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Clannad - Clannad CD (album) cover

CLANNAD

Clannad

 

Prog Folk

4.24 | 18 ratings

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TCat
4 stars Back in 1973, when Clannad's first album was released, Irish (Celtic) music hadn't achieved the world wide popularity that it would later. Clannad, the band that was originally made up of members of the same family, would later pave the road for the popularity of the genre. But before the fancy synths and pop music started to infiltrate their sound, they were mostly devoted to traditional Irish music, changing things up a bit to make it more modern, but staying quite faithful to the original, simple sound. When Polydor signed them on to their label, they were quite worried that there were not many English songs on the debut album. It's good to be able to hear what they originally sounded like as the music is devoted to traditional folk sounds much more than some of their later albums would be.

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

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

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

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

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

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

TCat | 4/5 |

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