charted outside the top 40 in the UK, has to be “Runaway”. A later, remixed version finally cracked the top flight, getting to number 2 in 1998.

They had other big hits later on too, in particular a cover of Fleetwood Mac's classic “Dreams”

“What can I do”, which failed to chart in 1997 but was remixed and reissued the next year and got to number 3

But the single that hit number one in Ireland never broke the top 100 even in the UK, you philistines!


Snow Patrol

One of our biggest and most recent success stories, Snow Patrol of course busted the charts wide open with the worldwide smash “Chasing cars”

and more recently the lead-in single from their new album “Fallen empires”


Enya

Not to be outdone by her famous sister Mairead, who fronts Clannad, Enya Brennan (going under the single name of Enya) had two number one hits, sixteen years apart. In 1988 her best-known and most recognised song was “Orinocco flow”


then in 2004 she had another number one with “I don't wanna know”.


Ronan Keating


We've already covered the impact his band Boyzone had on the charts in our boyband special, but Ronan Keating had several hits and indeed three number ones on his own, the first being from the movie “Notting Hill”, with “When you say nothing at all”


then he insisted life was a rollercoaster, even though it quite patently is not...


and finally he wondered what would happen “If tomorrow never comes”.


Brian MacFadden

And anything Boyzone could do, Westlife could copy! Brian MacFadden had a number one hit with the rather good “Real to me” in 2004


Johnny Logan

Hero of the Eurovision for Ireland --- twice --- Johnny hit the number one spot with the Shay Healey-penned “What's another year?”


Sinead O'Connor

Of course, Sinead had her big hit with a Prince-written song, “Nothing compares 2 U”.


U2

And of course we can't forget U2 and their many hits, among them “Pride (in the name of love)”


“Still haven't found what I'm looking for”


“With or without you”


“Where the streets have no name”


“The unforgettable fire”


and “Staring at the sun”, just a small selection of the huge impact they've made on the UK charts, many of their songs going to number one.


The Nolans

Then there were the Nolans (originally the Nolan Sisters), whose two big hits were of course “I'm in the mood for dancing”


and “Attention to me”.


Westlife of course had a fistful of number ones, but as we'll be delving into their work in part three of our boyband special we're not going to feature them here. Another recent success story out of Ireland, though, we are going to feature...

The Script

With five chart singles from their first album and two so far from their second, the Script continue the time-honoured practice of exporting good Irish rock music beyond these shores. Their biggest hit single to date has been “The man who can't be moved”


closely followed by the first single from the current album, “For the first time”.


Bagatelle

Another Irish band to make it relatively big overseas was Bagatelle, whose biggest hit single, “Summer in Dublin”, was featured by our serpentine friend a few days ago. But they also had hits with “Second violin”

and “Trump card”.


The Cranberries

And finally, we can't forget the Cranberries, whose two big hit singles “Zombie”

and “Linger”

made them a household name outside Ireland. Proof positive that you just can't keep good Irish music confined to this island. Expect much more in the near future. The genie is out of the bottle, and heading your way!
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Old 03-15-2012, 06:06 PM   #1025 (permalink)
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The monkeys in the zoo have more fun than me --- Jape --- 2004 (Trust me I'm a thief)


Fourth album by Dublin's Jape, with certainly one of the funnest titles I've seen in a long time, this is again a new venture for me, having heard nothing from this band prior to this. Let's hope it turns out better than my first (and, after that, last) encounter with Therapy?! Formed in 2003 as a side project by Richie Egan to his current band the Redneck Manifesto, Jape are said to be electro/pop, so that in itself would not seem to bode well for me, an old rocker. But this week is all about exploring every aspect of Irish music I can fit in, not just rock, and anyway, after enduring “A brief crack of light” last night, I'm ready for a little synthpop fluff. So let's have a listen.

There are only eight tracks on the album, and the opener, and lead single, “Floating”, has a nice laidback almost eastern feel to it, with sitar-like sounds and possibly jews harp, thick synthesisers laying down a nice easy soundscape and Richie's voice quite soothing, sounds on the keys made to sound like bubbles (floating, geddit?) and it's a nice easygoing start, continued then in “Reminding me”, with a slow, low keyboard line and drums so sparse they're almost not there, but some lovely sparkly keys too, a very understated vocal more suited really to an acoustic number, though nothing even gets close to rocking out here, if Jape ever do, which I don't know. Lovely introspective guitar keeping pace with the keys. This song takes the word laidback to new levels. Lovely. It's followed by “How much light”, a slightly more uptempo song with some nice harmonica and a sort of semi-reggae beat.

