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NEW CELESTE "It's A New Day" Iona Records IRCD033

Not sure what to make of this one. New Celeste have been on the go in various guises since the late 1970s when folk-rock was their thing.

Since then they've added and subtracted musical influences and personnel but in 1990 guitarist and singer Iain Fergus formed a contemporary six-piece version.

The present line-up is Steve Reid on electric and acoustic guitars, bouzouki, sequencing and sampling; Willie Logan on guitars plus keyboards and vocals; Rod Dorothy on violin and vocals; Jerry Soffe on fretless bass (didn't know you got ones that worried) and Iain Copeland on drums. This is basically the personnel you'll hear on this recording.

I say "basically" because they're joined by a few guests in the shape of Capercaillie's Charlie McKerron and Fred Morrison on fiddle and blow-into things respectively; Brendan Ring on Uillean pipes and Mr Tambourine Man himself - Jim Sutherland - percushing away.

The album is a mix of Celtic rock, jazz and World music and the musicianship throughout is excellent, particularly in the instrumental selections. Apart from two tunes written by Messrs McKerron and Ring, the other selections come from within New Celeste but to me a couple of the tracks sound like extended jams, circling pleasantly enough but not going anywhere. But who says they have to? I do wonder, though, if it's wise for the future of the band to allow their guests to dominate so much.

The songs include a couple of Burns' lesser-known works "The Banks of Ayr" and "The Posie" and their treatment has a dated sound, bringing back memories of the band's early days. There are also two songs penned by Iain Fergus which reflect on the ways of musicians and the music scene, but I didn't find them strong enough to hold the attention.

Full marks to Iona Records for the production, however, and bonus points for the artwork by Donald Hamilton Fraser and Sylvie Rabe which successfully avoids heather/sunrise picture postcard images.

Alan Brown

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This album was reviewed in Issue 19 of The Living Tradition magazine.