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(36:42, ‘Tir Na Nog’)
TRACK LIST: 1. You in Yellow 3:04 2. I Have Known Love 4:23 3. The Angelus 4:25 4. I Pick Up Birds at Funerals 2:13 5. Ricochet 4:48 6. Andria 3:40 7. Sympathetic Love 4:20 8. The Gangway 3:43 9. Time Is Gone 2:54 10. The Dark Dance 3:12 LINEUP: Sonny Condell – vocals; instruments Leo O'Kelly – vocals; instruments With: Garvan Gallagher – bass; autoharp
Prolusion. The Irish duo TIR NA NOG came to prominence as a part of the Irish folk revival in the late ‘60s, and during some hectic years in the early ‘70s they established themselves as a popular and influential band as recording artists as well as a live band, opening for artists such as Jethro Tull and ELP in a hectic and ongoing tour schedule, and also developing their material to a more progressive rock oriented sound along the way. Some time after their third album "Strong in the Sun", released in 1973, the project disbanded. While they would reform occasionally, it wasn't until a few years ago that the band decided to reform as an ongoing venture again. "The Dark Dance" is their first studio album since that event took place, and was self-released by the band in 2015.
Analysis. Tir Na Nog is one of those bands that merit a description as living legends, and a new album by such a band is always a notable event. That this CD was released more than 40 years after their previous album probably makes it one that has been rather eagerly awaited by fans of the band as well. For me, this comes across as an album of two sides, where they explore rather different aspects of their music on a half and half basis. The least interesting of these for me, and presumably for most progressive rock fans as well, is the second half of the disc, where the band hones in on the acoustic and folk music parts of their repertoire. The lighter toned, jazz-oriented Andria is the sole exception in style, while the concluding piece, title track The Dark Dance, comes across as the one song of these that might appeal more to a progressive rock oriented-audience with its dark violin drone supporting a more spirited, dance-oriented violin solo. The first five tracks on the CD are by far better and are the most interesting ones. Still acoustic, with only a token electric guitar making a one off appearance, these compositions are, by and large, more sophisticated in scope. All of them combine dual acoustic guitars with violin and percussion in various constellations, the least interesting of these being the ones that appear to focus more on the lyrics than the music. I Pick Up Birds at Funerals is a good example of just that. Not an uninteresting song as such, but one where the lyrics have a starring role and a superior function over the music, as I experience it. But there are three brilliant pieces of musical magic present that really mesmerized me. Opening track You in Yellow, a dark melancholic affair with more of a folk music focus, and then the darker toned and rather more sophisticated songs The Angelus and Ricochet, both of which explore the use of contrasting elements on multiple levels in a highly compelling manner, where instruments and vocals are all explored in a manner that creates subtle but constant multiple contrasts present in the greater majority of the songs. Perhaps still a bit outside of a conventional progressive rock sphere of reference, but without doubt material that merits an inspection by those with a general interest in what is commonly referred to as progressive folk music.
Conclusion. A new studio album by Tir Na Nog is an event. Perhaps first and foremost for those with an interest in folk music and progressive folk music, but any band with a certain status ‘70s that release an album after a 42-year long pause from releasing new material will cause an interest from this as an event in itself. In this case it is a successful album as I regard it, with one half catering for those with an interest in the more advanced material of the band and one half with a stronger focus on the more purebred folk material, both sides coming across as well worked out and with a sustainable quality to boot. An album well worth checking out by those with an interest in the folk music-oriented part of the progressive rock universe.
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