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CLANNAD

Prog Folk • Ireland


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Clannad picture
Clannad biography
Founded in Gweedore, Donegal, Ireland in 1970 (as "Clann as Dobhar") - Hiatus from 1998-2006

For decades CLANNAD have embodied the spirit and dedication of the proverbial musical family, which just happens to be related by blood as well. While they have navigated a number of distinct phases and less distinct transitions, and are generally and correctly classified as a folk group, they have always been so much more.

In the 1970s they were more closely allied to traditional Irish music, but with eclectic influences from jazz to rock, surely among them the PENTANGLE. While their international popularity was limited at this time, they blazed the path for a revival in Irish folk music, along with the CHIEFTAINS before them and contemporaries PLANXTY and CHRISTY MOORE. Recommended albums from this period - "Clannad" and "Dulaman".

Surprisingly, the 1980s were their most progressive phase, in which they pioneered a blend of pop, folk, ambient, and new age music. They not only sold a lot of albums, but inspired artists in the progressive world and beyond, from LOREENA MCKENNITT to IONA to ENYA, herself a family member and brief band member, to KARNATAKA to CAPERCAILLIE, ALTAN, and numerous other successful and obscure acts. All albums from this period are recommended to prog folk fans, with the exception of "Cran Ull" from 1980 which was more allied to their earlier period.

In the 1990s they achieved their greatest international success including a Grammy award for best new age album for Landmarks. The music from this period was pretty but generally lacked what little edge they had sharpened before. After an extended hiatus in which lead singer Moya Brennan embarked on a successful solo career, they returned to the stage in the mid 2000s and to the studio in 2013 to produce Nadur, revealing that not much had changed.

Clannad belongs on progarchives for their influence on numerous prog acts and their appeal to many prog fans, but mostly for their 1980s period in which they combined eclectic influences into their own unique take on Irish prog folk.

See also: WiKi

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CLANNAD discography


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

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

4.18 | 21 ratings
Clannad
1973
3.95 | 13 ratings
Clannad 2
1975
4.74 | 29 ratings
Dúlamán
1976
3.27 | 13 ratings
Crann Ull
1980
4.53 | 13 ratings
Fuaim
1982
4.50 | 23 ratings
Magical Ring
1983
3.24 | 21 ratings
Legend (OST)
1984
4.25 | 26 ratings
Macalla
1985
2.68 | 15 ratings
Sirius
1987
2.74 | 6 ratings
Atlantic Realm (OST)
1989
4.14 | 8 ratings
The Angel And The Soldier Boy
1989
2.68 | 12 ratings
Anam
1990
3.06 | 14 ratings
Banba
1993
2.68 | 15 ratings
Lore
1996
3.75 | 9 ratings
Landmarks
1997
3.88 | 7 ratings
Nádúr
2013

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

4.75 | 3 ratings
Clannad in Concert
1978
0.00 | 0 ratings
Live in Concert
2005
4.00 | 2 ratings
Christ Church Cathedral
2013
0.00 | 0 ratings
Turas 1980
2018

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

4.05 | 3 ratings
Pastpresent
1989
5.00 | 1 ratings
Live at Christchurch Cathedral
2013

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

4.00 | 5 ratings
Past Present
1989
0.00 | 0 ratings
Themes
1995
0.00 | 0 ratings
In a Lifetime - The Ultimate Collection
1997
0.00 | 0 ratings
A Magical Gathering - The Clannad Anthology
2002
4.00 | 1 ratings
The Real ... Clannad
2018

