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4 stars A compilation album bringing together some of the finest moments from the first three Iona releases and spanning their days with Word Records. Personally I find it very difficult to believe that anybody in the country doesn't actually already own those first three albums, at least judging by their consistent appearance in Christian Bookshop charts and Premier listings. That aside this is of course a sublime listening experience. Iona are one of the few truly original bands in a derivative world, the individual experience and influences of the musicians brings together a vast array of sounds from traditional Celtic folk to progressive rock to contemporary jazz and yet more. The combination of the gentle wind instruments of Dave Fitzgerald, Mike Haughton and Troy Donockley with the ethereal keyboards and inventive guitar work of Dave Bainbridge and the astounding work of Nick Beggs, one of the world's finest bassists creates a beauty rarely matched in music and the perfect vehicle for vocalist Joanne Hogg. Cross Rhythms regular Mike Brooks has done a magnificent job in selecting the tracks, I love "Chi Rho", "Columcille" and "Here I Stand". I would have liked to see "Beijing" included but then it must have been a very difficult task deciding what to leave out.
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Posted Monday, January 31, 2005 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
4 stars Iona have to be one of the UK's best kept secrets. Over the years they have continued to produce albums of outstanding quality yet somehow have never managed to gain the recognition they so richly deserve. While praise and riches have been lavished on Celtic artists such as Enya, for some reason it has never been the same for Iona who in some ways have followed a similar musical path, bringing together Celtic and traditional music with the lighter forms of prog in a way that always delights. I first came across the band when I reviewed 'The Book Of Kells' back in 1992, one of the three albums that are used as the basis of this compilation. At this time they had one Nick Beggs providing bass and chapman stick, who some people may recognize from his time with Kajagoogoo! But for me the mainstays of the band were Joanne Hogg on vocals, Dave Bainbridge on guitar/keyboards (who are both still there today) along with Troy Donockley on various traditional instruments.(who departed in 2009).

So why am I looking at a compilation album that only covers a subset of their releases, which in itself is more than 15 years old! Easy, Iona have made this available as a free download from their site. Yes, that's right, free. Gratis. No payment required. So what excuse can you possibly have now for not discovering one of the finest bands around in their field? This is wonderfully atmospheric album from start to end, with a warmth provided by fretless bass and a cut through by drums and whistles, while the keyboards and guitars build a blanket of sound that allows Joanne to rise above it all. In some ways it is somewhat reminiscent of Renaissance and Annie Haslam, with complex layered music allowing a free vocal to really dominate the overall sound

This album has reminded me just how wonderful their music really is, and has inspired me to find out more about the albums I don't already have. Easily four stars in anyone's book, this is a great compilation and given that it is free why not give them a try?

Report this review (#869193)
Posted Friday, November 30, 2012 | Review Permalink

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