I'm not entirely sure, but I get the impression Jape is a one-man affair, with Egan playing all the instruments and singing, and writing all the compositions, though I could be wrong. Information on the band (singer, whatever) is hard to come by: even the official website doesn't make it clear. But I think it is a solo effort. At any rate, things go back to relaxing and ballad territory with “The hardest thing to do”, mostly carried on guitar, the instrument almost used as an extension of Richie's voice. It's quite echoey, as if he were recording in a large, empty room, and adds to the intimate, down-to-earth feel you get from his music.

More upfront guitar then in a slightly, well, louder track with “To the sea”, yet retaining the restrained feel of pretty much most of this album, getting a little rockier as it approaches the last two minutes, some nice percussion kicking in and accompanying the guitar in an instrumental ending. Lounge-style guitar and a certain sense of early Santana then in “A journey is just a memory”, while “Autumn summer” is a little more uptempo --- though not much --- some nice keys and gentle percussion, and the album then ends on the longest track, six and three quarter minutes of “Always knew”, a slow, lazy, relaxed guitar piece with a nice little jangly and catchy riff running through it.

Probably one of the most laidback albums I've listened to since Antimatter's “Planetary confinement” or Lanterns on the Lake's “Gracious tide, take me home”, Jape prove, or proves, that rock music does not have to be necessarily loud and fast to sound good, and that there is definitely room in Irish music for the more introspective, contemplative and intimate sound. With work like this to back him up, it's not at all surprising really that Jape just last week won the Meteor Choice Music award for the new album “Ocean of frequency”, previous album “Ritual” having scooped the same award in 2008.

TRACKLISTING

1. Floating
2. Reminding me
3. How much light
4. The hardest thing to do
5. To the sea
6. A journey is just a memory
7. Autumn summer
8. Always knew
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Old 03-15-2012, 06:14 PM   #1026 (permalink)
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Old 03-15-2012, 06:16 PM   #1027 (permalink)
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Time to rock out again with another great band, the band that would not die, Aslan. This is “Where's the sun”, a question we tend to ask a lot here in Ireland!
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Old 03-16-2012, 04:11 AM   #1028 (permalink)
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Before we wrap up Irish Week for 2012, a few more bands/artistes who sadly never quite made it, or did but only briefly to fade away. We salute you, and remember you here...

No Sweat were a short-lived AOR outfit who had a number one in Ireland with “Heart and soul”

but they had other good songs too, like this one, “Lean on me”

“Tear down the walls”

and “Stranger”.


Cry Before Dawn hailed from Wexford, and had a short but successful career but failed to make it big. Word has it that they reunited last year and are touring again, so perhaps second time round?
This is one of their bigger hits in Ireland, called “Gone forever”

though their only impression on the UK charts was “Witness for the world”.

They had other singles too, successful here in their native land but nowhere else (what does that prove? That we have better taste, are better able to appreciate good music?), one of which was “No living without you”

and “The seed that's been sown”.


Then there was Who's Eddie? Yeah, really... A decent Irish dance band who had minor local hits with songs like “Take me up”

and a cover of Donna Summer's disco classic “Hot stuff”, I kid you not!


But what we Irish do best is ROCK! And Sweet Savage, who produced a young guitarist you may have heard of, name of Vivian Campbell, are one of the old guard who never quite broke out as they should have done. Hailing from Belfast, they only lasted a few years and despite reforming last year, I fear it's not really the same without our Vivian. They had some great songs though, like “Take no prisoners”

“Killing time”

“Eye of the storm”

and “Straight through the heart”.


Another band, whom I've mentioned a few times, and whose album I'll be reviewing once I get my USB turntable sorted, is the Stars of Heaven, who hailed from my hometown, Dublin. There's little available of them on YouTube, so here's what I have. This is from the album I intend to review, “Speak slowly”, and it's simply called “28”.


This is the title track from their album “Sacred heart hotel”


and here's a great track called “Never saw you”.


Then we have An Emotional Fish, who nearly made it. This is “Celebrate”


and this is their biggest Irish hit, “Lace Virginia”


though “Time is on the wall” is great too: think it bears quite a resemblance to Bowie's “Five years”, personally...


… and this is “A hole in my Heaven”. Shows how popular they were briefly, as this is recorded on tour with, oh, what's their name? You know them...!


