The Chieftains – 2 (1969)

FrontCover1.jpgChieftains 2 is the second album released by the Irish musical group The Chieftains in 1969. It was Peadar Mercier’s album debut on bodhran.

When Seán Ó Riada disbanded Ceoltoiri Chualann in 1969, several of the players wanted to continue the sound they had pioneered. The result was the reformation of The Chieftains. “The Foxhunt” had previously been known as a piper’s tune, but here it was given a full band treatment, and was widely played, as a direct result of this recording. (by wikipedia)

This is the real stuff, the very best of the group’s early albums and the best representation of the Chieftains’ original sound. If anything, the group is more confident the second time out, and the material, consisting of traditional airs, jigs, and polkas, is stronger than on the first album. Opening with the gorgeous double jig “Banish Misfortune, Gillan’s Apples,” which goes back to the time of the 16th century fiddler Raftery of Connacht, the record simply gets better all the way through. Though more familiar as a harp piece, “Planxty George Brabazon” (written by the harper-composer Turlough O’Carolan) comes off stunningly here played on pipes, flutes, etc., without a plucked instrument in sight; “The Foxhunt” is a great showcase for Martin Fay and Seán Keane’s fiddle skills; the mournful, somber, but beautiful “Am Mhaighdean Mhara” was the tune that Stanley Kubrick absorbed into his movie Barry Lyndon, and tells a magical story of torment and lost love. Production on the album is first-rate and, in particular, makes excellent use of stereo separation. (by Bruce Eder)

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Personnel:
Martin Fay (fiddle)
Seán Keane (fiddle)
Peadar Mercier (bodhrán)
Paddy Moloney (uillean pipes, tin whistle)
Seán Potts (tin whistle)
Michael Tubridy (flute, concertina, tin whistle)

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Tracklist:
01. Banish Misfortune / Gillian’s Apples 3.34
02. Seóirse Brabston (Planxty George Brabazon) 3.29
03. Bean an Fhir Rua (The Red-Haied Man’s Wife) 2.49
04. Pis Fhliuch (The Wet Quirn) (O’ Farrells Welcome to Limerick) 3.33
05. An Páistín Fionn (The Fair-Haired Child)/ Mrs. Crotty’s Reel / The Mountain Top 4.12
06. The Foxhunt 5.13
07. An Mhaighdean Mhara (The Sea Maiden) / Tie the Bonnet / O’ Rourke’s Reel 4.13
08. Callaghan’s Hornpipe / Byrne’s Hornpipe 3.13
09. Pigtown / Tie the Ribbons / The Bag of Potatoes 2.34
10. The Humours of Whiskey / Hardiman the Fiddler 2.54
11. Dónall Óg 3.54
12. Brian Boru’s March 3.12
13. Sweeney’s / Denis Murphy’s / The Scartaglen Polka 3.30

All songs are Traditionals

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The Dubliners – Live (1974)

FrontCover1.jpgThe Dubliners were an Irish folk band founded in Dublin in 1962 as The Ronnie Drew Ballad Group after its founding member; they subsequently renamed themselves The Dubliners. The line-up saw many changes over their fifty-year career, but the group’s success was centred on lead singers Luke Kelly and Ronnie Drew. The band garnered international success with their lively Irish folk songs, traditional street ballads and instrumentals. The band were regulars on the folk scenes in both Dublin and London in the early 1960s, and were signed to the Major Minor label in 1965 after backing from Dominic Behan. They went on to receive extensive airplay on Radio Caroline, and eventually appeared on Top of the Pops in 1967 with hits “Seven Drunken Nights” (which sold over 250,000 copies in the UK)[2] and “The Black Velvet Band”. Often performing political songs considered controversial at the time, they drew criticism from some folk purists and Ireland’s national broadcaster RTÉ had placed an unofficial ban on their music from 1967 to 1971. During this time the band’s popularity began to spread across mainland Europe and they appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in the United States. The group’s success remained steady right through the 1970s and a number of collaborations with The Pogues in 1987 saw them enter the UK Singles Chart on another two occasions.

