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Alan Stivell biography
Alan Cochevelou - Born January 6, 1944 in Riom, Auvergne, France

Alan was the son of Georges Cochevelou, who had re-discovered the Breton harp, and became a builder of said instrument. He gave Alan his first harp when Alan was only 9, and the boy was playing concerts before he reached his teens. He took an interest in pan-celtic music and became a professional musician at the age of 21. His adopted surname means "source". While he possesses a charming voice in Breton, French and English, his status as the savior of the Breton harp is unshakable. His willingness to explore the integration of the harp with other instruments and styles is what puts him in the same class as jazz greats who helped break down stylistic barriers and achieve recognition across the spectrum.

His first two recordings were done in the early 60s and eventually combined on one release. They represent the more "authentic" side, containg mostly well known traditional tunes played on solo harp. He did not release again until 1971 with the groundbreaking "Reflets" that introduced his endearingly languid vocal style to the richly plucked harp and set the groundwork for what was to come. He made the traditional his own and his own traditional. His most regarded early album is the instrumental work that summed up what his family had done from the perspective of the harp - "Renaissance de la Harpe Celtique" in 1972. Pre-dating the new age genre by over a decade, it simultaneously shows how beautiful that style could be when wedded to an ancient muse, and the degree to which so much new age music is superficial pseudo-intellectual doodling.

A succession of other accomplished albums followed in the 70s, such as "E Langonned" (1974) and "Journee a la Maison" (1978). He upped the ante with "Celtic Symphony" (1979), a heavily orchestrated affair that garnered mixed reviews and was nothing if not ambitious. Later albums that tend to receive accolades include "Mist of Avalon" (1991), Brian Boru" (1995) and even the more hi-tech "Explore" (2006). Over the years his output has been prolific - of course, as with any venerable artist, much overlap and many compilations and rereleases make it hard to discern the true output of the man. While he remains highly respected, his earlier work tends to remain the most recommended.

Through his nearly 50 year recording career, Stivell has never stayed still. While his explorations have not always been of intere...
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ALAN STIVELL Videos (YouTube and more)

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Renaissance of the Celtic HarpRenaissance of the Celtic Harp
Mercury Import 1990
$12.80 (used)
Ar Pep Gwellan: Best ofAr Pep Gwellan: Best of
Mercury Import 2012
BEST OF 1972 (2 CD) - BEST OFBEST OF 1972 (2 CD) - BEST OF
Umsm 2014
Human / KeltHuman / Kelt
$17.90 (used)
En ConcertEn Concert
Imports 2010
$12.99 (used)
Journee a La Maison (A Homecoming)Journee a La Maison (A Homecoming)
Rounder Select 1990
$27.95 (used)
Imports 2010
$104.99 (used)
$17.92 (used)
70-95 Zoom70-95 Zoom
Dreyfus 1997
$9.98 (used)
Brian BoruBrian Boru
Dreyfus 1996
$4.99 (used)

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ALAN STIVELL discography

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

3.10 | 10 ratings
Telenn Geltiek - Harpe Celtique
3.75 | 21 ratings
3.93 | 34 ratings
Renaissance De La Harpe Celtique
4.14 | 35 ratings
Chemins De Terre
3.14 | 17 ratings
E Langonned
2.40 | 11 ratings
Trema'n Inis / Vers L'ile
3.05 | 13 ratings
Raok Dilestra / Avant D'accoster
3.27 | 14 ratings
Un Dewezh 'Barzh 'Gêr / Journée À La Maison
2.51 | 19 ratings
Symphonie Celtique - Tír Na nÓg
3.83 | 11 ratings
Terre Des Vivants / Bed An Dud Vew
4.00 | 7 ratings
Légende / Mojenn
3.33 | 6 ratings
Harpes Du Nouvel Âge
3.30 | 8 ratings
The Mist Of Avalon
3.82 | 11 ratings
3.89 | 9 ratings
Brian Boru
3.29 | 7 ratings
1 Douar
3.38 | 8 ratings
Back To Breizh
3.88 | 8 ratings
Au-Delà Des Mots
3.50 | 6 ratings
4.00 | 2 ratings
5.00 | 1 ratings

