CD

Archive: Reviews – Rain On The Roof (1996)

Label: AK (2) ‎– AK-1

Released: 1996


Andy Irvine has been labeled as a ‘ Legend of Irish music ‘, over the years and this must be a very heavy weight to carry around and to record new material under. Though he seems to do so with ease.

Rain on the Roof is a solo album, which up until very recently, was only sold at his concerts. It is an album of exceptional quality and freshness, that leaves you wanting more of the atmosphere created on this disc. It is mainly recorded in one take, just Andy, bouzouki and microphone. It is as close to a live recording as they come and is a small taste of what you would experience from his concerts. A small taste, as he has a very large repertoire now. This album leaves you wishing for more of that repertoire to be recorded in the same vein. I am not a big fan of people re-recording old tracks, they never seem to capture the emotion and energy from those first attempts, but there are very rare exceptions to that and this is definitely one of them.

The first track is prince among men, I loved the original with Andy and Patrick Street but this version knocks it flat. The emotion and atmosphere created here and to be honest, on the whole album is astounding. It reminds me of the feeling I had when I first heard him play live. Fantastic !

The second Track is Banesas’s Green Glade and I have admit that my first thoughts when reading the track listing was, why would anyone even try to redo this track. The original is a classic but somehow the emotion on this recording is spot on. This was originally done together with Planxty and it asks how would ‘Rambling boys of Pleasure’, ‘ Aragon Mills’ or a mountain of others sound with this treatment. I have seen Andy play ‘You Rambling boys of Pleasure’ live and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house, magical. Baneasa is following by a Balkan tune called Daichevo Horo, an excellent tune and I love the way this slow emotional track progresses to the fury of the Balkan melody. I have to say that I prefer the original combination of Baneasas being followed by Mominsko Horo but that takes nothing away from this version. I have seen him play Banesas/ Daichevo Horo live and it is quite breathe taking.

Rain on the Roof/ The Blue Mountains of New South Wales. Turn this track up to get full effect of the Rain and Didgeredoo. Surprising really, how well the mandolin works with the didgeredoo. Andy has spent so much time in Australia, that I am surprised he hasn’t recorded more of it. I love the feeling in this track !

My Hearts tonight in Ireland first appeared on a compilation album called Common Ground around ’96. Again a beautiful tune played together with Donal Lunny , Rens Van Der Zalm etc. But once again this version has so much more feeling to it. A tune of remember the good ol’ days back in Ireland and times of Sweeney’s’s men. In this version you can really hear it in his voice. This is sure to be one of those classic Irish tunes.

Forgotten Hero, was another track done with Patrick Street, about Michael Davitt. Again this opens the thoughts of a few more Patrick Street tracks reworked with this solo treatment. ‘Brackagh Hill’, ‘Springfield road/ monday Blues ‘ to name a few.

Pamela’s Ruchenitsa/ Gruncharsko Horo/ Bakers Dozen, I never get tired of hearing Andy playing this type of Balkan tunes. In the first concert I ever saw him play, it was these type of Balkan music that made me want to play the bouzouki. It still does !

He Fades Away is a new track and a wonderful one too. Written by Alaistar Hullett it paints a grim picture of asbestos miners, through the eyes of they’re wives. It is a very powerful tune and one that Andy sings with his heart.

Come with me over the mountain/ smile in the dark. A very lively set here, and the mandola here sounding in top form. I will have to get around to learning the Smile in the Dark. Wonderful. If anyone out there can play this, send me the tab.

The monument, the only track on the album that I don’t personally like. Maybe this is where Aragon mills or even Raoul Wallenberg could have been slipped in. A sad song with a serious not, and still beautifully sung.

Take no Prisoners and Old Brunswick are brilliantly played here. I get great pleasure listening to these tunes and even greater pleasure playing them. A really great set of tunes, for the bouzouki. The Balkan tunes on this album have a real edge to them and this is something that I would have like to have heard a lot more of on East Wind. A great album with Davy Spillane but Andy is washed out a little too much in the mix for my taste. I could listen to these tunes all day!

Never Tire of the Road, first appeared on Andy’s Rude Awakening album. A tune that has over the years, become Andy’s signature tune. I really like the original tune from the moment I heard it and was singing it for days. The Rain on the Roof version of this tune is more up beat, faster and is played with a little more aggression in its attack. A really great choice, for a final track and an incredible version too.

This is a very impressive rework of some of Andy’s material and presented together with some wonderful new songs and tunes. I must admit to have grown a little tired of a lot of albums these days being so over produced and a lot of the instruments being lost in the mix. While music is being mixed and produced to the ceiling, I feel so much of the emotion and feeling is falling through the floor. This album comes across with a fresh, crisp mix and performed with such emotion that you are sucked in to the atmosphere that is created in the words sung. I have to say this is my favorite album by Andy Irvine, and quite possibly my favorite album in my entire CD collection!

by Kieron

source: China2Galway.com [deadlink]

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The Australian: Album Review – Ushers Island

FOLK
Usher’s Island – Usher’s Island [Vertical/Planet]
4 stars
Making Waves – Luke Daniels [Wren Records]
3.5 stars

Go-to flute/whistle man Mike McGoldrick and acoustic guitarist John Doyle link new albums from opposite flanks of the Celtic spectrum. Whereas British button accordionist, composer and producer Luke Daniels takes an experimental approach with Making Waves, the self-titled debut release from Usher’s Island — veteran multi-instrumentalist and singer Andy Irvine’s latest Irish supergroup — is fairly conventional. While Daniels follows the footprints of the Canadian-Scottish sound sculpting visionary Martyn Bennett, who married jigs, reels and airs with archival sound bites and electronic elements, Usher’s Island follows the pathway paved by previous Irvine projects such as Planxty and Patrick Street.

