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THE TAIN

Horslips

Prog Folk


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Horslips The Tain album cover
4.16 | 51 ratings | 13 reviews | 35% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
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Studio Album, released in 1973

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Setanta (1:53)
2. Maeve's Court (1:41)
3. Charolais (4:03)
4. The March (part 1) (1:07)
5. The March (part 2) (0:26)
6. You Can't Fool The Beast (3:40)
7. Dearg Doom (3:05)
8. Ferdia's Song (2:43)
9. Gae Bolga (1:23)
10. Cu Chulainn's Lament (3:03)
11. Faster Than The Hound (5:37)
12. The Silver Spear (2:01)
13. More Than You Can Chew (3:15)
14. The Morrigan's Dream (3:25)
15. Time To Kill (5:00)

Total Time: 42:22

Lyrics

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Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians

- Eamon Carr / drums, percussion
- Barry Devlin / bass, vocals
- John Fean / guitar, vocals
- Jim Lockhart / flute, keyboards
- Charles O'Connor / vocal, fiddle, mandolin

Releases information

LP Atco 7039 (1973) / CD Edsel 662 (2000)

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HORSLIPS The Tain ratings distribution


4.16
(51 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(35%)
35%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(50%)
50%
Good, but non-essential (13%)
13%
Collectors/fans only (2%)
2%
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)
0%

HORSLIPS The Tain reviews


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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Folk
3 stars Horslips 's second album is a full blown concept album based on Irish mythology saga. The full name of the legend/saga is Táin Bo Cualigne - (the Cattle of Raid Cooley) and takes place around 500 BC. The story is about a promiscuous queen have a argument with her royal husband about whom was the wealthiest and the deciding factor being a white "charolais" bull. So there is another Bull being rented and and then this animal story goes on.

The music is well entrenched in the Celtic Folklore of Ireland and is originating from the Ulster and Connaught (Connemara) province full of jigs and dances tunes. Nothing too interseting for the average proghead as this is relatively low in prog contents, but stays quite enjoyable as the musical qualities are evident. But you will find no direct pleasers, as one does in their debut.Still worth a spin, though.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#34094) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, February 17, 2005

Review by Tony Fisher
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars By any standards this album is a masterpiece of quality celtic rock. The problem is, it's not really true progressive rock, which is why some of the reviewers have marked it down. Concept albums rarely work, but this does so spectacularly. It tells the ancient legend of a cattle raid in Ulster in prehistoric times, using traditional tunes as the basis of the songs and mixing traditional instruments such as fiddle, pipes and concertina alongside the standard rock format. There is a flow and coherence which is truly marvellous. Even more remarkable is that they repeated the feat with the Book of Invasions a few years later. It is helped by the fact that the band are musicians of the highest order, but their strength is the magic of the songs and tunes which are constructed quite perfectly. There are no fillers and no tracks which fall below the general standard of excellence. The stand out tracks include Dearg Doom, with its phenomenenal riff which makes it a disco hit 30 years later, Faster Than the Hound and Charolais. Comparisons have been made with Jethro Tull, largely due to the extensive use of the flute, but Jim Lockhart plays it even better than Ian Anderson, good though he is. I would give this 6 stars if I could; of my 800 albums, this is one of my 3 or 4 favourites. If you only buy one album this year, make it this one.

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Send comments to Tony Fisher (BETA) | Report this review (#34095) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, March 21, 2005

Review by obiter
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars It is almost impossible to provide an objective review of one of the theme tunes of my childhood. This accompanied Thomas Kinsella and Louis le Brocquy's (I'm sure I misspelled that) fabulous transaltion& brush drawings of the The Tain (which was compulsory study at school).

The traditional March of the O'Neills is transformed into Daerg Doom. THis remains an odd album. It's folk, but it's hardly Planxty or The Bothy Band (my personal favourite), but it approaches the greatest ancient cultural theme in Ulster: the great cattle raid. It is a major part of the Red Branch Cycle and directly confronts the part of Setanta/Cu Hullain the Hound of Ulster, the greatest folk hero of the north of Ireland: his death and his killing of his best friend Ferdia, who confronts him and realizes he must die in the struggle: speared by the Gae Bolga (only used by Cuchullain before to kill his own son).

Within the context of irish mythology (which still permeates modern life) this album is a 15 star. If you're from ulster then it is almost impossible to be objective; so I won't try. I have no idea how anyone else would view this album. This and the Leabhar geabala nah eireann were an integral part of my and my friends childhood. the music has been eloquently described by Dona Gill: I cannot add to it.

