Van Morrison and The Chieftains complete each other

Written on the 10th of December 2014

Considering I’ve basically written about Jethro Tull, Martin Barre and Eric Woolfson lately, I think it’s time to go back to folk, specifically celtic folk. This time, I’ll write about an album which features a band and an artist that have never totally hooked me, but whose collaboration bordered perfection. I actually never listen to Van Morrison, and, although I do like The Chieftains, I could live without them. However, Irish Heartbeat, the album they did together in 1988, is pure gold,

I’m actually checking The Chieftain’s discography now, and I just realized I only have their first five albums, and I say “only” because they have many more. This is obviously unacceptable, and I’ll proceed to somehow mysteriously and suddenly acquire their other CDs in the next few days. Anyway, that’s not the point, sorry, back to track.

What I wanted to say is that their music is good, but they lack something, at least in those five albums, and in Irish Heartbeat it seems as if they had suddenly found it. Unfortunately, it was a one-time-only thing. That “something” was Van Morrison’s voice, who also wrote two songs from the album, the title track and Celtic Ray. This becomes clear in Tá Mo Chleamhnas Déanta (My Match It Is Made), which also features singing by Kevin Conneff. Conneff has a pleasant enough voice which, however, pales in personality compared to Van Morrison’s.

The other songs are traditional, except from Raglan Road, which was adapted from a poem by Patrick Kavanagh. Raglan Road is, by the way, the most beautiful song on the album, a true masterpiece. It’s the story of a man ensnared by a beautiful revenant whom he had mistaken for ‘a creature made of clay’. Critic Dennis Campbell describes Morrison’s performance in Carrickfergus as worthy of Otis Redding because of its melancholic air.

There’s not much more to say about the album, as pretty much all of it is simply excellent stuff. If only, I’m a bit disappointed with their version of She Moved Through the Fair. Oh well, I guess it’s impossible to have everything. It’s still a fantastic album anyway.


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