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

3.97 | 20 ratings
A L'Olympia
3.48 | 12 ratings
In Dublin (aka Live in Dublin)
3.60 | 5 ratings
International Tour

ALAN STIVELL Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

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

4.00 | 4 ratings
Master Serie
5.00 | 2 ratings
Zoom 70-95
4.33 | 3 ratings
The Best of Alan Stivell

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

4.00 | 1 ratings
Tri Martolod/The King of the Fairies
3.00 | 1 ratings
Wind of Keltia/Pop Plinn
2.00 | 1 ratings
Tha mi sgith/Suite sudarmoricaine


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Tha mi sgith/Suite sudarmoricaine by STIVELL, ALAN album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1972
2.00 | 1 ratings

Tha mi sgith/Suite sudarmoricaine
Alan Stivell Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

— First review of this album —
2 stars In between releasing 3 classic albums in the early 1970s, Brittany's Celtic harp revivalist was busily flooding the market with singles of high quality that presumably could not or would not fit on those albums. Interestingly, this one appeared in several forms, both with "Tha mi sgith" on the first side and others with "Suite Sudarmoricaine" as the headliner. Both would become popular in a live setting, but it's hard to find this version of "Tha mi sgith" other than on 45, which makes this unassuming issue all the more desirable.

While this interpretation of a traditional strathspey from the Outer Hebrides offers the usual blend of Stivell's benevolent vocals, fiddle, colourful lead guitar from Dan Ar Braz, and solid percussion, I've heard more captivating versions from the likes of SILLY WIZARD and Canadian band CLAN from many years ago, as "Hewing Bracken", with achingly morose lyrics.

For the trad arranged "suite" on the flipside, while it begins promisingly thanks to lively and Latin American styled guitars and flutes, once the vocals pierce the illusion the deflation is instantaneous. Normally repetition is handled craftily in Stivell interpretations, but here the shouted mouth music is beyond tedious. Surprisingly, this is the more popular of the two, and readily available on compilations.

"Tha mi Sgith" is this the sole reason to seek out this 45, but I'm going to recommend that you content yourself with one of the live versions, such as on "Olympia Concert", which is livelier and adds organ to the ensemble, rather than spend the rather lofty sums expected on eBay for a lesser product.

 Wind of Keltia/Pop Plinn by STIVELL, ALAN album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1972
3.00 | 1 ratings

Wind of Keltia/Pop Plinn
Alan Stivell Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

— First review of this album —
3 stars Another ALAN STIVELL classic single from the early 1970s consisting of two tracks that never appeared on an original album, "Wind of Keltia" and "Pop Plinn" both became mainstays of his live set and appeared on countless compilations.

"Wind of Keltia" was an original composition he co-wrote with banjo player Steve Waring, and confirms his ability to expand the living tradition and not simply revitalize it. A languid ballad prioritizing his warm voice and clear English lyrics, its main accompaniments are his own harp and whistles. In the final movement, lead guitar joins in, likely from the agile hand of long time associate DAN AR BRAZ, but the pace is not altered, just the intensity. It ends in a harmonious interplay of strings and whistles.

The flipside, "Pop Plinn", is a rowdy instrumental in which electric guitar and organ predominate, and has all the trappings of early 1970s prog with a 1960s psychedelia hangover, making it a breezy listen. Time is allocated for his plucking prowess as well. This is an ideal live track as it shines the spotlight on the musicians as well as the ensemble, with a reassuring elasticity in the proportions.

While both tracks are classics, I think the availability of compilations, like the superb "Master Serie", which include both in their original forms, along with various concert performances. renders the 45 somewhat superfluous. Still if you want just a soupcon of the mighty wind blowing from Keltia, this could be all you need to feel refreshed.

 Tri Martolod/The King of the Fairies by STIVELL, ALAN album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1972
4.00 | 1 ratings

Tri Martolod/The King of the Fairies
Alan Stivell Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

— First review of this album —
4 stars During his most prolific and influential period of 1971-1973, ALAN STIVELL not only released several albums and toured, but also offered a series of equally significant singles. Some of these were later supplanted by live renditions in popularity, but his original version of "Tri Martolod" remains one of his most beloved, a Breton tale of three sailors in dialog as they cross from Brittany to Newfoundland. It dates back to the 18th century and has since been covered by numerous artists in the Celtic world and beyond, but Stivell is generally credited with reviving the piece with an utterly stunning and riveting rendition.