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

0.00 | 0 ratings
Dheanainn Sugradh
1974
3.00 | 1 ratings
Theme from Harry's Game
1982
0.00 | 0 ratings
Newgrange
1983
0.00 | 0 ratings
I See Red
1983
4.00 | 1 ratings
Robin /The Hooded Man)
1984
0.00 | 0 ratings
Almost Seems (Too Late to Turn)
1985
0.00 | 0 ratings
Closer to Your Heart
1985
2.95 | 2 ratings
In a Lifetime
1985
2.00 | 2 ratings
Something to Believe In
1987
0.00 | 0 ratings
Live and Learn / Many Roads
1987
0.00 | 0 ratings
White Fool
1988
3.00 | 1 ratings
Hourglass / Theme from Harry's Game
1989
0.00 | 0 ratings
In Fortune's Hand
1990
0.00 | 0 ratings
Why Worry?
1991
0.00 | 0 ratings
Mystery Game
1993
0.00 | 0 ratings
Seanchas
1996
0.00 | 0 ratings
Christmas Angels
1997
0.00 | 0 ratings
An Gleann
1998

CLANNAD Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Christ Church Cathedral by CLANNAD album cover Live, 2013
4.00 | 2 ratings

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Christ Church Cathedral
Clannad Prog Folk

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Clannad had been mostly inactive since their then-last studio album Landmarks (1998), when they were asked to perform at Dublin's historic Christ Church Cathedral in 2011. The public response was so enthusiastic that the event turned into three consecutive nights. More live activity followed, and eventually the band -- with Pól Brennan back to the line-up -- also made a new studio album, Nádúr (2013), which however remains their last one today.

The nearly full CD-length set containing 19 tracks has a strong emphasis on the early traditional folk era. I'm not very familiar with it in general, since I found Clannad during their modernly produced pop years and have never really dug deeper into their earliest albums apart from what I've heard on their compilations. That's why I'm not going to deal with things like from which albums they chose the material for this concert. By listening to the CD I can only say the set is pleasant and feels just right for the venue. Most songs are marked as "trad., arr. Clannad". A pity the leaflet doesn't tell what instruments the band members themselves play (harp, acoustic guitar, mandolin, flute, tin whistle, percussion, bass, I suppose). Guest musicians play violin, viola, cello, percussion and keyboards. But it's the marvelous use of harmony vocals what I think is the essence of the band's unique sound, especially when talking of the traditional tunes in Gaelic.

In the midway of the set there are several well known pieces from their more popular era featuring more synth on the background, starting with the mysteriously atmospheric 'Newgrange'. After two delicious trad. tunes they play a six- minute, four-part medley 'Robin of Sherwood' from the early 80's TV series closely associated with Clannad's original music for it. This is a nice gesture instead of performing just the famous theme song 'Robin (The Hooded Man)'. Occasionally the medley reminds me of the folk prog à la Jethro Tull. 'Caislean Óir' is the delicate opening track of Macalla (1985), followed by 'In a Lifetime' from the same album. It was originally a duet with Bono (of U2), and here his place is taken by Brian Kennedy. Agreeing with the previous reviewer, I don't think he fully succeeds in replacing Bono's superb vocals. 'I Will Find You' was a love song on the film The Last of the Mohicans -- also included on Clannad's studio album Banba (1994) -- , and 'Theme from Harry's Game' is undoubtedly THE best remembered, career-turning, popularity-launching song which truly deserves a place here.

This live album with an excellent sound quality and acoustics can be recommended to both longtime fans of the band and newcomers interested in Celtic music, of which genre Clannad is a major legend.

 Macalla by CLANNAD album cover Studio Album, 1985
4.25 | 26 ratings

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Macalla
Clannad Prog Folk

Review by TCat
Forum & Site Admin Group Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

4 stars It was time for Clannad to appeal to the masses worldwide, and so they recruited some international artists like Bono, Mel Collins and Steve Nye (among others) to help push their appeal further. "Theme from Harry's Game", which came from the previous album "Magical Ring", was getting some attention in North America, and after winning awards for their soundtrack to the TV show "Robin of Sherwood" which was featured on their previous album "Legend", Clannad was already having a lot of success and charting in the U.K. So, now it was time to have a breakthrough album in America. And with the release of 1985's "Macalla", they accomplished this in a great way.

