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VARIOUS ARTISTS Come West Along the Road 2

VARIOUS ARTISTS Come West Along the Road 2
RTE DVD 113

This excellent Irish TV archive programme has released a second trove of treasures. Volume 2 spans 1963 to 1984, with many great names and unknown gems from that era.  Miniskirts and flared jeans, flower power and chunky sweaters, kipper ties and digital watches galore.  Even more interesting are the instruments available in those days of Planxty and Horslips: pipes with clunky bellows, electric pianos, bodhrans barely fit for kindling. Compared to the tools of today's traditional musician, it's amazing they got a tune out of them at all.  I've no idea how they managed for bonfires.
 
There's a fine mix of established artists, local sources and rising stars.  Young Kevin Burke and fledgling De Danann rub shoulders with Peadar O'Loughlin and Tony Smith. Seamus Ennis and Micheál Ó Ríabhaigh cross pipes with teenage Michael Cooney and Jimmy O'Brien Moran.  The voices of Ronnie Drew, Dolores Keane, a young Iarla Ó Lionáird, Micheál Ó Domhnaill and his sisters all vie for attention.  Perhaps the most welcome tracks are those of set dancing and step-dancing, never easy to capture in audio only, featured on five tracks here.
 
RTE has done a superb job of re-mastering this material.  With over fifty clips from different programmes across three decades, there is some variation in quality. The older clips can be a little blurred, and a dozen or so are monochrome.  One or two of the newer recordings have also lost some definition, but the vast majority are in crisp bright colour.  More importantly, the audio quality is excellent throughout.  We can enjoy Peter Horan and Fred Finn on flute and fiddle, Bobby Gardiner and an impish Ringo McDonagh on melodeon and drum, Packie Russell on concertina, Mick Mulkerrins on the boards, a very young Máire Ní Chathasaigh, and legendary line-ups of the Kilfenora, the Bridge, and the Ormond céilí bands.  Names, dates and tunes are all provided on screen, and not one gan ainm.  Full marks to RTE.  Full details at www.rte.ie or Google.
 
Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 78 of The Living Tradition magazine.