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The Dubliners were instrumental in popularising Irish folk music in Europe, though they did not quite attain the popularity of The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem in the United States. They influenced many generations of Irish bands, and their legacy can to this day be heard in the music of artists such as The Pogues, Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly. Much adored in their native country, covers of Irish ballads by Ronnie Drew and Luke Kelly tend to be regarded as definitive versions. One of the most influential Irish acts of the 20th century, they celebrated 50 years together in 2012, making them Ireland’s longest surviving musical act. Also in 2012, the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards bestowed them with a Lifetime Achievement Award. The Dubliners announced their retirement in the autumn of 2012, after 50 years of playing, following the death of the last of the founding members, Barney McKenna. However, the surviving members of the group, with the exception of John Sheahan, continued touring under the name of “The Dublin Legends”. As of 2019, Seán Cannon is the only former member still in this group, following Eamonn Campbell’s death in October 2017.

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And “Live” is a live album by The Dubliners recorded live at the Fiesta Club, Sheffield and released on the Polydor label in 1974. This was to be Ronnie Drew’s last recording with The Dubliners for five years as he left to pursue a solo career. Also following this album, Ciarán Bourke ceased to be a full-time member of the group when he suffered a brain haemorrhage. He sings “All for Me Grog” here. The reels that open this album (and which first were released on the group’s 1967 studio album A Drop of the Hard Stuff) have become the opening instrumental medley at most of their concerts since. (by wikipedia)

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To say that the Dubliners are Entertainers is to state the obvious. I can think of no better way of underlining this simple truth than in a live album.

‘The Dubliners Live” is a fairly typical Dubliners programme performed in front of an enthusiastic and appreciative audience in one of the Yorkshire Clubs These clubs have a well-earned reputation for expecting and getting the best in the entertainment field. This show is no exception It scores in other ways too Here is a completely new recording of a number of well loved Dubliners classics, alongside updated versions of numbers guaranteed to raise the roof. Then there are the first ever Dubliners recordings of “The Four Poster Bed” (a traditional Shetland wedding tune) and “The Belfast Hornpipe/Tim Maloney” medley played on tin whistle. John Sheahan then takes up his fiddle again for the “Blue Mountain Rag”.

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Add to this the between number talk and humour which is so much part of the Dubliners, and the atoum which has been long and eagerly awaited, is complete.

It is something of a minor miracle that five such diverse characters have remained together as a group for more than eleven years now. Maybe it is their very differences which provide the strong bond between them – that and the fact that they have never seen the need to use the slick trappings of showbusiness. To say that they have succeeded on a world stage is perhaps an over-simplification. However, it remains an irrefutable truth that by remaining themselves they have brought something very special to people the world over. Wherever they appear they engender warmth, affection, laughter and perhaps even an occasional tear.

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Their unique brand of magic has assured them of a niche in the annals of popular music. Even more important perhaps is their impact on people Barney McKenna once remarked that the Dubliners were made by their audiences No matter how talented they were individually or collectively, if people lost the will to listen to them then they would be finished This precept has undoubtedly played its part in their lives but as a member of innumerable audiences over the years one can say that without the Dubliners many lives would be the poorer. (by Mary Hardy, taken from he original linernotes)

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Personnel:
Ciarán Bourke (tin whistle, harmonica, guitar, vocals)
Ronnie Drew (vocals, guitar)
Luke Kelly (vocals, banjo)
Barney McKenna (banjo, mandolin)
John Sheahan (fiddle, tin whistle, mandolin)

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Tracklist:
01. Fairmoyle Lasses And Sporting Paddy 1.52
02. Black Velvet Band 3.34
03. Whiskey In The Jar 2.31
04. All For The Grog 2.38
05. The Belfast Hornpipe/Tim Maloney 3.23
06. The Four Poster Bed/Colonel Rodney 2.26
07. Finnegan’s Wake 2.51
08. McAlpine’s Fusiliers 3.44
09. Seven Drunken Nights 3.44
10. Reels – Scholar/Teetotaller/The High Reel 4.12
11. Home Boys Home 3.20
12. Dirty Old Town 3.08
13. Blue Mountain Rag 2.31
14. The Wild Rover 3.04
15. Weile Waile 2.27
16. The Holy Ground 2.30

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One of my favorite tunes:

I met my love,
By the gas works wall.
Dreamed a dream,
By the old canal.
I kissed my girl,
By the factory wall.

Dirty old town,
Dirty old town.

Clouds are drifting,
Across the moon.
Cats are prowling,
on their beat.
Spring-s-a girl,
From the streets at night.

Dirty old town,
Dirty old town.

I heard a siren,
From the docks.
Saw a train,
Set the night on fire.
Smelled the spring,
On the smoky wind.

