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Horslips - Horslips Live  CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

4.39 | 12 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

4 stars Right, let's get the prog thing out of the way first: Horslips were never prog, which is partly why I am giving this album only four stars. Horslips were (and are again, thankfully) a combination of spirited and skilful traditional musicians and rockers. The second reason this album only gets four stars is because of the awful sound quality, which makes it sound as though they are playing at the bottom of a lake, rather than on stage. That said, the music is spectacularly good. The most prominent instrument (mostly due to the mixing) is Johnny Fean's by turns liquid and barbed-wire guitar. From the opening double-shot of Mad Pat and Blindman, which blend seamlessly into each other, Fean's Les Paul dominates you in a good way, catching the ear and leading you through a roller-coaster of swoops and plunges. I'm not going to go through the album track-by-track, but stand-oouts include a majestic take on King of the Fairies, an instrumental, thankfully, which loses nothing through the mixing. For guitar fans, though, it is Furniture that stands out. A beautiful song written by keboardist/piper Jim Lockhart about growing up and leaving home, it is alchemically transformed into a masterpiece by Lockhart's mournful flute intro, CHarles O'Connor's hypnotic mandolin playing and Fean's heart-wrneching solo, first a resigned lament, then a scorching, pounding on the heart in the crescendo. It would be the finale for any other band, but not Horslips. After lightweight versions of Can't Fool the Beast and More Than You Can Chew, Eamonn Carr's shimmering cymbals herald the greatest Irish rock track ever, Dearg Doom. Fean then joins in with a crazed intro, while Barry Devlin's muscular bassline charges along like a racehorse in the final furlong over Lockhart's keyboards. Then Fean breaks abruptly into THAT riff (the one that knocks all others into a cocked hat) and we're away. It's spoiled only by the weedy recording of O'Connor's usually powerful vocal, but the song stands alone as a tribute to Fean's mastery of traditional and blues music. And as if that's not enough, they follow it up with Comb Your Hair and Curl It (or Bim Istigh Ag Ol as it was known on their first album), complete with false stop in the middle, and their first single Johnny's Wedding, a triumphant bellow of drums, bass, flute, mandolin and guitar. I defy you not to feel out of breath after it finishes. So, there you go. It's not prog, it's dreadfully mixed and still it comes out leaps and bounds ahead of most live albums by dint of the sheer quality of the material and musicianship. The band is raising its head once more these days and that is something that should be applauded rather than pitied. These guys were and are amazing. It's not an introduction to them, but it is a document of the excitement and vitality they provided to countless people in the grim Ireland of the 1970s. Do another one.
| 4/5 |


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