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Various Artists (Concept albums & Themed compilations) Excalibur II - The Celtic Ring album cover
3.46 | 26 ratings | 5 reviews | 15% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 2007

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. The Celtic Ring (3:54)
2. Lugh (4:27)
3. Tuatha De Danan (2:27)
4. Circle Of Life (4:30)
5. The Girl And The Demon (3:18)
6. Dragon Breath (1:49)
7. Secret Garden (3:15)
8. Pilgrims (3:45)
9. Brennan MacFinn (2:02)
10. Sacrifice (4:10)
11. Earth And Sky (4:07)
12. Shadow And Light (3:16)
13. Call (5:48)
14. Anywynn (1:41)
15. Celtic Heart (Kelc'h Unan & Daou) (4:34)
16. Celtic Heart (Kelc'h Tri) (1:41)

Total Time: 55:28

Line-up / Musicians

- Alan Simon / guitar, flute, low whistle, keyboards, dulcimer, backing vocals, composer, arranger & producer

- Jon Anderson / vocals (4)
- Martin Barre / lead guitar
- Karan Casey / vocals (5)
- Fairport Convention / performers (6,8)
- Dave Pegg / bass, mandolin
- Justin Hayward / vocals (11,15)
- John Helliwell / tenor & soprano saxophones
- Les Holroyd's Barclay James Harvest / performers (13)
- Jacqui MacShee's Pentangle / performers (10)
- Alan Parsons / vocals (1)
- Maddy Prior / vocals (7)
- Jeremy Spencer / slide guitar
- Didier Squiban / piano (14)
- Cillian Vallely / Uillean bagpipes
- Richard Palmer-James / mandolin
- - Andreas Vollenweider / electric harp (10)
- John Wetton / vocals (2)
- Flook / performers (3,9)
- Carlos Núñez / flute & bagpipes (12)
- Dan Ar Braz / electric guitar (12)
- Bagad Saint Nazaire / pipe band
- City of Prague Philharmonic / orchestra
- Lee Holdridge / symphonic arrangements
- Mario Klemens / orchestra conductor

Releases information

Artwork: Jean-Sébastien Rossbach

CD EMI ‎- 0946 3856312 (2007, Europe)

Thanks to easy livin for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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VARIOUS ARTISTS (CONCEPT ALBUMS & THEMED COMPILATIONS) Excalibur II - The Celtic Ring ratings distribution

(26 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(15%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(50%)
Good, but non-essential (27%)
Collectors/fans only (4%)
Poor. Only for completionists (4%)


Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars The myths and legends of King Arthur, from a different perspective

While this album is nominally credited to Alan Simon, it is primarily to acknowledge his role as composer and co-ordinator. This is in reality a compilation of recordings by a fine range of bands and artists with prog connections. The invited crown includes Jon Anderson (Yes), Justin Hayward (Moody Blues), Alan Parsons (Project), John Helliwell (Supertramp), Maddy Prior (Steeleye Span), various members of Fairport Convention, John Wetton (King Crimson, Uriah Heep etc.) and many more.

The overall flavour of the album is undeniably Celtic, reflecting the sub-title of the album. Instruments including Dulcimer, Bodhran, flute, harp, pipes etc., all float in and out, with tracks such as Fairport Convention's "Dragon Breath" and Flook's "Brennan MacFinn". being traditional through and through. Fairport's other track, "Pilgrims" exploit's the bands strong vocal harmonies. In-between their two tracks, the wonderful Maddy Prior offers a delightful vocal performance on the delicate "Secret garden".

Jacqui McShee of Pentangle provides lead vocal on the emotive "Sacrifice", a song which moves about as far into rock territory as you will find on this album. The track features some impressive guitar work plus harp played by Andreas Vollenweider. "Earth and sky" features the distinctive tones of Justin Hayward and the equally notable sax playing of Supertramp's John Anthony Helliwell. The vocals of Jon Anderson on "Circle of life" and John Wetton on "Lugh" are instantly recognisable of course, each adding immeasurably to the overall quality of the album. Anderson's track was released as a single from the album.

Les Holroyd's version of Barclay James Harvest are the featured artists on "Call", a track which could well have been lifted from a BJH album. The album concludes with the two part "Celtic heart", which builds from a simple piano and vocal melody (Justin Hayward once again) to a superb conclusion.

In all, this impressive gathering of artists with significant prog connections is itself an impressive presentation. The flavour is much more Celtic than prog as such, but the strength of the concept ties the track together well, resulting in an album which will appeal to those whose passions include prog folk.