Dirty old town,
Dirty old town.

I’m going to make,
Me a good sharp axe;
Shining steel,
Tempered in,
the Fire.
I’ll chop you down,
Like an old dead tree.

Dirty old town,
Dirty old town.

I met my love,
By the gas works wall.
Dreamed a dream,
By the old canal.
I kissed my girl,
by the factory wall.

Dirty old town,
Dirty old town.

The Chieftains – Same (1) (1964)

OriginalLPFC1The Chieftains is the first album released by the Irish musical group The Chieftains in 1964. The album is now sometimes referred to as The Chieftains 1 due to the numbering system of their later albums. It was one of the first folk albums to be recorded in stereo. (by wikipedia)

Paddy always had a vision from the mid 1950’s. A sound he wanted to create, a sound that had never been heard before. He knew it would take much experimentation with different combinations of instruments and so he formed several groups with other musicians in duets and trios. In particular he played with Seán Potts, Michael Tubridy, Matt Molloy and Seán Keane in various combinations who would all later become Chieftains. But it was not until he had formed the original line up for The Chieftains in 1962 that he finally achieved the sound that had eluded him, a sound created by Paddy’s inspired choice of instruments, styles and players. It was only at this point did Paddy feel ready to give his group the title The Chieftains (a name which was inspired by the Irish poet John Montague) and confident enough to take his band into studio to record the very first of many, award winning albums. This recording came about at the invitation of his good friend, the Hon. Garech a Brún for his record label Claddagh Records. (offical press release)

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The debut album by the Chieftains, recorded when they were still a semi-professional outfit, is more restrained than their subsequent efforts. The opening number introduces each of the bandmembers, Paddy Moloney and Sean Potts on pipes, followed by Michael Tubridy on flute and David Fallon on bodhran, Martin Fay on the fiddle, and then Tubridy on the concertina. The group would later acquire what can only be called a more soulful approach, but the playing here was a revelation at the time, if only for its stripped-down authenticity. The music — mostly airs, reels, and jigs — and performances lack the otherworldly quality that characterized the Chieftains’ 1970s albums, but the melodies are still extremely pretty, and make up in immediacy and high spirits what they lack in mystique and mysticism. Martin Fay’s fiddle is more prominent here than on subsequent records, where Moloney’s pipes became the major voice within the group. Highlights include “Comb Your Hair and Curl It/The Boys of Ballisodare,” “The Musical Priest/The Queen of May,” “The Walls of Liscarroll,” and “The Connemara Stocking.” (by Bruce Eder)

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Personnel:
David Fallon (bodhrán)
Martin Fay (fiddle)
Paddy Moloney (uilleann pipes, tin whistle)
Seán Potts (tin whistle)
Michael Tubridy (flute, concertina, tin whistle)

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Tracklist:
01. Sé Fáth mo Bhuartha / The Lark On The Strand / An Fhallaingín Mhuimhneach / Trim the Velvet 8.07
02. An Comhra Donn / Murphy’s Hornpipe 4.21
03. Cailín na Gruaige Doinne (The Brown-Haired Girl) 2.51
04. Comb Your Hair And Curl It / The Boys of Ballisodare 3.15
05. The Musical Priest / The Queen Of May 3.38
06. The Walls Of Liscarroll Jig 2.44
07. An Dhruimfhionn Donn Dílis 3.03
08. The Connemara Stocking / The Limestone Rock / Dan Breen’s 2.53
09. Casadh an tSúgan 3.47
10. The Boy In The Gap 1.22
11. Saint Mary’s, Church Street / Garret Barry, The Battering Ram / Kitty goes a-Milking, Rakish Paddy 6.54

All songs: Traditionals

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Bodhrán

Johnny Logan – Irishman In America (2008)

