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5 stars Simply stated, one of the best "live" cds that I have ever heard! Sort of a greatest hits collection. I bought this based on numerous critical and fan reviews that I read. I had not even heard a single note of Iona's music before I acquired "Woven Cord"! I have purchased more of their releases, based on this recording, and all are truly excellent. I never cared for Christian-themed music, but believe me, this group is different. Strong Christian messages abound, but never preachy. If you are looking for top-notch music then check IONA out!! Highly Recommended!!!
Report this review (#16098)
Posted Thursday, January 1, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars On May 29th, 1999 IONA performed a magical concert with the "All Souls Orchestra" at London's Royal Festival Hall marking a return not only to live concerts for IONA but the first time they combined a full orchestra with their spiritual progressive celtic rock. The end result is a highly uplifting live album which works exceptionally well from many perspectives. The sound quality on this CD is excellent with a nice micing job as the orchestra really fits in well and accents the music of IONA never outdoing or masking the talents of the band. Musically IONA are a mix of Celtic and progressive rock genres with highly compassionate music full of soul and inspriation. The music performed is a mix from their 4 studio albums and highlight for me is the 12 mins epic "Encircling" which is re- presented live here quite brilliantly. An excellent live album for sure and a unique way to hear IONA.
Report this review (#16099)
Posted Monday, August 30, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars This was my first encounter (if PA's mp3's are not counted) with this Celtic Prog Folk band that I'm very willing to hear some more! IONA have a lot of folk elements - Uillean pipes, tin whistles, violin... even Gaelic language here and there - and a clean female voice, so the natural comparison is CLANNAD. Their main difference is of course that Clannad is not progressive (instead it's whole lot poppier) and IONA is. They have a Christian attitude which honestly isn't very much heard in their music. This one is a concert with All Souls Orchestra in 1999. The orchestral arrangements are carefully done by the other leading figure besides Joanne Hogg, guitarist Dave Bainbridge. I presume I'd prefer IONA without the presence of an orchestra.

In other words, I got a bit bored with, for example, tender instrumental 'Overture' and other orchestral moments. I don't much remember the individual songs after three listenings; though some tracks have more rock elements than others, the whole of it may lack some extra spice. Maybe it gets better with further listenings. There were some excellent guitar solos and the music is good all the way, but I guess there was not a track that I was DEEPLY charmed by. But as I said, I'm hoping to hear their studio albums. My feelings of this sounding perhaps too mild, edgeless and clean is after all not a reason enough to rate it less than 4 stars.

Report this review (#143807)
Posted Friday, October 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars I have never liked these combinations between rock music and an orchestra. IMO, these genre do not sit well together. My experience with such works started in 1972 when I was offered the cassette of "Concerto For Group And Orchestra by Deep Purple". I was thirteen.

In between, I have listened to several of these ("Yes", "Tull" etc). And my perception has not drastically changed since then. One of the very few album I really like in this genre is "El Dorado" ("ELO"); but this is an integrant part of their style since the band has always used some chords.

My worries with this album were that the orchestra would have a prominent and invading role here. And this is fully confirmed during the "Overture". A pure orchestral track (just like "White Sands").

As far as the track list is concerned, there are several songs from their first two albums which I didn't like very much (two stars) "Iona" ("White Sands", "Dancing On The Wall"), and "The Book Of Kells" ("Revelation").

There are a few unreleased tracks featured as well. The obvious "Woven chord" which is an instrumental featuring a good guitar solo. This song is more attractive than most of the other numbers played; even if the orchestra is very much present during several parts.

"Man" is the longest number from this live album. It effectively combines an upbeat tempo (compared to the rest of the album), good guitar work and tranquil passages. A good résumé of their work. Joanne being perfect as usual. Only the middle part is a little weaker; but since it is only for a few moments, it is not too bad.

The closing number "Beyond These Shores" is the third one of that kind. A very soft song featuring some excellent vocals (but this is one of their TM even if their songs do have lots of instrumental parts).

The global mood of this album is rather monochord. Pleasant while you are doing another activity but rather difficult to grab your full attention while listening to it attentively (as I have done for this review).

There is one album I really appreciated in their discography. It is "Open Sky" which was released after this live one. So, if ever you would like to discover this band I rather recommend this one. In terms of live offerings, I preferred "Heaven's Bright Sun".

This one is for die-hard fans only. Some pleasant folk music, yes. But this is rather dispensable. Two stars.

Report this review (#155221)
Posted Wednesday, December 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Iona has become one of the mst intersting bands I know. Their intricate combination of tranquil musical passages with outbursts of guitar and Uillean pipes are, in my opinion, very attractive. But sometimes the song writing seems to be a little unclear, as if melodies and chords come to a point where it is far from obvious which way to head for. That most certainly accounts for their latest studio album, ´Circling hour´. And it surely is not applicable to this great live album.

When you are acquainted to Iona´s music it seems very obvious that playing with a full orchestra would sooner or later take place. In 1999 it actually happened and what a splendid evening that must have been!! Just listen to the first two tracks of this album and you´ll know what I mean. The first is the instrumental ´Overture´ in which the All Souls Orchestra more or less presents itself. It is an original piece of music that takes you right into pastoral Great Britain. Very classical yet perfectly fitting in with Iona´s music. That is proven by the second track, the well-known Be-Se I Mo Shuil part I in which the interplay between Joanne Hogg and the orchestra already reaches very high peaks. In Matthew the Man that is taken a step further as the full band plunges in, with the Uillean pipes of Troy Donockly and the guitar of Dave Bainbridge taking the lead. And so they do! It is a true outburst that will have had an overwhelming effect on the audience. But halfway this beautiful song the orchestra becomes dominant again in a very moody, very soft middle section that gives this epic song a dramatic character. It already proves that this is truly a master piece in the vein of Renaissance' Live at the Carnegie Hall. The studio songs get a new treatment here and without exception it does them well, which is remarkable because the setlist only contains good songs. To me 'Dancing on the wall', which was just one of the songs on the debut album, profits most from the orchestra. It becomes less predictable and more in the line of songs Iona recorded on the latter albums. And also 'Encircling', another epic on this album, is in this live version to be preferred over the studio version. The different sections of this song seem to fit better with the orchestra playing the bridges.

As on all Iona albums the vocals are of outstanding quality. Joanne Hogg ranks amongst the best vocalists, definitely in the folk rock scene but probably even in the whole prog rock scene. She has such a distinctive and beautiful voice and she manages to sing so well, it's almost incredible.

Some may find the religion-inspired lyrics irritating. Although I have nothing with Christian beliefs I don't bother that most lyrics get their inspriation from Christianity.

For those of you who liked 'Live at the Carnegie Hall', Camel's 'A live record' or Caravan's 'Caravan & New Symphonia' this a another gem to lay your hands on. For all others this is a perfect album to get to know this splendid and original band.

Report this review (#159025)
Posted Saturday, January 19, 2008 | Review Permalink

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