George Starostin's Reviews



Become a Certified Commentator today by following this link!

!!Before adding new comments, please check the GUIDELINES. Don't say I didn't warn you!!


No reader comments yet.


Tagbo Munonyedi <> (21.02.2006)

This was the last of the four Clannad albums that I acquired and the pace that Clannad move at [ ie, snail's pace ] began here ! It's a striking thing about this album, there's no energy, it's just not that kind of band, at least, not on their first record. Unlike other Celtic folk bands that were pretty energetic, Clannad don't go there. What they are is mellow and it's no wonder they mutated into a new age group later on in their career. Much of this debut sounds like it was recorded on a cloud, floating away to somewhere cute - but that doesn't mean it's no good. It is definitely listenable. I'm really taken with Celtic folk and I find particularly Irish music to be the most distinctive music of any nation apart from India. You can tell an Irish piece a mile away and that distinctiveness lends itself well here. Even " Morning dew " sounds like their own. I love the twists and turns that some of these pieces go through. In a song like " Brian Boru's march " the melody line is just repeated over and over - repetition, emphasis and build up are often key elements of these kind of songs, with different parts / instruments being added bit by bit. Noticeable is that the songs are all short, which is a good thing because there isn't much variation of mood on here. Other highlights for me here are " Siobhahn Ni Dhuibhir ", " Mrs McDermott ", " An Toilean " and the sad, forlorn " Pretty Maid ". I must agree with George about " Lisa ", the kind of ditty I'd deny authorship of ! Actually, it's not really that bad ( it's bland ), it can't be if I've retained it on the tape I've compiled of the album. I don't find my lack of Gaelic understanding a problem, half the time in pop and rock I can't understand what's being said ! When I like a tune in a language I don't know, I just catch the bits I can and make up the rest or follow the vowel sounds.....I don't care too tough what's being said either, as long as it ain't " Satan is God " or " Shoot all Blacks " or " Liverpool are a load of **&^%$£(*!! "and suchlike.

As Irish as Clannad are, there's almost no one I've heard who sounded like them, except a curious, obscure outfit called Skara Brae. Around the time Clannad recorded this, there were some groundbreaking and influential LPs recorded by Irish acts like Horslips, Mushroom, Christy Moore, Tir Na Nog, Callinan - Flynn, in the folk or folk - rock vein I think they were all much better than Clannad. But Clannad stuck at what they did well and if you want mellow, charming music, this is a good band to check out, particularly early on.


Tagbo Munonyedi <> (22.02.2006)

Now this is much more like it. This is a far more assured effort than their debut. But that's understandable, because few debuts are masterpieces. Theirs gave the band a foot in the door and that gave them the opportunity to record this. If the first LP was characterized by a lack of energy in the playing, 2 more than makes up for this while at the same time retaining that mellow feel where appropriate. This is reflected in a great album cover where the band look like a cross between a group of European hippies and a collection of farm hands and milking maids. But they definitely have this great Irish look about them that so many of their contemporaries had in those days. They were photogenic and cool !

