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Horslips - The Tain CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

4.16 | 64 ratings

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Queen By-Tor
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars You'd better run, run, run

Prog folk is a genre which is hard to dig into if you don't know where to start. The entire subgenre is basically overwhelmed by a few artists like Jethro Tull and The Strawbs, leaving little room (on this site, anyways) for other artists to really be noticed unless they're recommended to you. Luckily this album was recommended to me by a reliable source and I found it one day sitting in my favorite used record store. Not knowing what this album would sound like, but remembering the name and the cover (although admittedly, I always used to get the names of the album title and the band name mixed up) I bought the album. Good thing too, because this is an album well worth your time and money. If you fancy yourself interested in the subgenre of prog-folk then this album is just about perfect, Celtic themes dominated by folk melodies and a mean flute drive the music which has excellently haunting vocals and even a touch of humor here and there. The songs are mostly short, with only a few even reaching the 5-minute mark, but this is one of those albums where a string of songs work together to build upon a larger idea and the songs segue perfectly into one another so that it seems to just flow all the way through.

While the short tracks are quite good, there's a lot going on in the longer tracks with a rock feel. Of course, when saying longer we're talking between 3 and 4 minutes, but these songs are anything but average pop tunes. What's great is that the songs appeal to the conventional song-writing style just enough to be catchy and memorable, while staying on the outskirts of rock just enough to really turn on a prog head. You Can't Fool The Beast with it's notable chorus and impressive string section is a perfect example of this, not to mention that it features some prominent and well placed rhythm sections in all the right places. The opening Charolais is just about as close as you can come to a perfectly structured and concise prog-folk tune, its harmonized vocals at the lulling chorus is simply great. More folk melodies abound with Dearg Doom make a rather silly song a very fun piece with the echoing guitar section during the chorus and the perfectly placed fiddle section nearing the end of the song laying the final punches.

The more folk sections of the album are also impressive. Instrumental sections in later songs such as Cu Chulainn's Lament are a perfect match for the feel of the album, a kind of dark pastoral tale that's light at heart. The end of the album lays off on some of the more heavy elements that were present in the first half, but is no less impressive, with the upbeat More Than You Can Chew with its quirky vocal lines and the mid-paced Time To Kill! making for a satisfying end to the journey. Faster Than The Hound is the longest and slowest pace of all the songs on the album, and this is where the pastoral feeling sets in the most, but coming after some of the more chaotic sections it feels appropriate.

Many of the songs on the album are what could be called ''filler'', but they all work in context. ''Filler'' is a really bad term for the songs, as they're mostly connecting pieces that happen to be usually under 2-minutes in length that connect the major sections of the album with their own charms and quirks. The cataclysmic clashings of Gae Bolga, for instance, makes for a perfect fit where it stands on the album. The Silver Spear is likely the most impressive of these songs as a quick and dirty instrumental with the fiddle at the lead and the flute coming in to lead the charge for the last 30-seconds, but the percussions of The March also make for a satisfying tune.

For people who love the styling of the giants of this genre such as the formerly mentioned Strawbs or Jethro Tull, this stands as an album in a good middle ground between the styling of the two. You have heaviness used sparingly mixed with a heavy pastoral feel and Celtic grooves, an excellent album for anyone who considers themselves a fan of the folkier and highly melodic side of things, this one is going to get 5 silver spears out of 5 for a greatly enjoyable romp through prog folk that doesn't have Ian Anderson or Dave Cousins attached to it. A pure masterpiece deserving of your time.

Queen By-Tor | 5/5 |


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