FrontCover1.jpgJohnny Logan is building a lot of bridges on his album “Irishman in America“. A bridge between Ireland and America. A bridge between past and present. A bridge between those of us who are still alive and those of our dear ones who have crossed to the land of the dead. Johnny Logan takes us down many roads and has many ambitions with his album. It comes as a continuation of the album called “The Irish Connection”. The recordings practically sent Logan on a journey around the globe. He recorded the rhythmic section – that is drums and bas – in Denmark together with his Danish band. Then he went to Germany to record all the keys, among others keyboard and piano, then he went to Nashville, USA to record the stringed instruments, pedal guitar and steel guitar, dobro, banjo, and the American fiddle – that is the violin. “There is not a single electric guitar on the album. Everything is made with acoustic guitars”, Johnny Logan explains in a voice reverberating with pride. From the USA he had to go back to Ireland to record the Irish fiddle and the characteristic Irish tin whistle. Beyond “Irishman in America” Logan has also written the songs “Sorry”, “Bridges of my Heart” and “Dancing with my Father”. The latter is also building a bridge to the beloved dear ones who have passed away, as it goes in the first lines of the chorus: “So I go/ dancing with my father/ through the streets of yesterday….”. The American link which Logan is making is connected to the history of Ireland, which saw thousands of men and women crossing the Atlantic Ocean to the land on the other side.

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Along they brought a musical tradition that has influenced the music which arose in the USA. “Thus bluegrass and the Cajun music have been strongly inspired by Irish music”, says Johnny Logan. But it is neither bluegrass nor Cajun songs that Logan has chosen for the album from America’s enormous backlist. He has chosen songs that in one way or another have meant something to him. And they are all very different. Right from “This Land is your Land”, which is an old American traditional, to “Piece of my Heart”, which is one of the biggest hits from the folk-rock-queen Janice Joplin. “It was important for me to find some songs which had a groove which touched me. They are all songs that were popular in the USA in the 70’ies, because I was very attracted to the country in those days and to everything on the music stage then. For example I simply love Janice Joplin, so it was only natural for me to include one of her songs”. Yet another bridge between the USA and Ireland – and between the USA and the Logan family – is the bridge that was built when Johnny’s dad, Patrick O’Hagan sang for the three American presidents, Lyndon B. Johnson, John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. But otherwise it is mainly musically that Johnny Logan wishes to build bridges. He does that by allowing the two musical traditions to blend in untraditional arrangements where for example the Irish and the American fiddle are practically battling in the same tune. But, of course, quite true to Johnny Logan’s heart – a mainly friendly battle. (by Rie Nielsen)

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Personnel:
Pauli Andreasen (guitar)
Jesper Andersen (drums, percussion)
Peter Dencker (accordion background vocals))
Lloyd Green (pedal steel-guitar)
Tommy Keane (pipe)
Andreas Linse (keyboards)
Johnny Logan (vocals)
Charlie McCoy (harmonica)
John Sheahan (fiddle, whistle)
Michael Sherrard (guitar)
Jacob Skytte (bass)
Wanda Wick (guitar, dobro, banjo, mandolin, fiddle)
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background vocals:
Heidi Trolle – Adam Sherrard – Fionn Sherrard – Jack Sherrard

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Tracklist:
01. Rocky Road To Dublin (Traditional) 3.19
02. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (Robertson) 3.39
03. Belle Of Belfast (Traditional) 4.26
04. Dancing With My Father (Linse/Sherrard) 4.56
05. This Land Is Your Land (Guthrie) 3.55
06. Piece Of My Heart (Berns/Ragovoy) 4.07
07. The Alabama Song (Brecht/Weill) 4.37
08. Bridges Of My Heart (Sherrard) 3.41
09. Sorry (Linse/Sherrard) 3.53
10. Paddy On The Railway (Traditional) 3.17
11. Waxies Dargle (Traditional) 2.48
12. Irishman In America (Sherrard) 5.02
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13. Why Me (Logan) 3.32

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The Dubliners – At It Again (Seven Deadly Sins) (1968)

FrontCover1Nearly three decades since they first came together during informal sessions at O’Donoghue’s Pub in Dublin, the Dubliners remain one of the most influential of Ireland’s traditional folk bands. Unlike their counterparts the Clancy Brothers, the Dubliners have never strayed from the raw looseness of the pub scene. According to Dirty Linen, “Whereas the Clancys were well-scrubbed returned Yanks from rural Tipperary, decked out in matching white Arab sweaters, the Dubliners were hard-drinking backstreet Dublin scrappers with unkempt hair and bushy beards, whose gigs seemed to happen by accident in between fist fights”.

Initially known as the Ronnie Drew Folk group, the Dubliners have gone through several personnel changes since they were formed in 1962. The original group featured Ronnie Drew on vocals and guitar, Luke Kelly on vocals and five-string banjo, Barney McKenna on tenor banjo, mandolin, melodeon, and vocals and Ciaren Bourke on vocals, guitar, tin whistle, and harmonica.The first change occurred in 1964 when Kelly left temporarily Singleand Bobby Lynch (vocals and guitar) and John Sheahan (fiddle, tin whistle, mandolin, concertina, guitar, and vocals) were added. The following year, Kelly returned and Lynch departed.