The track begins with Stivell delivering the compelling melody on harp with other acoustic instrumentation before the dialogue begins, with each sung part intersecting with the next, repetitive motifs and vocal harmonies sealing the sense of wonder. Violin also swirls about as the song develops, and even some organ appears towards the close of the track to enhance the original themes.

The B-side is a rare studio version of a well known traditional instrumental "King of the Fairies", which generally appears in live form on most compilations. The lead instrument is the violin, with acoustic guitar backing, and later spirited lead guitar layered on top, building to a crescendo and a sudden end. The piece has been covered by many, including fellow prog folk pioneers HORSLIPS, but Stivell's might be the best of all.

With the A-side being one of Stivell's best ever pieces, and the B-side pretty rare in the form presented, this 45 is highly recommended, and would warrant 5 stars if no reasonable alternatives were present, but most will probably be happy enough with their presence in some form or other in one of Stivell's numerous compilations or live recordings.

 Chemins De Terre by STIVELL, ALAN album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.14 | 35 ratings

Chemins De Terre
Alan Stivell Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

5 stars "Chemins de Terre" celebrates a raunchy wedding between Celtic and Rock and roll music. While at times violent culture clashes occur between the in-laws, ultimately they all fall into bed together in a happy heap in the wee hours. Alan Stivell, who had already produced several groundbreaking disks by this time, with his adept fingers and old soul vocals blew this tsunami over the Celtic world. If he didn't quite launch the careers of DAN AR BRAZ and GABRIEL YACOUB, both of whom play prominent roles on "Chemin de Terre", he certainly changed their courses. In the meantime, in Nantes, TRI YANN were taking note, and, in waves across the channel, bands like STEELEYE SPAN, HORSLIPS and PLANXTY were under the spell as well.

Offering a seamless blend of the traditional and original with the raucous and the ethereal, STIVELL offers a varied assortment of instrumentals and songs that never drag. Fiddles, harps and pipes are all predominant but so are the more traditionally rock instruments and even a touch of mellotron strings on the closing number. The alternative currents running through this subversive recording do not seem contrived in the least, even though it's clear what Stivell was trying to do, and he certainly didn't try to hide it, which is perhaps part of its charm.

It's a little difficult for me to pick the now oft covered traditional songs as highlights even though "Suzy MacGuire" seems to have captured the primordial atmosphere in its grooves. For me, the album peaks on the gorgeous but brief Scottish song "Oidche Mhaith" with Stivell largely unaccompanied on voice and harp, slowly brought to term by organ; the breathless pipe led instrumental "An Dro Nevez" and its banjo and rhythm and lead guitar layers; and the mournful Acapella "Maro Ma Mestrez". I'll also add the lovely "An Hani a Garan" which which combines the sensitivity of "Reflets" with plucking reminiscent of "Renaissance de la Harpe Celtique". But nothing here is remotely superfluous, even if some prog fans may balk at the predominance of traditional instrumentation.

While Stivell has enjoyed a charmed career by any yardstick, and his "Renaissance de la Harpe Celtique" remains perhaps his best known, "Chemins de Terre" represents arguably his most significant contribution to Celtic Rock as a thriving genre, and the endearing subset of those earthy folk we classify as prog.

