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CLANNAD

Prog Folk • Ireland


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Clannad picture
Clannad biography
Founded in Gweedore, Donegal, Ireland in 1970 (as "Clann as Dobhar") - Hiatus from 1998-2006

For decades CLANNAD have embodied the spirit and dedication of the proverbial musical family, which just happens to be related by blood as well. While they have navigated a number of distinct phases and less distinct transitions, and are generally and correctly classified as a folk group, they have always been so much more.

In the 1970s they were more closely allied to traditional Irish music, but with eclectic influences from jazz to rock, surely among them the PENTANGLE. While their international popularity was limited at this time, they blazed the path for a revival in Irish folk music, along with the CHIEFTAINS before them and contemporaries PLANXTY and CHRISTY MOORE. Recommended albums from this period - "Clannad" and "Dulaman".

Surprisingly, the 1980s were their most progressive phase, in which they pioneered a blend of pop, folk, ambient, and new age music. They not only sold a lot of albums, but inspired artists in the progressive world and beyond, from LOREENA MCKENNITT to IONA to ENYA, herself a family member and brief band member, to KARNATAKA to CAPERCAILLIE, ALTAN, and numerous other successful and obscure acts. All albums from this period are recommended to prog folk fans, with the exception of "Cran Ull" from 1980 which was more allied to their earlier period.

In the 1990s they achieved their greatest international success including a Grammy award for best new age album for Landmarks. The music from this period was pretty but generally lacked what little edge they had sharpened before. After an extended hiatus in which lead singer Moya Brennan embarked on a successful solo career, they returned to the stage in the mid 2000s and to the studio in 2013 to produce Nadur, revealing that not much had changed.

Clannad belongs on progarchives for their influence on numerous prog acts and their appeal to many prog fans, but mostly for their 1980s period in which they combined eclectic influences into their own unique take on Irish prog folk.

See also: WiKi

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CLANNAD discography


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

4.19 | 19 ratings
Clannad
1973
3.95 | 11 ratings
Clannad 2
1975
4.77 | 23 ratings
Dúlamán
1976
3.28 | 11 ratings
Crann Ull
1980
4.55 | 11 ratings
Fuaim
1982
4.52 | 17 ratings
Magical Ring
1983
3.29 | 16 ratings
Legend (OST)
1984
4.31 | 22 ratings
Macalla
1985
2.65 | 13 ratings
Sirius
1987
2.74 | 6 ratings
Atlantic Realm (OST)
1989
4.17 | 7 ratings
The Angel And The Soldier Boy
1989
2.66 | 11 ratings
Anam
1990
3.02 | 12 ratings
Banba
1993
2.55 | 12 ratings
Lore
1996
3.81 | 7 ratings
Landmarks
1997
3.92 | 6 ratings
Nádúr
2013

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

4.75 | 3 ratings
Clannad in Concert
1978
0.00 | 0 ratings
Live in Concert
2005
4.00 | 1 ratings
Christ Church Cathedral
2013
0.00 | 0 ratings
Turas 1980
2018

CLANNAD Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

4.00 | 1 ratings
Pastpresent
1989
5.00 | 1 ratings
Live at Christchurch Cathedral
2013

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

3.91 | 2 ratings
Past Present
1989
0.00 | 0 ratings
Themes
1995
0.00 | 0 ratings
In a Lifetime - The Ultimate Collection
1997
0.00 | 0 ratings
A Magical Gathering - The Clannad Anthology
2002
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Real ... Clannad
2018

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

3.00 | 1 ratings
Theme from Harry's Game
1982
0.00 | 0 ratings
Newgrange
1983
0.00 | 0 ratings
I See Red
1983
4.00 | 1 ratings
Robin /The Hooded Man)
1984
0.00 | 0 ratings
Almost Seems (Too Late to Turn)
1985
0.00 | 0 ratings
Closer to Your Heart
1985
3.00 | 1 ratings
In a Lifetime
1985
2.00 | 1 ratings
Something to Believe In
1987
0.00 | 0 ratings
White Fool
1988
0.00 | 0 ratings
Why Worry?
1991
0.00 | 0 ratings
Seanchas
1996
0.00 | 0 ratings
An Gleann
1998