To misquote the Exorcist : "The power of my heritage compels me" 5 stars

obiter dicta .....

An té nach mbíonn láidir ní folláir dó bheith glic

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Send comments to obiter (BETA) | Report this review (#95876) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, October 26, 2006

Review by ClemofNazareth
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Folk Researcher
4 stars This is probably the more well-known musical version of the Táin Bó Cúailnge story, but only if you are among those who have heard of Horslips and remember their brief run of popularity in the seventies.

The band would become much more mainstream after this, and by the time they disbanded they actually managed some FM radio airplay with tunes like “The Man Who Built America” and “Rescue Me”, which was probably their most well-known song outside of Western Europe.

This collection of songs does a pretty good job of delivering an abridged version of the basic story of the Táin, and even manages to include some glimpses of side themes such as the messenger’s view of the main battle in “Faster than the Hound”, and the sort of landscape view in “Maeve's Court”.

While the album kicks off with some tasty and almost psychedelic guitar licks and rock beat on the instrumental “Setanta”, the album very quickly morphs into very traditional-sounding Irish folk, heavy with fiddle, flute and mandolin. By the time “Charolias” rolls around the heavy brogue in the harmonizing vocals, slightly martial drums, and intense but simple guitar accenting the flute, this is starting to sound an awful lot like the first few Jethro Tull albums. That said, “You Can’t Fool the Beast” could easily be mistaken for a Tull b-side to someone with only a passing Tull familiarity. But the difference here is that this is a group effort, not a showcase for the main minstrel like Tull tended to be. Jim Lockhart’s organ work also gives this a more folk-tale feel, while the cowbell and other percussion keep it sounding earthy and unpolished (which in this case is a good thing).

Several of the later tracks are full-on Celtic folk, including “Cu Chulainn's Lament”, “Faster than The Hound”, and “The Silver Spear” with its decidedly Irish fiddle jig and upbeat tempo. The track that probably could have made for a decent single is “More Than You Can Chew” with its female backing vocals, straightforward guitar, and danceable tempo.

The album winds to a close with another jig (“Time to Kill”) and the anticlimactic finish to the tale. This is a lament, but you wouldn’t know it by the rollicking beat and lively beat. A great finish to a great album.

This is a more detailed view of the Táin than other works would manage, and it’s definitely a more authentic telling considering the heavy Irish folk credentials of the musicians. Not the best thing Horslips ever did (their next album probably gets that honor), but a faithful retelling of a prominent folk tale done with style, skill, and reverence. Easily a four start effort.

peace

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Send comments to ClemofNazareth (BETA) | Report this review (#127620) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, July 05, 2007

Review by LinusW
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Italian Prog Specialist
3 stars For all those who have a soft spot for Irish/Celtic music, be it more traditional folk or the rich so called 'pub music' that at least many in Sweden have taken to their hearts, this album is a pleasant surprise.

As with many of the colleagues in the Prog Folk genre (e.g. Strawbs and Jethro Tull) the folk side of the band is very apparent, but in no way overshadowing the other aspects of the sound. There's quite a lot of classic rock tendencies flying around on The Taín, adding edge and substance to the otherwise quite fragile, delicate folk melodies. Abundant use of electric guitar is perhaps an exaggeration, but it has a strong presence with its bluesy roots, in both textural work and solos. The fact that some of the songs actually have the keenness and flair reminding of the Who (vocally and instrumentally) is evidence enough for this.

Based around a saga from Irish mythology, it's only fitting with the mystique and anticipation built up by the first two tracks, acting as an emotional, mood-setting interlude for what's to follow. The spacey synth intro of Setanta builds in power with shrill guitar and powerful drumming, right into the chaotic ending and the smooth, surprising transition to Maeve's Court. It is of course nothing but speculation, but the first track works like an excellent 'time machine', transporting the mind back to mystic times. Whether this is planned or not really isn't important. It works with great effect, and THAT counts. Maeve's Court is a wonderful display of all the traditional sounds of Ireland: fiddle, flute, fife and mandolin. Mellow and welcoming, it leads into the real start of the album with another soft transition together with electric instruments into the very Jethro Tull-like Charolias.

Other than the addition of traditional Irish sounds, structures and instruments, The Taín isn't a very complex album. Most of the tracks actually have steadfast rhythms and sing-a-long, catchy melodies with powerful refrains, making your foot tap in an instant. There are no flashy keys solos or breath-taking melodies. Instead an incredible richness is built with simple means. A little organ run here, another there, enter mini-solo from guitar and a flute. Repeat with slight variation. This kind of concept shouldn't be dismissed, as it really works out in the end. For someone weary about 'proggier' folk bands, look this way, as this is great place to start.

