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DE DANNANN "Hibernian Rhapsody" Bee's Knees PED9601

Finally released on Frankie Gavin's own label, this one has been a long time coming and will certainly go down in history as having one of the legendary novelty tracks. In the grand tradition of "Hey Jude" and "Eleanor Rigby", De Danann here turn to Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" for the inspirational title track. It has moments of pure genius, pure cheek, and some would say pure sacrilege.

Tommy Flemming, long a replacement for Eleanor Shanley, has a great voice and his singing dominates the album with eight songs. The problem is that his sense of phrasing is particularly melodramatic, in the basic sense of the word, resulting in a sound that is more borderline cabaret than the understated traditional genre with which we associate De Danann.

As such he is excellent, "Rose and the Briar" standing out. "Nessun Dorma", however, one of the gutsiest arias in opera, here sung in Irish, sounds, ironically, understated and devoid of impact. It's just a bad choice of song for the singer. Mixing genres and styles is always risky, and the album we're left with will end up settling in the mid-market mainstream of Irish-America and the easy-listening Irish equivalent. It's a big and lucrative market. What other reason for including "Danny Boy", a cynical reviewer might ask, a song that epitomises "corny"? Everyone admits it's a great song, but most refuse to sing it, citing rashes, spots, shakes and other symptoms of overkill as the reason. The singing falls between two stools and will alienate a lot of De Danann fans, which is unfortunate - Tommy has a quality voice.

The musicianship is among the best in Ireland, across the board, and Derek Hickey's accordion fits seamlessly into the De Danann line-up, Frankie's fiddle leading a balanced approach. Unspectacular? Perhaps. Solid? Controlled? Most certainly, although the whole seems so much less than the sum of the parts. For a band of De Danann's profile and calibre the mistakes on the inlay card are careless, if not unprofessional. There is great and proven talent here and if the imagination of the title track had been applied throughout this would have been so much more. Maybe next time?

Anthony McCann

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