The Dubliners’ earliest recordings included appearances on multi-artist compilations The Hoot’nanny Show and Folk Festival: Festival Folk, released in 1964. Their first break came when they met Nathan Joseph, owner of Transatlantic Records, at the Edinburgh Festival in 1963. Signing with Joseph’s label, the group released their debut full-length album, The Dubliners, later the same year.

In 1967, the Dubliners recorded their breakthrough single, “Seven Drunken Nights,” based on Child Ballad number 273. Although its risque lyrics caused it to be banned from officially sanctioned radio stations, it became a Top Five hit after being aired by pirate radio station, RTE. With the song’s success, the band began touring throughout the world. In the early ’70s, the Dubliners toured in a production of Brendan Behan’s Cork Leg. (by Craig Harris)

And here´s the album with their hit “Seven Deadly Sins”:

At It Again is a studio album by The Dubliners and was released on the Major Minor label in 1968. It featured “The Irish Navy”, a satirical song with lyrics co-written by Ronnie Drew and Luke Kelly and set to music by John Sheahan. Barney McKenna and Ciarán Bourke also feature on the album. It was re-released under the title Seven Deadly Sins. The order of the tracks varies in different re-releases. (by wikipedia)

Another pretty good album by the legends Of Irish Folk !

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Personnel:
Ciarán Bourke (vocals, guitar, tin whistle, harmonica)
Ronnie Drew (vocals, guitar)
Luke Kelly (vocals, banjo)
Barney McKenna (irish tenor banjo, mandolin, melodeon)
John Sheahan (fiddle, mandolin, tin whistle, concertina)

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Tracklist:
01. Seven Deadly Sins (McLean) 2.47
02. Net Hauling Song (MacColl) 2.14
03. Nancy Whiskey” (Traditional) 2.40
04. Many Young Men Of Twenty (Keane) 2.25
05. Instrumental Medley: Paddy’s Gone to France/Skylark (Traditional) 2.04
06. Molly Bawn (Traditional) 3.15
07. The Dundee Weaver (Traditonal) 1.29
08. The Irish Navy (Drew/Kelly) 2.27
09. Tibby Dunbar (Burns/McLean) 1.48
10. The Inniskillen Dragoons (Traditional) 3.43
11. Instrumental Medley: The Piper’s Chair, Bill Hart’s Jig, The Night of St. Patrick (Traditional) 2.00
12. I Wish I Were Back In Liverpool (Kelly/Rosselson) 4.01
13. Darby O’Leary (Traditional) 2.41
14. Go To Sea No More (Traditional) 4.11

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Clannad – Banba (1993)

FrontCover1.jpgBanba is an album released by Irish folk group Clannad in 1994 on BMG records. It was re-issued in 2005 with the Afterlife mix bonus track of “I Will Find You”. Banba was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best New Age Album, but was the runner-up to Spanish Angel by Paul Winter Consort. (by wikipedia)

After the somewhat generic “Sirius” and the very timid “Anam”, CLANNAD must have done some soul searching, as “Banba” marks something of a return to the style of their peak mid 1980s period. Unfortunately, it’s still a bit too self conscious in its mellowness to approach prior classics, even as it gained the group a spate of accolades on both sides of the Atlantic.

Tracks like “Struggle”, “Soul Searcher” and “Sunset Dreams” are tight lipped, slick, and wispy to a fault. Even “I will find you”, popularized by its use in “Last of the Mohicans”, is bailed out by its mesmerizing Native American chants and eerie electronic keys. The opener “Na Laethe Bhi” is so similar to “Harry’s Game” that its gorgeous melody is partially annulled.

ClannadLuckily MEL COLLINS’ saxes and flutes remain compelling and dominant, but the major upgrade is in the vocals. Most of the highlights, like “Banba Oir”, “There for you” and “The Other Side”, offer ensemble singing and a more full band backing that counteracts the group’s at time overly fragile demeanor. Still, when it comes to interpreting traditional songs freshly and hauntingly, it’s hard to beat Maire and her brethren on the otherworldly “Cad de sin don te sin”. The well known Breton band TRI YANN interprets the same tune in “Korydwen et le Rouge” equally well yet differently, which proves how much can be achieved through the additive blessings of nature and nurture.

