Tuesday, 12 April 2016

"Happy To Meet, Sorry To Part" by HORSLIPS (2009 Celtic Airs/Horslips Records 'Expanded' CD – Peter Mew Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"…A Thief In A Haunted House…" 

When England's Fairport Convention recorded "A Sailor's Life" for inclusion on their "Unhalfbricking:" album (released July 1969) - its eleven-minutes-plus mixed English Folk Tradition with Rock elements and an Indian backbeat and drone -thereby creating overnight what many now call the genre of `Folk Rock'. The Fairports went on to more Folk-Rock greatness with "Liege & Lief" in December of that eventful year - and even better with the offshoot group Fotheringay in June 1970.

Ireland on the other hand - even with its long history of Folk tradition now running alongside a growing adoration of all things Rock - seemed to take its sweet time mixing the pair. That is until HORSLIPS came along. Their January 1973 self-financed debut album "Happy To Meet, Sorry To Part" on Oats Records MOO 3 did just that - and in grand style. I've still got my Irish-pressed original vinyl LP with its 'Emma Music' and 'Made In Ireland' credits on the labels. It was recorded November 1972 in Ireland by Alan O'Duffy on the Rolling Stones Mobile and distributed by RCA in the UK/Atlantic Records in the States (Atlantic SD 7030). But a few words first about the originals famously elaborate artwork...

Designed by the band's Fiddle player Charles O'Connor ('he cost us a fortune') and printed by Irish Silk Screen Ltd - the sleeve was cut in an Octagonal shape to ape his small and delicate hand-played instrument - an Irish Concertina (it's pictured by his feet on his photograph page). The front-flap was die-cut to allow the colour plates underneath to be seen - each one given over to a band member - JIM LOCKHART on Keyboards, Whistle and Flute, JOHNNY FEAN (looking like he needs a good night's sleep) on Electric and Acoustic Guitars, BARRY DEVLIN on Bass and Lead Vocals, EAMONN CARR on Drums and Bodhran and CHARLES O'CONNOR on Electric and Acoustic Fiddle, Mandolin, Concertina and Vocals. That gorgeous artwork has been reproduced here in great detail and they've added lyrics too. I mention all of this because Horslips fans will know that the last CD reissue of this came in a horrible square black cover without the artwork and was fitted out with a none-too pleasant transfer either. At last things have changed and very much for the better...

1. Happy To Meet [Side 1]
2. Hall Of Mirrors
3. The Clergy's Lamentation
4. An Bratach Ban
5. The Shamrock Shore
6. Flower Among Them All
7. Bim Istigh Ag Ol
8. Furniture [Side 2]
9. Ace And Deuce
10. Dance To Yer Daddy
11. Scalloway Ripoff
12. The Musical Priest
13. Sorry To Part
Tracks 1 to 13 are the album "Happy To Meet, Sorry To Part" as described above

14. Hall Of Mirrors [Live]
15. The High Reel [Live]
16. Rakish Paddy / Johnny's Wedding [Live]
17. Furniture [Live]
18. Bim Istigh Ag Ol [Live]
Tracks 14 to 18 are BONUS - recorded live at Quarter Latin in Berlin in 1976]

This new January 2009 CD reissue on Celtic Airs/Horslips Records MOOCCD003 (Barcode 5391513560934) of "Happy To Meet, Sorry To Part" by HORSLIPS boasts 5" Octagonal Repro Artwork inside a see-through square plastic holder with a sealable leaf and a title Obi (74:42 minutes). Original LPs have the booklet attached on the inside but in order to reproduce it for CD - Horslips have done it as a separate entity that allows the buyer to appreciate the work on its own. The detail even extends to the outer sleeve being matt (as per the original) while the booklet is stippled. The only downside of course is size - so you really can't read Page 2 of the booklet where each of the boys gives a witty explanation of themselves - but because its done in the Celtic calligraphy and the print is so small - it's hard to read even with glasses. Chris Ellis did the CD artwork and congrats to him...

But the really great news is a remaster by an engineer I rave about a lot - PETER MEW. It was done at Abbey Road and having heard the scratchy record and that last terrible CD - this is a revelation - warmth, clarity and still only the faintest of hiss levels even on the very quiet tracks. An example of how good the remaster sounds are two of the album's many lovely instrumentals - "Flowers Among Them All" on Side 1 and "Ace And Deuce" on Side 2. The first is a Folky jaunt with flutes, Bodhran and Whistles while the second is an acoustic ditty with keyboards - both now sound utterly gorgeous (Horslips did a fantastic remake of "Ace And Deuce" on their 2004 CD "Roll Back" - check it out).

The album opens with the 50-second Irish air and jig "Happy To Meet" with the boys coughing and shouting - then fading into "Hall Of Mirrors" where we get the real Horslips Folk-Rock sound (lyrics from it title this review). The plaintive and Irish-Folky instrumental "The Clergy's lament" follows wigging out into a Rock variant by the song's end. "An Bratach Ban" (I think this roughly translates into The Good Ship) is an old air sun in Gaelic but its eclipsed by the beautiful "Shamrock Shore" often called "Paddy's Green Shamrock Shore" in Folk circles. Paul Brady does a fabulous cover of it on his "Welcome Here Kind Stranger" Irish album from 1978 on Mulligan Records.

Side 2 opens with a huge fan fave - "Furniture" - one of their own songs mixed in with a familiar Irish air done on Electric Guitar. "Dance To Yer Daddy" and "Scalloway Ripoff" are both near vaudeville in its diddly-idleness - but "The Musical Priest" is probably the best example of their brand of Irish Folk-Rock. It ends on a Traditional note with "Sorry To Part" being pure Irish Folk...

The live tracks are OK - Eamonn Carr getting the crowd going on "The High Reel" and "Rakish Paddy..." - but it all sounds too much like a piss-up in London's Camden Town on a Saturday night and comes as a downer after the loveliness and cool of the album.

I saw Horslips live at a fun fair in a racetrack in Dublin sometime in the Summer of 1972 - they were playing on the back of a small truck and looked so cool it wasn't true. Like Lizzy - they were our (Irish teenagers) first taste of a Rock band we could get our teeth into. But in truth the Irish Folk-Rock of "Happy To Meet, Sorry To Part" won't be everyone's cup of Darjeeling in 2014 - and 41 years after its groundbreaking appeal/event - some might even find parts of it twee and dated.

But the bottom line is that if you love the album and are prepared to explore - then this excellent CD reissue is a vast improvement on what went before - both in presentation and sonically...

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