Sunday, May 27, 2007

Planxty

"After The Break" 1979

Colin Irwin:
The gravest danger in the resurrection of Planxty was always that, in attempting to recreate the extraordinary verve and majesty of their original incarnation, they neglected natural current instincts and succeeded only in becoming a parody of their former selves. That they managed with ease to avoid this considerable pitfall alone makes this a great record.

Naturally there's no conceivable way that "After The Break" can manage the same impact as their bold debut LP, purely because "Planxty" came first and hit upon a blend that evidently inspired all those involved. If "The Well Below The Valley" and "Cold Blow The Rainy Night" fell short of it (albeit narrowly) then it was because that sharpness and charged sense of restrained dynamics had to a small degree dissipated. On several tracks here notably "The Rambling Suiler", "The Pursuit Of Farmer Michael Hayes", and two sets of reels, it's fully recaptured.

Yet the track that defiantly declares that they are looking ahead and not behind is "Smeceno Horo", a frantic Bulgarian dance tune that's proved so popular on gigs it even merits a "FEATURING SMECENO HORO" sticker on the sleeve. A joker in the pack, it's a complete departure from everything they've done before, even allowing for some of Andy Irvine's flirtations with Eastern European music in the past. Undeniably invigorating and infectious, it's nevertheless my least favourite track on the record, jarring in relation to the rest of the album, but I admire their resolve in tackling it. It comes over much more powerfully live.

The only other real quibbles are that Christy Moore (on "The Good Ship Kangaroo" and Andy Irvine (on "You Rambling Boys Of Pleasure") seem to take the understated vocal style perhaps a shade too far, or maybe the vocals are a fraction too low in the mix. But these really are details - the arrangements around both tracks are superb, the instrumental break tagged on to the end of "The Good Ship Kangaroo", the opening track, stirring memories of "Raggle Taggle Gypsy" and "Tabhair Dum Do Lamh", "The Rambling Suiler", a Scots moral tale of a colonel who dresses up as a beggar and pulls a farmer's daughter, and "The Pursuit Of Farmer Michael Hayes", a geographical guide to Ireland through the eyes of a fleeing murderer, are both vintage Planxty.

Matt Molloy and Liam O'Flynn are at the helm of the instrumental tracks (two sets of reels and one of double-jigs) and two things emerge. One is that Liam O'Flynn has become an even more accomplished piper than he was before, and that Matt Molloy's brief contribution on flute was greater than it actually appeared on stage. His blend with O'Flynn is mesmerising here.

4 Comments:

Blogger Neilson said...

A great album! I got this one in Ireland from the Mulligan record store.

28 May, 2007 08:25  
Blogger shadrac blintz said...

I taped this version Smeceno Horo off the radio years ago but I had no idea it was Planxty until quite recently.
I went to see Mozaik, Andy Irvine and Donal Lunny's occassional other band, and they played it.
Very impressive live band.

28 May, 2007 14:09  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh man, "well below the valley" is their greatest for the inclusion of "time will cure me", the title track and both versions of "i roved out" alone! amazing! willl check this one out! thanks.

28 May, 2007 15:23  
Anonymous simon said...

is there any chance of this one being re-upped? Have it on vinyl but nothing to play it on...

20 March, 2010 09:57  

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