U2 was using the music from "Harry's Game" as incidental music in their concerts and Bono had already publicized his love of his fellow-Irish friends from Clannad. This change to a more accessible sound along with Bono's inclusion pushed the album over the top and it was the first time the band would chart in the U.S. This was good for the band, of course, but how would it translate for long-time fans? Clannad kept some of their original sound staying true to their roots with only two Irish-language songs this time around and concentrating more on English lyrics and a more modern and accessible sound.

The album kicks off innocently enough with "Caislean Õir", sung completely in Irish in with a strong, hymn-like style, mostly a cappella with a harp coming in later in the track and with the unique Clannad-harmonies of the full band on the choruses. The change in sound isn't quite apparent yet and it is certain the band wanted their new listeners to know where their roots are. But this all changes quickly as the band reverts to the accessible sound with English lyrics in the mid-tempo track "The Wild Cry". This track retains the soft complexities of the original band to some extent, but also shows everyone which direction they were going in as synths come in and electric guitars and Mel Collins play solos in the instrumental breaks. The accessible style becomes even more prominent in "Closer to Your Heart", "In a Lifetime" (which features Bono singing with Maire) and "Almost Seems (Too Late to Turn)", all nice songs, but very accessible, proving that the band was now looking for instant likability over long-term enjoyment. This ended up working well for them. Fortunately, the new-wave-ish keys almost, but not quite, overshine Maire's excellent vocals. The band at least recognized that their success depended on her vocals more than anything.

The 2nd side opens up with the upbeat and very commercial "Indoor". This one is only saved by the fact that Clannad's harmonies finally return and that Collins adds more to the song. After that track, the album quiets down for the only traditional song on the album, the 2nd sung fully in Irish "Buachaill On Eirne". Previously, the band relied a lot more on their covers of traditional Irish songs, but this time, for accessibility reasons, this is the only time on this album that they resort to this. It's a nice change especially after the direction the album seemed to be going in. Maire gives the lead vocal duties to Pol for the track "Blackstairs", which comes along at the right time to help add variety to the album, even though it sounds more along the lines of soft rock prog like Alan Parsons Project. It's a nice enough song though. Then things become upbeat again with "Journey's End", and Maire returns with this track that brings in a nice, bouncy Irish lilt that older fans were hoping for. It all ends with the mid-tempo "Northern Skyline" which could have worked on any previous Clannad album except for the fact that it is backed up by synths more than the traditional acoustics.

Overall, it's a decent album and it served it's purpose. It is a nice gap between the accessible path that the band was taking and the traditional styles from before. The music is well produced, it has enough complexities here and there to keep it all interesting, and the influences of the new wave style, though apparent from time to time, aren't enough to completely ruin the album. This wouldn't be the case as they continued to work with accessible music, but for this album, it is enough to pass for a legitimate listen. Though they were moving away from the folk sound from before, it is obvious that they were seeking a more commercial sound, however, the album, as a whole, is still quite good and Maire and the band are in top form. Kudos to them for remaining loyal at times in this album to their roots, but the coming popularity that would give them the boost they needed would also be the thing that would almost destroy them.

 Legend (OST) by CLANNAD album cover Studio Album, 1984
3.24 | 21 ratings

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Legend (OST)
Clannad Prog Folk

Review by TCat
Forum & Site Admin Group Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

3 stars People all over the world were starting to discover Clannad after the popularity of the track "Theme from Harry's Game". That popularity had moved through the UK and other countries, but it hadn't quite made it to North America quite yet. However, the popularity of the band in the UK did get them a job doing the music for the 23-episode series "Robin of Sherwood". After Enya left to go out on her solo career and a few other personnel changes, the band was now a quintet and was ready to go out into the world.

Some of the music from the TV series was culled together in an album called "Legend" and released in 1984. The band's popularity continued to grow in the UK, but the album still didn't push its way over seas quite yet. The album did, however, end up winning the BAFTA award for best original television music in 1985, and this was the first time an Irish band won the award, and that only helped pique the interest of the public. This would end up setting up the band for recognition in the US so that by the time the next album "Macalla" was released, their popularity was assured, especially after the recognition they got when U2 started playing "Theme from Harry's Game" as introductory music in their concerts.

