What does it sound like?:
A vibrant time capsule from March 17, 1963. Not exactly a new release (2008!) but one that I’d managed to miss until now – my Clancys fix usually being delivered via my dad’s old vinyl. This, however, is the complete concert, complete with between songs banter (including some good crack about JFK – “Hail Mary, full of grace – the masons are in second place!”).
The recording quality is wonderful – I’m playing it right now and it sounds like they’re singing in my living room. And the songs! This is a great sampler of their range from up-tempo drinkers to heart-breaking ballads, via poetry (The Host of the Air), children’s songs, sea shanties and rebel songs. Most of my own favourites – their sparking rendition of Shoals of Herring, the Patriot Game (to which one Bob Dylan obviously paid close attention), the Wild Colonial Boy (any attempt by me to sing this is a generally reliable indicator that I have had Too Much to Drink) – are present and correct. And the singing! Those soaring harmonies show the Beach Boys how it’s done.
It just sounds like four men having a great time, singing the songs they love in front of an adoring crowd. how wonderful that this gem has been rescued from the Columbia vaults.
The liner notes are also very good. One surprising fact mentioned in passing – the two eldest, Paddy and Tom emigrated to the US “after military service in World War II”. They’d have needed to.
There are some notes from Liam Clancy, the last surviving member, on his reaction to hearing these recordings for the first time, including this:
“Standing in the middle of the room with just the bedside light on, I caught sight of an old man in the mirror – it was me. My aloneness hit me hard – hit me hard in the throat – made it lump up. Being the last man standing is no triumph.”
I’ve a lump in the throat myself.
What does it all *mean*?
This was the Clancys caught at their peak, sounding fresh and new, proving that music from over 50 years ago can still move and amuse and thrill. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Goes well with…
Might suit people who like…
To be fair, it probably helps if you like folk – this album rests on wonderful close harmony singing, with some guitar and banjo accompaniment.