The Taín is a collection of shorter songs of mostly three categories: the heavily Irish-infused preludes and interludes, up-tempo rocking tunes (folk-drenched or not folk-drenched) and the softer, often acoustic efforts that are very close to the sweet, neatly composed Strawbs songs of the same ilk. It is a forgiving album, eager to both please and stimulate, and as such appealing to a wide audience. It starts very strongly, with lots of character, but sadly wanes towards the ending. The second half is just a lot more anonymous, even though it's not lacking in quality. Of course this isn't as stimulating for everybody; it's not Thick As A Brick so to speak. But it's a funny, feisty album that is uplifting in many ways and fans of the Jethro Tull and Strawbs discographies should most certainly be pleased.

Recommended, if not with a gold star.

3 strong stars. This isn't essential, but if you are like me and really like stuff like this: throw on a 4th star!

//LinusW

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Send comments to LinusW (BETA) | Report this review (#175123) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Review by Queen By-Tor
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars You'd better run, run, run

Prog folk is a genre which is hard to dig into if you don't know where to start. The entire subgenre is basically overwhelmed by a few artists like Jethro Tull and The Strawbs, leaving little room (on this site, anyways) for other artists to really be noticed unless they're recommended to you. Luckily this album was recommended to me by a reliable source and I found it one day sitting in my favorite used record store. Not knowing what this album would sound like, but remembering the name and the cover (although admittedly, I always used to get the names of the album title and the band name mixed up) I bought the album. Good thing too, because this is an album well worth your time and money. If you fancy yourself interested in the subgenre of prog-folk then this album is just about perfect, Celtic themes dominated by folk melodies and a mean flute drive the music which has excellently haunting vocals and even a touch of humor here and there. The songs are mostly short, with only a few even reaching the 5-minute mark, but this is one of those albums where a string of songs work together to build upon a larger idea and the songs segue perfectly into one another so that it seems to just flow all the way through.

While the short tracks are quite good, there's a lot going on in the longer tracks with a rock feel. Of course, when saying longer we're talking between 3 and 4 minutes, but these songs are anything but average pop tunes. What's great is that the songs appeal to the conventional song-writing style just enough to be catchy and memorable, while staying on the outskirts of rock just enough to really turn on a prog head. You Can't Fool The Beast with it's notable chorus and impressive string section is a perfect example of this, not to mention that it features some prominent and well placed rhythm sections in all the right places. The opening Charolais is just about as close as you can come to a perfectly structured and concise prog-folk tune, its harmonized vocals at the lulling chorus is simply great. More folk melodies abound with Dearg Doom make a rather silly song a very fun piece with the echoing guitar section during the chorus and the perfectly placed fiddle section nearing the end of the song laying the final punches.

The more folk sections of the album are also impressive. Instrumental sections in later songs such as Cu Chulainn's Lament are a perfect match for the feel of the album, a kind of dark pastoral tale that's light at heart. The end of the album lays off on some of the more heavy elements that were present in the first half, but is no less impressive, with the upbeat More Than You Can Chew with its quirky vocal lines and the mid-paced Time To Kill! making for a satisfying end to the journey. Faster Than The Hound is the longest and slowest pace of all the songs on the album, and this is where the pastoral feeling sets in the most, but coming after some of the more chaotic sections it feels appropriate.

Many of the songs on the album are what could be called ''filler'', but they all work in context. ''Filler'' is a really bad term for the songs, as they're mostly connecting pieces that happen to be usually under 2-minutes in length that connect the major sections of the album with their own charms and quirks. The cataclysmic clashings of Gae Bolga, for instance, makes for a perfect fit where it stands on the album. The Silver Spear is likely the most impressive of these songs as a quick and dirty instrumental with the fiddle at the lead and the flute coming in to lead the charge for the last 30-seconds, but the percussions of The March also make for a satisfying tune.

For people who love the styling of the giants of this genre such as the formerly mentioned Strawbs or Jethro Tull, this stands as an album in a good middle ground between the styling of the two. You have heaviness used sparingly mixed with a heavy pastoral feel and Celtic grooves, an excellent album for anyone who considers themselves a fan of the folkier and highly melodic side of things, this one is going to get 5 silver spears out of 5 for a greatly enjoyable romp through prog folk that doesn't have Ian Anderson or Dave Cousins attached to it. A pure masterpiece deserving of your time.

