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IONA

Prog Folk • United Kingdom


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Iona biography
IONA is a progressive Celtic rock group hailing from the UK. They've been making music since 1989. The group is comprised of five extremely talented musicians: the gentle and passionate vocals of Joanne Hogg, the masterful guitar work and production skills of Dave Bainbridge, Phil Barker's solid bass playing, Frank Van Essen's steady and exciting drum work, and Troy Donockley's interesting and colorful use of traditional Celtic instruments. There's simply no denying that these five are among the most skillful musicians in Christian music, if not the entire music business. For an interesting and fresh take on symphonic and folk rock, it would be hard to find a better band. For fans of: CLANNAD, GENESIS, YES, ENYA

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THE SKIDS IONA / BLOOD & SOIL RARE PUNK 7" PIC SLEEVE 1981 EXC USD $14.83 Buy It Now 7 days
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IONA shows & tickets


  • Caves + Iona + Pale Angels + more at Exeter Cavern, Exeter on 2 Apr 2015
  • Deadpunk Special on 9 May 2015
  • Pint Size Company + IONA @ Stadhalle, Kelkheim on 16 May 2015

IONA discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

IONA top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.83 | 28 ratings
Iona
1990
3.78 | 63 ratings
The Book of Kells
1992
3.69 | 43 ratings
Beyond These Shores
1993
3.71 | 51 ratings
Journey Into the Morn
1995
4.05 | 75 ratings
Open Sky
2000
3.70 | 41 ratings
The Circling Hour
2006
3.55 | 58 ratings
Another Realm
2011

IONA Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.30 | 17 ratings
Heaven's Bright Sun
1997
3.71 | 20 ratings
Woven Cord
1999
4.33 | 9 ratings
Live In London
2008
4.00 | 2 ratings
Edge of the World / Live in Europe
2014

IONA Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

4.42 | 11 ratings
The River Flows : Anthology, Vol. 1
2002
4.60 | 18 ratings
Live in London
2006
2.17 | 5 ratings
Iona
2006

IONA Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.73 | 17 ratings
Treasures: The Very Best
1996

IONA Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

IONA Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 The Book of Kells  by IONA album cover Studio Album, 1992
3.78 | 63 ratings

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The Book of Kells
Iona Prog Folk

Review by BrufordFreak

5 stars is Celtic prog Folk (and Christian) artist IONA's breakout album though it is their second release. The distinguished crystalline voice of Joanne Hogg is on full display for all to hear, thanks to the fairly sparse instrument arrangements--especially in prolonged intros and outros. The other half of the band's core, Dave Bainbridge is also present on keys and guitars. This band seems to always be comprised of members who are all virtuosos on their respective instruments and this album is no exception. What changes in the future, however, is that bass/Chapman stick player Nick Beggs (KAJAGOOGOO), percussionist Teri Bryant and reeds player David Fitzgerald move out to make room for future mainstays Phil Barker (bass), Frank Van Essen (drums, percussion, & violins), and Ullilean pipe and whistle virtuoso and future star in his own right, Troy Donockley-- who happens to make his debut as a guest musician here. Though the synth washes are full and rich throughout and the percussion/rhythm team is at full power, The Book of Kells is a much more sparsely instrumented album than Iona's successive releases, but there are always plenty of gorgeous and glorious instrumental sections throughout all Iona albums. Also, as might be surmised from the album's title, which is is taken from the famous illustrated Christian texts of the New Testament that was created around 800 AD and then preserved in Ireland's Abbey of Kells, this is a concept album. What results from this mix of personnel is an album with such seamlessness, such depth and complexity of textures, as to astound even me who had already been a tried and true Iona fan for several years before going back into their early catalogue to discover this one. I didn't think that any Iona album could be better than Open Sky but the amazingly intense whole-goup focus on this concept album may have done it. What's more, this music and presentation is to my ears a prime example of all that is essential and at the core of prog: great story, great instrumental performances, great songwriting drawing from many traditions, great album art, all gelled into a powerful display of great human emotion. "Matthew - The Man" (11:53) (10/10) may be the best prog epic of the year but, heck! The whole album is like one continuous prog epic! Amazing! Beautiful! Another piece of man-made art that makes me proud to be human.