AN GABHAR BAN kicks things off in great style, more lively playing in this one track than in the whole of the previous record, followed by ELEANOR PLUNCKETT, an instrumental that is soft and meek, with a prominant tin whistle. The shrill tones of the tin whistle make their presence felt throughout this album. It's a useful colour, though personally, I'm a flute lover. COINLEACH GHLAS AN FHOMAIR is a killer of a track, hauntingly and depressingly beautiful, I suppose the word I should use is melancholy. But it goes beyond that....the interplay between the guitar and the double bass is a feature, in fact the guitar playing on this track is my favourite on the whole album. The simple backing vocals are sumptuous and evocative of George Martin's comment { I think he was talking about ' Because ' } of the effectiveness of simplicity. Sometimes a sound that seems so facile is actually the killer in the congregation. The backing vocal here plays that climactic role even though it is barely featured. RINCE PHILIB A'CHEOIL bounds into town with brio, a cute and lively piece with lovely harmonies and some really clever drumming. Although there was drumming on the first album, this one raises the drum stakes. However, Celtic music ( this is a bit of a generalization so forgive me and I would like to hear opinions on this ) IMO is one of the few musical genres I'm aware of where percussion really isn't that important. The rhythm is often coming from somewhere else, there's a way that the mix of instruments and tunes often combine to create a unique rhythmic force, the bodhran notwithstanding. That said, Celtic percussion when employed is really colourful and wide ranging and the drums here add to the track without being that rhythmic foundation. BY CHANCE IT WAS is another killer tune, a slow dirge that is kept afloat by this serious guitar riff that plays all the way through the song [ joined by piano after a couple of verses ] until it becomes like a chugging 1930s blues guitar. The melody is fantastic and the flute exquisite. What's really interesting is the way both guitar riffs combine for the final few moments of the song with the flute weaving in and out in great style. The solos that the flute plays are pretty tasty too. RINCE BRIOTANACH is another energetic instrumental. It has a slightly odd time signature and a kind of complicated melody. The tune as a whole builds cleverly and brilliantly with the double bass bouncing all over the place and some classy drum shuffles and a tin whistle that just won't go away - and it's just as well, it really adds to the overall brightness. DHEANAINN SUGRADH kicks off side 2 and for me is the best song on the album. The melody is sung over and over by some of the guys in the band and this is a welcome distraction; Maire has a beautiful voice, one of the most beautiful I've heard, but I do like variety - if it is there. And it is, the repetitive melody so gorgeous that you just want it to go on and on. And the double bass and drums help drive the song along. Then comes a shock, this electric guitar kicks in and there's this mad section in the middle when the guitar and the flute duel for supremacy and it truly is a mesmerizing piece. It's breathtaking . This indicates that they could rock out when necessary, a shame they did not do this kind of thing more. In the 70s, Irish bands tended to divide into those that stayed in the traditional vein { Bothy band, De Dannan, Sands Family, Christy Moore for example } and those that were Celtic but that also utilized their rock sensibilities { Horslips, Mushroom, Spud } within the traditional framework. Clannad never went deeply into the latter but this track shows clearly that they could have. The song stops so abruptly, but it really is one of the greats of any genre. GAOTH BARRA NA d'TONN is a real come down after it's predocessor, a solo vocal. A number of Irish records I have do have these and they're an acquired taste. Sometimes they work really well and are brilliant - but not on this occasion. However this is made up for by the next track, the livewire TEIDHIR ABHAILE RIU which seems to be the twin of the opening track. They're virtually the same melody with a twist here or there and they are both really bright and effervescent. But this one shreds it's twin to pieces, again the tin whistle is prominent with the male and female vocals complimenting each other perfectly. Indeed, the singing throughout is of the highest order, especially when the men and Maire sing together. There's a great bit where all the instruments { except the bodhran } drop out and there's acapella singing before everything comes back. They certainly whip up a storm on this one. FAIRLY SHOT OF HER I have no time for, I'm fairly shot of it ! The nadir of the album. But the band fortunately don't end with that turkey, they finish in powerful fashion with a stupendous ballad, CHUAIGH ME NA ROSANN, a delicious melody, sung so beautifully by Maire and bolstered by tin whistle, which carries on to play the melody as the solo. The second part of the tune is wonderful as a hard edged harpsichord comes in { and indeed takes the tune out } and the vocal harmonies add their haunting quality. All in all, a marvelous ending.

In truth, this is a great recording by a band on the cusp of something great. They did go on to achieve great success over many years and doubtlessly inspired a number of bands. But I can't help feeling that the seeds that were sown in this outing were never really capitalized upon. Was the band of CLANNAD 2 the shooting star that burned brightly but wasn't able to sustain it's trajectory and eventually took the path of least resistance?


Tagbo Munonyedi <> (22.02.2006)

Few albums have perplexed me quite like this one. It is in it's own way a very good album, yet it lacks something and that makes it so frustrating. There isn't a bad song here, even the standard unimaginative tunes are good and attractive. Yet.....

You know what it is, it's CLANNAD 2. So much beauty, joy, invention and fire was unleashed with that recording and in the mid 70s Irish folk { and folk - rock } was IMHO was approaching a zenith as a number of bands seized the moment and came up with truly innovative recordings. I've long respected Irish youth for the way they embraced the traditional elements of their culture { on both sides of the border } and for the most part weren't at all embarrassed by traditional music, nor did many of them leave it behind, the way, say, alot of Afro - Americans were embarrassed by and distanced themselves from the blues { and in the modern day, surprize, surprize, even gospel }. So even your hard rockers like Phil Lynott had a love for the Celtic elements in the music. Maybe it's like learning hymns when you're young; you just never lose that appreciation of that music, even if you don't subscribe to the message. Many of the trad Irish groups played their music with a passion, energy and dynamic fire that would put loads of rock'n'rollers to shame, not to mention the folk rockers like Mushroom, Horslips or Spud. Clannad's 2nd album caught that spirit even though they were not in the rock vein but it seemed that they were on the verge of something mighty. There was so much promise in that album but I feel it went unfulfilled. They obviously felt their leanings lay in a different direction and more power to them - they followed their muse. Shame, really ! And this offering, I think, marks the point when they walked their way. Because it was what they wanted, I'd have to say they did the right thing but maybe one can understand why I am somewhat ambivalent about DULAMAN. Because it really is a very good album with some fiery playing in parts - MO MHAIRE is as close as they came in their early days to aggression - mixed in with the usual balladry. The acapella style works well this time around with DTIGEAS A DAMHSA, a neat duet that's actually pretty lively. The male and female vocals in this band were superbly complimentary and this track shows this off in all it's glory. That sad, down mood that Clannad evoke so well rises to the fore on SIUIL A RUN and sadness is given a good runout in tracks like the instrumental CUMHA EOGHAIN RUA UI NEILL while the livliness stakes are well represented by CUCANDY / THE JUG OF BROWN ALE, which fuses together three different melodies, and EIRIGH IS CUIR ORT DO CHUID EADAIGH COIRIU. All of these tunes are good and I dig to listen to them, but they are not really an improvement on where they have already been. New ground is not broken and maybe this should've been the follow up to the debut ! It feels almost like a step backwards, albeit a pretty good one.

