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WILLIAM JACKSON "Inchcolm" Linn Records AKD037

William (aka Billy) Jackson is one of Scotland's best-known composers in the traditional idiom, and has produced several major works for traditional instruments and orchestra. This album is something of a change, being a collection of largely unrelated tracks with some orchestral interludes but also with forays into Early and Eastern musics, concentrating on woodwind particularly.

The opening track, "Corryvreckan", is fittingly powerful and dramatic, with excellent piping from Fred Morrison on a memorable tune. The use of a string section doesn't work particularly well on this track, but the same line-up of pipes, harp, percussion and strings is very successful on the more tranquil "Columcille". The next few tracks are excellent showcases for Jackson's harp and flute, with meditative pieces sandwiching a jaunty little march. Then comes the first of three vocal tracks, one in Gaelic, one in Latin and one in English translated from Arabic. The first has been given a beautiful melody by Jackson, the second is an arrangement of a medieval chant, and the third is altogether different.

The chant is preceded by "Gardyne Castle", an original composition which would suit the soundtrack of an early Tudor costume drama - stately processions, galloping horsemen, a bransle or two, and so forth. We go back further in time to "Salve Spendor", from a 13th-century Inchcolm manuscript and therefore the title track. Atmospheric, moving and beautifully rendered, this is definitely a highlight of the album.

The combination of air and slow jig in "Abbey Craig" is reminiscent of Ossian's Iona suite, as is "Columcille", both nice gentle tunes well arranged, with the orchestra fitted in harmoniously on "Columcille".

Now that third vocal number, a twelve-minute `continuous improvisation/meditation for voice, flute and piano'. This is probably unique in traditionally-based recordings, and is a great musical achievement in any case. Whether you like it is a different matter: I found it best to cut this off from the rest of the album, and listen to either tracks 1-9 or track 10 but not both.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 13 of The Living Tradition magazine.