 Renaissance De La Harpe Celtique by STIVELL, ALAN album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.93 | 34 ratings

Renaissance De La Harpe Celtique
Alan Stivell Prog Folk

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars This is an album that was recommended to me by the music reviewers in Audiophile magazine and for which I have always been extremely grateful as I consider it a masterpiece of beautiful melodies and one of the earliest successes at putting Celtic music to electric rock band accompaniment. 1. "Ys" (8:49) is the proggiest song on the album opening with gentle waves on the beach sounds followed by some gorgeous chord sequences and eventually joined in by with double bass/cello and hand drums, and wooden flute. (10/10)

2. "Marv Pontkalleg" (3:34) is a stunningly beautiful song performed on solo harp. (9/10)

3. "Extraits de manuscrits gallois: Ap Huw and Penllyn" (2:58) is a pretty if odd-tempoed piece for solo harp. (8/10)

4. "Eliz Iza" (2:56) is an amazing little piece with the support of chamber strings, choir, and, at the end, bagpipes, drums and electric bass. (10/10)

5. "Gaeltacht Medley: Caitlain Triall/Port Ui Mhuirgheasa/Airde Cuan/Na Reubairrean/Manx Melody/Heman Dubh/Gaelic Waltz/Struan Robertson/the Little Cascade/Briagh Loch Iall/Port an Deorai " (18:53) contains parts and pieces of 11 traditional folk songs. Beautifully done. One can only wonder what the lyrics to these songs would sound like with Alan's accompaniment.

One of the finest early examples of folk music integrating with the support of both classical and electrified rock instruments (organ, bass and drums). I've always thought, since I first heard this album in the late 1970s, that GENESIS must have heard this album before they set out to do Selling England by the Pound because there are melody lines in Renaissance of the Celtic Harp that are heard note for note from the guitars in several songs on Selling England--notably in "Cinema Show," "Firth of Fifth," and "Dancing with the Moonlight Knight." More than a coincidence? Hard to believe.

 Raok Dilestra / Avant D'accoster  by STIVELL, ALAN album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.05 | 13 ratings

Raok Dilestra / Avant D'accoster
Alan Stivell Prog Folk

Review by dsbenson

3 stars I'm a big fan of Alan Stivell's work, which includes very soft and lyrical albums (especially earlier in his career), a middle period of proggish experimentalism, and later jazzy world music.

This is probably his most proggish album, and tells a story which, thankfully, I cannot understand since I don't really care for a history lesson. If you omit the short spoken text pieces, it's a really good album, with a much harder edge than most of his work. Definitely in the prog-folk vein, with the Celtic/Breton influence very strong.

Recommended to Gryphon fans (musically it's very different, but it's got a similar acoustic instrumentation).

It's a shame that he felt the need to include the English spoken word sections (although there aren't that many). The sound of the album would be stronger without the spoken word. Of course, he's trying to tell a story. But unless you speak several languages you're not going to follow it anyway if you're listening to the English language version, so the English is just a distraction.

 Renaissance De La Harpe Celtique by STIVELL, ALAN album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.93 | 34 ratings

Renaissance De La Harpe Celtique
Alan Stivell Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

5 stars "Reflets" represented a teaser of STIVELL's early 1970s recordings with its blend of mournful (and occasionally playful) vocals with harp and other folk accompaniments and a little rock thrown in. It alluded to his indefatigable drive, now 4 decades old, to keep the tradition alive by holding its feet to the fire. "Renaissance de La Harpe Celtique" seems to be STIVELL apologizing for having forgotten his raison d'etre, that being to truly revive this blessed instrument with the help of a complement of the most committed Breton musicians of the time. This album is precisely what it claims to be, thereby silencing those who might cry "pretentious". Its influence on myriad performers to follow assures its status as a turning point in Breton, world, new age, and progressive music, none of which says anything about its own artistic self-sufficiency. For that, you have to listen, because no description could do justice to the ardent meticulousness herein.

Stivell wisely includes an array of traditional instrumentation that complements the harp, among which are the bombarde, pipes and flute, all of which he plays as well, a battery of cellos, and the cultivated guitars of one DAN AR BRAZ, all in proportional perfection. Whether basking in the shimmering opener "Ys", the elegant neo classical "Eliz Iza", or the multi part multi national "Gaeltacht", one is moved by this 37 minute mantra. Stivell never allows the listener to stray, not just because of the constant shifts and the breathtaking virtuosity, but because all other thought, reverie, even fantasy is rendered mundane in its company.

As I've implied, the thousand vessels launched from "Renaissance..." have too exerted their own influence and contribution in realizing the dream of one Alan Cochevelu, harp player, passed down by one Jord Cochevelou, harp maker. The best news for you is that this dream is one to which you can return as often as you wish, to be reborn alongside it.