CLANNAD Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Theme from Harry's Game by CLANNAD album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1982
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Theme from Harry's Game
Clannad Prog Folk

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

— First review of this album —
3 stars In a way, this single marks some kind of a turning point in CLANNAD's career. In the early eighties the Irish family band was gradually shifting from acoustic and ethnic folk into a bigger league in a pop world. Of course they didn't throw away their folk spirit or unmistakable Irishness, although their sound certainly became more polished and 'produced'. The B-sider in this 7" single is 'Strayed Away', a mellow, acoustic song from the album Fuaim (1982) after which Enya left the group to start a succesful solo career. In this song her backing vocals can faintly be spotted. Nice little song, not very memorable.

Harry's Game was a British TV mini-series (1982) based on the 1975 novel by Gerald Seymour. Apart from brief scenes, it is set in and around Belfast in the Troubles. I haven't seen it (in Finland), but I think 'Theme from Harry's Game' was pretty much THE song that made Clannad a bigger name. It also appeared on their next album Magical Ring (1983). This is a deeply atmospheric piece of music featuring Moira Brennan's distinctive vocals backed by others and a soft synth-centred arrangement. No percussion, no guitars etc. But it sure works. The song won an Ivor Novello award, deservedly.

With something more rare and interesting on the flipside (instead of just an average song from the latest album), I'd give this single one star more.

 Clannad by CLANNAD album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.19 | 19 ratings

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Clannad
Clannad Prog Folk

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars Perhaps more than any artist, CLANNAD has been responsible for keeping Irish traditional forms of music alive on the world's stage as well as keeping the dwindling Irish language from becoming extinct, at least in terms of music. It's amazing that this band that everyone has heard of due to its extraordinary popularity and longevity began 50 years ago in 1970 in the remote northwestern town of Greedore (known as Gaoth Dobhair in Irish). This band has been mostly a family affair since the beginning with its earliest years consisting of siblings Ciarán Brennan, Pól Ó Braonáin and Moya Brennan with their twin uncles Noel and Pádraig Duggan. CLANNAD has been most successful in bridging the gap between traditional Celtic music and pop and was also responsible for launching another Brennen whose name is Enya and would become one of Ireland's most successful crossover acts, but that's later!

It didn't take long after the band's inception that its unique style captured the attention of the public and in no time at all Polydor Records was interested in offering the fledgling band a recording contract after they won the Letterkenny Folk Festival albeit with apprehension of the band's desire to include songs in the Irish language. The label capitulated although the band which started out as Clann as Dobhar which is Irish for "The Family from Dore," was truncated to CLANNAD and the eponymously titled debut album was released in 1973. Unlike some of the more progressive, new age and crossover sounds they would craft on later albums, in the beginning CLANNAD was all about nurturing and keeping alive the pure unadulterated sounds of traditional Irish music with half of the songs performed on this debut completely sung in the Irish language however to appease the record label recorded half of the tracks were in English.

While CLANNAD would eventually write mostly original material, on this self-titled debut they perform a number of traditionals as well as a cover of Bonnie Dobson's "Morning Dew." The instrumentation is set mostly on acoustic mode with acoustic guitar, double bass, flute and harp providing the rhythm section while electric guitar leads and the occasional mandala add some contrasting sounds. The percussion is delivered by the bongos which shows how CLANNAD was straying away from the rigid orthodoxies of Irish music even at this stage. There are other drums sounds as well as a tin whistle but for the most part the focus is on the sensual lead vocals of Máire Brennan and the vocal harmonies of the other four members making this a mesmerizing display of traditional Celtic music with each track capturing a unique spiritual quality of the Irish landscape and traditional folklore.

While CLANNAD wasn't the only Irish folk band offering a modern version of timeless sounds from the Emerald Isle, others included Mellow Candle, Plenty and Tír na nÓg, CLANNAD was successful in winning over the orthodox crowds who favored artists like The Chieftains and Mary O'Hara and in the process nurtured a successful career in the 70s which propelled them into the 80s and beyond as one of Ireland's best exports, however at this stage this band sounded like many others by delivering purely passionate representations of a traditional style of music that had sustained an isolated culture throughout the centuries and one that hits the right notes for an immediate emotional connection. For many who dislike the band's later crossover into new age, this earliest example may offer the proper doses of traditional purity. Honestly you can't go wrong with this kind of beautifully performed Celtic music. It just warms the soul and evokes happy Leprechauns rolling around in green clover fields. Ah.

