Search - Great Big Sea :: Play

Great Big Sea
Genres: Folk, World Music, Pop, Rock
  •  Track Listings (16) - Disc #1

Newfoundland, Canadian Celts' 1996, Third-Ever Release. Includes an Interesting Cover of REM'S 'End of the World', plus a Whole LPs Worth of Traditional Irish-Based Songsmithy: 'Night Pat Murphy Died', 'Donkey Riding', 'Gr...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Great Big Sea
Title: Play
Members Wishing: 10
Total Copies: 0
Label: Great Big Sea
Original Release Date: 1/1/2009
Re-Release Date: 4/28/2009
Genres: Folk, World Music, Pop, Rock
Styles: Traditional Folk, British & Celtic Folk, Celtic
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPC: 634457508224


Album Details
Newfoundland, Canadian Celts' 1996, Third-Ever Release. Includes an Interesting Cover of REM'S 'End of the World', plus a Whole LPs Worth of Traditional Irish-Based Songsmithy: 'Night Pat Murphy Died', 'Donkey Riding', 'Greenspond' and More.

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CD Reviews

Give it a listen? Aye me son!
The Pirate King | 08/16/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"There's a definite pecking order on both sides of the 49th Parallel in North America. Americans poke fun at Canada, calling the country "America's kid brother" and "the 51st State," but who is it the Canadians kick around? Well, that would be the proud inhabitants of the province of Newfoundland. This easternmost province is a geological chunk of Europe connected to North America; the youngest Canadian province which boasts the oldest continuously-functioning city on the continent (St. John's); a place with a time zone offset by half an hour from the rest of Canada. Newfoundland is far enough away from the mainland, both geographically and culturally, that its citizens have become prime targets in the humor wars. "Newfies" have long had to deal with widespread jokes deriding their accents, their lack of sophistication, their intelligence--and to their credit, they mostly do so gracefully. Even so, the widespread belief is that Newfoundland produces only moose meat, canned seal and fish.

Well, I can tell you there's one very worthwhile thing Newfoundland exports, and that's music. The province has given the world such stellar acts as the Celtic Connection, the Irish Descendants and the Ennis Sisters. And of course, there is Great Big Sea--about the most popular band in Newfoundland, topping the charts in Canada and making a respectable name for itself south of the border as well. The secret of their success isn't too hard to decipher: a unique sound inspired by Celtic folk and New World sea shanties, tweaked with modern rock sensibilities. Play, the band's third album, was released in 1997. It's about an equal mix of traditional tunes and original compositions, with one pop cover ("End of the World") done up in unique GBS style.

I'm enough of a folk geek that if I read the liner notes and see instruments like harmonica, bones, button accordion, tin whistle, mandola, concertina, bouzouki and bodhran in addition to the expected bass, violin and acoustic guitar, I start to salivate. GBS' liner notes had me in a Pavlovian frenzy before I played the first note. Better yet, the sound does not disappoint. These aren't your father's lilting Irish tunes--these are passionate a cappella dirges, lusty drinking songs, and shanties performed in a masculine musical roar. And they're utterly catchy. I defy anyone to listen to these songs in the car and not join in on the second chorus.

The opening track, "Ordinary Day," starts out with an SOS call and surges into a strong pop-rock anthem. With its optimistic lyrics and shanty-inspired chorus of "way-hey-hey it's just an ordinary day, and it's all your state of mind," this is one of the best original tunes on the album. Other standouts include "The Night Pat Murphy Died," a fun tune about an irreverent Irish wake; "General Taylor," a hearty dirge mocking an American turncoat in the Mexican-American war; "Recruiting Sargeant" (sic), a song about the true cost of war; and "Jolly Roving Tar," a shanty bemoaning the treatment of Jack Tars everywhere ("But when the money's gone, it's the same old song: Get up, Jack! John, sit down!")

The only complaint I have with this album is the slightly uneven quality of the songs. The GBS version of R.E.M.'s "End of the World" is fun, but works primarily as a novelty. While the original tunes have a tendency to grow on you after repeated listenings, they tend toward the more melancholy end of the emotional spectrum and lack some of the fire found in the traditional arrangements. Even so, they're better than 90% of the boy-band tripe you'll hear on the radio.

It's impossible to get across in words the sound of a recording, which is one reason why I don't often review music albums although I have a massive collection of CDs. About the best I can do is to compare Great Big Sea to other artists--another difficulty, since they aren't easily comparable. Maybe an aggressive, cheerfully drunk version of Silly Wizard? Loreena McKennitt's backup band with vocals by the Barenaked Ladies? Neither seems too accurate. Perhaps it's best just to listen for yourself.

Unlike purchasing canned seal meat, you won't be sorry later.

(Originally published in altered form on the author's website,"
Great music
Aunt Bonnie | Mission Viejo, CA | 06/03/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I heard Russell Crowe sing along with the radio in the movie State of Play and loved the song - The Night Pat Murphy Died. I've had lesser reasons to buy a CD. After listening to the snippets online, I bought the CD. I haven't been disappointed. The group - Great Big Sea - are wonderful entertainers. I will look for more of their music to add to my collection.