 Chemins De Terre by STIVELL, ALAN album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.14 | 35 ratings

Chemins De Terre
Alan Stivell Prog Folk

Review by Einsetumadur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 12.5/15P. Hands down, this record which is actually buried in oblivion, features about 30 minutes of pure magic - electric folk of its finest kind and not a bit less majestic and unique as the critically acclaimed work of Steeleye Span and others. And the remaining 10 minutes are absolutely good, too!

I got this album when I didn't have a clue what Celtic folk was actually about. You cannot imagine how amazed I was when I dug that one out after having falling in love with all the electric folk stuff from the UK. And it's today I found out that Dan Ar Bras (later of Fairport Convention) and the Yacoub siblings (of Malicorne) contributed to that album as well.

The farewell song Kimiad is just an experience of its own. I'm a big fan of Steeleye Span's Saucy Sailor, but this one tops it for me. There's Alan Stivell's gravelly voice, the fluent acoustic guitar picking, the majestic wailing of the bagpipes, the sad and low-key rolling of the percussion - and an extended mournful Mellotron cello counterpoint (at 1:50) lamenting underneath this overwhelming piece of beauty. Kimiad actually is a Breton farewell song, and every departing man or soul who is released to these sounds may be envied - it's really that good. The brief Oidhche Mhaith isn't a tad less fascinating, but restricts itself to the swirling backing of Alan Stivell's harp and Pascal Stive's Hammond organ. Marie Yacoub, a gorgeous folk singer who was sadly underused on Malicorne's debut album, is one of a bigger bunch of backing voices, but is easily distinguishable. The moment when the Hammond organ enters is proof against everyone who believes that folk music and electronic instruments don't belong together.

In spite of Stivell's thick accent, or maybe even because of it, She Moves Through The Fair is my favorite interpretation of that English ballad, which is surely the best-known tune on this album. The harp spins relentlessly around the calm drone of the bagpipes in the second half of the song, at some places the acoustic guitar takes over the job of swirling around without me actually realising the change in instrumentation, and who would have thought that adding some distant tablas to the instrumental playout of the track could be so effective? Usually, tablas on folk records annoy me (Steve Ashley's Stroll On is an exception), but this is simply perfect. An Hani A Garan is another ballad which falls into the category of the previously mentioned songs, but adds an icy three-part tin whistle (or 'pipe', as Morris men mayhap would put it) arrangement which takes over the lead in the last minute of the song. A treat!

But some of the recordings on this album drive the folk rock approach even further. The most radical and hard-rocking one is the Ian Morrison Reel, a blasting piece of folk'n'roll with a marvellous fiddle tone and more bagpipes rushing away on a tight rhythm of drums, bass and electric guitar. Check out the early albums by the Scottish band Run Rig, too, if you're into this particular kind of folk rock. Brezhoneg Raok (I think this means 'Breton Rock' in English) is a rock number composed by Stivell, and although it's got hardly any relation to folk music it suits the rest of the album fine. Some might call Dan Ar Bras' electric guitar tone a bit murky, but I get on with it really well since he doesn't dominate the songs and because what he plays is really good - fuzzy dual lead guitars, some theatralic string bends and jazzy flourishes. And most importantly the rhythm section isn't just another copy of Dave Mattacks et al., but a machinery of its own, as the weird but successful Celtic/jazz fusion mix-up of Metig reveals. This piece moves from spacy Hammond organ carpets beyond a dance part with some wordless singing to some military drum rolls before entering into a swinging band coda. Utterly enjoyable music, and this applies to all of the aforementioned tracks!

The three pieces which are 'only' in the 4-star realms are An Dro Nevez, Can Y Melinydd and Maro Ma Mestrez. The first one is a jig type of piece floating away on a laid-back band groove, bagpipes and fiddle taking the lead and mountain dulcimer and a slightly funky electric guitar in the background; it's just a wee bit too long for its own sake with the same melody being repeated over and over again. Can Y Melinydd, with - as it seems - dual lead vocals by Alan Stivell and Gabriel Yacoub and Yacoub's sister on spoons, is a pretty upbeat song led by banjo and twisted bass lines. Maro Ma Mestrez turns out to be more psychedelic again although the first verses - sung a capella - actually promise a more traditionalist rendition of this tune. It's a spacy lead guitar and, again, the Hammond organ which finally turn the cards during the second half of the song.