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 The Circling Hour by IONA album cover Studio Album, 2006
3.70 | 41 ratings

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The Circling Hour
Iona Prog Folk

Review by brainsuccasurgery

5 stars Iona albums offer alternate very strong pieces, full of fervor and passages soothed, comfortable and moving songs with folk arrangements "mainstream", interspersed with floats "new age". A slope that might not be the most popular with fans of hardcore prog. If Open Sky (2000) had two or three more titles like this, too smooth, it is no longer the case here. And if The Circling Hour is in the tradition of its predecessors (no stylistic revolution), it is also much more lively, more raw, more dense, free of any incentive to sleep or sentimentality. it prefers the more ambitious side of the group like the song "Empyrean Dawn," which recalls the most hectic times of the first Waterboys. Even the more accessible songs, those that can sing in the shower, have something to bite them moving away from the simple refrain. Martial battery, like a heart beat and pulse shaking. "Strength" is well in his time, without kowtowing to the supposed credibility infuriating rock. A line of low aerodynamic, which darkens gently, is melodic, took singing without losing its dark resonance , "Wind off the Lake" is a kind of helping hand to the music of U2, a symbol of timeless modernity . With "Sky Maps," as explosive signed Troy Donockley we speak well of bravura set pieces if there were none at all over the record, marching without downtime. It is not bravery, it's temerity. In fact, the most "big" piece is called "Wind, Water and Fire," and listening, a real pandemonium of rhapsodic fantasies comes at your fingertips. I just desire to describe these synth sounds, both short and wide as muffled; describe the contact fingers Dave Bainbridge on guitar strings, neither stroke nor caress, a touch, an outcrop that seems to come from so far away, when he embraces the guitar body; describe the vehemence deployed to love God, so close to universal human thoughts; describe this force and what force! In his own hesitations, repetitions. In this profound and incomprehensible song that raises this desire, this desire to go to God. Uncover the mystery. "Wind, Water and Fire" is the kind of music to cross border some mysterious deep in ourselves to sneak through a door that leads to the most secret chambers of the heart to fill to the brim with her radiant presence. This record makes them happy but not smug, plunges us into our own euphoria. Let's be clear: this is the end of the great musical depression, the death of compulsive shopping too quickly regretted listening to the first CD. As in the music of Iona in the lower notes, the most rhythms in melodies, songs that seem to climb towards freedom, we perceive a given time frame love and the space life. A poignant love as it does not deny the link that weaves the love of God and that God attaches to the point of not talking about nothing else. Musically, The Circling Hour has enough assets to touch you, resonate with you forever, even if you are not particularly sensitive to the mystery of the Holy Spirit. And if there has only two kinds of music, as claimed many musicians, this bright new album is part of the student who unleashed souls and feet when we play and when we listen.

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 The Book of Kells  by IONA album cover Studio Album, 1992
3.78 | 63 ratings

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The Book of Kells
Iona Prog Folk

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Neo Prog Team

3 stars By the summer of 1990 Nick Beggs had joined Iona as a permanent bassist and a few days later Dutch drummer Frank Van Essen took his place behind the drum kit.In early 91' the band started working on two different projects.One of them was dressing with music and lyrics the 8th century illuminated manuscript ''The book of Kells''.With Van Essen based on The Netherlands things did not work the right way and, although he joined the group on several stage performances, a more proper solution had to be found.This was Terl Bryant, who had also played with Iona as a guest musician.By the dawn of 92' the album had been recorded with Troy Donockley on pipes and whistles, Fiona Davidson on celtic harp, Frank Van Essen on percussion and The Peter Whitfield Strings ensemble as guest appearances, and it was eventually released in July 92' on What Records.

Iona had become masters on producing ethereal, Celtic-influenced music with Rock tendencies and ''The book of Kells'' shows a band on the rise, creating monumental, ancient soundscapes, flashed with modern tunes and echoes via the use of electric guitars and the rhythm section.Crossing the territories of MIKE OLDFIELD and KATE BUSH was more than expected, as the music is performed with plenty of cinematic keyboards in the background, series of acoustic parts and an angelic voice like the one of Joanne Hogg, which is pretty similar to the crystalline chords of ENYA with bits of MAGENTA's CHRISTINA BOOTH.The smooth performances on guitar, bass and drums are accompanied by a mass of instruments like sax, bagpipes, whistles, flutes and percussions, the result is an album full of Ethnic images and Folk tastes, executed under a contemporary sound.Extremely atmospheric material, lacking some sort of energy, but containing a great lyricism and some beautiful, dreamy melodies.Moving a bit further, Iona appear to have adapted some influences from the twisting Neo Prog sound of MARILLION circa-''Holidays in Eden'' and later ''Brave'', music with an electroacoustic sound, some poppy sensibilities, clean and expressive voices and use of cinematic synthesizers.Actually if ''Brave'' was a Celtic-influenced album, I could see it sounding a lot like ''The book of Kells''.