So, how does the soundtrack music work out as an album for Clannad? Fortunately, the band pretty much kept a lot of the same direction they had previously; the increased use of synthesizer, but not so much as to cheapen their music, but also keeping the traditional Irish flavor to their music. This album acts as a bridge, and a rather good one, that helps span the gulf between Clannad's previous Irish-folk music to the more popular sound that they would increasingly turn to in their upcoming albums. "Legend" has a great mix of both styles and the first track "Robin (The Hooded Man)" deftly incorporates both styles quite well. This track introduces the main theme and also utilizes a great mix of Irish sound and pop music, but manages to do so with minimal vocals, a good amount of synth and more traditional instruments providing a nice backdrop. You also hear Marie's beautiful vocals on the verses and the signature, lush and dreamy choral sound of the band singing against heavy reverb on the choruses. This is the sound that would win the world over.

The album continues to incorporate heavy synth use on other songs like "Together We", the instrumental "Darkmere", "Scarlet Inside' and "Ancient Forest", these tracks fulfilling the more pop side of the band, while other songs like "Herne", "Now is Here", the beautiful instrumental "Lady Marian" (my favorite track on the album) and others use the more traditional style that remind one of the band's earlier albums. Excellent use of harp, flutes, acoustic guitars and such are definitely not ignored and there is a great mix of both styles on the album that will probably keep fans of both sides of the band happy.

Many will be happy that this album does not sound much like a soundtrack album, and to me, that works both for and against the album. It does make it more accessible, even when the band uses some progressive elements in "Scarlet Inside" and "Ancient Forest", but it also introduces listeners to the more ambient side of the band. Really, the only tracks on here that might remind you of soundtrack music is the woefully short, yet dramatic "Battles" and the dark, atmospheric "Darkmere". I would have liked to have heard these tracks a bit more developed, and for me, it makes the album suffer a little bit. Granted, the band was rather new at making this kind of music and finding the right way to reach new audiences, so I think they did a rather good job of creating an enjoyable album, though the progressiveness is a bit on the light side, it is one that I still love to listen too in the evening when the lights are dimming. This album is also the first album the band put out where all of the songs were original, written by the band. No traditional music was used on this album except for the obvious inspiration that comes across through the album.

Overall, even if I do enjoy the album, I have to give it 3.5 stars and round it down from there because of the light use of progressive style and the fact that it disappoints a bit since I expect to hear a soundtrack album. I do understand why it was decided to use these particular songs to build an album especially when they were trying to find an international audience. This would end up working for the band at first, but would also eventually bring on their later downfall. I must say however, that this album should not be ignored like some of the band's later material should be. It is a lovely album and has some very serene and calming moments that allow the album to fit quite well in their earlier discography. The mix of traditional and popular styles is done quite well if this album wasn't considered a soundtrack, so it is better to listen to it not as a soundtrack, but as a proper album. 3 stars, but don't pass it by.

 Pastpresent by CLANNAD album cover DVD/Video, 1989
4.05 | 3 ratings

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Pastpresent
Clannad Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

4 stars Though given the same name as a 1989 compilation originating around the same time, and including many of the same tracks, this vintage video is essentially a documentary about the family group from Donegal who had stormed the British charts in the mid 1980s. Live footage is juxtaposed with videos set to the studio recordings, including lavish official offerings like "Hourglass" and "The Hunter", acknowledging the primarily promotional aspect of the film.

Often only excerpts are included in favour of commentary from band members about the group early history and evolution, black and white photographs of childhood, musical interests which transcend not only Irish folk but folk music in general, a visit to the old elementary school, and splendiferous seascape and landscape vistas. Maire is most often depicted and quoted, not surprisingly given her role as lead vocalist, harpist, and photogenic archetype. She even talks about the reticence in collaborating with Bono on hit single "In a Lifetime", given how they had always implicitly been a self sufficient "family" band. Still, prog veteran Mel Collins has been a long time associate in wondrous ways, and I admit disappointment that he is not to be seen during the sax solo on the official video.

