This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 4/99
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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Bob Dylan got it right on Liam Clancy. According to Dylan: "Liam was for me. I never heard a singer as good as him ever. He was just the best ballad singer I ever heard in my life, still is probably..." In this release, 14 cuts originally released in 1965 now digitally remastered, along with nine new tracks, Clancy's clear, expressive vocals are captivating. Generally minimally backed, usually by guitar only, his ability to go from forcefulness to sublety, from sadness to gaiety, from drollery to pensiveness, and carry it off, is remarkable.
As difficult as it is to single out individual cuts on an album chock full of nuggets, Clancy's inspiring and affecting rendition of "Foggy Dew" is passionate enough to cause even the most deep-seated pacifist to answer a call to arms. Be prepared, this one will get to you.
In the same vein, Dominic Behan's "The Patriot Game" is a slower-paced ode to rebellion. Listen to this cut back-to-back with any version of Dylan's "With God On Our Side" and the similarities are instantly recognizable.
"The Rocky Road To Dublin" is a rousing tune reminiscent of the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem at their best. Clancy ably tackles this challenging song, assisted by Luke Kelly on this a cappella rendition. "All For Me Grog" is another lively, rhythmic cut that will get your toes tapping. What would an Irish music release be without at least a bow or two to the taking of the spirits? "Hi For The Beggerman," "Galway Races," and "The Sash My Father Wore" are yet additional bouncy, buoyant compositions.
Sprinkling slower-paced songs throughout, Clancy provides dandy versions of "Ten and Nine," detailing the harsh effects of the Industrial Revolution on workers, especially weavers; "Blackwater Side," about the tried-and-true subjects of love and betrayal; "Royal Canal," Brendan Behan's momentum-building depiction of rebel imprisonment; "In Bodentown's Churchyard," a salute to Wolfe Tone; and "Dirty Old Town," which sounds like something from Jez Lowe's repertoire but was actually written by Ewan McColl.
There is close to 71 minutes of thoroughly enjoyable entertainment offered here. Clancy performs solo for much of the release so it's different from the harmony-driven albums featuring the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. Still, let this ballad singer extraordinaire bring back old memories or set new ones in place.
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