Calm, ethereal and gentle Celtic/Folk-based Prog/Art Rock with a fantastic female singer.Great listening late at night, highlighted by the combination of light electric tunes and traditional, mostly acoustic instruments.Recommended.

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 Live in London by IONA album cover DVD/Video, 2006
4.60 | 18 ratings

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Live in London
Iona Prog Folk

Review by Anon-E-Mouse

5 stars Completely blown away by this DVD! To date I have not heard any of IONA's albums. This DVD was given to me as a present a while ago, but reading up on the band's Christian, Folk, Celtic leanings, I've put it away, wrapper intact to be perhaps disposed off at some stage.Big mistake!

Well, I am a Christian by nature, but not through religion and Folk is not really my preference, whilst feeling somewhat saturated with Celtic offerings. A recent less than favourable review of one of IONA's albums reminded me of this gift and I gave it a spin, expecting of letting it go afterwards.

Somewhat of a veteran of the Prog scene, I am now rather hard to please with new offerings these days. This performance has become a rare exception. It only took the first few notes for me to realize that I was in for an experience. A powerful opening reminiscent of better moments of Genesis is followed by a mix of pastoral approaches speckled with breathtaking shredding in a truly complimentary way. Just how do you mix Fire and Water? These people can do it.

Exceptional talent is on display here and the skillful blending of traditional instruments with powerful Prog deserves accolades, nothing like cliched, folksy, annoying stuff. And the best part is that it's all performed live.

There are some moments of a bit of lull here and there, but the overall performance deserves the highest rating. Recommended!

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 Iona by IONA album cover DVD/Video, 2006
2.17 | 5 ratings

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Iona
Iona Prog Folk

Review by The Bearded Bard
Special Collaborator Errors & Omissions Team

2 stars A Bearded View On Progressive Rock #2

Iona are a Christian folk rock band, I get that, but it should be possible for them to talk about their music, as well as their beliefs, shouldn't it?

OK, for the members of this band their music and faith might be so closely connected they consider the music they make an extention of their personal beliefs, but I don't think I'm asking for too much here, am I?

My expectations going into this may not have been the best, I see that now. Prior to picking up this DVD in a used CD/DVD shop in downtown Oslo some 7-8 months ago, and seeing it for the first time, I had very little experience with the music of this band. And 7-8 months later I still have very little experience with their music. Other than the tracks on this DVD, I've heard a couple of tunes from their "The Book of Kells" album, but that's it.

I thought, however, that this DVD would be a good starting point for further exploration of the band's music, and a nice way to get some background information on them at the same time. How wrong was I? Well, I got some background information, but I already knew they were a Christian band. What about the music itself? What were their thoughts about that? Apart from a little about the story behind their song "Flight of the Wild Goose", and that they want their listeners to become curious about Christianity when hearing their music, there's no answers to those questions to be found here, sadly.

On the back of this DVD it says, "Filmed in 1990..., this unique documentary shows the band in its very earliest days, soon after the release of their first self-tiled album, in conversation and rehearsing ideas for their follow up album 'The Book of Kells'." This DVD does indeed show the band in its earliest days, and there's a good amount of conversation on it, but not much about the music. Mostly, or should I say, almost exclusively, the conversation concentrates around the individual band members' personal faith.

Although I'm not religious, I see myself as a pretty open minded guy (not necessarily opposites, I know, he-he). However, the amount of conversation about each band member's personal beliefs displayed in this short (30 min.) documentary leads me to question the band's motives for making, not only this documentary, but also music in the first place. Is it simply to convert people to Christianity? OK, a bit harsh perhaps. As I've said, I'm not very familiar with this band, so I may have got the wrong impression, but when hearing what they have to say in these interviews it sounds to me that the members of Iona are Christians first, musicians second.

Between the conversations with religious topic there are, however, some interesting features, though they're few and far between. The film starts by showing the band out walking on windy Iona, the small island in the Inner Hebrides from which the band has taken its name, with the band's music playing in the background.

The island's raw, untouched nature of fields and rocks, and captivating surroundings of sky and a seemingly endless ocean, could've set the tone for an interesting half an hour of nature footage and music in perfect harmony. Due to the footage's poor 80's quality however, and that someone thought it was a good idea to edit the sky and ocean's appearance, changing their colours from their natural blue and white to a purplish/pinkish red, and thereby creating a cheap and out of place psychedelic effect, it fails to do so.

