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Clannad Macalla album cover
4.23 | 33 ratings | 6 reviews | 27% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1985

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Caislean Őir (2:06)
2. The Wild Cry (4:41)
3. Closer To Your Heart (3:29)
4. In A Lifetime (3:08)
5. Almost Seems (Too Late To Turn) (4:51)
6. Indoor (3:53)
7. Buachaill On Eirne (3:08)
8. Blackstairs (4:15)
9. Journey's End (2:42)
10. Northern Skyline (4:58)

Total Time 37:11

Bonus track on 2003 remaster:
11. Caislean Óir (Planet Heaven mix) (7:01)

Line-up / Musicians

- Máire Brennan / lead vocals, harp
- Noel Duggan / guitar, vocals
- Pádraig Duggan / mandolin, guitar, vocals
- Pól Brennan / flute, guitar, percussion, vocals
- Ciarán Brennan / double bass, guitar, keyboards, vocals

- Bono / vocal duet (4)
- Anthony Drennan / guitar
- James Delaney / keyboards, synthesizer
- Steve Nye / keyboards, producer
- Mel Collins / saxophone
- Paul Moran / drums
- Danny Cummings / percussion
- Paul Bell / keyboards (11)

Releases information

Artwork: Mainartery with Anton Corbijn (photo)

LP Tara ‎- TARA 3016 (1985, Ireland)

CD RCA ‎- PD 70894 (1985, Europe)
CD BMG ‎- 82876 545002 (2003, Europe) Remastered by Ian Cooper with a bonus track, new cover

Thanks to kenethlevine for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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Buy CLANNAD Macalla Music

CLANNAD Macalla ratings distribution

(33 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(27%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(52%)
Good, but non-essential (18%)
Collectors/fans only (3%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

CLANNAD Macalla reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by kenethlevine
5 stars U2's Bono had been enamored with CLANNAD since at least the "Theme from Harry's Game" in 1983, and, when the opportunity arose for a collaboration, heaven and earth were moved, poetically, for the brilliant "In a Lifetime", a concise ode to the immortality of passionate love. Apparently a major storm broke in during the sessions and is irascibly stamped on the result. Like much of Macalla, it has not aged well in the "traditional" sense; apart from the melodramatic vocals and period synthesizers, it is awash in the production values of its day, but. like all of Macalla, it manages to muster enough buoyancy to not only stay afloat but come out on top.

I picked up the album in 1986 on the strength of an aggressive ad campaign and, well, the low sticker price when the millions of fans failed to materialize. I was ever indifferent to U2, but very drawn to this unabashedly Irish band bridging the traditions with overt progressive influences, from RENAISSANCE to PINK FLOYD to MIKE OLDFIELD. This was 1986 and one had to steal furtive prog glances at the dark end of the street, and here was CLANNAD. I knew they were prog when nobody appreciated the extra copies I bought as gifts! Nonetheless, it was their first foray onto Billboard and did pretty respectably in the UK.

While sounding subdued today, "Macalla" was Clannad's deepest incursion into rock to that point, and only features 2 tracks in Gaelic. Haunting ballads like "The Wild Cry", one of the tunes with MEL COLLINS on sax, and "Almost Seems", still dominated, but the production was more spacious even as the arrangements were denser. The clever rocker "Closer to Your Heart" could not have existed without Mike Oldfield's "Moonlight Shadow", yet it is certainly no copy, while "Indoor" with its tandem female and male vocals is reminiscent of Jane Relf era Renaissance or ILLUSION. In fact, it has been offered that Renaissance could have moved towards a sound like this if they had not chosen a more synth pop path in the 1980s.

"Blackstairs" is a crepuscular masterpiece of mood with hypnotizing male vocals around an eerie chorus. Its transition to the joyous "Journey's End" is both jarring and necessary, a return to their primitive roots with a youthful exuberance that the normally staid family should show more. The album concludes with the reflective "Northern Skyline", highlighted by the more uptempo instrumental breaks on organ and lead guitar, the last of which affords a fitting climax to the venture.

While "Macalla" has been both blessed as Clannad's best and damned as the first step down to new age hell, the warmth of its melancholy could melt even the contemporaneous ULTRAVOX album three shelves over. The prog folk underground railroad of those dark days echoes through here.

Review by Warthur
4 stars Macalla came out at the height of Clannad's commercial success - hence Bono's appearance here on the duet In a Lifetime. That song is, to be honest, a bit of a clunker, Bono's vocal approach not really suiting the more ethereal atmosphere of Clannad's music, but the rest of the album is a decent bridge between the pop world and the Celtic New Age material they had become known for. Essentially, synth-heavy 1980s soft pop takes the place of folk in the Clannad formula this time around, but it's soaked in enough New Age atmosphere and ancient spirituality that the end result still feels satisfying.
Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Picked this one up while living in Wiltshire in 1986 cuz I was so blown away by the video of "In a Lifetime" on the tele. The band had been heretofore unknown to me (though they had been mentioned to me during my travels in County Donegal and Northern Ireland the previous year) and the music really grew on me quickly with Side One becoming a mainstay on my record player and car tape deck for the rest of the year. Side Two took a bit longer to get to know and like though the power and beauty of "Blackstairs" and "Northern Skyline" eventually won me over. The album even led me to venture into the band's back catalogue with some success though no Clannad album ever charmed me as well as this one (though a couple of the "best of" CDs have made their way into my collection--mostly based on my appreciation for and attraction to the band's contributions to radio, film, and television theme music).

Five star songs: "Caisleán Őir" (2:06), "The Wild Cry" (4:41), and the three songs cited above.

Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
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 Őir", 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.

Latest members reviews

5 stars Macalla may be considered their 'anti-folk' album. Almost every track is in conflict with the concept of 'classic' Clannad. Only two tracks sung in Gaelic (Caislean Oir and Buachaill On Eirne). Only one traditional song (Buachaill On Eirne), all the rest was written by the band members, mostly P ... (read more)

Report this review (#1953864) | Posted by proghaven | Wednesday, August 1, 2018 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Clannad were heading onto new musical frontiers in 1985 with Macalla: Simply put, they were building the bridge over a chasm between the world of late twentieth century rock and pop music forms, and that of ancient celtic (Irish, to be specific) folk music. This disc boasts a couple of first-time ... (read more)

Report this review (#1583605) | Posted by CapnBearbossa | Monday, June 27, 2016 | Review Permanlink

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