However, the collection is redeemed by three priceless songs that would grace any album. First off is the opener, the title track, and a great opener by any standards, for some reason it reminds me of Dheanainn Sugradh from the last album, not in form but something indefinable. The double bass underpins it nicely and the singing is glorious. The second one is the magnificent TWO SISTERS; I don't care how corny it sounds, I love singable songs like this one and that double bass is in fine bouncing form. Although the bass man isn't technically in the same class as jazz bassists, I actually find that he adds more to these songs than many of his improvising counterparts do to theirs. And the ballad to end all ballads, the exquisite EIRIGH SUAS A STOIRIN, which is 5 minutes and 14 seconds of majesty. It is such a strong melody and as is always the case, beautifully sung by Maire. It's almost annoying that these 3 are numbers 1, 3 & 4 on side one. In committing it to tape, I have them as the last 3 coz otherwise there's nothing but anti - climax........

Overall this is an album worth hearing but in the innovation stakes it feels like the last hurrah.They were still to record many fine songs but once again, I can't help feeling a moment in history was lost here.


No reader comments yet.


Tagbo Munonyedi <> (23.02.2006)

There's a certain poetic irony about this album and the part it plays in my life. In 1990 I saw this interesting documentary on Irish music and around the same time I was working with a guy of Irish parentage and we gave each other a selection of our own current taste in music that we considered " different " and not mainstream { to give credit where credit's due, it was his idea. I think he was bored with his music tastes whereas having gone through a heavy jazz year, I was in the ascendency } and he gave me a tape of Irish folk. I only remember one song from it { " Irish ways and Irish laws " } but what it did was to give me an interest in a form of music that I knew a little but not much about. So as is my manner, I walked into this Irish 2nd hand record shop and gambled !! I bought 3 albums ( all of which I still have ) and Clannad was the only band I'd heard of (vaguely ) . To be fair there wasn't a great selection. But I got it and put it on and I was thoroughly impressed with the first track, ARA GHABHAIL NA CHUAINDAND. It's a great track, indeed it turns out to be the best one on the album. Lovely guitar and double bass and the sound that caught my jazz fusion ear - the electric piano. Came as a surprize, a pleasant one and the way they jam out the 2nd part of the tune is brilliant. However, it's pretty much down hill from there on. Which is not to say that any of the songs are awful, they're not. There's a great deal of commendable stuff, it's just that, as I was soon to discover, it's very standard folk and there's alot better stuff about. Songs like LA COIMHTHIOCH FAN DTUATH hint at the new age direction they were to embrace, while GATHERING MUSHROOMS is so weird, it has a bizarre timing and a melody that just makes no sort of sense till all the instruments are playing - it then becomes quite a good tune. The title track carries a lovely melody; the same can be said for PLANXTY BROWNE, while BUNAN BUI ends up sounding like something from an Irish hippy western, if there was ever such a thing, sung in Gaelic with wailing harmonicas ! In the end then, there isn't anything outstanding about CRANN ULL, aside from the opener it is just ' nice ' - a few odd turns here and there. It's definitely listenable and listen one should, but it's where the band and I part company. The reason I started off by saying there was a certain poetic irony about the album is that it was sufficiently interesting to lead me further into the world of Celtic folk and folk rock, a move for which I am more than grateful.


No reader comments yet.


<> (02.03.2003)

I have played, created, and listened to music for almost 50 years. I recently heard clannad magical ring and very much enjoyed it (more than enjoyed it). I reviewed all of their other albums, and I personnally believe this is the best of their creations. The beauty in this creation, is that they displayed the "home-spun" talents/music knowledge that they have developed throughout their lifetimes (with obvious outside musical additions), very tastfully they have included a varity of insturments with grace and tempermence, and have entered the age of electronics. This is a very tasteful, and artfully produced sound. I cannot understand why this collection has not recieved a more pronounced reception. There is great talent displayed in this collection.


Wojtek <> (29.07.2004)

I think that Robin of Sherwood series has been the best of all Robin productions. Now it looks a bit 80's and cheap. But it has mood, no tights, Robin was Bri.. English ;) and this series are English. This version is very good for folk(ie) fans, not for Hollywood fans ;D

I go back to reading your reviews (listetning to old Clannad).


No reader comments yet.

Return to the main index page