“Banba” showed that Clannad was still a work in progress in 1993, which is a compliment for a group that had been around for over 20 years, Even though it does not match the pioneering spirit and beguiling consistency of earlier releases, it’s worth exploring if you enjoy spacey well produced Irish folk with exquisite harmonies. (by kenethlevine)

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Personnel:
Ciarán Brennan (bass, guitar, mandolin, keyboards, vocals)
Máire Brennan (vocals, harp)
Noel Duggan (guitar)
Pádraig Duggan (mandolin, guitar)
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Anto Drennan (guitar)
Brídín Brennan (vocals)
Mel Collins (saxophones, flute)
John Donnelly (drums, percussion, programming)
Frankie Kennedy (flute, whistle)
Ian Parker (keyboards)
Denis Woods (keyboards, synth programming)

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Tracklist:
01. Na Laethe Bhi (C.Brennan) 5.20
02. Banba Óir (C.Brennan) Clannad 3.26
03. There For You (C.Brennan) 4.10
04. Mystery Game (C.Brennan) 4.24
05. Struggle (C.Brennan) 4.04
06. I Will Find You (C.Brennan) 5.16
07. Sould Searcher (Brennan) 4.25
08. Caide Sin Don Té Sin? (Brennan) 4.22
09. The Other Side (C.Brennan) 4.18
10. Sun Set Dreams (Duggan) 4.12
11. A Gentle Place (C.Brennan) 3.09
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The Dubliners – Finnegan’s Wake (1966)

FrontCover1.jpgFinnegan Wakes is a live album by The Dubliners. Recorded at the Gate Theatre on 26 and 27 April 1966 and produced by Nathan Joseph, this was The Dubliners’ final recording for Transatlantic Records. But it was also their first to feature their first established line-up of Ronnie Drew (vocals and guitar), Barney McKenna (tenor banjo and mandolin), Luke Kelly (vocals and banjo), Ciarán Bourke (vocals, guitar, tin whistle and harmonica) and John Sheahan (fiddle, tin whistle and mandolin). The album featured “Nelson’s Farewell”, a satirical song about the bombing and destruction of Nelson’s Pillar in O’Connell Street, Dublin on 8 March 1966. (by wikipedia)

The show, “Finnegan Wakes”, at the Gate Theatre Dublin, ran in the spring of 1966 to packed and enthusiastic houses. From the show, we have taken for this record some highlights of the Dubliners’ performances. In a later LP we hope to issue some of the many other wonderful items from the show, including the work of other artists who took part. We wish to thank the management of the Gate Theatre and Mr. Michael Geoghehan of Irish Record Factors, Dublin, for their invaluable assistance. (taken from the original liner-notes)

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And here are the original liner nots from the reissue CD edition (July 2003) of this great live album:

‘Finnegan Wakes’ originally released in 1966 was The Dubliners third and final full-length album for Transatlantic records. Newly flushed by the success of their previous release ‘The Dubliners In Concert’, with the departure of Bob Lynch and the return of Luke Kelly, they took on their biggest project to date, a theatrical review called ‘Finnegan Wakes’. They would attempt a similar feat in 1972 with an ambitious production of Brendan Behan’s ‘Richard’s Cork Leg’ produced by Alan Simpson which played to capacity houses in Dublin at the Peacock and Olympia Theatres, the Cork Opera House and in London at the Royal Court Theatre.

However, ‘Finnegan Wakes’ was not the first time the Dubliners flexed their theatrical muscles collectively on a Dublin stage. Ronnie Drew trod the boards as an actor in his pre-Dubliners lifetime and The Dubliners appeared in Kevin Sheldon’s legendary movie ‘O’ Donoghue’s Opera’, an ambitious effort set in Dublin. Sheldon’s film rapidly ran out of funds before it could be completed and was left in the can for decades afterwards.

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‘Finnegan Wakes’, the show, ran to full houses in April 1966 at Dublin’s Gate Theatre. The show was recorded for a live album and this is it. ‘Finnegan Wakes’ was also the first Dubliners album to be actually recorded in Ireland — their two previous albums ‘The Dubliners’ and ‘The Dubliners in Concert’ had been recorded in London.

