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CLANNAD

Clannad

Prog Folk


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Clannad Clannad album cover
4.27 | 26 ratings | 6 reviews | 23% 5 stars

Essential: a masterpiece of
progressive rock music

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Studio Album, released in 1973

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Níl Sé Ina La (4:50)
2. Thíos Chois Na Trá Domh (2:55)
3. Brian Boru's March (3:50)
4. Siobhán Ní Dhuibhir (4:30)
5. An Mhaighdean Mhara (2:10)
6. Liza (2:00)
7. An tOileán Úr (4:03)
8. Mrs. McDermott (3:03)
9. The Pretty Maid (2:40)
10. An Pháirc 3:00
11. Harvest Home (1:40)
12. Morning Dew (3:45)

Total Time 38:26

Bonus track on 1997 & 2002 CD releases:
13. An Bealach Seo 'Tá Romhainn (2:47)

Line-up / Musicians

- Máire Brennan / lead vocals, harp
- Noel Duggan / lead guitar, vocals
- Pádraig Duggan / guitar, mandola, vocals
- Pól Brennan / flute, bongos, guitar, vocals
- Ciarán Brennan / double bass, guitar, piano, vocals

With:
- Grainne McMonagle / tin whistle
- John Wadham / drums

Releases information

LP Philips ‎- 6392 013 (1973, Ireland)

CD Royal Records ‎- 19970001 (1997, Netherlands) Remastered (?) with a bonus track from 1975
CD Spectrum Music - 544 976-2 (2002, UK) As above

Thanks to kenethlevine for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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CLANNAD Clannad ratings distribution


4.27
(26 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(23%)
23%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(42%)
42%
Good, but non-essential (35%)
35%
Collectors/fans only (0%)
0%
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)
0%

CLANNAD Clannad reviews


Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by kenethlevine
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog-Folk Team
5 stars While the British Isles counterpart to American folk rock had sprung up dramatically in the late 1960s and early 1970s, spearheaded by several classics by FAIRPORT CONVENTION and PENTANGLE among others, all the major acts were singing in some variant of olde or new English. In the meanwhile, in county Donegal, Ireland, a group of 3 siblings and their two twin uncles was attentively absorbing those sounds and nurturing their own. That idiosyncratic style was based in large part in the use of native Gaelic in most of their repertoire. After winning a local music competition in 1970 they were tendered an offer to record with the Irish branch of the Phillips label, who were nonetheless nonplussed by the preponderance of non English lyrics. As a result, it took 3 years before the execs would relent and allow this landmark debut to see the light of a misty day.

Even accepting the fledgling band's stability at this early stage, "Clannad" is an uncommonly well seasoned inaugural album. Perhaps sensing that their recording lives might be brief, they plucked the best of breed from their 500 song canon, so the breadth of material here is wider than at any other point during their initial run. Particularly noteworthy are the excursions into jazz folk a la Pentangle, conjured by Maire's Jacqui McShee like vocals and Ciaran's double bass, both of which would become a staple of their sound. While "Níl Sé Ina La" openly shares this fascination, "Siobhan Ni Dhuibhir" does so more subtly within a rigid Celtic folk framework.

One aspect of Clannad's sound that diverges from the "trad arr" of most bands of their ilk is the absence of fiddles, with Paul Brennan's flute or Maire Brennan's harp tending to carry the melody that would otherwise be relegated to the violins. Moreover, Clannad rarely contents themselves with ad nauseum repetition of jigs and reels played at breakneck speed to impress their audience, preferring slow airs sporting more delicate blown or plucked motifs for attenuated instrumentals or breaks within often forlorn ballads. The instrumental "Mrs McDermott" is precisely the template for the elegance that is Clannad, while the sweet "The Pretty Maid" speaks to their grasp of the heart and what makes its strings bough.

The album closes with an oft covered song called "Morning Dew", which was written by Canadian folksinger Bonnie Dobson and popularized by the GRATEFUL DEAD among others, its post apocalyptic imagery at odds with its pastoral mood and veneer of the purity of the dew. Maire's interpretation over finespun acoustic guitar and exquisitely spare harmonies is complemented by a flute solo with timid piano accompaniment.

The cachet of this first Clannad album has been up sold over the years by its rarity, first as a hard to find LP without CD re release, then as a CD that just never seems to be available, and by the likelihood that many fans have never heard it. However, it largely merits the secretive whispers it invokes, with its only flaw being its eclecticism. In the prog world, that's an advantage, and while this isn't a prog rock classic in any conventional sense, it's a fulfillment of a family mission on par with that of ALAN STIVELL across the channel, stoked by its ongoing relevance in the decades since.