From there we go to the band in concert at an unspecified location (again with poor 80's quality footage), and then back to the island for some more walking on Iona's rocky shores and subsequent interview with the band's singer and keyboardist, Joanne Hogg. She talks a little about a certain St. Columba, of how he came from Ireland to Iona, how he founded a monestary there, and how his story was an inspiration for her as a Christian. Later on, saxophonist/flutist David Fitzgerald elaborates on the story of Columba and his arrival at Iona. These are the highlights of the interviews as far as I'm concerned.

The rest of the interviews I feel you have to be a Christian to enjoy. It's all talk of personal beliefs, at almost annoying length, and next to nothing about the band's music or history. The drummer, Van Essen, in a short clip from a band rehearsal, talking about how he joined the band, and a little about how they work on new music together, is the sole exception.

Throughout the documentary we go back and forth between interviews on the island of Iona and seeing/hearing the band in concert, and sometimes the two segments are mixed together. This gives the documentary a good flow, which is one of its few redeeming qualities.

The songs/pieces on this DVD are all taken from Iona's self-titled debut album. The music overall is nice enough, but there isn't very much Celtic folk to be heard here, and certainly not progressive folk. Iona may have developed a more Celtic folk feel to their music later on in their career, but here they sound more like a new agey happy-Christian band, like a cross between Enya and The Kelly Family, than a Celtic folk band. Fitzgerald's sax, often resembling the sound of the sax in Dire Straits' "Your Latest Trick", is very much in focus, and you could almost say it goes perfectly hand in hand with the 80's quality of the video footage.

Watching this film hasn't put me off wanting to investigate Iona's music further, 'cause I think the few tracks I've heard off the "The Book of Kells" album showed the band could do much better than what's on offer here. That said, I'm not in any great haste to continue the exploration.

I do not recommend this DVD as a starting point for exploring Iona's music, but I'm pretty sure fans will find it interesting. It wouldn't hurt being a Christian when trying get something of value out of seeing this DVD though, 'cause it's as much a film where the main objective seems to be promoting Christianity as it is a music documentary.

2 stars.

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 The Book of Kells  by IONA album cover Studio Album, 1992
3.78 | 63 ratings

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The Book of Kells
Iona Prog Folk

Review by Second Life Syndrome
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Ethereal. Breath-taking. Soaring. These are three words that help describe Iona's "The Book of Kells". This prog folk band outdid themselves with this stunning tribute to Celtic history and the Bible.

This album contains a variety of songs that range from instrumental movements to folksy ballads that feature incredible female vox. The range of variety here is really great, and you never will feel bored as you join this spiritual journey.

I have to admit my interest was perked for this album because of my love for "The Secret of Kells", the best animated movie I've ever seen. This album digs into some of the same musically territory as we experience a true sense of spirituality through the emotive vocals and the wildly appropriate instrumentals for each of the Gospel authors. "Mark (the Lion)", for instance, is very regal and stout---rightfully so. This band knows how to compose for certain themes, and I immensely enjoyed this album.

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 Another Realm by IONA album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.55 | 58 ratings

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Another Realm
Iona Prog Folk

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

4 stars This is the latest album from Iona, coming out in 2011 and comes in a wonderful double CD digipak. Like their music, the artwork is immediately evocative and takes the observer to a different time and place. For those who are unaware, the band name is taken from a small island in the Inner Hebrides off the western coast of Scotland. It was a centre of Irish monasticism for four centuries and is today renowned for its tranquility and natural beauty. Although I have never visited the island itself, it is an area that I know fairly well as my grandfather was District Officer Coastguard for the Western Isles, and my father was brought up in (and has now retired to) a tiny village next to the Mull of Kintyre, called Southend. St Columba (one of the twelve apostles of Ireland) first landed at Southend (where his footsteps can still be seen) before moving to Iona and whenever I listen to their music I find myself transported to a land where the weather and scenery are rugged, the people incredibly friendly, and while life is hard there is a real feeling of mysticism and a closeness to religion. This is also very true of the very Christian nature of the band's songs, yet even if you view yourself as a non-believer this is never in your face enough to cause offence.

Thanks to their musical style, combined with Joanne Hogg's vocals, these guys will always find themselves compared to Enya and Kate Bush but in many ways that is unfair as they don't really sound like the latter and there is way more complexity and layers than the former. The current line-up is Joanne Hogg (vocals, vocal loops, piano, keyboard, beer shaker), Dave Bainbridge (electric & acoustic guitars, bouzouki, piano, keyboards, autoharp, beer shakers), Frank van Essen (drums, percussion, violins, violas, electric violin, vocal, glockenspiel, keyboard), Phil Barker (bass guitar, electric upright bass) and Martin Nolan (uilleann pipes, low whistles, tin whistles, vocals). Together they produce music that is timeless, folk and prog coming together to wrap around the listener and create a world that in many ways is far away from the present day.