The presentation of the album includes an impressive booklet with full lyrics and further narrative describing the ongoing tale.

Review by Ivan_Melgar_M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I'm not a fan of albums with a great number of names of great musicians, most them in the decline of their career and willing to accept anything that could place them back into the business, so I was absolutely reluctant to buy "Excalibur 2 The Celtic Ring" despite the natural curiosity about the what the Prog legends that performed one or more songs were able to offer in the 21st Century..

Still decided to investigate who "ALAN SIMON" was, and the information about him made me decide to get the album, being that the guy is used to release Rock Operas and takes Celtic music with absolute respect and sobriety.

So got the album and can't regret it, the atmosphere is clearly Medieval, even when too orchestrated to sound historically accurate, but the most important issue is that the music is good and the performances outstanding.

But don't expect to find a Progressive Rock album, maybe except for the opener "The Celtic Ring" by the always pompous master of production "ALAN PARSONS" who does an amazing job combining his own style with Medieval Celtic Music.

The rest of the album is mostly dedicated to recreate the Ethnic Celtic sound with great skills and good taste, but most important, not falling into the cheesiness of New Age despite the presence of Andreas Vollenweider and his usually bland harp.

Incredibly, one of my favourite songs is "Lugh" where "John Wetton" leaves behind all the weakness he's been showing lately to give a strong and impeccable performance for an excellent song

Continuing with the great achievements, I should mention "Pilgrim" with an incredibly accurate and sober performance of "Fairport Convention", if somebody can give absolute credibility to this kind of music is a Folk bands and the guys from "Fairport Convention" are masters of the genre.

The parade of Folk musicians as Cillian Vallely, Flook or Maddy Prior with the addition of Proggers as Les Hollroyd, Dave Pegg, Martin Barre, etc, plus even rockers like Justin Hayward and John Anthony Helliwell continues with strong and flawless performances that keep the attention of the listener despite the relaxing nature of the release until the brilliant closers Celtic Heart (Kelc'h Unan & Daou) and (Kelc'h Tri) that place the cherry over the pie

In general terms all the album is brilliant but (there's always a but) the only track that made me doubt was "Circle of Life" with by the acute and annoying vocal range of Jon Anderson, it's amazing how great acoustic guitars by "ALAN SIMON" and sober percussion can be ruined by "Anderson's" voice.

Well, one song bellow the average is not enough to take down a very good album that deserves no less than four solid stars.

Review by kenethlevine
3 stars This is neither more nor less progressive than the two "Excalibur" disks that bracket it, yet until recently it was the only one to be found on this site, a fact that can be attributed to the presence of JON ANDERSON and JOHN WETTON on different tracks. Apart from a more generous serving of rock, part II is not really much different from its older sibling, and it even includes FAIRPORT CONVENTION and a few others for continuity.

This is progressive tinged Celtic rock composed and arranged by a man clearly in love with both. In his master plan he looks to ALAN PARSONS, hmself a guest on the opening cut, but individual tracks seem more inspired by contemporary Irish, Scottish and Breton folk rock. One might expect more weighting towards his native Brittany, but Simon's best friends, whether occupying progressive or folk territory, tend to hail from the UK. One of the many fascinating aspects to this work is how SIMON manages to bend the artists to his style rather than accommodate their own. In so doing he enables them to thrust up and out of their self imposed shackles. The aforementioned Wetton and Anderson both deliver excellent vocal performances, but, especially in the case of "Circle of Life", the majestic accompaniment would make the song a winner even if an average singer had been enlisted. JOHN ANTHONY HELLIWELL plays sax with more urgency than on on all but the best that SUPERTRAMP could muster, just as ROGER HODGSON's vexatious whir was kept in check by Excalibur I's material. Even the reigning "reine" of Celtic folk, MADDY PRIOR, is barely recognizable in the setting of the masterfully understated "Secret Garden", the highlight of the disk if one must be named. The more chameleon like FAIRPORT CONVENTION delivers the top notch "Pilgrims" with hard rock panache - love those pipes- while JACQUI MCSHEE's "Sacrifice" remains under the oddly comforting spell of ANDREAS WOLLENWEIDER's new age harp until perhaps the best lead guitar solo of the disk forms the outro. Among new discoveries, MERZHIN (Breton for "Merlin") is unchallenged, thanks to the sly "De L'Autre Cote", sadly the only French language track here. They too have been asked to sidestep their predominant style of celtic punk to deliver this more suave contribution. Make no mistake, this is at least as much an ALAN SIMON (Project) album as it is a various artists compilation.