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Send comments to Queen By-Tor (BETA) | Report this review (#187763) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, November 03, 2008

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Symphonic Team
4 stars Wow! This album is great! At the time when I found this, I had not found any new (to me) great music in quite a while. Surprisingly, I got two excellent albums in my mailbox on the same day, this one and Carmen's Fandangos In Space. Both brilliant albums!

This is true Prog Folk with strong emphasis on both the prog and the folk, and it rocks too! Many compare this to Jethro Tull, and I have to agree that if you like Jethro Tull the chances you will like this as well are large. But, this is not a Jethro Tull clone by any means, this is totally unique. Jethro Tull were never as folky as this and, of course, never as Irish as this! But Horslips are folky without sacrificing the rock, as so many other Prog Folk bands (like Trees and Pentangle that I find too lightweight for my tastes).

This album consists of a complete piece of music, flowing perfectly from beginning till end and visiting many different places along the way. Very coherent and constantly interesting.

The instruments include flute, fiddle, mandolin, electric guitar and more. All the instruments are all well played. The vocals are good too, but I would say that they are the weakest point of the album. Sometimes the singer just doesn't feel entirely convincing somehow.

Excellent addition to any prog music collection. I can't wait to hear more from this band!

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Send comments to SouthSideoftheSky (BETA) | Report this review (#192012) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, December 06, 2008

Review by kenethlevine
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog-Folk Team
4 stars Any who doubt that Horslips played a significant role in the development of celtic rock needs to hear "The Tain". While English alchemists had existed for more than half a decade, and over in Breton there were also a few earlier innovators, Horslips succeeded in igniting traditional Irish music with the hard rock and progressive rock of its time. The integration of contemporary sounds with jigs and reels was utterly convincing, because neither style and genre overshadowed the other. Whereas many such efforts forcefully attempt to drive the message home, "The Tain" achieves the desired result in a remarkably understated yet uninhibited fashion.

This is an album that is meant to be heard as a unit, as brief instrumental flourishes are skillfully integrated with songs of varied pedigree. "Charolais", "You Can't Fool the Beast", the evergreen classic "Dearg Doom" and "More than You Can Chew" (featuring a killer lead riff), and "Time to Kill" all blend sensibilities across centuries. The production is appropriately muddy, almost like it was recorded in one take in the original settings. Whether this was intended or simply a lucky break provided by the average 1974 production techniques, I cannot be sure. Lead and acoustic guitars, organs, fiddles, lively percussion and unison vocals take hold and cast their spell as one.

Worthwhile comparisons to JETHRO TULL notwithstanding, and remembering that this would include Tull efforts not yet conceived, "The Tain" is a singular classic that put Horslips on the map, and paved the way for MOVING HEARTS, RUNRIG, POGUES and so many more. That may not be the creme of progressive company, but as prog folk goes, the story and album are legendary.

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Send comments to kenethlevine (BETA) | Report this review (#194182) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Review by seventhsojourn
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR RPI
4 stars Irish five-piece band Horslips is one of the leading lights of Celtic rock with its fusion of original songs and traditional tunes. The band's second album, The Tain, was originally conceived as background music for a stage adaptation of Tain Bo Cuailgne (The Cattle Raid of Cooley). The Tain is central to a group of texts that make up the Ulster Cycle of legendary tales from early Irish literature. The story deals with the struggle between the armies of Connaught and Ulster for the possession of a prize bull. The album consists of fourteen fairly short tracks featuring an impressive array of traditional and electric instruments.

The album gets under way with the atmospheric Setanta. Setanta is the birth-name of the tale's hero, Cu Chulainn, who ultimately defeats his friend and foster-brother Ferdia in single combat. This opening instrumental piece comprises eerie sound effects and a guitar riff that are leitmotifs for the characters Setanta and Ferdia respectively. Maeve's Court is a more traditional type of instrumental featuring concertina, flute, acoustic guitar and bodhran. Maeve is the Connaught queen who wants the Ulster prize bull in order to outdo her husband. This is a very pleasant track and conjures up the image of the Connaught court wonderfully.

Track 3, Charolias, concerns the bull at the centre of the story. This is another fine track with fluttering flute and electric guitar duelling over melodic bass and solid drums. Vocals and organ then join in to produce that very characteristic Horslips sound. This leads in to The March, which pretty much does what it says on the tin. It's an instrumental in two parts and represents the march of the Connaught army to Cooley. The first part features snare-drum, flute, tin whistle and electric guitar; the rhythm changes in the second part with organ featured prominently.