Review by Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars On this eponymous debut, Clannad present a brace of Irish-Celtic folk music with a few modernisations here and there influenced by the electric folk approach of the likes of Fairport Convention. The more placid, New Agey direction of some of their later work is more or less absent; what you do get in spades, even this early on in their career, is the semse of otherworldly majesty pervading the recording. With just barely enough psychedelic touches here and there to be regarded as mainstream enough for Phillips to release (despite the worries about the commercial viability of an album recorded entirely in Irish), this is an interesting early 1970s electric folk artifact.
Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Back in 1973, when Clannad's first album was released, Irish (Celtic) music hadn't achieved the world wide popularity that it would later. Clannad, the band that was originally made up of members of the same family, would later pave the road for the popularity of the genre. But before the fancy synths and pop music started to infiltrate their sound, they were mostly devoted to traditional Irish music, changing things up a bit to make it more modern, but staying quite faithful to the original, simple sound. When Polydor signed them on to their label, they were quite worried that there were not many English songs on the debut album. It's good to be able to hear what they originally sounded like as the music is devoted to traditional folk sounds much more than some of their later albums would be.

The line up originally consisted of siblings Ciaran Brennan (bass, guitar, piano, vocals), Moya Brennan (lead vocals, harp) and Pol Brennan (flute, bongos, guitar, vocals) along with their twin uncles Noel Duggan (lead guitar and vocals) and Padraig Duggan (guitar, mandola, vocals). The artist Enya (Brennan), who became popular in her own right, got her start with Clannad and was also a family member, but she didn't joing Clannad until 1980 and only stayed until 1982 when she left to be a solo artist. Guests Grainne McMonagle (tin whistle) and John Wadham (drums) also helped out on this album.

"Níl Sé Ina La" begins everything on an upbeat sound with guitars, flutes, bongos and drums with a great bass solo. The Irish flavor is there in the lilting style, but the feeling is quite modern, yet in an acoustic way. Of course, Moya's vocals are there and they are quite expressive, especially backed up by the charming layers of background harmonies and vocals. "Thíos Cois Na Trá Domh" is more traditional sounding. The vocals are tender and peaceful, the harmonies are lovely and the accompaniment is simple acoustic guitar. This track is more like the pastoral sound that Clannad's early music would take. "Brian Boru's March" is accentuated by a slow percussive beat with a harp and guitars moving along in a 6 / 8 meter. Later, the mandola is added. There are no vocals on this lovely track.

"Siobhán Ní Dhuibhir" has a more complex feel to it, but still keeping with the acoustic sound and some drums. The vocals are often laced with harmonics and the melody is also not as simple as the tracks that have come previously. The harp is the main instrument in this track backed up by acoustic guitars and a flute on the instrumental break. There is a soft jazz undertone to the track also to help with the modernization of the song. "An Mhaighdean Mhara" is another traditional song with Moya's solo voice with a slight reverb with no accompaniment. "Liza" was the only track written by members of the band. It features the voice of one of the male members and has a much more modern acoustic sound to it, probably the least traditional sounding of all of the tracks, but still with that folk rock sound to it.

"An tOileán Úr" moves back to the Irish sound again and once again features male vocals. This track uses flute and guitar with a modern drum pattern. "Mrs. McDermott" was written by Irish composer Turlough O'Carolan. It is a simple instrumental Irish melody in this case played by the harp and backed by guitar. "The Pretty Maid" returns to Moya's vocals, this time in English for the first time on this album. Later the band would rely more on English vocals, but always made room for Irish vocals in most of their future albums. This is a simple Irish song with a simple acoustic backing. Male vocals are also present on this track and the singers alternate back and forth. "An Pháirc" returns to Moya's non-English vocals again, later backed by harmonic singing. The instrumental part is simple again with basic acoustic accompaniment and flute between the vocals. The harmonies are lovely and quite up front on this track. "Harvest Home" is a short lilting instrumental.

"Morning Dew" is the cover that has been done by many artists from Robert Plant to Nazareth. Clannad's version is a lovely and mysterious style with a steady acoustic guitar progression and soft bongos. Of course, there are the trademark harmonies that are so unique to Clannad. The song is soft and peaceful, but very folk-rock sounding. These lyrics are sung in English. There is a bonus track on the 1997 and 2002 CD releases called "An Bealach Seo 'Tá Romhainn". This track fits right in with the feeling of the album. It is another Irish track with a basic instrumental background using harp and acoustic guitar.

