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Horslips - Aliens CD (album) cover



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4 stars "Aliens" is regarded as the album HORSLIPS pretty much abandoned the Celtic rock for just rock, with a West Coast influence. The reason for that was this album was a concept album about Irish immigration to America in the 1840s during the potato famine in dreams of making it big in America, only to end up disappointed. This change in style was in hope the band would break with an American audience. With songs like "The Wrath of the Rain" and "Sure the Boy Was Green", you can see an absence of the Celtic style, no concertinas or uileann pipes like you might get with "The Tain". There is no doubt the best song on this album is "Speed the Plough". "Come Summer" shows the folk-influence, with Jim Lockhart giving us some nice flutework. The second half of the album regards the Irish finally making it to America only to find out the realities that life wasn't going to be as easy as they thought, like on "A Lifetime to Pay". To be fair, this album isn't bad at all, and it could have been a lot worse. Good stuff, actually.
Report this review (#34111)
Posted Saturday, January 22, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars It would take an extremely liberal definition of Prog Rock to include this once-popular Irish band in its ranks. Let's face it: how "progressive" could any group be that specialized in dancehall jigs and traditional reels? But the best of their early '70s music has always held a place of honor in my record collection, alphabetically and aesthetically somewhere close to JETHRO TULL, against whom they were often compared.

And not without some justification, although the HORSLIPS career arc was in many ways a mirror image to Ian Anderson's. TULL began its life as a Blues outfit, only later adopting an ersatz Celtic Rock sound, while HORSLIPS was a genuine Celtic Folk Rock group that eventually rediscovered its rock 'n' roll roots.

The turning point was their popular 1976 concept album "The Book of Invasions": the highest rated HORSLIPS album thus far here at Prog Archives (although far from their best or most representative, in my opinion). Fans tend to ignore the band's later, more mainstream efforts, and this unofficial sequel to "The Book of Invasions" was where many jumped ship, despite it being the closest of cousins to the earlier album.

"Invasions" was subtitled "a Celtic Symphony". Maybe if "Aliens" had been called "an Irish Immigrant Concerto", it might be better remembered today. Too bad it isn't, because this is probably the strongest of the band's late period rock albums. Like its immediate predecessor "Aliens" is a concept album about a culture in transition, during the 19th Century potato famine that saw the Irish population uprooted westward across the Atlantic Ocean, in search of a brighter future. But don't worry: the songs haven't been forced to fit any spurious narrative, and each can be enjoyed on its own merit.

There's certainly no shortage of musical hooks, from the galloping album opener "The Wrath of the Rain" to the equally energetic "A Lifetime to Pay". You can hear the Ian Anderson influence in Jim Lockhart's flute work during "Second Avenue", sounding enough like the old Tull classic "Teacher" to almost warrant charges of plagiarism. And Johnny Fean's six-string solo in "Speed the Plough" is an air guitarists dream come true.

This and later HORSLIPS albums are perhaps too locked in a 1970's time warp to be anything more than a guilty pleasure today, especially for self-conscious Progheads embarrassed to be caught listening to anything with a simple verse-chorus structure in 4/4 time. There's room on the music shelf for both the old and the even older material, but it's strange (or maybe not) how the band's earliest music has dated so little by comparison.

Report this review (#34112)
Posted Wednesday, May 11, 2005 | Review Permalink
Queen By-Tor
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Moving to America.

In the direct follow-up to Horslip's massively successful The Book Of Invasions, the boys have decided to write a second concept album following roughly the same story. While the previous album focused on the events lead up to an exile from Ireland, this album focuses on the trip to America. It makes sense, in that regard, that this album is a lot less ''folk'' than its predecessor. The end result is an album that sounds like Horslips mashed together with Jethro Tull and Thin Lizzy with a large emphasis on rocking riffs over intricate folk melodies, although the use of the flute and violin are still highly prominent. Overall, the songs are each highly memorable, although not quite par as to the quality of previous albums - but the album also does feature some of the band's greatest moments.

