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Iona - Live in London CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

4.67 | 20 ratings

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4 stars I happened to be playing this DVD, which captures my 1 year old's attention and I use it while baby sitting, when I wandered to PA and saw it had been added, so I decided to review it.

Anyway. This is a two DVD set in letterbox format, which I happen to love. Disc one has the main show and disc two has an acoustic set and interviews with the band. The show was in a very intimate setting with a small but enthusiastic audience. I'll start with the second DVD since the actual show in London started with the acoustic set.

The set starts with one of my favorite Iona tracks, Chi-Rho from The Book of Kells album. This is an ok version of what was an excellent track on the original album. On the DVD the song lacks energy. Even though Phil Barker is an excellent bass player, I miss the killer bass line that Nick Beggs played on the original. Up next comes a duo featuring lead guitarist, Dave Bainbridge and multi instrumentalist Troy Donockley. Now this had enough meat in it to satisfy any art rock fan. Iona being what they are, they always have the Irish flavor to their music and Donockley is a master at his country's folk music. Edge of the World is a pretty ballad, in an odd time signature at times. Also miss Nick Beggs' stick bass from the original. Jigs is self explanatory, a couple of traditional Irish styled songs. Lots of fun on this one, I think. The last song on the acoustic set is Today. The original version of this song had very nice drums, however, this scaled down version is not as powerful. Don't get me wrong, it's still very enjoyable. As always Joanne Hogg's voice is beautiful and soothing.

My verdict on this second disc is mixed. Knowing the level of intensity Iona is capable of in some of their acoustic studio tracks, I was a little surprised at how laid back this set was, especially when it included such musically strong songs as Chi-Rho and Today. So this is really a two star performance. But wait, there's the main show to come.

Disc one starts with the instrumental Woven Cord. Here's the Iona I was dying to see. This tune feature Donockley and Bainbridge prominently playing unison scales, but what grabbed me here was the drum intro. The 5.1 surround sounds brings out the ghost notes on the snare drum and you can see you are in for a drum treat for the rest of the show. Wave after Wave starts with a sweet violin intro played by drummer/violinist Frank Van Essen and we can hear Iona in its fullness. The ending seems a little abrupt here. The studio version ends with some atmospheric voice and keys not done here. This is still a great version of the tune.

Inside my Heart is another favorite of mind, with its acoustic intro and killer guitar solo at the end. Joanne Hogg sounds awesome here. The next three songs Wind off the Lake, A Dhia Ghleigil (Angel of God) and Factory of Magnificent Souls are new tunes. Angel is sung in Gaelic and Factory is inspired by the prison where Nelson Mandela was locked in.

Now the next tune is worth the "prog" price tag. When introducing this song Joanne says that at the end of the song the guitarist's head may explode. Donockley adds that "it happened in Frankfurt". At over 10 minutes, Encircling is the longest song on the DVD and by far the most complex. I won't spoil it. Strength and Treasure are solid rock tracks. Treasure stands out with it two solos at the end, guitar and low whistle. It also has Phil Barker playing the bass with what looks like a vibrator!!! Someone please tell me what it is!!! He gets a sound similar to what Tony Levin gets with the Funk Fingers.

Castlerigg and Reels are fun tunes featuring uilliann pipes and guitar duos. I don't know how those two guys do it. Jamming! Irish Day is a very good pop tune with a gentle and sad pennywhistle intro that always brings a tear to my eye. Bi-Se I mo Shuill Part 2 is a good prog track with an excellent trio of keys, guitar and low whistles in unison at the end. Flight of the Wild Goose is a jazzy mid tempo instrumental. The last song is the moody and beautiful Murlough Bay. Love the crescendo in the middle part of the song.

In conclusion, I believe this is a very good addition to any prog DVD collection. Even though most of the tracks are not exactly "proggy", what makes Iona progressive in my opinion is the way they add traditional instruments in a rock context, without losing the Celtic flavor. The musicianship is top notch and it's great to see the band members switching instruments and showing as much virtuosity in one as in the other.

One thing about this DVD is that it was very hard to find here in the USA. The only websites I could find that had it for sale were all in Europe, not even ebay had it. But finally I was able to find an online store that shipped over here and got it at what I hope is not a rip-off price.

When it comes to technical stuff, besides a minor ocassional video flaw at the top of the screen and a silly black and white effect at times, the video quality is pretty good. The sound is beautifully mixed. A nice touch during the credits is that they list the names of everyone in the audience.

| 4/5 |


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