The lovely traditional folk sound on this album is the sound of Clannad before popularity started to influence their music which would transform their sound to a more soft rock sound, but the Irish undercurrent would always run through their sound, even in the most New Age-ish version of the band. There is no New Age sound in this album, however, it is pure and lovely, mostly acoustic and very traditional with some minor embellishments to make it sound more modern. But, this early in the game, the modern sounds weren't so strong as to ruin the authenticity of the music. This is one of Clannad's best albums and should be heard by those that want to know what the band sounded like when they had complete heart and soul put into their music. If you love the simplest sound of Irish folk music, this is the album for you.

Review by siLLy puPPy
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR PSIKE, JRF/Canterbury, P Metal, Eclectic
4 stars Perhaps more than any artist, CLANNAD has been responsible for keeping Irish traditional forms of music alive on the world's stage as well as keeping the dwindling Irish language from becoming extinct, at least in terms of music. It's amazing that this band that everyone has heard of due to its extraordinary popularity and longevity began 50 years ago in 1970 in the remote northwestern town of Greedore (known as Gaoth Dobhair in Irish). This band has been mostly a family affair since the beginning with its earliest years consisting of siblings Ciarán Brennan, Pól Ó Braonáin and Moya Brennan with their twin uncles Noel and Pádraig Duggan. CLANNAD has been most successful in bridging the gap between traditional Celtic music and pop and was also responsible for launching another Brennen whose name is Enya and would become one of Ireland's most successful crossover acts, but that's later!

It didn't take long after the band's inception that its unique style captured the attention of the public and in no time at all Polydor Records was interested in offering the fledgling band a recording contract after they won the Letterkenny Folk Festival albeit with apprehension of the band's desire to include songs in the Irish language. The label capitulated although the band which started out as Clann as Dobhar which is Irish for "The Family from Dore," was truncated to CLANNAD and the eponymously titled debut album was released in 1973. Unlike some of the more progressive, new age and crossover sounds they would craft on later albums, in the beginning CLANNAD was all about nurturing and keeping alive the pure unadulterated sounds of traditional Irish music with half of the songs performed on this debut completely sung in the Irish language however to appease the record label recorded half of the tracks were in English.

While CLANNAD would eventually write mostly original material, on this self-titled debut they perform a number of traditionals as well as a cover of Bonnie Dobson's "Morning Dew." The instrumentation is set mostly on acoustic mode with acoustic guitar, double bass, flute and harp providing the rhythm section while electric guitar leads and the occasional mandala add some contrasting sounds. The percussion is delivered by the bongos which shows how CLANNAD was straying away from the rigid orthodoxies of Irish music even at this stage. There are other drums sounds as well as a tin whistle but for the most part the focus is on the sensual lead vocals of Máire Brennan and the vocal harmonies of the other four members making this a mesmerizing display of traditional Celtic music with each track capturing a unique spiritual quality of the Irish landscape and traditional folklore.

While CLANNAD wasn't the only Irish folk band offering a modern version of timeless sounds from the Emerald Isle, others included Mellow Candle, Plenty and Tír na nÓg, CLANNAD was successful in winning over the orthodox crowds who favored artists like The Chieftains and Mary O'Hara and in the process nurtured a successful career in the 70s which propelled them into the 80s and beyond as one of Ireland's best exports, however at this stage this band sounded like many others by delivering purely passionate representations of a traditional style of music that had sustained an isolated culture throughout the centuries and one that hits the right notes for an immediate emotional connection. For many who dislike the band's later crossover into new age, this earliest example may offer the proper doses of traditional purity. Honestly you can't go wrong with this kind of beautifully performed Celtic music. It just warms the soul and evokes happy Leprechauns rolling around in green clover fields. Ah.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Heavy Prog & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
5 stars How a young group of unknown musicians form West Ireland (Donegal) got a label, producer, studio, and engineer to record a first album with such clarity and depth I'll never know, but this is one album whose original arrangements of their native musical traditions has been rendered close to perfection. The presence of rock drum kit is the most surprising element in these musical mixes but the nature sound recordings, use of their native spoken Gaelic, and warm depth in the soundscapes are the most delightful elements that defy all expectations. I've read that the band had accumulated a catalog of over 500 songs from their family, regional, and national lore by the time they started performing live in small regional venues (in their school years.) While I love original compositions, I have always appreciated the dedication of the artists of the folk scene to the preservation and (modern) reinterpretation of their musical traditions--and I can think of no band who has done a better job than Clannad at this task (mission).