The album is also more ''song based'' than previous albums from the 'slips. While albums like The Tain and Book of Invasions feature a string of short songs combining into one long song-cycle this one simply plays out the tunes and moves on. This works for most of the songs on the album, and given the context of a more 'American' album it makes sense to do. Still, one misses the technical grace that was presented on previous albums. However, some of the songs do just fine on their own. Among the standouts on the record are the Jethro Tull-esque Sure The Boy Was Green with its mean flute leading the charge and the Thin Lizzy style vocals making it the epitome of the style on the album. The single Exiles is also a mean standout that is likely the best song from the second side of the album (unfortunately a touch weaker than the first).

Other songs on the album tend to be very catchy and strait up hard rock, and most of them are very good. Speed of The Plough is a good, midpaced, catchy number while Come Summer makes good use of the band's unique vocals. Still other songs on the album tend to fall off a bit in quality, and while they're always entertaining (there's no dull moment on the album, really) they do tend to be forgotten among the album's stronger numbers. These are the ones that tend to pack less of a 'punch' than some of the other songs. Second Avenue is a good example of this, as while it is a good number it does tend to be a little bit soft on the ear when compared to the more hard hitting stuff from earlier on.

In the end this is still a worthy addition to the Horslips catalog, and according to the production values on the artwork and the inner sleeve what the record label thought would be their most viable. Not the place to start with the boys since it really doesn't reflect the quality and style of their classic works, but if you're into the band then this is not one to pass up. Enough folk to still entice the celtic listeners, and hard rock enough to be a little more commercial. Unfortunately, this would be the last to really feature the celtic influences, but we can still enjoy them for the time being. 3 stars out of 5 - good, but not essential. Still, definitely one to 'get around to'.

Report this review (#207859)
Posted Friday, March 20, 2009 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
3 stars Book of emigrations

The follow up to Book Of Invasions was another conceptual album. This time it is based on the Irish emigration to America (a concept later adopted by Andy Latimer for Camel's fantastic Harbour Of Tears album). While on the surface this is less progressive compared to the Book Of Invasions album, this is not entirely correct as Book Of Invasions itself was something of a deception in this department! Book Of Invasions is an excellent album indeed, but despite the several fantastic instrumental intros and interludes, the actual songs themselves on that album had conventional verse-chorus-verse- structures and often also very catchy choruses. The music on Aliens is actually not that different from on the previous album. It is definitively true that Horslips had a change of direction (very similar to that of most progressive bands in the latter part of the 70's), but this change was gradual and was set in motion already with the Dancehall Sweethearts album in 1974. Horslips changed indeed, but they didn't "sell out", at least no yet at this point.

With the exception of a very short and discrete intro track to set the mood before the first proper song and a nice instrumental that ends the album, Aliens begins and ends in a similar style to the Dancehall Sweethearts album; namely, with straightforward and rather forgettable Rock 'N' Roll numbers in Wrath Of The Rain and A Lifetime To Pay. This weak opening gives the impression that the band had completely lost its Folk Rock style. However, again like with Dancehall Sweethearts, it gets better further on. Speed The Plough is a nice tune with lovely harmony vocals. Overall, the vocals was actually getting better with each album. Sure The Boy Was Green sounds very much like Jethro Tull, both due to the flute sound and the strong Ian Anderson-like vocals in the chorus. Come Summer is also a bit Jethro Tull-like in their acoustic, folky moments (think of the Heavy Horses album).

New York Wakes with its female backing vocals in the chorus is not that successful, however, despite some tasteful Ian Anderson-like flutes again. Ghosts slows things down and is a nice ballad with some nice touches of spacey keyboards. Second Avenue has again a Jethro Tull sound, but the chorus is way too catchy to be mistaken for anything by Jethro Tull. Exiles is a very nice instrumental that ends the album on a high note with bluesy electric guitars together with very Celtic sounds. Lovely!

To conclude, Aliens is a recommended album. But I would not recommend anyone to start their investigation into Horslips with this album. Begin with The Tain, Book Of Invasions, Happy To Meet, Sorry To Part and Dancehall Sweethearts first and if you still want more after that, go for Aliens!