Not all the oldsters succeed, and from the last 6 tracks barely a memorable passage can be evinced. Both JUSTIN HAYWARD and LES HOLROYD flounder, but the material itself must be held at least equally accountable. Their respective songs model the exuberance of coronachs that magnify the advanced age of the performers. It doesn't help that "Celtic Heart" is altogether too similar in tune to the POGUES classic "Fairytale of New York", albeit a gusto free version of same.

This middle installment of ALAN SIMON's trilogy is again an uneven compendium with ample entertainment value, decidedly let down by a moribund home stretch. Still recommended if you are a fan of the contributors or an incorrigible prog folk nerd.

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
3 stars Moody Barclay Yes Parsons Project Convention

Not content to make just one album celebrating the notorious (in a Rock context, at least) King Arthur legend, French multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Alan Simon has made three of them (the third installment of Excalibur has just been released at the time of writing). As the title implies this is the second in the trilogy, subtitled The Celtic Ring (or L'Anneau Des Celtes in French). This time around Simon enlisted the talents of Alan Parsons from the Alan Parsons Project, John Wetton of King Crimson and Asia fame, Jon Anderson of Yes, Justin Hayward of The Moody Blues, Les Holroyd of Barclay James Harvest, John Heliwell of Supertramp, Jacqui McShee of The Pentangle, multiple members of Fairport Convention, and several others. Andreas Vollenweider lends his distinctive harp sound to one track.

The music is once again a mixture of Celtic Folk, Rock, and New-Age, performed on a plethora of Folk and Rock instruments. The Fairport Convention album Fame & Glory is based on material from the same project and features some of the same songs that appear here. I normally don't like these kinds of multi-artist Rock musical projects, but this one is decent. Though, personally, I prefer both the aforementioned Fairport album Fame & Glory and the somewhat rockier Excalibur III. Still, there is much for both Folk Rock fans and Prog fans to enjoy here.

Review by Matti
3 stars Alan Simon is a French musician (I learned his nationality by watching the companion DVD "Making of Excalibur II") but he has taken a very British subject for his album trilogy, the Arthurian legends. I have now listened to this second CD only but I think that by choosing the best tracks from each there would be a very nice if not great mucical voyage into Avalon, or Anwynn. This is comparable to MANDALABAND's Eye of Wendor (1978) - there even are some guest artists appearing in both.

As the subtitle "The Celtic Ring" underlines, the music has a strong Celtic folk flavour, which in practice means mostly the instruments familiar from the British / Celtic Folk Rock tradition. Also the cast is chosen in order to bring the connection to both progressive rock - its original generation of the 70's - in general and to the folk department in particular. Fairport Convention stars in two tracks. Female vocals are by Maddy Prior (known from Steeleye Span), Jacqui McShee (Pentangle), and very beautiful (and yet standardish) voice of Karan Casey from the new folk generation. These emotional tracks are among the highlights. McShee is accompanied by the Swiss harpist Andreas Vollenweider.

Of the male vocalists it's Justin Hayward (the Moody Blues) with his two tracks, 'Earth & Sky' and 'Celtic Heart', who makes the best appearance. John Wetton does a good vocal in 'Lugh' but he's not quite as well at home with this folky album as others. The biggest problem is with Jon Anderson. Maybe it's just the arrangement and mixing that I dislike in 'Circle of Life', but the track sticks out of the whole in an unpleasant way, to me. BJH's Les Holroyd's fragile voice is way too nasal in 'Call' to sound good.

As for the compositions, this album is mostly quite pleasant, at times very beautiful, if you like Celtic, New Agey rock, but far from unforgettable. One might say it's all very expectable, close to being one big cliché. Don't expect progressive rock! The 45-minute DVD is a nice addition, showing all these legendary musicians (turned grey) giving their participation. What they speak is not that interesting, just the usual blah blah about the Arthurian legends that they read in school and the great experience of working together with these great musicians etc. Oh no, Justin Hayward gives an acoustic fragment of 'Nights in White Satin' (I just mean I'm getting tired of seeing that song popping up wherever Justin is shot into a DVD). The liner notes include lyrics and narrative introductions to each track (for which I find very little interest, but which of course can bring an additional value if you're a big fan of these legends).

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