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Altan: 25th Anniversary Celebration
Altan
Altan: 25th Anniversary Celebration
Genres: World Music, Pop
 
  •  Track Listings (15) - Disc #1

No Irish traditional band in the last twenty years has had a wider impact on audiences and music lovers throughout the world than ALTAN. Now, in celebration of their 25th year as a band, Altan are releasing the 25TH ANNIVE...  more »

      
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CD Details

All Artists: Altan
Title: Altan: 25th Anniversary Celebration
Members Wishing: 1
Total Copies: 0
Label: Compass Records
Original Release Date: 1/1/2010
Re-Release Date: 3/2/2010
Genres: World Music, Pop
Style: Celtic
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPC: 766397453521

Synopsis

Product Description
No Irish traditional band in the last twenty years has had a wider impact on audiences and music lovers throughout the world than ALTAN. Now, in celebration of their 25th year as a band, Altan are releasing the 25TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION, recorded at RTE Studios in Dublin with the RTE Concert Orchestra and featuring 15 of the bands
favorite songs and tunes from throughout their storied career.

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CD Reviews

A Big Disappointment
MJK | Arlington MA | 03/11/2010
(3 out of 5 stars)

"For those familiar with Altan, either from live performances or previous recordings, this new CD will come as a surprise and, if you are at all like me, a big disappointment. I heard the first concert of Altan's current (March 2010) American tour. In live performance it is the same band so many have come to love. Of course they were pushing this new CD, and many of us bought it then and there. I was one. In their banter during the concert, there were references to the "orchestra" on the new CD. That did not sound good to me. And now that I have heard the CD, I can say that it ruins the CD for me. The tracks start out like the good old Altan, but before long the orchestra enters and from that point on it is downhill. The actual performances by the members of Altan, both singing and playing, are the same as you would expect from everything in their past. But the total effect is completely different with the orchestra. I am groping for the right characterization. For now I will call it the "Celtic Womanization" of Altan. I don't know why they have done this, but my best guess is: money. Altan is big in the traditional Celtic music scene. But "Celtic Woman" is so much bigger in the broader Irish music scene. So why not try a CD with crossover appeal? It just might sell well, but it is bound to disappoint many of Altan's old fans. As long as the band continues to perform live in their old way, I will continue to go to their concerts. But I know I can no longer buy a new CD without hearing it first, because I don't want to listen to this one again, and I won't buy another one like it. For some, Altan can do no wrong. Or because they like the band so much, some will give them a pass on this one. But I think their future is better served by letting the band know this is not the direction their fans want them to go in."
Not Exactly "Sketches of Donegal"
o dubhthaigh | north rustico, pei, canada | 03/08/2010
(3 out of 5 stars)

"And David Brophy isn't exactly Gil Evans. I am always concerned when non-classical artists opt for the full orchestra treatment. Occasionally, as with Miles Davis' "Sketches of Spain" or "Porgy and Bess", all the dials are reset and new ground is broken in the home discipline (in Miles' case, jazz). Those works radically changed perceptions of how an improvising soloist of considerable strength could interact with a more structured ensemble and both play to their strengths. The soundtrack for "Mise Eire" is an extraordinary example of an orchestra taking on traditional vernacular and evoking a strong sense of place, environment, dialect, culture. In each of these examples, it took a director who was keenly focused on what could not be compromised by either discipline for the project to work. Liam O Flynn has effected very arresting takes on the tradition with orchestral accompaniement, but even he doesn't like every one of those efforts. Back when we presented him for Project H.O.M.E., he said at lunch that by and large those records were noble failures inspite of the efforts he and Shaun Davey put into them.

More often than not, this kind of cultural success doesn't happen, and you end up with movie music, bad pops orchestral muzak, failed experiments, or bloated efforts that do no service to anyone. The examples are endless. Micheal O Suillebhain gave it as brilliant a try as anyone and had the advantage of being the composer. Still, by the second and definitely on the third disc, the music was dull. While not as soporific as a Phil Coulter Tranquility record, the music swung and missed at its goals of advancing a traditional classical form. Harp players are particularly given to a stilted expression of O Carolan that drives me, for one, absolutely crazy. They seem to be coming from that same sense of self importance as Elvis Costello (remember the Juliet Letters?) and thus suck the very life out of O Carolan's genius. I recall sitting in the Park Hotel Kenmare and at the fourth go `round of "Down By The Sally Gardens" I finally understood the Pogues. I kept thinking that were Turlough alive he'd no doubt run a darning needle through his eardrums.

