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4 stars Paul Brennan left CLANNAD after the uneven and atypical "Sirius" album from 1987. They released 4 studio records in the 1990s after his departure, before the whole band embarked on an extended hiatus of 16 years, concentrating on personal projects punctuated by live appearances. Since my favorite Clannad albums include Paul (a mere statement of fact without judgement) , I was most curious to see how his return would affect "Nadur".

It all begins auspiciously with their most progressive track since the 1980s, "Vellum"; a hypnotic number with trance like group vocals and atmospheric keyboards over economically strummed acoustic guitar. Suspenseful, dramatic and melodic, it's also their most accomplished original composition since those long gone days.

For the rest, while nothing approaches its hushed brilliance, what is refreshing is that, popular reviews to the contrary, the album sees Clannad pierce the hermetic bubble that often seems to encapsulate its members and shield them from every emerging trend. In "Rhapsody na Gcrann", I sense a mood akin to unbridled joy, at least in Clannad terms, ushered along by mandola and vocal harmonies. I can't help feel that Paul had a hand in "Turas Domhsa chon na Galldachd", which could have come right out of 1982's "Fuaim", as well as in "Brave Enough" with its anthem like chorus and Duke Special's voice. Then there is the most out of character boisterous commentary of "The Fishing Blues", which channels fellow Irish great CHRISTY MOORE, and guests Eamon Murray on harmonica. Luckily, for old fans, they can still deliver a "Maire" ballad, in the form of the reverent, near hymn like "Song in your heart".

A few missteps can be excused, mostly in the naively partisan lyrics and uninteresting melody of "A quiet town" and the soporific closing number. Free for so long from the pressure of meeting studio deadlines and commitments, "Nadur" finds Clannad revealing their inner nature again, their endearing timidity and fragility enveloping an unshakable sense of place and purpose.

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Posted Wednesday, December 16, 2015 | Review Permalink

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