While "Pastpresent" does not appear to have seen a DVD release, apparently a few laserdisc versions are around, and this is worth picking up if you would like an intimate and often magnificent visual document of these legends at their peak.

 Past Present by CLANNAD album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1989
4.00 | 5 ratings

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Past Present
Clannad Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

4 stars Given that only one number here - the achingly magnificent Coinlech Glas an Fhómair - even references CLANNAD's 1970s period (though the version here is from 1983), it would seem that "Just Past Present" would probably be a better name for this compilation. Nonetheless, this is a reasonably well curated collection that divulges the group's embrace of prog attitudes at a time when most big P prog bands of similar vintage were either dead, moribund, or dispirited.

Apart from the obligatory and wonderful hits, "Theme from Harry's Game", "Robin the Hooded Man", and "In a Lifetime", we also hear their successful forays into Celtic Rock ("Second Nature"), pure Celtic ("Lady Marian"), pop prog ("Closer to Your Heart"), and pop balladry ("Something to Believe In"). Two rarities are included, the ambient "The Hunter" with bass lines that recall ELOY, and the even more breathy "World of Difference" in which steady contributor Mel Collins' sax nearly upstages Moira. Both straddle their waning 1980s style and the coming new age shift in the 1990s.

While the most recent album at the time, "Sirius", is overly represented by a few lesser tracks, somehow they do not lower the bar, as their breadth of styles seem oddly more effective and distinctive when interspersed with the bread and butter Clannad. Given that this was one of the group's highest charting albums, it would seem that both old and new fans agreed.

"Pastpresent" is a very worthy first stop for potential fans of the group or for new fans who want to get their feet wet but not necessarily dive right in. Be aware of its focus on a narrow swath of their history, as it ignores several excellent albums from 1973-1982 and a few very good ones from the later years.

 Hourglass / Theme from Harry's Game by CLANNAD album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1989
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Hourglass / Theme from Harry's Game
Clannad Prog Folk

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

— First review of this album —
3 stars 'Hourglass' is a non-album single track that has appeared on a couple of Clannad compilations. The song was inspired by the life and poetry of Debbie Barben, but a quick googling didn't reveal more about the person in question. The music video and the lyrics ("Then four gray walls come tumbling down / And just because her skin was brown") deal with a young black woman. This is a fresh-sounding, beautiful, peaceful and fairly typical, cleanly produced folk pop ballad by Clannad. Moira Brennan's ethereal voice is as nice as always and she plays a lot of harp on this song. Surely the song would have been a very good addition on a studio album such as Anam (1990).

The CD single also features the Irish band's well known TV series theme song that gave them a wide international stardom in 1982. A great, classic song, no doubt of that, but its re-appearing once more in this single feels a bit unnecessary.

[ P.S. Sadly racism still exists in our world, but hopefully it will become more and more irrelevant which colour one's skin is. Right now I'm very happy that the United States is having a new president after Trump who's still being a total asshole and doing his best to divide the nation in two. ]

 Theme from Harry's Game by CLANNAD album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1982
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Theme from Harry's Game
Clannad Prog Folk

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

— First review of this album —
3 stars In a way, this single marks some kind of a turning point in CLANNAD's career. In the early eighties the Irish family band was gradually shifting from acoustic and ethnic folk into a bigger league in a pop world. Of course they didn't throw away their folk spirit or unmistakable Irishness, although their sound certainly became more polished and 'produced'. The B-sider in this 7" single is 'Strayed Away', a mellow, acoustic song from the album Fuaim (1982) after which Enya left the group to start a succesful solo career. In this song her backing vocals can faintly be spotted. Nice little song, not very memorable.

Harry's Game was a British TV mini-series (1982) based on the 1975 novel by Gerald Seymour. Apart from brief scenes, it is set in and around Belfast in the Troubles. I haven't seen it (in Finland), but I think 'Theme from Harry's Game' was pretty much THE song that made Clannad a bigger name. It also appeared on their next album Magical Ring (1983). This is a deeply atmospheric piece of music featuring Moira Brennan's distinctive vocals backed by others and a soft synth-centred arrangement. No percussion, no guitars etc. But it sure works. The song won an Ivor Novello award, deservedly.

