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Iona - The Book Of Kells CD (album) cover

THE BOOK OF KELLS

Iona

 

Prog Folk

3.85 | 66 ratings

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BrufordFreak
5 stars is Celtic prog Folk (and Christian) artist IONA's breakout album though it is their second release. The distinguished crystalline voice of Joanne Hogg is on full display for all to hear, thanks to the fairly sparse instrument arrangements--especially in prolonged intros and outros. The other half of the band's core, Dave Bainbridge is also present on keys and guitars. This band seems to always be comprised of members who are all virtuosos on their respective instruments and this album is no exception. What changes in the future, however, is that bass/Chapman stick player Nick Beggs (KAJAGOOGOO), percussionist Teri Bryant and reeds player David Fitzgerald move out to make room for future mainstays Phil Barker (bass), Frank Van Essen (drums, percussion, & violins), and Ullilean pipe and whistle virtuoso and future star in his own right, Troy Donockley-- who happens to make his debut as a guest musician here. Though the synth washes are full and rich throughout and the percussion/rhythm team is at full power, The Book of Kells is a much more sparsely instrumented album than Iona's successive releases, but there are always plenty of gorgeous and glorious instrumental sections throughout all Iona albums. Also, as might be surmised from the album's title, which is is taken from the famous illustrated Christian texts of the New Testament that was created around 800 AD and then preserved in Ireland's Abbey of Kells, this is a concept album. What results from this mix of personnel is an album with such seamlessness, such depth and complexity of textures, as to astound even me who had already been a tried and true Iona fan for several years before going back into their early catalogue to discover this one. I didn't think that any Iona album could be better than Open Sky but the amazingly intense whole-goup focus on this concept album may have done it. What's more, this music and presentation is to my ears a prime example of all that is essential and at the core of prog: great story, great instrumental performances, great songwriting drawing from many traditions, great album art, all gelled into a powerful display of great human emotion. "Matthew - The Man" (11:53) (10/10) may be the best prog epic of the year but, heck! The whole album is like one continuous prog epic! Amazing! Beautiful! Another piece of man-made art that makes me proud to be human.
BrufordFreak | 5/5 |

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