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4 stars IONA are an English band who play a certain atmospheric - ambient - space styled Celtic art rock. In many ways IONA combine the vocal and symphonic clouds of ENYA with the musicianship and themes of Mike OLDFIELD. IONA use a vast array of traditional Celtic instrumentation including the Harp, Big Bass Drum, Shakers, Ribbon Crasher Bells, Chimes, Tin Whistles, Flute, Low Whistles, Uilleann pipes, and Whitby Shell Chimes. The end result is quite amazing and layered on with E-Bow, electric and acoustic guitar and the unmistakable vocals of Joanne Hogg, creates some simply mesmerizing musical moments. Robert Fripp (KING CRIMSON) appears on several tracks adding his guitar wizardry and of course 'Frippertronics'. Overall this is a great album and although you may find it filed under Christian rock, Scandinavian rock, or perhaps even "easy listening", ignore the classification and pick it up...
Report this review (#16082)
Posted Tuesday, March 16, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars James is right...forget the classification. This is brilliant music!

Wonderful mixture of, I don't want to try to put labels on it. It just has to be listened to. This is music to lift you...not in any religious way (though the christian thing is in there), just from the sheer beauty of the singing and playing. The arrangements and melodies are superb.

I love to discover music that moves me into another world. It doesn't happen very often, but this is it for sure! Quite extroadinary how the instruments of Troy Donockley and Dave Bainbridge complement each other.

I would love to see this band live...if any of the band actually come by this site and have plans to do any gigs in southern Germany, Austria or Switzerland in the next millenium...please let me know at: [email protected]

Report this review (#16085)
Posted Wednesday, July 14, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars A brilliant mix of Progressive Celtic Pop Rock and sweeping odd time instrumentals, 'JOURNEY' never fails to disappoint.

Stand out tunes for guitarists include 'ENCIRCLING', an 11 minute epic based on St. Patrick's 'breastplate prayers' (or Lorica), declaring the surrounding and encompassing of God. Bainbridge's guitar work goes all out in part two of the epic (Tara) with a blistering solo speaking both dissonance and harmony at its conclusion.

Also noteworthy for guitarists, 'BI-SE I MO SHUIL PART 2', which contains a duel/lead electric guitar and Ulillean Pipe line in 11/8 time...Masterful!

Amongst the more concise songs, standouts are 'WISDOM' and 'INSIDE MY HEART.'

Most mentionable is JOANNE HOGGS haunting vocals, which elicit an almost instrument-like quality. .And you can never go wrong with a Guest Appearance by ROBERT FRIPP (KING CRIMSON) on 'DIVINE PRESENCE' and 'THE SEARCH.'

The album's stunning closer, 'WHILE I SURVEY,' reaches out to the old hymn of the same name and breathes new life into the near exhausted genre.

All in all, 'JOURNEY' is a stunning realization of beauty and vision. And if you ever fall asleep listening to this record (i.e. listening before you go to bed) YOU WILL be stirred to life by 'HEAVEN'S BRIGHT SUN,' an excellent instrumental passage which never wanes in passion or conviction!

Report this review (#16086)
Posted Friday, October 29, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars I'm sorry, but I'm not as impressed as the other reviewers are of this disc. Sure, Joanne Hogg has a sweet, ethereal voice, but her singing is rather flat in spots and bland. She'll soar at times, but for the most part it sounds the same on every song. David Bainbridge plays a nice guitar with some tasty soloing especially during "Heaven's Bright Sun" but again, it's rather bland and lifeless for most of the album. Drums and bass are rather pushed to the side with nothing standing out at all. What really shines, or if you will, blankets this album from start to finish is Bainbridge's keyboards, he just dominates everything with a wall of gothy new ageness. The overall effect of Bainbridge's keys gives one the feeling of loneliness and dispare, (ands there's nothing wrong with that sometimes). Sure, there's all sorts of Irish instruments to give you that bit of Celtic spiritness, but other then the jig that pops up in spots and the catchy "Lindisfarne" and "Bi- se i mo shuil" it's doom and gloom wrapped in religious overtones. If night music to put you to sleep is what you clammer for, this is the ticket. It's just about average, yet not so bad. Oh, and if you're a Robert Fripp fan and must have everything he plays, he shows up on this disc. Try and spot his spots....
Report this review (#117178)
Posted Monday, April 2, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars This band is getting better now. Some improvements were already noticeable on their third album "Beyond These Shores" and this one is of the same level.

