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SUGGESTED ALBUMS : "CLANNAD"- Beginnings - The Best Of The Early Years (2008, Demon Music Group) BY MIKE WILSON


SUGGESTED ALBUMS : "CLANNAD"- Beginnings - The Best Of The Early Years (2008, Demon Music Group) Double Album CD. This review by Mike Wilson has been published by Folking.com! All rights reserved by the author and published by kind permission


Beginnings is a comprehensive retrospective of the Irish band, Clannad, spanning the period from their eponymous début of 1973 through to 1982's Tara Records release, Fuaim. This period pre-dates their recording of the now legendary "Theme From Harry's Game," and their renowned soundtrack contribution to the television series, Robin of Sherwood, and the worldwide success that would follow.
What's remarkable about listening back to some of these early recordings, is how fresh and inventive they sound, their resounding vitality still very much apparent after all these years. Beginnings charts the early journey of the band from their pure sound, deeply rooted in the tradition of their Donegal home, to their first experiments with the contemporary, ethereal sound that would become their calling card. To have this body of music collected in one place tells quite a story, showing how the band's spellbinding innovations unfold and develop subtly as the years progress.
From their 1973 début is their stunning interpretation of the traditional song, "Nil Sé'n La," hinting heavily at the inventiveness that Clannad would continue to demonstrate throughout their career. Maire's voice comes across with breathtaking beauty and lends an air of authenticity, whilst the instrumental arrangements shun authenticity in favour of spellbinding, contemporary rhythms -- sprightly flute and guitar flirt around the redoubtable hum of a double bass, whilst unbounded percussion lends additional bite and edge. Of the same vintage, "Thíos Chois Na Trá Domh" receives a more conventional interpretation, with the bass now relinquishing centre-stage and sinking into the background.
From their second album in 1975 is the beguiling "Rince Briotánach" (Breton Dance), where Maire plays the harp with a delightfully rhythmic precision. Again, it's the enigmatic double bass and percussion that really set this apart from regular traditional fare, building to a fast and frenzied crescendo. "Teidhir Abhaile Riú" is instilled with similar fortitude, with the amassed vocal harmonies of the chorus providing a rousing, intractable draw.
Dúlamán followed in 1976 and the title track is presented on this collection, with its hypnotic, harmonising vocal introduction, giving way to an airy harp solo that introduces the first verse -- the formidable choruses seem to demonstrate a growing confidence with the use of imaginative vocal harmonies. The instrumental lament, "Cumha Eoghain Rua Uí Néill," bursts with resplendent elegance, and could easily be mistaken for the work of The Chieftains. A similar poise is expressed through Maire's enchanting vocals as she skips through the graceful "Siúil A Rún," or the more playful "Two Sisters."
There are even a few live offerings from 1979's Clannad In Concert, allowing you to enjoy the unadulterated vocal delights of "Mháire Bruineall," or the jaw-dropping beauty of "Down By The Sally Gardens" in their pure, live form.
"Ar A Ghabháil 'n a 'chuain Damh" from 1980's Crann Úll comes across a little more conservative initially, before an invigorating, jazzy instrumental rounds out the track, reminding you that they're still very much pushing at the boundaries. "Lá Coimhthíoch Fá'n Dtuath" ploughs a more serene furrow, demonstrating why their expansive, ethereal sound would be much in demand for soundtracks.
1982's Fuaim, is the first and only album on which Maire's younger sister, Eithne, later to achieve solo success as Enya, recorded as a full member of Clannad. Fuaim also marked a further significant step towards the sound that would come to define Clannad in years to come, with the introduction of synthesizers and saxophones to expand their sound and lend further contemporary leanings. Eithne takes lead vocals on "An tÚll," where a more electronic sound is certainly to the fore, whilst the undeniable appeal from their flirting with genre boundaries still remains. For this listener, it was still the richer, more mature vocals of Maire that reigned supreme however, as demonstrated on her wistful reading of "The Green Fields Of Gaothdobhair," a tender homage to the family's home town.
Beginnings provides a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the strong roots that would provide a firm anchor for Clannad's progression to international success. It shows evidence of their burgeoning talent right from the early days, coupled with a desire to innovate and reinterpret the traditional music of their native Ireland.

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Written by: Mike WilsonOn the 19-Jan-2009


Track listing - CD1
"Na Buachaillí Álainn"
"An Mhaighdean Mara"
"Down by the Sally Gardens"
"Dúlamán (Seaweed)"
"Crann Úll"
"Rince Briotánach (Breton Dance)"
"Mhorag’s Na Horo Gheallaidh"
"Thíos Chois Na Trá Domh"
"Teidhir Abhaile Riú"
"An tÚll"
"‘dTigeas A Damhsa? (Children’s Dance Song)"
"Planxty Browne"
"Nil Sé Ina La"
"Cumha Eoghain Rua Uí Néill"
"Coinleach Ghlas an Fhómhair

Track listing - CD2
"The Green Fields of Gaothdobhair"
"Siúil A Rún"
"An Buinneán Buí"
"Mhaire Bruinneall"
"Eleanor Plunkett"
"Siobhán Ní Dhuibhir"
"Two Sisters"
"Bruach Na Carraige Báine"
"Ar A Ghabháil ‘n A ‘chuain Domh"
"Éirigh Suas A Stóirín"
"Fairly Shot of Her"
"Buaireadh An Phósta"
"Gaoth Barra na dTonn"
"Mrs. McDermott"
"Lá Coimhthíoch Fán dTuath"
"An Pháirc"

External links
Release details at Northern Skyline - Fan site
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