expanding the concept of Celtic

Celtic Odyssey:A Contemporary Celtic Journey (Narada)
various artists

Banba (Atlantic)


By John Goodin

Clannad is striking while the iron is hot. With serious backing from Atlantic Records, the best promoted traditional Irish band in the world has released an excellent album of all new material. With Banba, Clannad continues its twenty-year quest to expand the definition of traditional Irish music.

Maire Brennan' s voice is the center of the group's sound and her brother Ciaran has written an album's worth of songs that she can sing effectively. Brothers Noel and Padraig Duggan round out the core group on guitar and mandolin. Mel Collins is a hired hand, but his woodwind work is the main counterpoint to the layers of echoing voices. Clannad has resisted the temptation to create a "Son of Harry's Game" while retaining the sound and feel that made Anam such a fine piece of work.

Narada is an openly New Age label. In Celtic Odyssey, they have gone beyond the often misleading label and given us a collection of Celtic music from various artists that succeeds wonderfully.

Unlike most Narada theme collections, Celtic Odyssey features musicians from outside the Narada stable. The list of talent is formidable: Relativity, Altan, Sileas, Capercaillie, Scartaglen, Moving Hearts and more. Most of the pieces are not new recordings, but none is more than ten years old. Even a serious Celtic collector who has all the source albums will find the programming enjoyable. The inexperienced listener looking for a good sampler will be well served here.

Narada knows its main audience and the selections are all lovely. But that doesn't mean they are boring. There are several vocal tunes as well as some driving dance music. Any attempt to class this collection as Celtic-lite is doomed to failure. Narada has achieved success here by using recordings of serious artists working from within the Celtic tradition.