With something more rare and interesting on the flipside (instead of just an average song from the latest album), I'd give this single one star more.

 Clannad by CLANNAD album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.18 | 21 ratings

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Clannad
Clannad Prog Folk

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

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.

 Dúlamán by CLANNAD album cover Studio Album, 1976
4.74 | 29 ratings

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Dúlamán
Clannad Prog Folk

Review by TCat
Forum & Site Admin Group Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

5 stars Clannad's third album "Dúlamán" was released in 1976, and seen the original sound of Clannad reach its peak. This album was made before their worldwide popularity and also before Enya was even part of the band. Of course, we have the classic line up of the two families involved here, the Brennans and the O'Dugains, and they were all related, Marie being the central figure and main vocalist.

The album, like its two predecessors, consists of mostly Irish and Gaelic songs, some traditional and some original, and each given the love and care that made Clannad's sound so intoxicating.

The album starts off with the title track "Dulaman", sung in Gaelic, which is based on a traditional Irish song about the people that used to collect seaweed for staving off starvation among other things. The specific character in this track wishes to marry another Dulaman's daughter against his wishes, so they elope. Clannad's version begins with various members of the band singing a cappela with traditional instruments joining in later and the short verses sung by one of the male singers. The music is well constructed, becoming more involved as it goes on, and a nice flute solo is featured on the long instrumental break with light percussion added to give it all a forward driving feel. The traditional sound is quite evident and will remain so throughout the album, which is really the best way to experience Clannad anyway.

"Cumha Eoghain Rua Ui Neill" is a slow and sparse instrumental that pays homage to Owen Roe O'Neill who was a great military leader of the Irish rebellion of the 1640s who died a premature death after succumbing to an illness, and the country was left under the savage reign of Cromwell. The music is quite lovely and pensive with plenty of flute and mandolin. It is based on an old Irish lament that originally had lyrics. "Two Sisters" comes from an old English folk song that deals with jealousy over one man to the point that one of them pushes the other into the river. Marie sings this one in English, a cappella during the first verse, and then with minimal instrumentation. The music becomes more layered as it continues on, and becomes more rhythmic retaining the folk elements, staying true to its roots. Clannad's version is an abridgment of the traditional lyrics.

"Eirigh Suas A Stoirin (Rise Up, My Darling)" returns to the Gaelic lyrics again with Marie singing lead. This song is also about vain love, which seems to be a common theme of traditional Irish music. In this one, a love sick suitor tries to win over a girl's parents to gain a girl's hand, but he is refused and the words deal with his loss. Most of this is sung by Marie alone with acoustic guitar accompanying her, with bass added in later. The band also provides some choral like vocals towards the end. "The Galtee Hung" is an instrumental Irish dance song with harp and flute playing a lilting duet. Guitar and bass come in later to add more life to the song. "Eirigh Is Cuir Ort Do Chuid Eadaigh (Arise and Dress Yourself)" is based off of an old folk song with some alterations made to the lyrics by the band. Marie again sings in Gaelic about another unrequited love tale, this time it is told in the viewpoint of the female. The music has a nice forward movement which actually shows some variety in the sound as it continues and the bass becomes more prominent. It is a well constructed version with nice instrumental composition which adds the needed variety to the album, yet retains the authentic folk element.

"Siuil A Run (Come, Oh Love)" is a lament that comes from the times of the Irish Brigade which was made up of young men that left Ireland to serve in the French Army. It is from the viewpoint of a young woman who misses her lover. Surprisingly, parts of the track is sung in English with the remainder being sung in Gaelic, all by Marie. The track is simpler with the accompaniment being made up of mostly acoustic guitars. "Mo Mhaire" is about a girl named Marie, which seems appropriate for the band. The melody, sung by Marie again in Gaelic is a bit more upbeat than the last track and has a familiar ring to it, but the accompaniment remains simple and without percussion, leaving the rhythm to be accented by the other instruments. "d'Tigeas a Damhsa" is a child's dance song sung totally a cappella with Marie leading the rest of the band and is a short track. The last track "Cucanandy/The Jug of Brown Ale" is a combination of two Irish instrumentals twined together by a short Gaelic phrase sung by the group in the middle of the track.