One thing is for sure : Gary Latimer must have listened to this album when he was writing "Harbour of Tears". Both opening tracks are so similar (but written before) to "Irish Air". Same mood and almost same title ("Irish Day" for the second one.)

When you listen to "Wisdom" the inspiration of a band like "Mostly Autumn" makes no doubt. Great vocal performance by Joanne Hogg as well. Here and there some blunder like "Everything Changes" as well as "No Heart Beats" but nothing too damaging.

"Mostly Autumn" will also make the habit writing some average first part and close with a great guitar solo. This is the case for "Inside My Heart". But at this time of the album, I must reckon that the spacey and ambient mood is rather monotonous.

Most songs from here onwards sound a bit of the same and even if the longest track "Encircling" is pleasant to listen to separately, it just falls into the same trap and only confirms the (too) tranquil music played here.

Some true folk songs, but again on the very soft side with "Journey Into The Morn" and "Lindisfarne". This album is again ultra long (almost eighty minutes). It would have been beneficial to cut it down by twenty minutes to make it more attractive. But this is a habit of "Iona".

Some good and atmospheric instrumental parts as "The Search" or the folkier "Heaven's Bright Sun" are beautiful of course. So, I recommend to listen to this album bits per bits (and skipping the two songs I have mentioned above). Otherwise some boredom feeling might invade you.

Three stars.

Report this review (#153633)
Posted Sunday, December 2, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is a very good blend of Contemporary Christian music and Celtic folk music that I salvaged from my mum's CD collection. Robert Fripp's touches on a couple of tracks aren't particularly notable, but there are some magnificent performances on this album. The vocals are brilliant and unmatchable. Joanne Hogg offers a truly moving version of the classic hymn 'When I survey the Wondrous Cross'. Elsewhere the epic 'Encircling' really soars, with atmospheric drumming and Gilmouresque guitar playing. Songs like 'Wisdom' and 'Everything Changes' are truly beautiful, while conveying those important songs of worship (I, myself am a Christian). I'm glad to see that there are bands like Iona taking a progressive approach to Christian music, but this seems very rare. The one problem with this album is that it is a bit long, without varying an awful lot, but it still does what it's supposed to do, create atmosphere, and one does not have to be listening intently to appreciate the effects of this album. Since there is so little variation I feel like I can only rate it three stars, taking into account that I'm predominantly a heavy metal fan, this is not my number one choice for music, although I like to keep my mind open (which is why prog appeals to me so much).
Report this review (#165200)
Posted Thursday, March 27, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars I consider myself a true Iona fan. I grew up on prog rock that mostly came out of Britain, Europe and the UK as well as great Canadian groups such as Max Webster, Rush, Ian Thomas, The Guess Who, etc. I first heard Iona at a friend's house; the album was The Book of Kells. It was one of those visits where you can't keep to a conversation because the music keeps drawing you in. This is the power of Iona's music. I immediately purchased The Book of Kells as well as their new album that year (1993), Beyond These Shores. These two CD's were in my CD player all the time. But in 1995, when Journey Into The Morn was released, I immediately purchased it and it has become my favourite of all the Iona CD's/DVD's I own. The magic on this album is difficult to place as there is a depth in the quality of the arrangements, musicianship, and production qualities, showing a maturing from previous releases. The album as a whole is very dynamic and takes you on a journey that opens you up in heart and mind. Powerful arrangements and soaring melodies leave you content at the end of the album. The musicians who played on this album, in my opinion, are the most potent group. One cannot say enough about Dave Bainbridge's compositions, or his keyboard and guitar playing - overflowing with excellence and skill. Add to that the powerful, dynamic, and musical drums & percussion that Terl Bryant adds with the absolutely over-the-top bass provided by Tim Harries...I have to take a moment here to speak of the excellent musicianship of Tim Harries: what a great sound he has! And his melodic and punchy phrases are very instrumental in moving the listener on the journey the music is taking you on; I have spent many a listen just soaring on his bass lines. I hadn't heard of Tim Harries until this album but he is one of the top favourite bassists in my listings. And then there is Troy Donockley, masterful and exquisite on his pipes and whistles and sharing with the equally masterful sax and flute work of Mike Haughton. Over and above all of this is the ethereal and delicate voice and acoustic guitar of Joanne Hogg. The whole of all these parts is truly a beautiful thing. There is only one song I thought didn't fit in the framework of the album as a whole: track 9. No Heart Beats. Aside from this I consider it an excellent addition to any music lover's collection.
Report this review (#235596)
Posted Friday, August 28, 2009 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars It never ceases to amaze me how IONA create so much atmosphere in their music. Waves and layers of sound that at times are awe-inspiring. Cool to hear guest Robert Fripp on a couple of tracks here as well. I guess you could call this album typical IONA although to be honest their sound is so unique as they play that atmospheric Celtic music with God praising lyrics. All I know is that their music moves me.