 Dúlamán by CLANNAD album cover Studio Album, 1976
4.77 | 23 ratings

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Dúlamán
Clannad Prog Folk

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

5 stars Clannad's third album "Dúlamán" was released in 1976, and seen the original sound of Clannad reach its peak. This album was made before their worldwide popularity and also before Enya was even part of the band. Of course, we have the classic line up of the two families involved here, the Brennans and the O'Dugains, and they were all related, Marie being the central figure and main vocalist.

The album, like its two predecessors, consists of mostly Irish and Gaelic songs, some traditional and some original, and each given the love and care that made Clannad's sound so intoxicating.

The album starts off with the title track "Dulaman", sung in Gaelic, which is based on a traditional Irish song about the people that used to collect seaweed for staving off starvation among other things. The specific character in this track wishes to marry another Dulaman's daughter against his wishes, so they elope. Clannad's version begins with various members of the band singing a cappela with traditional instruments joining in later and the short verses sung by one of the male singers. The music is well constructed, becoming more involved as it goes on, and a nice flute solo is featured on the long instrumental break with light percussion added to give it all a forward driving feel. The traditional sound is quite evident and will remain so throughout the album, which is really the best way to experience Clannad anyway.

"Cumha Eoghain Rua Ui Neill" is a slow and sparse instrumental that pays homage to Owen Roe O'Neill who was a great military leader of the Irish rebellion of the 1640s who died a premature death after succumbing to an illness, and the country was left under the savage reign of Cromwell. The music is quite lovely and pensive with plenty of flute and mandolin. It is based on an old Irish lament that originally had lyrics. "Two Sisters" comes from an old English folk song that deals with jealousy over one man to the point that one of them pushes the other into the river. Marie sings this one in English, a cappella during the first verse, and then with minimal instrumentation. The music becomes more layered as it continues on, and becomes more rhythmic retaining the folk elements, staying true to its roots. Clannad's version is an abridgment of the traditional lyrics.

"Eirigh Suas A Stoirin (Rise Up, My Darling)" returns to the Gaelic lyrics again with Marie singing lead. This song is also about vain love, which seems to be a common theme of traditional Irish music. In this one, a love sick suitor tries to win over a girl's parents to gain a girl's hand, but he is refused and the words deal with his loss. Most of this is sung by Marie alone with acoustic guitar accompanying her, with bass added in later. The band also provides some choral like vocals towards the end. "The Galtee Hung" is an instrumental Irish dance song with harp and flute playing a lilting duet. Guitar and bass come in later to add more life to the song. "Eirigh Is Cuir Ort Do Chuid Eadaigh (Arise and Dress Yourself)" is based off of an old folk song with some alterations made to the lyrics by the band. Marie again sings in Gaelic about another unrequited love tale, this time it is told in the viewpoint of the female. The music has a nice forward movement which actually shows some variety in the sound as it continues and the bass becomes more prominent. It is a well constructed version with nice instrumental composition which adds the needed variety to the album, yet retains the authentic folk element.

"Siuil A Run (Come, Oh Love)" is a lament that comes from the times of the Irish Brigade which was made up of young men that left Ireland to serve in the French Army. It is from the viewpoint of a young woman who misses her lover. Surprisingly, parts of the track is sung in English with the remainder being sung in Gaelic, all by Marie. The track is simpler with the accompaniment being made up of mostly acoustic guitars. "Mo Mhaire" is about a girl named Marie, which seems appropriate for the band. The melody, sung by Marie again in Gaelic is a bit more upbeat than the last track and has a familiar ring to it, but the accompaniment remains simple and without percussion, leaving the rhythm to be accented by the other instruments. "d'Tigeas a Damhsa" is a child's dance song sung totally a cappella with Marie leading the rest of the band and is a short track. The last track "Cucanandy/The Jug of Brown Ale" is a combination of two Irish instrumentals twined together by a short Gaelic phrase sung by the group in the middle of the track.