Recorded in a rural cottage, Usher’s Island is as well delivered as Irish traditional folk music can be, even if it’s a tad lacking in invention. Not that Doyle’s recasting of Irish pub staple The Wild Rover isn’t infinitely more mellifluous and sophisticated than the versions rendered with drunken gusto on St Patrick’s Day. Two excellent Doyle originals draw on fascinating historical narratives. Heart in Hand centres on a Galway man captured in the late 1600s by Algerian pirates; Cairndaisy concerns an Irish immigrant fighting for the US during 1898 Spanish-American War. Irvine also dips into the military archives for Felix the Soldier, a song from the mid-18th-century French-Indian War. The relatively insipid As Good as It Gets alludes to Irvine’s unfulfilled romantic aspirations during the 1960s. Bean Phaidin benefits from Donal Lunny’s bottom register singing and the appending of slip jigs. A converted Munster pipes tune (The Half Century Set), in which Paddy Glackin’s fiddle and McGoldrick’s flute combine symbiotically, sets the bar high for the medleys that follow.

Daniels’s modus operandi, which involved processing, layering and looping hundreds of audio samples before getting his guest players to independently record their acoustic parts live, means Making Waves lacks the intimacy and fluency of Usher’s Island. The first half, in particular, features a cornucopia of strange sounds that compete with acoustic instruments for ascendancy.

In The Larks and The Jolly Tinker, the overall effect is discombobulating, with Daniels’s traditionally inspired melodies taking too long to emerge. In Retro Reel, button accordion struggles to cope with extraneous clatter, bleeps and burps. When the producer adopts a more judicious approach, as on McCrone Jigs and Wester Kittochside, Daniels’s accordion — as well as his vintage Polyphon music box — and Aidan O’Rourke’s dancing fiddle sparkle in harness with Doyle’s guitar and bouzouki.

Tony Hillier

source: theaustralian.com.au

Boston Irish Reporter – Album Review: Usher’s Island

September CD Reviews

By Sean Smith
August 30, 2017

Usher’s Island, “Usher’s Island” • Sports analogies can be pernicious yet so tantalizing. So when you hear of a band with an “all-star line-up,” it’s tempting sometimes to think of a team loaded with Most Valuable Player candidates, seemingly destined for unparalleled success – only to fall short because of clashing egos and failure to unite skills and talents effectively, thus leading to humiliation and recrimination.

Well, you can forget about that particular analogy as far as this album is concerned.

Usher’s Island is the quintet of Andy Irvine, Donal Lunny, Paddy Glackin, Mike McGoldrick and John Doyle, five of the most accomplished figures in the Irish music revival of the past half-century (give or take), and what they’ve produced actually exceeds expectations. In fact, “Usher’s Island” is much like a series of arboreal growth rings, hinting not only at the quintet’s impact on Irish music but also at their individual progression as musicians – from interpreting the tradition to interpolating elements of it into their own creations.

Most importantly, though, it’s simply a pleasure to hear the power, stateliness, and grace of Glackin’s fiddle and McGoldrick’s flute (as well as his uilleann pipes and whistle), such as on the jig medley – “The Half Century Set” – that opens the album, a set of reels that includes two from the repertoire of esteemed Donegal fiddler Johnny Doherty [see “The Tin Fiddle” review below], and “Sean Keane’s,” a pair of delightful hornpipes. Equally pleasing is the accompaniment, whether chordal, harmonic or contrapuntal, of Messrs. Irvine, Lunny and Doyle. They give plenty of room to the melody instruments and vocals but Irvine’s mandola, Lunny’s bouzouki and Doyle’s guitar are ever-present in all their glory.

And then there are the songs. Irvine and Doyle, respectively, give new life to the traditional classics “Molly Ban” and “Wild Roving” (a quieter, more subdued variant of the old pub favorite), and two obscure, fascinating ballads: “Felix the Soldier,” a New England song from the French and Indian War; and “Cairndaisy,” about an Irish Catholic emigrant fighting for the US in the 1898 Spanish-American War, but realizing that his true sympathies are with his opponents.

Doyle and Irvine, of course, have developed into consummate songwriters, too, and are in top form here. Doyle has shown a penchant for historical writing, and his “Heart in Hand” is an autobiographical, emotionally vivid recounting of the life of Richard Joyce, the 17th-century Galway native who, while enslaved abroad, became a goldsmith and reputedly created the Claddagh ring. Irvine is likewise an impressive historian in his songwriting, but of late also has become more personal, more nostalgic, and quite the wit. In “As Good As It Gets” he revisits his formational 1960s sojourn in The Balkans, a subject he’s covered previously via contemplative pieces like “Autumn Gold,” “Time Will Cure Me” and “B’neas’s Green Glade” – but here it’s with fond affection and memories of romantic assignations (failed and successful), and downright funny wordplay.

And mention must be made of Lunny’s return engagement with “Bean Pháidín,” which he recorded with Planxty on “The Well Below the Valley” – voiced rather more quietly and deliberately this time around.

On their respective websites, Irvine and Vertical Records both refer to this as the “first” Usher’s Island album – one shouldn’t automatically assume that to mean there’ll be a second (a third?), but a little optimism these days is a lovely thing. [verticalrecords.co.uk]

source: bostonirish.com