To assimilate the importance of an album like ‘Finnegan Wakes’ one must take a look at Ireland in 1966. Ireland at the time was undergoing a period of immense social and political change. Firstly, the economic shape of the country was improving through the Eamon DeValera / Sean Lemass political axis and while the economy was booming, the country itself was still very conservative in nature, strongly ruled by Church dictates and moral standards. But, the sense of political awareness and personal freedom so typified by the Psychedelic era in Britain and the USA was creeping into Ireland slowly. Also with the advent of television and chat shows like ‘The Late Late Show’ causing a national scandal with the story of the ‘Bishop and the Nightie” the underbelly of the establishment was being put under scrutiny. Another important event that year was the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising of 1916. This had infused a new sense of patriotic nationalism into certain quarters of the youthful population.

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‘Finnegan Wakes’ was a ‘product of its environment born from an atmosphere of social and cultural revolution unleashed on an unsuspecting but willing audience. The Dubliners represented a revolutionary face of Irish folk music and turned a mirror on the society of the day. They typified the new wave of thinking coming into Ireland through Luke Kelly’s politicisation in England and his assimilation of Communist ideals hinted at in Ronnie Drew’s comment in his introduction to ‘The Glendalough Saint’ “Your man Luke is a Communist — he gives pennies to the poor and everything”. The satirical jibes at the Legion of Mary closing down the infamous red light district of ‘Monto’, and Ronnie Drew’s comment, pertaining to the notion expressed then, that all books banned in Ireland be printed in Irish — “thus helping the Irish people to learn their own language” all made for one crackling powder keg of an album. In terms of social comment, this was The Dubliners at their most outspoken and anti-establishment. Even the more conservative elements of their following were challenged by their unmasking of the vagaries of the day’s accepted norms. Along with Brendan Behan, The Dubliners eschewed the ‘Mother Mo Chroi’ vision of Ireland and were ready to make their opinions heard and ‘Finnegan Wakes’ was their witch burning. If there were any sacred cows to be attacked, The Dubliners were ready to hit them-head on.

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The Irish audiences loved The Dubliners raw aggressive approach to folk music — “Irish Music with guts” as Tony Wilson an English journalist then based in Dublin described their musical style. ‘Finnegan Wakes’ was also a musical tour de force. The extra instrumental range and sophistication brought to the group by John Sheahan added considerably to their overall style and presentation. Luke Kelly’s return brought an added vocal authority and would copper fasten his importance within The Dubliners story. Here they swung and swayed with greater power and exhilaration than before, Barney McKenna’s banjo and mandolin, John Sheahan’s fiddle, tin whistle and mandolin and Ciarán Bourke’s tin whistle and harmonica provided a powerful musical back line for Luke Kelly and Ronnie Drew’s charismatic voices. Barney’s banjo playing cuts loose on ‘Within a Mile of Dublin’. Sheahan’s fiddle solo on ‘The Sunshine Hornpipe’/ ‘The Mountain Road’ stands out, as does his mandolin duet with Barney McKenna on ‘Chief O’ Neill’s Favourite’ named after a Chicago police chief whose collections of Irish tunes have reached biblical status with musicians.

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Vocally the choice was equally solid — the title track delivered in ironic fashion by Ronnie Drew echoes similarly inclined Irish vaudeville songs like ‘The Night Pat Murphy Died’. Dominic Behan’s ‘McAlpines Fusiliers’ and ‘Hot Asphalt’ capture the hard working lives of Irish navvies on English building sites. ‘The Glendalough Saint’ hits at religious celibacy while ‘Monto’ named after Montgomery Street, a famous red light district in Dublin, became theatricality in itself complete with references to the Queen and the Duke of Gloucester. ‘The Sea Around Us’ is another of Dominic Behan’s outspoken assertions of National pride. The song was a No. l hit in 1966 for The Ludlows, a trio comprised of Sean Loughran, Margaret O’Brien and Jim McCann. McCann himself, after pursuing a successful solo career, joined The Dubliners in 1974, replacing Ronnie Drew. ‘The Dublin Fusiliers’ is a comic song associated with Dublin Vaudeville comedian Jimmy O’Dea, himself once a monumental figure in Irish entertainment. O’Dea is most remembered for his comic creations Biddy Mulligan the archetype Dublin street fishmonger and his role in the Hollywood movie of ‘Darby O’Gill and the Little People’.