This is the Clannad that is the most folkish, the earlier albums being the most simple and faithful to the Irish sound. Yet, it was with the addition of pop elements that helped make the band more successful, sometimes to the music's benefit and other times to its detriment. But this simple, somewhat naïve sound is what give the band its heart and believability. In Dulaman, the band has worked out its kinks of the earlier albums and made a perfect Irish folk album. Yes, the band would still have some excellent albums to come, albeit sort of sporadically, but this one shows them while they are still faithful to the roots of their music and at their best as far as true folk music goes.

 Sirius by CLANNAD album cover Studio Album, 1987
2.65 | 13 ratings

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Sirius
Clannad Prog Folk

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

3 stars When "Sirius" was released in 1987, Clannad's basic line-up of family members Brennans and Duggans was mostly intact, at least as far as the core group is concened. However, in order to make their music less folky and more poppy, they had recruited many special guests so that they could pass themselves off as a rock band. So, they brought along Bruce Hornsby to sing and play piano on "Second Nature", Steve Perry to do background vocals on "White Fool", and, for those that were wondering what Mel Collins was up to during his stint away from King Crimson, here he is bringing his sax along for several of the tracks. There is a whole host of other guests along for the ride, it almost makes you wonder, other than Maire's lovely and distinct voice, what is left for the rest of the band to do?

With a few songs from Clannad reaching the ears of American listeners and a surge of popularity and interest in Celtic music, the band was dealing with retaining that core sound, but still trying to sound relevant to American artists. They actually do a decent job, but don't expect there to be much in the way of folk or progressive sounds here. The band manages to use some traditional sounding instruments and styles, and this does add to some level of uniqueness and heart to the music, and Maire is as strong of a vocalist as ever, but it seems they have a hard time keeping the music interesting as it goes on. As far as Celtic authenticity though, it is pretty much missing in the structure of these tracks, and every one of them is mostly sung in English. There is nothing traditional about the music on this album. But both Pol and Cianran Brennan write all of the songs for the album.

"Turning Tide" is a lovely song with some excellent instrumentation involved which makes for a sweeping sound that tends to be missing in some of their earlier music. "Skellig" is the track with the most similarity to their more acoustic sound of before, but isn't really that acoustic. "White Fool" actually tries to call back to some of their better albums with the chanting, atmospheric guitars and tribal rhythms, and has a more complex thematic sound, but Steve Perry's vocals actually are a bit underwhelming here. But it is still one of the stronger entries on the album even if it misses the expected "pay-off" that it hints to. Bruce Hornsby comes back to add harmonies to "Something to Believe In" which is a nice, lush track with some good guitar, but doesn't stand out as much as it probably should. The best of the album, however, seems to be in the simpler tracks that let the band do what they do best, as in the lovely "Many Roads", a song that would have been even more beautiful if done with even less polish. And "Sirius" has a really nice electric guitar solo from guest Robbie Blunt, but the rest of the song is over produced.

The production is very slick here, and while that might sound good to pop lovers, it takes away the charm and authenticity that the band had ample amounts of previously. The music is good considering it is following more of a pop sound, but the vocals are the strongest part of the album, and this is what the record companies were hoping for, to be able to show off Moya's vocals in a pop/rock setting. But with some both strong and weak sections and songs, the album pretty much averages out to be just that, average. At least it isn't a failure. The band did the best they could and the album helped them to maintain their popularity in the UK and to some extent in the US. The album probably would have aged much better with less polish which tends to make it all sound less intimate.

 Crann Ull by CLANNAD album cover Studio Album, 1980
3.28 | 11 ratings

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Crann Ull
Clannad Prog Folk

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

3 stars "Crann Ull" (Apple Tree) is the fourth studio album released by the Folk Prog band Clannad, and as such it was released before the band had gained notoriety in the US, so it is mostly made up of traditional Irish music with the songs mostly in Irish language and very little English. These early albums reflected what Clannad was about in their original incarnation, a quintet made up of brothers, sisters and their twin uncles. On this album, Nicky Ryan wanted to invite another sister to join because of her knowledge of electronic instruments and for additional vocals. The sister's name was Eithne Pádraigín Ní Bhraonáin, better known later as Enya. This was the first album she would appear on with Clannad, but only as a guest, and only as a supporting singer on "Gathering Mushrooms" while providing percussion and keyboards on other tracks.