Hardly any information survives about Hinterland, but this is the one video I could find of them.


Another great band from north of the border, Energy Orchard were signed on the recommendation of the great Steve Earle, but despite that failed to make it big, lasting for just six years from 1990 to their breakup in 1996. They had some great songs during that period though, like this one, “Sailor town”

this one, simply entitled “Belfast”

“Stay away”

and a great rendition of the old trad song, “The star of the County Down”.


And yet another criminally ignored band from Dublin, Lir plied their trade from 1982 to about 1997, when they “went on hiatus”, but officially broke up. They did reunite later, but as with most projects this didn't really work. This is one of their songs, “In a day”

and this is “There are more things”

Finally, this is “The orchard song”.


There are so many other bands I could feature here --- the Pale, the Stunning, A House, Something Happens, Engine Alley, Light a big fire, Les Enfants --- but I'd be here well past Irish Week and possibly into Christmas! Suffice to say there have been tons of Irish bands who, despite not ever managing to break out and make it in the big leagues, still deserve your attention. Some great music out there; even if the bands no longer exist, the music lives on. Slainte!
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Old 03-16-2012, 05:44 AM   #1029 (permalink)
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Hey Trollheart glad you like my comments and as I said before, this journel is a real goldmine as I've found somebody on here with a very similiar taste in rock.

Sure Roger Hodgson supplied the happier tones to Supertramp and his voice one of the most unique of its time, I forgot to mention the other classic track off Crime of the Century is the opening track "School" always a favourite of mine and I think of that album as one of the best prog albums of that era, sadly it never really gets recognized by proggers who are probably put off by the Supertramp name.

I've not listened to the new Cars album but with no Benjamin Orr, I've no real desire to do so, but its good to see Ric Ocasek back and bloody Todd Rundgren out I've made a note of your Ric Ocasek page and will jump there and comment on it a bit later.

Anyway despite still being on about page 7 am briefly jumping to page 32 for the NWOBHM.

Page 32
First up what a great name Witches, Bitches, Maidens and Monsters

Praying Mantis: Great to see you've kicked off with Praying Mantis one of the most interesting of the NWOBHM, now I've constantly mentioned on MB that NWOBHM was extremely melodic and just not hard edged and Praying Mantis are the perfect example of that melodic feel and they were a band that sat perfectly between metal and AOR, their debut is an album that has recently grown on me and is a real gem and I love the tracks "Lovers to the Grave" and "Panic in the Streets". You've summed this band up perfectly with their constant rebirths, this is often the death knoll for most bands anyway.

Angel Witch: The debut album has to be in the top 5 best ever NWOBHM albums and I finally got around to buying it on CD recently as I saw it dirt cheap and brand new, again its melodic but it has a dark intensity about it (territory that Diamond Head also covered and you must listen to their debut album!!!) and when I was doing my NWOBHM reviews this album came up as one of the most popular by people looking at the thread and Kevin Heybourne was a great talent, it was mentioned that live he couldn't handle both vocal and guitar duties (I don't know how true that is) which is why a couple of years later the other vocalist was brought in, I never liked any of their other material and Angel Witch were sadly a band that never built off their classic debut.

Trepass: Now I've never heard of them and its always great when I see a band like this as I know most of the bands from the NWOBHM, even if I don't remember all the albums that well without re-listening, I'm really looking forward to listening to this band as well.

At the moment I'm listening to a lot of North-American metal bands that were around in the early 1980s at the time of the NWOBHM bands like Anvil, Rail and Riot etc who were very distinct to the grassroots sound of NWOBHM and focused more on what was then the traditional stadium style sound. I've kind of christened these bands as arena metal or proto-power metal, point is I think these bands provided a good balance to the bands of the NWOBHM.

As a footnote you need to listen to the debut Manilla Road album Invasion its a grassroots sounding metal album from 1980 by an American band but its unique in sound and totally different to the arena style metal sound that was around at that time

Anyways, will check out part two of this section next week and I'm going back now to page 8 and continuing from there.
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Old 03-16-2012, 10:21 AM   #1030 (permalink)
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The well below the valley --- Planxty --- 1973 (Polydor)


Responsible for creating some of the biggest and best talent in the Irish folk scene, Planxty were formed in 1972 by Christy Moore, who had at that time just finished recording his second album, and had had the assistance of his friends Donal Lunny, Liam O'Flynn and Andy Irvine. The guys liked working together so much that they decided to put together a band, and thus Planxty was born. Credited with raising the profile of Irish trad and folk music more than any other band prior, Planxty would later give birth to Moving Hearts, as well as, indirectly, the scourge we now know as Riverdance!

