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Horslips - The Man Who Built America CD (album) cover

THE MAN WHO BUILT AMERICA

Horslips

 

Prog Folk

3.12 | 15 ratings

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Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer
3 stars It's time someone stepped forward to champion the later efforts of this hard-working Irish band, after they finally shed the last trace of shamrock-colored folk melody from their repertoire. The music wasn't anywhere in the neighborhood of Progressive Rock anymore (was it ever?), but they hadn't completely mothballed their flutes, fiddles, and concertinas just yet, and a few lingering echoes of the early HORSLIPS sound could still be heard behind all the dominant electric guitars.

This 1978 album concluded an unofficial thematic trilogy that began with "The Book of Invasions" and continued in "Aliens": a loosely bound chronicle of Irish exile from the 12th to the 20th Century. But it also marked the end of another cycle, charting the band's transformation from Celtic Folk balladeers to Arena Rock superstars (in their own country, at any rate).

Needless to say, it was a mixed blessing, especially to longtime fans with fond memories of "Dancehall Sweethearts" and "The Tain", two of their more distinctive mid-'70s attempts to update traditional Irish music in a modern rock vernacular. If their previous album, about the Irish-American immigrant experience, was titled "Aliens", this one might well have been called "Assimilation", and not just because of the historical subtext. Every song has been so thoroughly chewed, swallowed, and digested into the radio-friendly rock 'n' roll mainstream of the late 1970s that they could almost be the work of an entirely different set of musicians.

But there are silver linings. The production is more dynamic than on any of their earlier releases, in particular during the album opener "Loneliness" and the foot-stomping title track, two songs packing considerable hard rock punch (and with hooks to match). The ballad "I'll Be Waiting" has a big, room-filling sound Phil Spector might have applauded, and there's a welcome touch of Old World nuance in the melancholy "Long Weekend", crooned in that always attractive and unmistakable brogue.

Diehard fans (Horsheads?) may have cried "sell out!" at this point, but at least the music was loyal to the spirit of genuine rock and roll, unlike the post-Punk meltdowns of too many ex-Prog rockers (step forward, Phil Collins). The way I see it, if you have to go commercial, do it loud, and do it with energy. Measured by that yardstick, HORSLIPS was still a long way from the glue factory in 1978.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |

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