Sunday, 5 January 2014

“Tir na n'Og” by TIR na n’OG (2012 Esoteric Records 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Our Love Will Not Decay..."

Being a Dubliner I instantly knew what "Tir na n'Og" referred to – translated, it's Gaelic for "Land Of The Young" (locally pronounced Tier Nah Nogue). We had the stories rammed down our willing throats in History class in school. It comes from the ancient Irish tales of warrior king Ossian (or Oisin in Gaelic).

I've had this Prog-Folk duo's debut album on vinyl for decades (as well as the other two they did for Chrysalis - "A Tear And A Smile" from 1972 and "Strong In The Sun" in 1973) and loved them all to bits. In truth though - some of the hippy-dippy fay lyrics ("Aberdeen Angus") might make even the strongest constitution cringe 40 years on. So why bother? Because in-between all that mythology are strangely beautiful melodies and tunes wrapped up in strings and acoustic guitars that are fabulous - as sophisticated as Roy Harper on Harvest and just as cleverly constructed. In fact in places they sound like Tyrannosaurus Rex and what they might have become if Bolan hadn't gone completely Rock - or even the acoustic side of early Seventies Jethro Tull with a little Nick Drake string arrangements thrown in for colour. Guitarists and singers Sonny Condell and Leo O'Kelly made a lovely racket. Here are the mushroom and fairy details...

UK released November 2012 - "Tir na n'Og" by TIR na n'OG on Esoteric Records ECLEC2357 (Barcode 5013929435742) is an 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster and plays out as follows (51:54 minutes):

1. Time Is Like A Promise
2. Mariner Blues
3. Daisy Lady
4. Tir Na Nog
5. Aberdeen Angus
6. Looking Up
7. Boat Song
8. Our Love Will Not Decay
9. Hey Friend
10. Dance Of Years
11. Live A Day
12. Piccadilly
13. Dante
Tracks 1 to 13 are the album "Tir na n'Og" UK released May 1971 on Chrysalis/Island ILPS 9153. 

14. I'm Happy To Be (On This Mountain) 
15. Let My Love Grow
Tracks 14 and 15 are a UK 7" single on Chrysalis/Island WIP 6090 issued in 1970 (both non-album tracks at the time). The 16-page booklet features liner notes by noted writer TREVOR BOYD and reproduces the lovely gatefold sleeve of the original LP, pictures that rare 7" picture sleeve (out of Europe) - features music mag reviews and even sheet music.

A word about the sound - the remaster handled by MARK POWELL and PASCHAL BYRNE is truly gorgeous - clear instruments, warmth on every track with the top quality original production values of Bill Leader now fully on display. It really is a fantastic job done. I've done tags on both of these guys before (pictorial lists of their work).

SONNY CONDELL plays Guitar, Mandolin, Moroccan Pottery, Drums, Tabla, Jews Harp and sings while LEO O'KELLY plays Guitar, Electric Bass, Dulcimer, Tin Whistle and alternates lead vocals with Condell. All songs excepting "Hey Friend" (by Dolan) are original compositions.

It opens with the mid Sixties Simon & Garfunkel folk of "Time Is Like A Promise" (features ANNIE CROZIER on Psaltry) and progresses very nicely into "Mariner Blues" which is where Condell's quirky chord changes first come into focus. The title track even has UK Folk hero BARRY DRANSFIELD on Fiddle. "Looking Up" is superb because it leaves much of the mythology behind and becomes sophisticated Acoustic Rock. But Side 2 opens with probably the most haunting song on the album - O'Kelly's "The Boat Song". It sounds beautiful with its Nick Drake string arrangements (done by Nick Harrison who later did work on The Rolling Stones "Angie") and stories about leaving (lyrics from it title this review). Harrison's work also turns up on the pretty "Piccadilly". The album finisher is another wonderfully off-the-cuff Condell melody "Dante". But you can see why the A of the single failed (nice to finally see it on CD). But its B-side is a gem - a lovely air by Condell called "Let My Love Grow".

They morphed in the late Seventies in the affectionately remembered SCULLION who made 5 albums in Ireland (none are on CD to my knowledge) including the fab "Balance And Control" in 1980 produced by the mighty JOHN MARTYN. Condell even made a CD album in 2013.

TIR NA NOG would definitely be an acquired taste for some. But for me there was always something magical in those hooks and songs - and now their albums have the properly beautiful sounding remasters their catalogue has always deserved.

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