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LIAM O'FLYNN The Given Note Tara Music Company Ltd taracd3034

To be perfectly frank, I have not had the easiest of relationships with Liam O'Flynn (I mean with his music, before any tabloid journalist reading this, thinks they have a new "scoop" on there hands). I still regard Liam playing "Tabhair Dom Do Lamh" (at the end of the Raggle Taggle Gipsies) as one of the great pieces of piping, of any kind. Yet his collaborations of a orchestral nature leave me colder than the Minch in January. So it was with trepidation I started to listen to this CD.

My worries disappeared faster than Guinness in a Dublin pub as Liam cajoles the pipes into singing divinely for their supper. From the first note it is obvious that we are in for a treat, as a musician completely at ease with the music and its traditions gently brings a contemporary and cosmopolitan approach into play. Liam has stepped in to a market saturated with unbelievably talented youngsters, playing everything at twice the speed of sound, with a cultured and sophisticated piece of work, and he kicks ass.

This CD has class stamped all over it. The piping is exceptional as is Liam's Whistle playing. The accompaniment is first class as you would expect of musicians of the calibre of Arty McGlynn, Sean Keane and Steve Cooney (guitar and Didgeridoo no less) to name but a few. Shaun Daveys production is crystal clear, as indeed it needs to be with so much happening in each track.

Although the pace of this CD varies throughout the overall feel is one of calmness with Liam always confident in the quality of the music, and even when playing hornpipes the concentration is on the music of the tune rather than the speed it is played at (not that Liam is any slooch). Three delightful airs, Phil Cunningham's "Farewell To Govan" an Edward Bunting collected "Joyce's Tune", and "Calin na Gruaige Doinne" have Liam exploring the plaintive qualities of the uillean pipes to the full, and you will definately get the urge to cuddle up close to someone as you listen to them (be careful who you sit next to). They also serve as the backbone of the CD and contribute to the laid back feel.

As well as the traditional Irish material Liam expands his horizons to include Galician dance rhythms, and Scottish Strathspeys (complete with side drummer). The first of two Galician inspired tracks sees Liam tackle a "Foliada" which is apparently a Galician dance rhythm and as he spars with the Galician pipes of Xose V Ferreiros you can only admire the Galicians for having enough energy to dance to these wild and enthralling tunes. The second Galician set comprises a slower tune with Clarinet, oboe and whistle each taking the lead with deft harp playing in the background. The pipes come and go as the arrangement changes never allowing you to get bored with one setting. Slowly the tempo rises and the Galician pipes enter the arena as the set builds to a suitably climatic ending. At eight minutes long this set finishes the CD in considerable class and style.

Not content with furnishing us with terrific music Liam also gives us two songs, just to mix things up, and if anything, split up the instrumental tracks a little lest you get blase about the fare on offer. The songs serve as a sorbet to cleanse our aural pallets before the next feast. This in no way denegrates the songs they easily stand scrutiny on their own. Andy Irvine sings "Come With Me Over the Mountain" while Paul Brady gives his own interpretation of the classic "The Rocks of Bawn", both are a pleasure to listen to.

This CD is the work of a master craftsman and is the culmination of years spent absorbing the tradition until he becomes the tradition. Those at peace with themselves will tap into this music instantly, those still fighting the great fight may take a little longer. I strongly suspect that this is going to be a huge seller. It will not short change anyone who buys it.

Chris MacKenzie

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This album was reviewed in Issue 14 of The Living Tradition magazine.