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Alan Stivell - Symphonie Celtique -  Tír Na nÓg CD (album) cover


Alan Stivell

Prog Folk

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1 stars I always get very weak knees when I hear the word celtic associated with music. THIN LIZZY and RUNRIG is some of my favorite bands and I also like to explore other Celtic and Keltic bands from both Ireland and my home in the West Of Scotland. So I dipped my grubby fingers into my pockets when this album came up for sale.

This is an album in three parts and full orchestra of vocals, harps, scottish bagpipes, whistle, bombard, flute, percussion, keyboards, guitars, bass guitar, drums, fiddle, mandolin, bodhran, uilleann pipes, spoken word, kena, sitar, tampura and a choir. Yes, this is not the staple prog rock diet. The result is a symphony, no less. This is not a prog folk album.

The first thirty minutes is difficult to sum up without using language not suitable for a gentleman. Or in my case; a fat looser. But even a fat looser has standards.... The plonking of these instruments in an aimless manner is mindnumbing. I have seen films with his holyness Dalai Lama with Buddhist one-tone only chants and music from long horns. This album sends me some associations in that direction. Maybe I am stupid and uneducated, but the first part of this symphony is as pointless as watching paint dry. A symphony is meant to have movements and some developments. This is just pointless monotone drivel with no developments.

The last half picks up a bit. Some interesting electric guitars are added without enhancing the quality of this album. But too little, too late. This album has one tone and one tone alone. It is mindnumbing boring. It has been described as challenging and ambitious by the one who sold me this. Maybe I am too ill educated and earthly for this type of music. But with a small degree in philosophy and a love for mountains, Ikea furniture and chicken dinners; this album is not for me. This is the first review of this album and I would urge anyone else to give it a try though and review it here.

1 star

Report this review (#204786)
Posted Sunday, March 1, 2009 | Review Permalink
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
2 stars Tír na nÓg can be translated as "Land of Youth". It's an outerworld where the people of Goddess Danu, "Tuatha De Danann" went after leaving Ireland. It's an island far in the West similar to the Viking's Valhalla and the story is about Oisin brought there by the queen Niamh.

This island is imagined made of three concentric circles, and those are the three parts of this symphony.

The first circle stands for 20:45 minutes starting with a Krautrock mood for the first 5 of them. It makes me think to Amon Duul but in this case it's music, not just a trippy band playing bongos on the beach. After this a Keltic section starts. It contains some female speech and this part is quite similar to Lucia Hwong. Effectively Stivell played on her "Secret Luminescence" more or less in the same period. When the speech ends it's just celtic which turns into a chaotic symphonic part close to the end when the celtic mood is restored by the pipes.

The second circle is 19:12 and opens totally symphonic. After 8 minutes a typical Stivell's harp brings the listener to Bretagne, but the surprise is at about minute 12, when there's the most progressive part of this track. It's clear why the only other review of this album currently on PA makes a distinction between the first 30 minutes and the rest. Who likes the Clannad of the 70s or bands like Malicorne will surely like the second half of this "circle" on which bass and drums add a touch of prog to the druidic ambient.

The third circle is unlikely the inner as it's really bigger. It takes more than 30 minutes and starts with harp and wind instruments which behave like birds in a cool spring morning. You can like it or not, but this is the kind of music that I effectively expect from Alan Stivell. The following section sees Alan singing on a piano base which is later improved by flutes and female voices. As often happen in music, knowing what a song is about helps in being more receptive. In Tír na nÓg there are no illness and no sickness. It's a land of eternal youth and this part sounds like a hymn, a ritual. At minute 8:30 bass and drums are added and Alan's vocals are now a choir. Back to prog. At minute 16, more or less, there's the most happy moment of the whole album with a captivating rhythm, pipes and winds but after one minute only it moves into minor chords and fiddle. Still prog folk but darker. It's a section of sudden changes: drums and bass accents for a while, then bodhran and flute, then pipes. Each single part is quite good but it's not easy to follow. At minute 20 it's the usual (good) Stivell, the kind of music for which he's included in the prog-folk subgenre, for 3 minutes only...the druid ritual restarts, then another sudden change transforms the song in a sort of march, then a good celtic moment...then stop describing. Too many changes.

This is the defect of this 30 minutes track. Even if the transitions don't make it discontinuous it's almost impossible to follow. Each single part is good. at minute 25 there's a bit of funky, too, but transitions apart, I don't see the difference between this 30 minutes single track and a soundtrack made of 1 minutes short tracks.

With more continuity and cutting out some useless parts this album could have been very interesting but in my opinion it fails to meet the objectives. Good if you like the genre, well played and with some very good moments but if celtic folk is not your pot stay away from it. I like this album but to be honest I can't rate it with more than 2 stars.

Report this review (#443032)
Posted Thursday, May 5, 2011 | Review Permalink

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