"Ar A Ghabhail'n A'Chuain Damh" (As I Went to the Harbor) starts off the album with Clannad's version of an old Irish folk song which contains some complex rhythms and different time signatures and a melody that varies between the odd and even numbered verses, of which there are six. The vocals start immediately with Maire's voice accompanied by acoustic guitars and bass and occasional vocal harmonies. The song is a moderate beat. As the song continues into an extended, instrumental last half, electric piano and flute join in and the song becomes more rhythmic. With the keys helping to carry the instrumental part, we have are first indications of the modernization of their sound, yet many probably wouldn't notice because it is rather subtle. This is followed by the song based on a poem by the Irish poet Thomas Moore, "The Last Rose of Summer". The music is simple and pastoral with strong English vocals and some harmonization, acoustic guitars and some flute, plus again, the subtle use of synths.

"Cruiscin Lan" (Full Little Jug) is another traditional Irish song. Clannad's version stays quite faithful to the original, the focus is on the vocals, and the instrumentation stays simple with acoustic guitar and some harmonization. "Bacach Shile Andai" is an original song by the band and is sung by one of the male vocalists, but I'm not sure who. It has the attitude of a bar song, joyful and lilting, with a definite traditional sound. "Lá Coimhthioch Fan Dtuath" (A Strange Day In The Country Side) is another original Clannad composition. The song is instrumental starting off with guitar and harp playing solo and other time supporting each other. A sudden change in the middle that seems somewhat abrupt seems to feature mandolin and then the original theme returns at the end with some wordless vocals.

The title track "Crann Ull" comes next . Maire sings in Gaelic joined later by background vocalists. The song is again from an old song and after the vocals, features some nice pastoral instrumentals with harp, acoustic guitar and flute before the simple vocals return. "Gathering Mushrooms" is another original track which includes Enya as a supporting singer. The song is a jaunty track and seems to be a bit bawdy. It's the 2nd of two songs sung in English on this album. There is very subtle percussion on this one, but it is one of the happier sounding tracks of the album.

"An Buinnean Bui" (The Yellow Bittern) is a peaceful Gaelic song, again a traditional song with words written by a 17th century poet who upon seeing a dead bird by a lake, assumes that the bird died of thirst trying to get to the lake, so the narrator vows to never stop drinking. With the melancholic sound of this track, you wouldn't think it wouldn't have a irreverent theme. But, it is the Irish after all. The last track of this somewhat short album is "Planxty Browne" which was originally written for harp by the famous harpist Turlough O'Carolan, who Clannad has borrowed from before. Clannad add the help of acoustic guitar and, again, subtle use of MIDI and some flute.

This album is probably one of Clannad's most traditional sounding folk albums, and may not hold the interest of many listeners because of the use of Irish/Gaelic language and traditional tunes. Even the original songs sound quite traditional. Out of their earliest albums, it is probably one with the least amount of variety, and even with the addition of Enya's keyboards, it still sounds less modern than probably any of their albums. Hard core traditionalists and folk music lovers will enjoy it however. Maire's vocals are not as heartfelt as some of their other albums either, the album seems to come across as having been done too quickly, without much variation from the traditional sound except for a few nice sections where the instrumental sections have been extended to give more personality to the songs. Anyway, it's probably one of the bands weaker moments, but it does represent the album where Enya makes her debut.