Social events of the day were commemorated in satirical songs like ‘Nelson’s Farewell’ composed by Joe Dolan an original member of Sweeney’s Men. ‘Nelson’s Farewell’ salutes the fateful ending on March 8th 1966 of Admiral Nelson’s reign over Dublin’s City center. ‘Nelsons Pillar’ or ‘The Pillar’ had become a social meeting place as well as a reminder of colonial occupation. ‘Nelson’s Farewell’ is preceded by Luke Kelly reciting a verse of Louis McNeice’s poem ‘Dublin’, the words of which are penned with affection, the last line of which seemed strangely prophetic in the light of Admiral Nelson’s sudden departure.

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‘Grey brick upon brick
image Declamatory bronze on sombre pedestals
O’Connell, Grattan, Moore
And brewery tugs and swans
On the balustraded streams
And the bare bones of a fanlight
Over a hungry door
And the soft wind on the cheek
And porter from the taps
With heads of yellow cream
And Nelson on his pillar
Watching his world collapse’

‘Finnegan Wakes’ has the Dubliners at their most vigorous, brash and outspoken and essential — a description best summed up in Phil Lynnott’s words “Live and Dangerous”. This was the perfect curtain closer on their period with Transatlantic records as shortly afterwards, The Dubliners signed a new contract with Philip Solomon’s Major Minor records. Pop chart stardom with ‘Seven Drunken Nights’, an adaptation of the Childe ballad ‘Our Good Man’ and learned from Connemara sean-nos singer Joe Heaney which would be banned in Ireland for its controversial content was just a mere twelve months away.

Listening to ‘Finnegan Wakes’ some 37 years later, one cannot help but be caught up in The Dubliners vibrant energy and barely controlled enthusiasm. Here, The Dubliners were on home ground and were at their most raucous and ribald, most outspoken and controversial.

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Adding bonus tracks to ‘Finnegan Wakes’, one finds while looking through the vaults the odd neglected ‘missing piece’ emerging in the shape of ‘Guenther/Paddy’ a classic slice of Ronnie Drew repartee. Also, looking at tracks taken from singles and EPs released by Transatlantic Records in 1966, there are four tracks from the EP ‘More of The Dubliners’, two songs ‘Master McGrath’ and ‘Walking in the Dew’ featuring Ronnie Drew and two instrumentals ‘The Cook in the Kitchen’ and ‘Boulavogue’. ‘The Cook in the Kitchen’, a 6/8 time double jig tune is unique as it marks the first time The Dubliners added a guest musician, Dublin born uilleann piper Tommy Reck (RIP), to join Barney McKenna in a duel on uilleann pipes and tenor banjo. ‘Boulavogue’ remembers an incident in Wexford during the time of the 1798 rebellion and is rendered as a banjo solo. We also chose ‘Off to Dublin in the Green’ and ‘The Foggy Dew’ as two further bonus tracks from this period. These two tracks round up the selection of tracks recorded by The Dubliners that were not included on any of their albums but featured only on EPs and 45’s. These tracks add further proof of The Dubliners musical virtuosity and complete, their discography with Transatlantic Records. (by John O’Regan wifh grateful thanks to John Sheahan and Harriet Roche.

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Personnel:
Ciarán Bourke (vocals, guitar, tin whistle, harmonica)
Ronnie Drew (vocals, guitar)
Barney McKenna (tenor banjo, mandolin)
Luke Kelly (vocals, banjo)
John Sheahan (fiddle, tin whistle, mandolin)

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Tracklist:
01. Finnegan’s Wake (Traditional) 3.14
02. Hornpipes: The Sunshine Hornpipe & The Mountain Road (Traditional) 2.49
03. Monto (Traditional) 4.13
05. The Dublin Fusiliers (Traditional) 2.43
06. Chief O’Neill’s Favourite (Traditional) 2.13
07. The Sea Around Us (Behan) 3.18
08. McAlpine’s Fusiliers (Behan) 3.14
09. Hot Asphalt (Traditional) 3.34
10. The Glendalough Saint (Traditional) 2.49
11. Within A Mile From Dublin (Traditional) 2.27
12. Will You Come To The Bower (Traditional) 3.58
13. Nelson’s Farewell (Dolan) 4.28
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14. Walking In The Dew (Traditional) 1.30
15. The Cook In The Kitchen (Traditional) 2,19
16. Boulavogue (Traditional) 2.52
17. Off To Dublin In The Green (Traditional) 2.26
18. The Foggy Dew (Traditional) 3.24

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