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This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Clannad, Dúlamán May 23, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
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Once upon a time long long before they became the go to outfit for Celtic mystic atmospherics and had all the big name collaborations and special appearances Clannad produced albums like this – Dúlamán, their third album, released in 1976. They might not be the Ramones or the Pistols, but mighty fine they were in their own way: albums filled with spare traditional standards, beautifully produced and performed. And yet with an odd undercurrent. Cumha Eoghain Rua Uí Néill (Lament For Owen Roe) typifies this strand, albeit the guitars are perhaps that bit more emphatic than might be expected.

And therein lies the fascination of this album for me, the way the title track- surely one of their finest moments – has something of their future in its vocals and arrangements, particularly the central part and the end which nod to (then) contemporary folk and rock. It reminds me of what Robert Christgau once observed about the second Boston album, that there was some hint of corruption of the form that pushed it beyond the purely formalistic. To me that’s a strength rather than a weakness and the proof seems to me to be the effortless way they blend the styles together. I won’t overstate it. Such excursions were far from unknown in groups then and now.

But the approach is replicated to a greater or lesser extent on track after track. Two Sisters, with lilting vocals that are just about crystal clear and which within a minute or so pushes in a more muscular direction. Or what of the multi tracked wordless vocals that open Éirigh Suas A Stóirín (Rise Up My Love) and the genuinely lovely instrumental arrangement of the song – is it too much of a stretch to suggest someone had been listening closely to CSN and those of that ilk?

The Galtee Hunt also moves from traditional music in a more folk direction fairly sharpish. This pattern is evident in many of the tracks, Éirigh is Cuir Ort Do Chuid Eadaigh (Dress Yourself) where semi-instrumental passages arrive about half-way through. It’s as if a subtly different aesthetic is smuggled into the music. The rhythm guitar on Mo Mháire is yet another example.

A lot to like here.

Dúlamán

Éirigh Suas A Stóirín (Rise Up My Love)

Éirigh is Cuir Ort Do Chuid Eadaigh (Dress Yourself)

Two Sisters

Cumha Eoghain Rua Uí Néill (Lament For Owen Roe)

Comments»

1. EWI - May 23, 2015

I have to admit that I *love* the early Clannad, which plays heavily on their strengths – great vocals and some experimentation with instruments. The later stuff, not so much. They went too far in the other direction during the Eighties, and the New Age-y stuff (emulating Enya) is nearly all pap.

The soundtrack (Legend) to the ‘Robin of Sherwood’ TV series was a later highpoint, and a big part of my childhood. That show had so much good in it, particularly given the miniscule budget, and was shamelessly copied by the Kevin Costner movie.

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WorldbyStorm - May 23, 2015

I’m with you on Legend. It’s a bit cheesy, but it’s still got something. And it was good crack the TV show. Sort of a bit of ‘revisionist’ reading of Robin of Sherwood in the best possible sense of the term rather than it’s negative sense.

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2. Phil - May 24, 2015

Thanks for this – I’d never thought of Clannad as having a more ‘credible’ past. Not so keen on the title track, which – apart from the language – is perhaps the shape of things to come. The two (very different) ‘rise up’ songs are superb – not a million miles away from Pentangle, or an Irish reinvention of Pentangle. I could listen to a lot of that. Hadn’t heard that version of Two sisters, either – I’ll have that!

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WorldbyStorm - May 24, 2015

Cheers Phil. Definitely agree there’s an element of that in the title track, though reined in and still more folk inflected. Pentangle, yes, that’s it – I hadn’t thought of it in quite those terms but… yes. They are great songs aren’t they.

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