You Can't Fool The Beast is a pleasant flute-led soft rock track with electric guitar and fiddle solos. It's a catchy song with sing-along chorus, not much else to say about it. The story continues with a supernatural figure warning Maeve of her army's forthcoming defeat at the hands of Dearg Doom (Cu Chulainn). This song is an in yer face rocker based on a traditional march. It features Jim Lockhart playing a solo on uillean pipes, and there's a short banjo and fiddle jig toward the end.

Ferdia's Song opens with the guitar riff leitmotif. This is a mid-tempo ballad featuring tin whistle and organ, along with superb fiddle and electric guitar interplay. The Ferdia motif lingers for the start of another instrumental, Gae Bolga, but is quickly overwhelmed by the Setanta motif. This track closes side one of the vinyl album and represents Ferdia's defeat at the hands of Setanta (Cu Chulainn). After three days of single combat, Cu Chulainn kills his close friend with his supernatural spear, Gae Bolga.

Side two and Cu Chulainn's Lament begins sparsely with voice and flute as the hero mourns his fallen friend. Fiddle and guitar join in, followed by flute and organ. Consumed with sadness Cu Chulainn resolves to give up the fight. Maeve's messenger carries news of the events in Faster Than The Hounds, as her army retires with the stolen bull. This song is nicely laid-back with jazz-toned organ, a fine John Fearn guitar solo and even a little jaws harp.

The Silver Spear concerns the Ulstermen arming themselves for the forthcoming chase. This track starts with acoustic guitar, drums, fiddle and piano playing a steady dance beat, before accordion, banjo and fiddle lead in to a jig typical of Newcastle band Lindisfarne. Track 12, More Than You Can Chew, is a rocker featuring uillean pipe and guitar solos. This song acts as both a rallying call for the men of Ulster, now with Cu Chulainn back at their head, and a warning to Maeve's army.

The Morrigan's Dream sees this supernatural figure, associated with war and death on the battlefield, foretelling Cu Chulainn of the outcome of the final battle. The track starts with snare-drum and bodhran, then acoustic guitar and fiddle enter. Some lovely organ embellishments provide a short interlude. The main tune then repeats with banjo and fiddle flourishes. This is based on a traditional dance tune, but it has a lovely Baroque feel to it. Quite exquisite. The Connaught army is overwhelmingly defeated in Time To Kill. This is a guitar rocker based on a jig, and there's also some Charles O'Connor mandolin and fiddle in here.

Although this is not the most complex of albums, the musicians are all highly accomplished and the variety of instrumentation adds interest and colour to the recording. The concept works well due to the story being grounded in Irish mythology and represented through traditional instruments and melodies. For that reason Horslips has always been an innovative and highly influential band. I personally do not go along with the Jethro Tull comparisons as Horslips' Irish roots give the band a very distinctive sound. I reckon The Tain is an excellent album, worthy of 4 stars.

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Send comments to seventhsojourn (BETA) | Report this review (#259664) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Latest members reviews

4 stars "The Tain" is Horslips second release and it's an Irish Rock Classic with an intruiging concept. Much like the band's first album, it is quite a package with plenty of traditional Irish airs intermingled throughout all the tracks. Back in 1973, Horslips breathed life into Irish music making it ... (read more)

Report this review (#483319) | Posted by Frankie Flowers | Saturday, July 16, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars As a 16 year old I don't like much old prog music but my dad played this in the car so often, I have really got into it. They are fabulous musicians and the songs are so memorable. You often feel you want to get up and dance, especially to Dearg Doom, Time to Kill and The Silver Spear but othe ... (read more)

Report this review (#34097) | Posted by | Tuesday, May 31, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Perfect balance between Celtic Music 70's rock. Fans of Fairport Convention and Jethro Tull will be delighted. A couple of tracks make you think in David Bowie. Not 100% prog, but it sounds good, doesn't it? ... (read more)

Report this review (#34096) | Posted by | Thursday, May 12, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars the tain is horslips masterpiece. this perfectly takes the irish trad/prog folk sound of their first album 'happy to meet,sorry to part' and adds just a little bit more of a rock edge. this is a concept album based around the great irsh myth of the tain bo cualligne (the cattle raid of cool ... (read more)

Report this review (#34093) | Posted by Dearg_Doom | Saturday, February 05, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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