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Clannad - Magical Ring CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

4.52 | 15 ratings

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Special Collaborator
Prog-Folk Team
5 stars With "Magical Ring", CLANNAD opened their arms wide to technology, and harnessed a symbiotic blend of the ancient and the modern. It also includes one of the most stunning album openers of any era, "Theme from Harry's Game", from a 1982 British mini series. Whatever you are doing when the proverbial stylus tentatively reaches its first grooves, "Harry's Game" has more than enough dynamic gentility to stop you in your tracks. Never mind that it essentially formed the blueprint for ENYA's mega successful formula; this is where the public first heard the floating choral melody atop amorphous keys. It's sung in Gaelic, but the chorus sounds like "Follow the Door, Fol' the day". Make no mistake - this is authentic Gaelic music made relevant again, and it would reverberate across the North Channel in RUNRIG classics like "An Ubhal as Airde". It reached an astounding #5 on the UK singles charts and helped "Magical Ring" become the first of many Clannad LPs to chart, Its reissue on 1990s releases and its use in, of all spots, a Volkswagon commercial, helped Clannad attain its highest chart placements in the New World.

What of the rest of "Magical Ring"? In a word, magical. "Tower Hill" extends the haunting atmosphere with an unsettling blend of metaphorical lyrics, double bass, male vocals, and flute. "Passing Time" is another brilliant original piece, but here synthesizers dance about the whistles and strummed guitars, contributing to a lighter mood. "I see Red" was written by GERRY RAFFERTY's brother Jim, and blends the warmer and more chilling aspects of the two aforementioned pieces, adding in a more distinct and catchier chorus, allowing it to chart as well, albeit modestly. The same applies to "Newgrange", an ode to prehistoric site of rock formations built around 3200 BC. Producer Richard Dodd has to be credited for his ability to wring out more substance from the near silence in between iterations of the Gaelic chorus than many can liberate over a 40 minute album. The jazziest and most rocking track is "Thios Fa'n Chosta" which closes the album, dominated by a steady rhythm driven by piano, drums, and a surprising lead guitar solo. It turns out that, apart from a few moments in 1987's "Sirius", this trajectory was rarely followed subsequently.

The traditional pieces are still here, including a more atmospheric remake of "Coinleach Ghlas an Fhómhair", but they are now overshadowed by the original and interpreted works still suffused with antiquity, Hence, "Magical Ring" celebrates a near perfect union and the point at which Clannad resolutely advanced Irish folk music forever. It's also arguably their most progressive album, at a time, may I remind you, when "mainstream" prog had been largely abandoned, Those folkies always were a brave and subversive lot.

kenethlevine | 5/5 |


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