1. "Níl Sé Ina La" (4:50) drums! Amazing melodies and vocal harmonies--all using the beautiful Gaelic tongue. Both the warmth and the depth captured in the sound engineering is quite remarkable. (9/10)

2. "Thíos Chois Na Trá Domh" (2:55) a more traditional drum-less arrangement renders this one more in the realm of true Celtic folk music. Beautiful lead vocal from Máire. (8.6667/10)

3. "Brian Boru's March" (3:50) a gentle instrumental that has a near-Spanish-Andalusian feel to it. Harp, mandola, guitars, double bass and congas sound perfectly spaced. Wonderful! (8.875/10)

4. "Siobhán Ní Dhuibhir" (4:30) working again with drummer John Wadham (the producer/label's choice?), this one has such great chord play from the harp. (I'd always assumed that Máire had started out on the steel-stringed Celtic harp à la Alan Stivell but, no: she plays a mid-size nylon string harp like Jon Anderson!) Great jazzified vamp in the middle and then great vocal choir arrangements for the b vox singers in the final minute. Once again, something about the recording and mix of this one renders the music into both rock and prog domains. (9.25/10)

5. "An Mhaighdean Mhara" (2:10) an a cappella song sung by Máire that I've heard different versions of (from later in Máire's life) but is here performed with amazing confidence and maturity (despite the fact that she was a mere 21 years old when this album was being recorded. This remarkable precociousness has always struck me about Máire's confident presence--both on stage and in recorded renderings.) (5/5)

6. "Liza (3:05) mixed and performed like a California flower-child pop song: Mama & Papas choral vocal arrangements (with a male in the lead!), busy bass, guitars, congas, and drums. Different! So surprisng to learn that this is the album's only song to have been totally written by the band. (8.6667/10)

7. "An tOileán Úr" (4:03) there is no doubt that this song's harp (the opening instrument) is steel stringed. What a collection of instruments the young band had access to! Again a male vocalist takes the lead on this one as tin whistle and drums add their rock talents. Impressive play from the double bass and what sounds like electrified guitar strumming behind the mandola and acoustic guitar picking. The background vocalists are mixed a bit further in the back than I'd like. Surprising (not "traditional") chord and rhythm patterns. (8.75/10)

8. "Mrs. McDermott" (3:03) beautiful little flute-led instrumental rendition of a nineteenth century Irish tune. (8.75/10)

9. "The Pretty Maid" (2:40) gentle acoustic guitars and bass dancing around one another beneath the angelic vocal performance of Máire (in English!). The second verse is started by a male vocalist before Máire takes over and this pattern is repeated in the third verse (with the addition of ghostly background harpie voices). (9/10)

10. "An Pháirc" (3:00) the band's submission to Eurovision 1973. Starts out with gentle music supporting Máire's floating vocal but then fills out with the whole band singing in harmonic support during the second and successive verses. (8.75/10)

11. "Harvest Home" (1:40) a beautiful little instrumental. (4.75/5)

12. "Morning Dew" (3:45) a gorgeous arrangement and rendering of this popular North American folk song. It is realized as if something from an album by The Pentangle or even Peter, Paul and Mary. Amazing! (9.75/10)

Total Time 38:26

Always a little more circumspect about debut albums from traditional folk artists, I now understand what made Clannad an outlier among calcified Irish patriots: they were definitely open to the influences of developments and innovations occurring in the modern musical world. Thus, the rock settings and constructs of many of this album's songs definitely subjects it to the criticisms of their own native purists. At the same time, this is exactly what offers this album, music, and band to Prog World: brave experimentalism and modern sound manipulation in the recording process.

Whereas the trajectory of the band's 1980s output connotes a leaning toward pacifying "New Age" sounds and textures, their 1970s legacy is more of a band trying to figure out how to make their beloved traditional folk fare popular with the masses.

A minor masterpiece of Prog Folk and, I think, an album of many delights for any true lover of progressive rock music; perhaps not an essential masterpiece to Prog World in general, but a definite landmark in the expansion and development of the scope and practice of Prog Folk music.

Latest members reviews

4 stars Perhaps Clannad's eponymous debut would better be titled Pre-Clannad. It's the only studio product from their fleeting pre-historical era. The band's unique repertoire based on reworked and re-arranged traditional songs sung in Gaelic is already here, but the musicians are just on the way to the ... (read more)

Report this review (#1953872) | Posted by proghaven | Wednesday, August 1, 2018 | Review Permanlink

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