This leaves us with the opener Suzy MacGuire, which is one of the rare examples in which true psychedelia and folk music touch each other at the right place, creating something really groundbreaking altogether. In the very beginning there's only Alan Stivell and a muted drum, but then the dulcimer enters the fold and propels the song further on until Stivell's reedy harmonium adds a grievous note to the song. In the end you find crashing cymbals, swirling harps and wayward piano vamps turn around a reverberated electric guitar solo. A real piece of genius again!

First of all - this album brought the tentative ideas of the French electric folk group Malicorne to perfection. They were much too diffident and stubbornly traditional on their very first album which came out at around the same time (although the magic La Pernette makes a difference). Chemins De Terre is among the real classics of the seemingly inexhaustible folk genre and, as other reviews have already stated, manages to create that special connection between you (as the listener) and the earth you stand on - at least if you want to. If you have the chance to visit the countries where this kind of music comes from, be it Ireland, France, Scotland, England or maybe even parts of Germany - use your time to empathise with the country and the music. This album is the perfect soundtrack for a day at the sea. As well it is a suitable addition to the collection of anyone who has at least some relation to folk music.

 Chemins De Terre by STIVELL, ALAN album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.14 | 35 ratings

Chemins De Terre
Alan Stivell Prog Folk

Review by Guldbamsen
Special Collaborator Retired Admin

4 stars The bridge

Coming from a family that, at least on my mother's side, used original folk music as the way it was intended - as a means to communicate with each other beyond words through dancing and facial expression when you hear that particular melody that goes way back with your blood roots. As far back as I can remember, my family has always ended big get-togethers spanning from weddings to birthdays - with a traditional song where everybody stands together in a huge circle, in one big meat embrace, singing about the land and nature where we grew up. When I was smaller, I didn't understand the significance of it, even if I did sense a togetherness beyond the mundane, - but as the years roll by, I've begun to look around at these familiar faces, and especially my grandfather - and quite magically during these musical family injections, his normal rock steady face begins to quiver and journey out above the wheat fields and forests. He looses himself for a moment or so, but I'm sure he goes somewhere. That's when it struck me, even if I think that most of these people listen to god awful music - that we as humans all have something that moves rock - inspires hope in us and strengthens the brotherly love. I may not be that different after all, I just don't enjoy Hansi Hiterseer...

I get that same feel with Alan Stivell, and I can just imagine old Celtic families dancing around to a wee little ditty listening to some of the more traditional tracks on offer here. If you don't know Stivell, then imagine this musical prodigy from the 19th century suddenly stepping into a time-machine - ending up in the 70s with all these long haired musical pioneers - searching back and forth in time and history for something special, unique - something that touches the soul. Alan shows them what he can do with the Celtic harp, which he has been playing since the age of 9 - and by a strange touch of faith, a truly stunning meeting of new and old takes place. Stivell actually means source, and when you listen to this record - you quickly realise why. Dulcimers, banjo, fiddle, all kinds of acoustic guitars - that beautiful otherworldly harp as well as something I'd never ever dream of infusing in a rock setting, had I not heard Korn actually, which is the bagpipes. All of this creates original Celtic folk music - yet somehow that's not entirely what it's all about. Just like ELP were about bringing the classical world into the rock n' roll - you too have that same sense of fusion here. There's electric guitars and bubbly organs - shining through in the midst of things, emanating a certain psychedelic rock attitude, - as well as sprucing up the endemic folky atmospheres with a modern peep into the start of the 70s, where everything was a-go. It was indeed a time of magic - finding out what musics could be glued together to form some kind of new and enticing cohesive whole.

Alan Stivell's voice is something that deserves a paragraph for itself. Like a twitching baby bird in the morning sun - a frail piece of organic mater, his voice shakes and trembles without ever becoming whiny or depressive. This man pushes forth sentences like setting small paper ships to sea in a puddle. They fit so beautifully with the harp - hitting those same kinds of intimate heights - oozing heartfelt warmth.

