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PATRICK STREET "The Best Of" Reactive Masters REMCD502
ALTAN "Essential" Reactive Masters REMCD500

Two new compilation CDs from a company that's creaming off commercially successful acts and re-releasing budget best-ofs ... and why not?

The Altan compilation is the fourth such CD in under two years, not surprising since Altan have become so successful and Green Linnet have decided to make their back catalogue available for compilations. You could hardly go wrong with 18 tracks of Altan at a bargain price, but in fact the 65 minutes on this CD have been carefully chosen to make this probably the best Altan compilation yet. It kicks off with "Dulaman", the song which really brought Altan to a mass audience back in 1993, but after that songs are in surprisingly short supply: the next two tracks show the power and beauty of Donegal instrumental music with a set of dance tunes and a stunning slow air. Two nondescript tracks follow, "The Jug of Punch" which has never done anything for me, and a couple of dull reels, but these are the only low points. Some excellent reels, strathspeys, mazurkas, jigs and highlands keep the feet tapping from here on, and three more songs are matched by three fabulous slow airs featuring the beautiful flute-playing of the late Frankie Kennedy.

The Patrick Street offering opens with the comic cautionary ballad from which they took their name, similar to Scotland's "Jock Hawk". This is the most cheerful and upbeat of the eight songs here: others include the traditional "William Taylor" and various blue/black compositions by Andy Irvine such as "Facing the Chair" and "Forgotten Hero". Fortunately, the eleven sets of tunes provide plenty of life and fun: highlights are the "Mouth of the Tobique" set, "Music for a Found Harmonium" (still the best version I've heard), and some wonderful Sliabh Luachra jigs and polkas.

All 76 Patrick Street minutes are taken from their first four albums (170 minutes). Altan's tracks are chosen from their five Green Linnet albums (228 minutes).

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 29 of The Living Tradition magazine.