 Clannad 2 by CLANNAD album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.95 | 11 ratings

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Clannad 2
Clannad Prog Folk

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

4 stars So, "Clannad 2" pretty much starts up where the debut album left off, even though this album came out in 1975, 2 years later. Back in the 70's , most bands were putting out 2 or 3 albums every year, but Clannad was taking their time, slowly putting themselves into the limelight, but enjoying their freedom to create new versions of mostly traditional Irish music and styles. The core band of 5 remained the same, the siblings Bhronain and their twin uncles. The music remains mostly acoustic with guitar, keyboards with occasional piano, flute, mandolin, harp and everyone having a part in the vocals, but most of them done by Maire Ni Bhronain. There were additional musicians also used for backup, especially another one of the Braonains on the drums with other musicians providing additional keys, guitars, synths, percussion and vocals. As on the previous album, most of the vocals are in Gaelic with only one track in English. Their popularity and move to a more new age style was still a few years away. For now, the music was mostly pure Irish and Celtic folk music done in a traditional way, without the complex violin and orchestral flourishes and synthesized layers. It was pure heartfelt music steeped in tradition, vocal harmonics and just a slight bit of modernization to make things more current.

The album starts with "An Gabhar Bán (The White Goat)". This has the traditional dance sound of Irish music with a nice danceable rhythm established by the instruments and not so much the percussion. Acoustic guitar, mandolin and flute play along with Maire's vocals, and later providing embellished versions of the melody during the instrumental break. "Eleanor Plunkett" is a classic, Irish tune by Turlough O'Carolan, one of Irelands most famous composers and harpists who was also blind. It is a beautiful instrumental rendition done mostly by the harp and later supported by the flute. "Coinleach Ghlas An Fhómhair" is one of my favorite early Clannad songs. It is a slow moving tune sung heartbreakingly beautiful by Maire accompanied mostly by a single acoustic guitar (and a subtle support from keys) that has it's own lovely melody that plays out in the introduction and throughout.

"Rince Philib a'Cheoil" is a definite traditional song with the choruses utilizing a droning harmony. A sparse drumming keeps the lilting tempo, and besides the guitar there is a short flute section. "By Chance It Was" is the only song with English lyrics, but with a heavy Irish sound as the band was not yet compromising it's traditional sound. A slow repeating guitar line plays in support and a simple piano backs that up. The flute embellishes the simple melody in the instrumental break. "Rince Briotánach" starts off innocently with a solo harp and a flute added in later. After passing through the melody a third time, percussion picks things up a bit and other instruments come in and things speed up as it goes along. This instrumental continues to repeat the main melody, builds up and then backs off again to where we are left as we began.

"Dhéanainn Súgradh" starts off with only harp playing melody. After a while, male led vocals and "in-unison" group singing come in. After a few verses, the drums come in and continue to keep moderate time. During an extended instrumental break, we even get some electric guitar and flutes as it morphs into a folk rock track. "Gaoth Barra Na dTonn" is simply with Maire's unaccompanied vocals. "Teidhir Abhaile Riú" has the typical Irish lilt with mandolin and flute with male vocals and a mixed chorus coming in later along with sparse percussion. "Fairly Shot of Her" is a nice, moderate instrumental with harp, mandolin and flute. "Chuaigh Mé Na Rosann" closes the album with the longest track at over 6 minutes. It is a moderately slow track with mostly just Maire's vocals and acoustic guitar and bass. A nice flute solo comes in during the instrumental breaks. Other traditional sounding instruments help support as the track continues.

In my opinion, this album actually steps back a little from the debut as far as the additional of more popular elements, except for the electric guitar in track 7. The sound is more traditional and acoustic with softer melodies overall and a more folkish sound. Of course, we are still far away from the more commercial sound of their popular years and the real Gaelic attitude is prevalent. Again, this is a nice, laid back album, with still no real indication to popularize the sound of the band, yet in doing so, they were laying the foundation for a surge and longing for Irish and Celtic music worldwide.

 Clannad by CLANNAD album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.19 | 19 ratings

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Clannad
Clannad Prog Folk

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

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.

 Macalla by CLANNAD album cover Studio Album, 1985
4.31 | 22 ratings

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Macalla
Clannad Prog Folk

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 Õir" (2:06), "The Wild Cry" (4:41), and the three songs cited above.

 Something to Believe In by CLANNAD album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1987
2.00 | 1 ratings

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Something to Believe In
Clannad Prog Folk

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

— First review of this album —
2 stars Both tracks on this single are from the 1987 album Sirius, which hasn't stood the test of time quite as well as Macalla (1985). Much of Sirius feels a bit over-produced in the 80's pop style. 'Something to Believe In' is a nice mid-tempo ballad featuring piano and backing vocals of Bruce Horsby (who had a hit 'It's Just the Way It Is'). Moira Brennan's vocals suit excellently to this melodic song. Elton John might have written something in this vein, but I don't think I'd enjoy any of his 80's songs as much as this Clannad song.

