Makem & Clancy's Landmark Concert Album

Jun 5, 2001 (Updated Jun 9, 2001)
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Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Excellent singing, live banter and musicianship. Not a bad second to be found on it.

Cons:The CD edition leaves off the awe-inspiring story-song, "Peter Kagan and the Wind".

The Bottom Line: Among the greatest Irish folk ballad albums ever recorded; the next best thing to seeing this duo live.

This 1977 album, originally released as a double-lp, will bring joy and nostalgia to all who were fortunate enough to see Tommy Makem and Liam Clancy in live performances during their duo career between 1976 and 1988. Their shared presence electrified any venue in which they played, and it was rare for them not to sell out a concert. Joyful, life-affirming energy sprang from their every song, poem recitation, joke and bantering exchange with the audience. Drinking songs became metaphors for savored life experience; war-chants knocked you out of the doldrums of everyday life and urged you on toward your goals; and romantic ballads were delivered with a passion and sensuality that also fed the soul, and reminded one that true love is both a sensual and a spiritual exercise. Not only that, but a Makem & Clancy concert was the most fun you could possibly have in a concert hall.

This album was produced from a series of taped concerts at the Gaiety Theater in Dublin in the summer of 1977. Tommy and Liam were seasoned folksingers, in excellent voice, and clearly in their artistic and cultural element. There is absolutely not a bad second on this album. They are accompanied by a wonderful small ensemble led by guitarist/songwriter Archie Fisher, but they are no slouches on instrumentation themselves. The song selection runs the gamut from the ancient war-chant "O'Donnell Abu" to the hypnotic Irish-language piece "Ar Eirinn Ni Neosainn Ce Hi" to several of Makem's own compositions (I especially enjoyed "In the Town of Ballybay") to Colm Gallagher's hilariously weird "My Father Loves Nikita Krushchev" (set to the traditional slip-jig tune, "Boys of Ballisadare"). The enjoyment and singing talents of the audience are evident in a number of lovely singalong choruses. Do I sound a tad biased? Guilty as charged, and not a bother on me!

There's just one problem with the latest formats: the CD version of this album suffers from the noticeable absence of "Peter Kagan and the Wind", Makem and Clancy's marvelous rendition of Gordon Bok's well-known "story-song". This is arguably the double-lp's best track; and, though a long piece, it could easily have fitted onto the CD version. It is included on the double cassette version which is less readily available than the CD in most stores. Liam Clancy himself has protested this exclusion, so far to no avail. Nonetheless, any fan of the Irish folk revival of the 1970's and early 1980's will want to get ahold of this live album, in any format in which it can currently be found. It is ready evidence of artistic greatness, in every moment of every track.

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