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CAPERCAILLIE - Secret People 74321162742

Capercaillie are being seriously marketed, even running to T.V. advertising, and over the years have built a solid following, a great achievement when you consider many of the songs are in Gaelic. The questionnaire inside the sleeve asks you to tick off the newspaper you read and as 'The Times' and 'Telegraph' are listed but not 'The Stornoway Gazette', I presume the target audience lies east of Oban.

For the non Gaelic speaker the sound of the songs is all important and for me it is still the Gaelic songs which shine. The developments from earlier albums are a more prominent use of percussion, more songs in English and more songs written by the group themselves. It is this last point, the songwriting, where I feel the danger lies and I hope they don't follow the pop trend and are pushed into too many self-penned numbers. The great advantage of singing other people's songs is that you can pick the real gems.

I don't find any of the English language songs match the appeal of Karen's earlier recordings of 'Fisherman's Dream' and 'Both Sides Of The Tweed', although 'Crime of Passion' comes close. That's not to say that the songs are not good but I think they may not be playing to their strengths. Highlights for me were 'Oran'.

Capercaillie have an opportunity to get their music widely heard and their chart success with 'Coisich A Ruin' shows they can do it with style. I hope in the long run melody wins over percussion and rhythm as so many of the tracks are becoming samey

The sleeve notes are also following the pop trend of giving very little information on the songs though I was pleased to see them acknowledging their sources.

If this review sounds a bit hard it's not because it isn't a good album. It is classic Capercaillie and superbly produced. The band are too good to have to compromise on their music and I hope this album is a winner. It's one to savour over many listenings.

John Muirhead

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This album was reviewed in Issue 2 of The Living Tradition magazine.