Regrettably, this is not Altan's shining moment. On the one hand, I am happy to see that they are still a going concern. But I've listened to this disc a half dozen times and with each pass, I don't get why they did it. Where they genuinely stuck for an idea? Altan is, like Miles' great quintets of the 50's and 60's, a scary beast, not to be trifled with, in a live setting. Their studio efforts are at their best when they approach the drive and dynamics of their live shows. Dragging the RTE orchestra along with them plays to none of their strengths. For my money, there is no better rhythmic engine than Ciaran Curran. Pair him with either Mark Kelly, or especially Daithi Sproule, and Ciaran delivers a rhythmic punch matched only by Andy Irvine and Donal Lunny. Dermot Byrne's concertina and accordion work is a thing of subtle grace as well as dexterity. Byrne has done an admirable job filling in a musical slot left open with the passing of Frankie Kennedy and is a prolific composer in the tradition. Ciaran Tourish and Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh are the two most dynamic fiddle players in Irish music today and their place among the greats of the driving Donegal tradition is assured. Among the signature strengths of Altan is the dialectical interplay engaged by these two. Top all this off with that voice...... No one, absolutely no one in any discipline, sings with the emotional and spiritual authority of Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh. What you hear in her tone comes from the soul.

Collectively they get washed out to sea by the orchestra. I don't know whether Brophy hadn't a clue where to take the orchestra with Altan's music (Evans knew exactly what he was after and had to convince Miles that it was something Miles didn't even know he wanted), or whether for him, Brophy, it was just a reverential pops outing, but RTE, whatever its other merits might be, slows down the drive, flattens the dynamics, and smothers the subtleties that are Altan's stock in trade. It's not that it's a bad album, if you like this sort of thing, and maybe it's just aimed at an aging audience that wonders what happened to the Chieftains, but I know a thing or two about Donegal music, and this aint it. And sadly, it could be anybody playing with the orchestra. And that's criminal.

Joni Mitchell did an orchestral reading of her hits for which she got critically raked. It was not that it was a bad orchestra, or that she sang poorly, but the songs themselves had such an iconic place in people's hearts and souls that the orchestral reading missed the mark. Mitchell got pissed at the reaction, but the truth is, it really isn't her shining moment. And for a woman who blazed an extraordinarily creative trail, it seemed an odd indulgence or retreat. 25 years into a career, and while I can understand the interest in taking a fresh look at one's canon, this Altan CD misses the mark as well. I would have thought that among the 5 or 6 of them, depending on who is in the studio, that there would have been enough drive and creativity to recast some of the material in different settings, combinations, whatever. Had they really sought an orchestral reconsideration, they might have been better served by an orchestra or, better, a chamber group with an edge not unlike their own. It's a dangerous thing looking back. Satchel Paige served notice to everyone. Miles resisted until the last year of his life. For Mitchell, the disappointment brought her career to what has been a very long hiatus (unless the Olympics performance augurs a return).

It's been a while since Altan stepped into the spotlight. I am going to see them in Bethlehem on March 13 and I am relieved to see that they are not dragging the RTE along. No one is looking for a Celtic version of Emmerson, Lake and Palmer. I'm hoping that the orchestra isn't even on a loop of tape. If inspiration were at issue, Altan has an incredible back catalogue of brilliant shows, and it remains a mystery to me why they don't release a box set of live shows, or offer for download any of the performances in their career that really did change the music's direction and vitality. My own discs from the shows we did are favourites, but I have seen them live in so many settings that, warts and all, that is the genuine Altan, the pure drop. What happened on any given night was a thing of wonder, and things of wonder are nearly impossible to effect with an orchestra playing as background. If I were you, I'd pick up Mairead's solo record, IMEALL. It is compelling, beautiful, passionate and dynamic. Dedicated to Frankie, in honour as well to her brother and father, this is coming from a very intensely sacred well. Whether Altan still has access to that well we'll all find out in time. They deserve better than what they've done to themselves here. They are a better band than this. No one is looking for Altan Lite. And it pains me to write this. I just never thought......
"
Can We Hope For Better Days?
John Doherty's | New York, NY | 04/01/2010
(1 out of 5 stars)

"Yes, this record is a sorry bid for a larger audience and dear misguided Altan have vulgarized their sound with insipid strings and dreary orchestrations. When they played Sound Stage in New York in March, one of the fiddlers mocked the fact that they had only shown up to tout this appallingly bad cd. Well, he might well mock. This cd is not worth touting and it puts a good band in a very bad light. Can we hope for better days? The band is going into the studio soon and with any luck they'll not bring the Celtic Woman with them."