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Horslips - The Tain CD (album) cover

THE TAIN

Horslips

 

Prog Folk

4.16 | 51 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

LinusW
Special Collaborator
Italian Prog Specialist
3 stars For all those who have a soft spot for Irish/Celtic music, be it more traditional folk or the rich so called 'pub music' that at least many in Sweden have taken to their hearts, this album is a pleasant surprise.

As with many of the colleagues in the Prog Folk genre (e.g. Strawbs and Jethro Tull) the folk side of the band is very apparent, but in no way overshadowing the other aspects of the sound. There's quite a lot of classic rock tendencies flying around on The Tan, adding edge and substance to the otherwise quite fragile, delicate folk melodies. Abundant use of electric guitar is perhaps an exaggeration, but it has a strong presence with its bluesy roots, in both textural work and solos. The fact that some of the songs actually have the keenness and flair reminding of the Who (vocally and instrumentally) is evidence enough for this.

Based around a saga from Irish mythology, it's only fitting with the mystique and anticipation built up by the first two tracks, acting as an emotional, mood-setting interlude for what's to follow. The spacey synth intro of Setanta builds in power with shrill guitar and powerful drumming, right into the chaotic ending and the smooth, surprising transition to Maeve's Court. It is of course nothing but speculation, but the first track works like an excellent 'time machine', transporting the mind back to mystic times. Whether this is planned or not really isn't important. It works with great effect, and THAT counts. Maeve's Court is a wonderful display of all the traditional sounds of Ireland: fiddle, flute, fife and mandolin. Mellow and welcoming, it leads into the real start of the album with another soft transition together with electric instruments into the very Jethro Tull-like Charolias.

Other than the addition of traditional Irish sounds, structures and instruments, The Tan isn't a very complex album. Most of the tracks actually have steadfast rhythms and sing-a-long, catchy melodies with powerful refrains, making your foot tap in an instant. There are no flashy keys solos or breath-taking melodies. Instead an incredible richness is built with simple means. A little organ run here, another there, enter mini-solo from guitar and a flute. Repeat with slight variation. This kind of concept shouldn't be dismissed, as it really works out in the end. For someone weary about 'proggier' folk bands, look this way, as this is great place to start.

The Tan is a collection of shorter songs of mostly three categories: the heavily Irish-infused preludes and interludes, up-tempo rocking tunes (folk-drenched or not folk-drenched) and the softer, often acoustic efforts that are very close to the sweet, neatly composed Strawbs songs of the same ilk. It is a forgiving album, eager to both please and stimulate, and as such appealing to a wide audience. It starts very strongly, with lots of character, but sadly wanes towards the ending. The second half is just a lot more anonymous, even though it's not lacking in quality. Of course this isn't as stimulating for everybody; it's not Thick As A Brick so to speak. But it's a funny, feisty album that is uplifting in many ways and fans of the Jethro Tull and Strawbs discographies should most certainly be pleased.

Recommended, if not with a gold star.

3 strong stars. This isn't essential, but if you are like me and really like stuff like this: throw on a 4th star!

//LinusW

LinusW | 3/5 |

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