There are moments on this album that make my skin crawl like a welcoming rush of young baby caterpillars climbing my torso. It's beauty like crystal, though never as sterile and clear - it is folk music with heart and soul - something dug straight out of the ground like a pound of potatoes - something familiar and old. The last track for example uses bag pipes in a way that stretches the imagination - and serves up something entirely different than all those burial scenes you get in Hollywood flicks - though a thousand times more gripping and essential - essential in a manner that makes you think you're from Ireland or Scotland and have fought with William Wallace, but in a modern war where you afterwards went out drinking beers and listened to blues whilst dancing, twirling and yelling profanities in the street. This music bridges time itself - brick by brick - all the way back to the original Celtic tradition - straight up to the electric guitar and all of the fire it brought with it.

 Symphonie Celtique -  Tír Na nÓg by STIVELL, ALAN album cover Studio Album, 1979
2.51 | 19 ratings

Symphonie Celtique - Tír Na nÓg
Alan Stivell Prog Folk

Review by octopus-4
Special Collaborator RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams

2 stars Tír na nÓg can be translated as "Land of Youth". It's an outerworld where the people of Goddess Danu, "Tuatha De Danann" went after leaving Ireland. It's an island far in the West similar to the Viking's Valhalla and the story is about Oisin brought there by the queen Niamh.

This island is imagined made of three concentric circles, and those are the three parts of this symphony.

The first circle stands for 20:45 minutes starting with a Krautrock mood for the first 5 of them. It makes me think to Amon Duul but in this case it's music, not just a trippy band playing bongos on the beach. After this a Keltic section starts. It contains some female speech and this part is quite similar to Lucia Hwong. Effectively Stivell played on her "Secret Luminescence" more or less in the same period. When the speech ends it's just celtic which turns into a chaotic symphonic part close to the end when the celtic mood is restored by the pipes.

The second circle is 19:12 and opens totally symphonic. After 8 minutes a typical Stivell's harp brings the listener to Bretagne, but the surprise is at about minute 12, when there's the most progressive part of this track. It's clear why the only other review of this album currently on PA makes a distinction between the first 30 minutes and the rest. Who likes the Clannad of the 70s or bands like Malicorne will surely like the second half of this "circle" on which bass and drums add a touch of prog to the druidic ambient.

The third circle is unlikely the inner as it's really bigger. It takes more than 30 minutes and starts with harp and wind instruments which behave like birds in a cool spring morning. You can like it or not, but this is the kind of music that I effectively expect from Alan Stivell. The following section sees Alan singing on a piano base which is later improved by flutes and female voices. As often happen in music, knowing what a song is about helps in being more receptive. In Tír na nÓg there are no illness and no sickness. It's a land of eternal youth and this part sounds like a hymn, a ritual. At minute 8:30 bass and drums are added and Alan's vocals are now a choir. Back to prog. At minute 16, more or less, there's the most happy moment of the whole album with a captivating rhythm, pipes and winds but after one minute only it moves into minor chords and fiddle. Still prog folk but darker. It's a section of sudden changes: drums and bass accents for a while, then bodhran and flute, then pipes. Each single part is quite good but it's not easy to follow. At minute 20 it's the usual (good) Stivell, the kind of music for which he's included in the prog-folk subgenre, for 3 minutes only...the druid ritual restarts, then another sudden change transforms the song in a sort of march, then a good celtic moment...then stop describing. Too many changes.

This is the defect of this 30 minutes track. Even if the transitions don't make it discontinuous it's almost impossible to follow. Each single part is good. at minute 25 there's a bit of funky, too, but transitions apart, I don't see the difference between this 30 minutes single track and a soundtrack made of 1 minutes short tracks.

With more continuity and cutting out some useless parts this album could have been very interesting but in my opinion it fails to meet the objectives. Good if you like the genre, well played and with some very good moments but if celtic folk is not your pot stay away from it. I like this album but to be honest I can't rate it with more than 2 stars.

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

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