'Second Nature' is more fast-moving, and if I remember right, one of the worst in Sirius. It has a wrong kind of 'edginess' that feels somehow phoney. Despite the A side song being fairly good as a pop song, there's hardly a reason to rate this single more than two stars in this site.

 Banba by CLANNAD album cover Studio Album, 1993
3.02 | 12 ratings

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Banba
Clannad Prog Folk

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

3 stars "Banba" follows Clannad's continued attempt to mix their Celtic folk sound and radio friendly soft rock. This time around, the band returns more to it's roots, which is a welcome return, but the track selection still has an overabundance of soft pop music to attract the masses. The unfortunate thing is that the pop songs can sound a little dated, but this time around, the song writing is often closer to the heart than on the last few albums.

Mel Collins plays sax on several of the tracks, giving some textural variety throughout, and there is still a lot of accompaniment done by synthesizers that seem out of place nowadays on this kind of folk album. The acoustic guitars are still there too, however, and they tend to make things more authentic. There is only one traditional Celtic song on this album, with 2 original songs sung in their native language. Other than that, everything else is in English, except for a refrain in "I Will Find You" sung in the Native American language. Some songs seem genuinely heartfelt while others still have that plastic feeling, but the harmonies are beautiful this time around, and feel authentic for the most part.

"Na Laethe Bhi" is an original composition. It is quite lush and has beautiful harmonies that seem to be somewhat processed with minimal background musical support from synthesizers. It is very slow and pensive, not your typical opening song for an album, but that is fine because it establishes the roots with a traditional sounding song. The instrumental break features a more traditional sounding instrument, but other than that, it is quite minimal, letting the vocals and harmonies carry the song.

"Banba Oir" is more modern sounding and a little more upbeat. It features some sax and synths with some percussion. Again, it is sung in the traditional language, but it is also an original song about Ireland.

"There for You" is the first English song on the album. Again, it is quite mellow, but immediately uses sax to drive the song. "Mystery Game" is a more minimal song with a better melody that's more unique. Where the previous song was a definite attempt at pop music, this one is more thoughtful. Their pop music is always better when it's not trying so hard to sound modern (at least what modern sounded like in 1993).

"Struggle" is more upbeat driven by acoustic and electric guitars. Not a bad track except the chorus is a little convoluted. A short guitar solo in the middle takes inspiration from David Gilmour. "I Will Find You" is a highlight of this album. It was the theme from the movie "Last of the Mohicans", and is one of my favorites from the band. It is beautiful and lush, very moving, very appropriate for the movie it supported, mostly minimal, yet with a heartfelt melody and great harmonies with a refrain sung in the tribe's language.

"Soul Searcher" features vocals by a guest male vocalist , a nice change that helps keep interest in the album by not making it sound too much the same. It is driven by acoustic guitar with sax added in playing the typical riffs when you expect them. There is a nice instrumental interlude from the guitar.

"Caide Sin Do'n Te Sin" is the only Traditional song on this album. Acoustic guitar and piano provide the foundation for the song which deals with traditional folk themes. "The Other Side" is an upbeat song with vocals sung in tandem harmony throughout and an acoustic interlude. Yes it's poppy, but it's one of their better pop songs.

"Sunset Dreams" is the only song not written by Ciaran Brennan, this time written by Noel Duggan. It is quite basic with guitars and synthesizers, and really nothing special. Its too laid back and just kind of hovers in the air without going anywhere. "A Gentle Place" ends the album with an instrumental with the flute as the feature instrument and acoustic guitar providing support.

Still not reaching their previous pinnacle, this album at least comes closer to the bands roots, staying mostly minimal throughout, but moving to pop territory once in a while. But the songs are better constructed here. Still, the album can only be considered good, not great, with a few highlights that will make it worthwhile to the fan and a few lovers of soft, lush rock.

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

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