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Horslips - Drive The Cold Winter Away CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.07 | 20 ratings

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3 stars To someone living in the northeastern United States, an album titled "Drive the Cold Winter Away" would sound very appealing this time of year (as I write, in near-blizzard conditions downwind of Lake Erie).

The 1975 LP remains a novelty in the Horslips catalogue. It's the most overtly Irish of all their albums, paying affectionate tribute to the ancient airs and antique ballads that inspired the band's more popular Celtic Rock fusions. There's no original music in any of the songs collected here, and the arrangements are faithful to their sources, ranging from stately medieval hymns to quaint 19th century ballads, all of them suitable for playing "on mono reproducers or on Christmas Day; or both", according to the sleeve notes.

In other words, the project was a departure from the amplified jigs and guitar-heavy Gaelic foot- stompers that made the band's reputation. The music isn't entirely unplugged: Barry Devlin's bass guitar and some of Jim Lockhart's keyboards were discreetly electrified. But drummer Eamon Carr was more or less allowed a paid vacation during the recording sessions.

Remove every trace of Rock from a nominal Folk Rock band, and here's what's left: an album of strictly traditional music, performed with obvious pride and historical sensitivity, but missing the legitimacy of genuine folk music anthropology. And yet the melodies are always lovely, in particular "The Snow That Melts the Soonest" (not soon enough, in western New York) and the haunting instrumental title track. Horslips was often unfairly compared to JETHRO TULL, which would make this album analogous to the 2003 Tull "Christmas Album", but with a little more cultural integrity behind it.

The album also marked a casual farewell to the band's more homespun early sound. Later Horslips LPs would aim for arena-rock modernity, with mixed success. But this was music to curl up with on an overstuffed chair, late at night in front of a glowing hearth, a wool blanket across your lap and a pint of dry stout within easy reach.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |


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