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Was it The Storm before a becalmed Clannad?
It must have been Dec 1 or 2 1989 at the Hammersmith Apollo. Someone called Ray has written "most boring show for ages". On the strength of the first part of the gig I'd find it hard to disagree. I wasn't there afterwards.
But as we took our seats, the pulsating rhythms of Moving Hearts filled the concert hall. They were playing their album The Storm on the PA system. I have no recollection of Mary Kelley, the support artist, but do recall my horror at what had become of Clannad, a brilliant but already inventive traditional band metamorphosed as a gooey melange of dry ice and mystic but aimless sounds.
I do not begrudge folk musicians veering off into more commercial territory in order to earn a crust. Fleetwood Mac went from being a superb British blues band to capturing a slice of the transatlantic corporate pop market. It's how the world works. And I preferred Clannad Mark I just as I preferred Fleetwood Mac in its earlier form.
Moving Hearts were not the official warm-up act that night in west London but their electronic presence made them too tough an act for Clannad to follow. My wife and I left early.
And for the fourth instalment in my series on folk and folk-related instrumentals, I have chosen that Moving Hearts epic, first released in 1985 when the band's line-up was:
- Dónal Lunny - bouzouki, synthesiser & bodhran
- Keith Donald - soprano and alto saxophones & bass clarinet
- Davy Spillane - uilleann pipes & low whistle
- Declan Masterson - uilleann pipes
- Greg Boland - guitar
- Eoghan O'Neill - bass
- Noel Eccles - percussion
- Matt Kelleghan - drums
Donal Lunny's genius as producer is revealed once more and the all-round standard of musicianship, including Lunny's but with Davy Spillane in sensuous, stunning form on uillean pipes, is lofty.
I have been wondering which pieces I should include to illustrate the richness of the ensemble refinement of traditional Irish music. The whole album was a triumph of the genre and you will doubtless be able to stay online after my selected track, The Lark, and hear more of it. Failing that, just navigate what you see to the right of the YouTube clip. This, for me, is instrumental Irish music at close to its best ...