Report this review (#265773)
Posted Friday, February 12, 2010 | Review Permalink
Prog-Folk Team
2 stars Plenty of times on "Book of Invasions", HORSLIPS conceded to the mainstream more than hitherto imaginable. Yet the integrity of the historical and musical concept was only strengthened by these compromises, just as in the building of any monumental structure. On "Aliens" the group shifted to a more modern era and from legend to true story, that of the vast emigration of Irish folk during the mid 1800s when blighted potatoes threatened starvation. A noble concept and well executed from a storytelling perspective, but musically Horslips has moved from celtic rock with arena rock pretensions to arena rock with a few celtic embellishments slung sloppily about ones person like Mardi Gras beads as an afterthought for a night on the town.

A glaring example of the group's identity crisis is "Sure the Boy was Green", which is a cross between the rocked up reels in "Dancehall Sweethearts", THIN LIZZY and STEELY DAN. It flits from one camp to another like an independent politician who wins over nobody. Elsewhere, this is largely riff centered rock, with the riffs not being memorable enough on their own to compete with the frequent and increasingly misplaced flutes. Songs like "Come Summer" and "Stowaway" do possess a certain rough cut charm, and "Ghosts" suggests a path that would be taken more consistently on "The Man Who Built America", while its validity results partly from its virtually unique status as ballad on this disc.

While quality is not alien to this late stage album, distinctiveness and sense of integrity and purpose are. 2.5 stars rounded down.

Report this review (#307334)
Posted Friday, October 29, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Review #10 Horslips 1977 album Aliens

Oddly this was my first encounter with Horslips some five years and 6 or 7 albums into their career.

I bought it on the recommendation of an NME review of the record, which stated that Jim Lockhart's flute reminded the reviewer of Ian Anderson's flauterings (is there such a word!!!).

So I purchased a second hand copy (as I always did) just in case it was awful. But no. It wasn't, it was a 4 star album in BarryGlibb's mind and heart .

I had obviously missed the sequence of albums that lead to "Aliens"; each LP prior had told some sought of tale re Irish history and "Aliens" was based on the Irish emigration to America largely due to the potato famine in Ireland in the mid 19th century. Most of the tunes are based around the Irish in New York.

OK the stand out tracks: "Speed The Plough" good are the vocals? Horslips have 3 lead singers all of whom can sing and Johnny Fean who would have to be the most underated guitarist in the history of modern music has one of the most gifted voices that you would ever want to hear. How could so much talent be unknown to the general public? "Sure The Boy Was Green".....simply one the most brilliant songs ever recorded. "New York Wakes" - Charles O'Connor shines as lead vocalist, almost punk prog. Try not to sing along in gusto I dare you. It is an awe inspiring composition. These above 2 songs are in my faves of all time. Get them and play them loud. "Exiles" - Johnny Fean you genius "Ghosts" - beautiful in all departments.

"Second Avenue" is good but I am afraid they should owe royalties to Ian Anderson and Martin Barre here. The riff is a direct copy of Jethro Tull's "Teacher".

There are a few low points but on the whole it was such a great introduction to Horslips.

I then went and purchased all of their back catalogue plus their new releases until they disbanded in 1980 momentarily (for 25 years or so) and now I think I am their most ardent supporter in the world (maybe!).

Report this review (#393710)
Posted Friday, February 4, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars If you look at the discography of Horslips, over time there is a clear shift from traditional folk to folk-rock to, finally, just plain rock. The album Aliens finds it somewhere in the middle, and in my view, on this record they got the mix down just perfect. The songwriting has never been (and would never be) more tight and consistent. It is hard to point out highlights, as this album from beginning to end is one tour de force. I can say this is one of my all-time favourite records, and I'm quite surprised it got some so-so reviews here. Possibly it has to do with the fact that a lot of long time fans (and I'm one of them) consider this from a folk-purist standpoint, and they were disappointed at the increase of the rock element. But if you look at this album on its own merit, you'll find one of rock's undiscovered gems.
Report this review (#797616)
Posted Tuesday, July 31, 2012 | Review Permalink

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