This is the Clannad that is the most folkish, the earlier albums being the most simple and faithful to the Irish sound. Yet, it was with the addition of pop elements that helped make the band more successful, sometimes to the music's benefit and other times to its detriment. But this simple, somewhat naïve sound is what give the band its heart and believability. In Dulaman, the band has worked out its kinks of the earlier albums and made a perfect Irish folk album. Yes, the band would still have some excellent albums to come, albeit sort of sporadically, but this one shows them while they are still faithful to the roots of their music and at their best as far as true folk music goes.

 Sirius by CLANNAD album cover Studio Album, 1987
2.68 | 15 ratings

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Sirius
Clannad Prog Folk

Review by TCat
Forum & Site Admin Group Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

3 stars When "Sirius" was released in 1987, Clannad's basic line-up of family members Brennans and Duggans was mostly intact, at least as far as the core group is concened. However, in order to make their music less folky and more poppy, they had recruited many special guests so that they could pass themselves off as a rock band. So, they brought along Bruce Hornsby to sing and play piano on "Second Nature", Steve Perry to do background vocals on "White Fool", and, for those that were wondering what Mel Collins was up to during his stint away from King Crimson, here he is bringing his sax along for several of the tracks. There is a whole host of other guests along for the ride, it almost makes you wonder, other than Maire's lovely and distinct voice, what is left for the rest of the band to do?

With a few songs from Clannad reaching the ears of American listeners and a surge of popularity and interest in Celtic music, the band was dealing with retaining that core sound, but still trying to sound relevant to American artists. They actually do a decent job, but don't expect there to be much in the way of folk or progressive sounds here. The band manages to use some traditional sounding instruments and styles, and this does add to some level of uniqueness and heart to the music, and Maire is as strong of a vocalist as ever, but it seems they have a hard time keeping the music interesting as it goes on. As far as Celtic authenticity though, it is pretty much missing in the structure of these tracks, and every one of them is mostly sung in English. There is nothing traditional about the music on this album. But both Pol and Cianran Brennan write all of the songs for the album.

"Turning Tide" is a lovely song with some excellent instrumentation involved which makes for a sweeping sound that tends to be missing in some of their earlier music. "Skellig" is the track with the most similarity to their more acoustic sound of before, but isn't really that acoustic. "White Fool" actually tries to call back to some of their better albums with the chanting, atmospheric guitars and tribal rhythms, and has a more complex thematic sound, but Steve Perry's vocals actually are a bit underwhelming here. But it is still one of the stronger entries on the album even if it misses the expected "pay-off" that it hints to. Bruce Hornsby comes back to add harmonies to "Something to Believe In" which is a nice, lush track with some good guitar, but doesn't stand out as much as it probably should. The best of the album, however, seems to be in the simpler tracks that let the band do what they do best, as in the lovely "Many Roads", a song that would have been even more beautiful if done with even less polish. And "Sirius" has a really nice electric guitar solo from guest Robbie Blunt, but the rest of the song is over produced.

The production is very slick here, and while that might sound good to pop lovers, it takes away the charm and authenticity that the band had ample amounts of previously. The music is good considering it is following more of a pop sound, but the vocals are the strongest part of the album, and this is what the record companies were hoping for, to be able to show off Moya's vocals in a pop/rock setting. But with some both strong and weak sections and songs, the album pretty much averages out to be just that, average. At least it isn't a failure. The band did the best they could and the album helped them to maintain their popularity in the UK and to some extent in the US. The album probably would have aged much better with less polish which tends to make it all sound less intimate.

Thanks to kenethlevine for the artist addition. and to NotAProghead for the last updates

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