"Bi-Se I Mo Shuil-Part 1" is the short intro track of atmosphere (your going to see this word a lot) and vocals. "Irish Day" is a definite highlight. It's so uplifting and moving and the lyrics play with my imagination. "Wisdom" is a worship song with almost spoken vocals to start. It kicks in quickly and themes are repeated. Nice guitar before 3 1/2 minutes. "Everything Changes" is such a cool sounding track as we get a beat, vocal melodies and lots of atmosphere. "Inside My Heart" opens with gentle guitar and reserved vocals. Just gorgeous. It kicks in before 4 minutes. Nice bass and guitar here. Atmosphere rolls in late. So good. "Encircling" is the longest track at over 11 1/2 minutes. It sounds like wind chimes as vocals come in. Atmosphere too as it builds some. Percussion follows then some soaring guitar. Man it's so atmospheric it sounds like mellotron here. So moving. A spacey calm I guess you could say. It's almost haunting 5 minutes in. Check out the atmosphere before 5 1/2 minutes as well. It then kicks in with some excellent guitar. Atmosphere and vocals late. Such a meaningful track.

"Journey Into The Morn" is laid back with vocals, flute and atmosphere. "Lindisfarne" opens with waves of sound. Vocals before 2 minutes. It's fuller before 4 minutes. "No Heart Beats" is my least favourite I guess because it's too normal sounding and catchy. "The Search" and the next track features Fripp on Frippertronics and guitar-synth. The first one is an atmospheric instrumental with guitar-synth. Incredible ! "Divine Presence" opens with reserved vocals and acoustic guitar as the atmosphere rolls in. Love the lyrics. "Heaven's Bright Sun" has these loud outbursts of sound that come and go. Atmosphere takes over. Vocal melodies after 3 minutes. Drums and pipes follow. "Bi-Se I Mo Shuil-Part 2" opens with drums as vocals join in and the sound builds. Guitar before 4 minutes. "When I Survey" was originally written by Isaac Watts who wrote over 500 hymns in his life that were published.This probably the most famous, in fact Charles Wesley is reported to have said he would have given up all his songs just to have written this one. Again the atmosphere covers the soundscape like a thick fog as the guitar makes some noise. This is all about the vocals though that arrive before 2 minutes.

Easily 4 stars.

Report this review (#293444)
Posted Wednesday, August 4, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Journey To The Morn is another great album by this unique band. The album is lengthly much like Iona's other greats. This one runs for around 75 minutes, but there is a lot of variety. The best of all is the intricately-arranged and very progressive "Encircling" which is a modern sonata with three parts. It begins softly and builds to to a very powerful force of pipes, electric guitar and drums layered over ancient themes and instrumentation. With the creativity of this track alone, you'll hear how much they set themselves apart from typical Christian bands. Iona are very sophisticated and create words and music of incredible spiritual and artistic depth. You can just as well feel their strong passion in the music which is so deepy rooted in the land and history of Iona. As I said the album has a lot to offer including some upbeat pop-rock songs which also shouldn't be overlooked. Although more personal favourites are the mellow acoustic songs "Journey To The Morn", "Inside My Heart" and "Divine Presence". I equally love the dreamy, atmospheric pieces, especially "Everything Changes" which is more melancholy than most of Iona's pieces, but it's quite powerful. Journey To The Morn is one of my favourite albums by the band along with "Book Of Kells", which both share as many mysterious, haunting as well as dreamlike moods. I consider Iona to be one of the most innovative progressive bands of the past two decades. Four shining stars.
Report this review (#636414)
Posted Sunday, February 19, 2012 | Review Permalink

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