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Loudest Whisper - The Children Of Lir CD (album) cover


Loudest Whisper


Prog Folk

3.55 | 15 ratings

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4 stars Both of the records I’ve heard from Loudest Whisper are quite interesting and enjoyable, but for very different reasons. The second of their three albums (self-titled or just referred to as “II”) is more melodic and mainstream, but this one shows very heavy influences of North American folk rockers like CSNY, the Mamas & the Papas, and Neil Young. If you’re looking for Meic Stevens-like folk, this ain’t it.

Like Horslips famous ‘The Tain’, ‘The Children of Lir’ tells an old and traditional Irish folk tale, but within the trappings of electric and sometimes fuzzed guitar; harmonic sixties-like vocals very much in the mold of Mama Cass Elliott; and often anthematic drums. Folk to be sure, but with a touch of psych and dripping with earthy sincerity.

The story is apparently symbolic, the tale of mythological Irish gods of the Tuatha Dé Dannan. In fact, the four children in the tale represent the last of this generation, who are turned into swans by their stepmother in a 900 year curse. After finally being lifted from the spell they are baptized as Christians before aging rapidly and dying. The symbolic part is a bit lost on me but probably makes sense to someone familiar with Irish history, although I read that it symbolizes the resurrection and conversion to Christianity of the Irish people following centuries of struggle against the English. Works for me.

Musically this sounds more like North American folk than it does Irish. You won’t hear layers of uillean pipes, flutes, fiddles and the like here. Instead there is a strong presence of both electric and acoustic guitar, what sounds like a plain upright piano, and drums for the most part. But most of all you’ll hear plenty of vocals. Pretty straightforward folk singing from guitarist/vocalist Geraldine Dorgan, as well as her Mama Cass harmonies beside brothers Brian and Paul O’Reilly. And a little bit of organ (or some sort of electric keyboard).

The album starts off with an overture of sorts, more like a church-like intro but that quickly introduces electric guitar to place the sound closer to the 20th century than to the 18th. The chamber-like male vocals and piano on “Lir's Lament” sound like something out of a fifties American country album, and “Good Day my Friend” is one of those CSNY-sounding tunes. But by the time “Wedding song” rolls around the band has made it clear that there will not be any specific pattern to their music, with Ms. Dorgan shelving the folk crooning in favor of something closer to a Leslie Gore ballad. Something new on every track it seems.

“Children’s Song” and “Mannanan I” are more of that Haight-Asbury harmonizing, and so is “Mannanan II” really but on that one Mama Dorgan is back behind the mike. The next two (“Children of the Dawn” and :Children of the Day”) have enough of a lilt to the vocals to convince me these guys really are Irish, “Septimus” has some sort of keyboard making strong-like sounds (another nod to the Irish roots), and the last few tracks are quite mellow and bring the story to its sad but strangely resigned ending.

I know very little about these guys except that they’ve been around since the sixties and they toured the U.S. for the first time a couple years ago. The original release of this album is super-rare and falls into the same category as original Spring or Yezda Urfa records. But it has been reissued a number of times in the 30+ years since its first release by Polydor. Kissing Spell put out their own vinyl version (and later a CD from the same source); English Garden has what may be the rarest cut with a 500 copy vinyl version; and Sunbeam Records reissued this on both vinyl and CD a year or so ago. The easiest to find is from Si-Wan, and that one includes some bonus tracks including an alternate version of “Silent O'Moyle”. I have the Kissing Spell one with is basically a digitized copy of their vinyl master from the seventies. The quality isn’t great, but there aren’t a bunch of pops and hisses either, so it’ll do. I hear both the Sunbeam and Si-Wan version have better artwork and notes though, and I know there are at least three different covers for this album as well. Brian O’Reilly has also recorded this album as a separate offering featuring narration by Donovan.

I’m almost tempted to give this three stars just because it doesn’t really take my breath away of anything, and lyrically I’ve never thought of converting a folk tale to a musical tale to be any kind of monumental artistic effort. Heck, some writer did half the work already.

That said, the musicianship here is solid, the vocal harmonies are superb, and this was clearly a labor of love on the part of the band. So for those reasons fours stars sounds good, and so does the record.


ClemofNazareth | 4/5 |


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