|Gael Linn CEFCD 143
|Tony MacMahon, Noel Hill, Iarla Ó Lionáird
|Gael Linn CEFCD 164
CEFCD 164: 1. The Maids of Castlebar, The Collier's Reel (reels) Tony MacMahon, Noel Hill; 2. Lilies in the Field, The Limerick Lassies (reels) Tony MacMahon, Noel Hill; 3. A Stór mo Chroí (song) Iarla Ó Lionáird; 4. Spike Island Lassies Tony MacMahon, Noel Hill; 5. Gol na mBan san Ár (slow air) Cnocán an Teampaill (march) Tony MacMahon; 6. The Hearty Bucks of Oranmore (reel) Noel Hill; 7. Bean Dubh an Ghleanna (song) Iarla Ó Lionáird; 8. Tom Keane's Reel Tony MacMahon, Noel Hill; 9. Na Ceannabháin Bhána, Whelan's Jig Tony MacMahon, Noel Hill; 10. The Rainy Day, The Merry Blacksmith, The Silver Spear (reels) Noel Hill; 11. The Lark in the Morning, Joe Cooley's Jig Tony MacMahon, Noel Hill; 12. The Bag of Potatoes, The Bird on the Tree (reels) Tony MacMahon, Noel Hill; 13. The Fair-Haired Boy, The High Reel (reels) Tony MacMahon, Noel Hill; 14. Aisling Gheal (song) Iarla Ó Lionáird.
Wishing save the time taken in scanning the cover graphics and, more importantly, to avoid any spelling mistakes or missing a fada through OCR processes, I went to the Gael Linn website to get this data ... or tried to. The website www.gaellinn.com, as printed on both discs and their inserts, doesn't exist. Google informed me that it's actually www.gael-linn.ie I entered this ... and waited almost a minute for their Home page to display - only to find that neither CD exists within their Search routines. Ah well - what about the music?
As anyone who owns the original Mick Mulcahy LP will tell you, he's a fine box player, and Joe Rynne's fiddle works well with him. Mick O'Connor suits me better as a banjo player than a guitarist and, for the most part, I could have done without Mel Mercier's bodhrán and bones - but this was the 1990s!
In both the insert and the blurb, this recording is described as a session, though there's no indication of the order in which the tunes were recorded. Nonetheless, it feels as if the record reflects the session fairly accurately - which starts with a fine rendition of the reels Woman of the House, Mrs Crotty's and Craig's Pipes but gradually begins to feel a bit tired as the tunes roll by, and sounds as if they're going through the motions by the time we get to the end.
Being a Nineties product, it's mostly reels and jigs with the thinnest sprinkling of other rhythms (polkas, hornpipes and slides) to lighten the mixture. All in all, whilst not wishing to be over-critical, I didn't feel it lived up to its initial promise.
The Tony MacMahon, Noel Hill and Iarla Ó Lionáird disc is a very different beast - and is actually a live recording of a performance the three of them gave in Dublin in October 1993. There is dancing taking place on many of the appropriate tracks - and lots of whooping and cheering on others. Given the status of the three performers, it would be superfluous of me to describe their technical prowess ... I only wish I could like it much! I see that the words 'performance' and 'performers' have already occurred twice in this paragraph, and that seems appropriate as this is (despite the social aspects of the gig) very much an 'art-as-object' presentation. And how the title 'Music of Dreams' relates to most of these offerings, apart from Aisling Gheal, perplexes me entirely.
I most enjoy the tracks (or parts of the tracks) where Tony MacMahon is playing his box solo, or where Noel Hill's concertina takes a subsidiary role. I can marvel at Hill's dexterity - without enjoying it half as much as the crowd seems to. But Iarla Ó Lionáird's singing leaves me cold - and wishing that I could murder John Gibson and his piano accompaniments. To be fair to the man, Mr Gibson is obviously a fine player, and I should blame Peadar Ó Riada for composing the awful arrangements. Yes, West Cork sean nós with piano accompaniment! This is what can happen when traditional music gets to be popularly acceptable!
If your 30-year-old LPs are too scratched for comfort, you might want to buy these CDs - otherwise I can't find it in me to recommend them.
Rod Stradling - 29.5.12