Oileann pipes and fiddle open “Cunla”(coon-lah), with the soon-to-be-familiar “scat”-style singing of Christy Moore, singing alernatively in Irish then English. Irvine on banjo and Lunny on bouzouki join in, Moore adding a sense of percussion via the bodhran (bow-rawn). I don't know that much about trad music, but I think this is a reel, maybe. It's certainly lively and makes you want to get up and dance, as a lot of trad music does. It's followed by “Pat Reilly”, banjo and whistle in a sort of Irish uptempo ballad, with either Donal Lunny or Andy Irvine on vocals --- it's not Christy, that's all I can confirm. Like much trad and indeed folk music there's little in the way of percussion, no drumming as the song is carried along on the banjo and backed by the whistle, the truest meaning of unplugged you could come across.

Two slip jigs (don't ask) follow, the first being “The kid on the mountain” (which I think is meant to refer to a goat rather than a child) and played mostly on oileann pipes with the second being called “An phis fliuch”(on fiss flue-awch) --- I know “fluich” means wet, not sure about the phis part --- with Christy Moore's bodhran coming in to add to the pipes. It all slows down then for “As I roved out”, an old traditional Irish ballad played on acoustic guitar and pipes and sung by Andy Irvine. It's one of two versions on the album, the other being sung by Christy Moore. Why? I have no idea...

More reels to follow, with “The dogs among the bushes” and “Jenny's wedding”, both merging as reels tend to, and played on loud oileann pipes again, a real dancing rhythm as the bodhran joins in and some mandolin and/or banjo adds to the proceedings. The title track is up next, on whistle and bodhran with Christy singing as bouzouki slips in, slowly taking over the tune on a mid-paced kind of a drinking song, as many of these trad songs are. Nice backing vocals, the first time on the album that Planxty have used more than one voice on any one song.

“Hewlett” then is a pipes-led instrumental, with banjo joining in as Irvine and O'Flynn go head-to-head, as it were, and “Bean Phaidin” (ban fawd-jeen), which best translates as either Mrs. Phaidin or Phaidin's wife, is sung entirely in Irish against harmonica, bodhran and fiddle. Not sure who sings it, but it may be Donal Lunny. Halfway through, this develops into a sort of jig or reel (I don't know the difference) as the whole band comes in with bodhran, pipes, harmonica, bouzouki and anything else they can get their hands on it would seem!

Two hornpipes are next, “The fisherman's lilt” and “Cronin's hornpipe”, again mostly on oileann pipes with harmonica and whistle, bouzouki coming in for the second one, which takes us to the second version of “As I roved out” on the album, this one sung by Christy with what would become his characteristic everyman charm, soft voice but loaded with passion and honesty. In fact, it sounds like a different song entirely. How weird. Little indeed do I know of the Irish trad scene. This is played on whistle with mandolin backing, much faster than the other version. It's also much shorter, almost a minute shorter than the Andy Irvine version.

“The humours of Ballyloughlin” is a jig played on oileann pipes, a true solo as no other instrument is involved, from start to finish. We close then on the gentle acoustic guitar ballad “Time will cure me”, which is I think sung by Irvine. Nice relaxing whistle then joins in, with some lovely laidback mandolin adding to the mix.

An album of alternately incredible energy and enthusiasm, and fragile balladry, it's easy to see why this album lifted Planxty out of the realm of the ordinary, and why they as a band were able to do so much to advance the cause of Irish traditional and folk music. It wouldn't be my own favourite genre now, this music I used to disparagingly refer to as “skiddly-idle”, but for anyone familiar with, or interested in folk, trad and celtic music and rhythms, Planxty is a very good starting point.

TRACKLISTING

1. Cunla
2. Pat Reilly
3. Slip jigs: “The kid on the mountain/An phis fliuch”
4. As I roved out (vocal: Andy Irvine)
5. Reels: “The dogs among the bushes/Jenny's wedding”
6. The well below the valley
7. Hewlett
8. Bean Phaidin
9. Hornpipes: “A fisherman's lilt/Cronin's hornpipe”
10. As I roved out (vocal: Christy Moore)
11. Solo jig: “The humours of Ballyloughlin”
12. Time will cure me
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Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018
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