If ever there was music that should only be played on headphones this is it, as to get the full benefit one needs to play this without distraction, preferably at night with a glass of Springbank Malt in hand, just sitting looking at the stars and drift away into their world.

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 Treasures: The Very Best  by IONA album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1996
3.73 | 17 ratings

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Treasures: The Very Best
Iona Prog Folk

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

4 stars Iona have to be one of the UK's best kept secrets. Over the years they have continued to produce albums of outstanding quality yet somehow have never managed to gain the recognition they so richly deserve. While praise and riches have been lavished on Celtic artists such as Enya, for some reason it has never been the same for Iona who in some ways have followed a similar musical path, bringing together Celtic and traditional music with the lighter forms of prog in a way that always delights. I first came across the band when I reviewed 'The Book Of Kells' back in 1992, one of the three albums that are used as the basis of this compilation. At this time they had one Nick Beggs providing bass and chapman stick, who some people may recognize from his time with Kajagoogoo! But for me the mainstays of the band were Joanne Hogg on vocals, Dave Bainbridge on guitar/keyboards (who are both still there today) along with Troy Donockley on various traditional instruments.(who departed in 2009).

So why am I looking at a compilation album that only covers a subset of their releases, which in itself is more than 15 years old! Easy, Iona have made this available as a free download from their site. Yes, that's right, free. Gratis. No payment required. So what excuse can you possibly have now for not discovering one of the finest bands around in their field? This is wonderfully atmospheric album from start to end, with a warmth provided by fretless bass and a cut through by drums and whistles, while the keyboards and guitars build a blanket of sound that allows Joanne to rise above it all. In some ways it is somewhat reminiscent of Renaissance and Annie Haslam, with complex layered music allowing a free vocal to really dominate the overall sound

This album has reminded me just how wonderful their music really is, and has inspired me to find out more about the albums I don't already have. Easily four stars in anyone's book, this is a great compilation and given that it is free why not give them a try? www.iona.uk.com

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 Journey Into the Morn by IONA album cover Studio Album, 1995
3.71 | 51 ratings

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Journey Into the Morn
Iona Prog Folk

Review by Frankie Flowers

4 stars Journey To The Morn is another great album by this unique band. The album is lengthly much like Iona's other greats. This one runs for around 75 minutes, but there is a lot of variety. The best of all is the intricately-arranged and very progressive "Encircling" which is a modern sonata with three parts. It begins softly and builds to to a very powerful force of pipes, electric guitar and drums layered over ancient themes and instrumentation. With the creativity of this track alone, you'll hear how much they set themselves apart from typical Christian bands. Iona are very sophisticated and create words and music of incredible spiritual and artistic depth. You can just as well feel their strong passion in the music which is so deepy rooted in the land and history of Iona. As I said the album has a lot to offer including some upbeat pop-rock songs which also shouldn't be overlooked. Although more personal favourites are the mellow acoustic songs "Journey To The Morn", "Inside My Heart" and "Divine Presence". I equally love the dreamy, atmospheric pieces, especially "Everything Changes" which is more melancholy than most of Iona's pieces, but it's quite powerful. Journey To The Morn is one of my favourite albums by the band along with "Book Of Kells", which both share as many mysterious, haunting as well as dreamlike moods. I consider Iona to be one of the most innovative progressive bands of the past two decades. Four shining stars.

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 Beyond These Shores by IONA album cover Studio Album, 1993
3.69 | 43 ratings

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Beyond These Shores
Iona Prog Folk

Review by Frankie Flowers

4 stars Beyond These Shores is Iona's third album and it's an excellent one with another great conceptual theme. Just like on their other albums the overall sound is very dynamic, consisting of a few different styles such as Celtic folk, prog rock and new age. Much like the other albums, especially "Book Of Kells" it's difficult to hear everything going on within the music at first, therefore repeated listens or revisiting this music is highly recommended. There are more vocals here than on the first two albums and a few progressive pop songs, which are of very high quality. "Treasure" and "Burning Like Fire" are two of the more uplifting moments, with great melodies and layers of synths. "Bird of Heaven" is one of the band's big epics. It's quite a poweful one and the guitar solo by Dave Bainbridge is excellent. Two personal favourites of all are "Edge of the World" and "Murlough Bay" which both show off the mellow atmospheric aspects of the band. They are really soft ballads, the vocals and underlying melodies are particularly beautiful. "Beachy Head" is also a fantastic song, It's so wonderfully arranged and orchestrated too. As it's been said, this is very inspiring and often incredible music. Four solid stars.

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