Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Live in London
Genres: Folk, World Music, New Age, Pop
Listen to Samples
Excellent Concert by an Immensely Talented, but Sadly Inacti
Chip Webb | Fairfax Station, VA | 08/16/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Live in London (2008), the first concert release from Iona in almost a decade and the band's third live CD, gets its material from a November 2004 gig held at the University of London. The complete concert, along with supplementary features such as the acoustic set from the concert and interviews, was released on DVD in the spring of 2006. This audio release of the plugged section of that concert (the acoustic set is not included) easily shows you the incredible strengths of the band, which often come across better live than in studio. An Iona concert always features an amazing display of musical virtuosity, and listeners who love Iona's unique hybrid of progressive rock, folk, and other genres will not be disappointed. Fans will also probably appreciate hearing the early versions of three songs from Iona's last studio release, The Circling Hour (2006), although they do not have the same sense of completion as the studio tracks do. One previously unreleased instrumental (on an Iona album, at least), "A Dhia Ghleigil," is also included.
No matter which way you slice it, this is an excellent concert featuring Iona's current lineup. Fortunately, no orchestra is present this time around to detract attention from the genius of each band member, as was true on the very-good-but-not-excellent Woven Cord (1999). And while several of the songs were previously featured on either Cord or Heaven's Bright Sun (1997), the knock-your-socks-off recording of an outstanding December 1996 Iona concert, there are enough differences between versions in most cases not to cause any consternation among long-time fans. The band really is different now, thanks to the (sadly) diminished output from poet/lyricist and lead singer Joanne Hogg, the increased importance of the amazing Troy Donockley (now apparently the junior architect of Iona's music, after band leader Dave Bainbridge), and the presence of the highly-gifted Frank Van Essen on drums, percussion, and violin. Bainbridge and bassist Phil Barker are as good as they've always been. Bainbridge, in fact, is better, as he has continued adding new instruments to his repertoire.
Nevertheless, there are two drawbacks. There is more than enough room on CD1 (there are two CDs) to include the acoustic set, so its absence seems unjustifiable, except perhaps to entice more people to buy the DVD. The major disappointment, however, has nothing to do with the recording and everything to do with the state of the band. This concert is now almost four years old, and has been out in another format for over two years. The tardiness of this recording is indicative of the now more-off-again-than-on-again nature of the band; while a few concerts were held after The Circling Hour came out, Bainbridge was unable (for whatever reasons) to get the other members back consistently as a band. Consequently, Bainbridge himself has now joined at least two other bands, as a response to Iona's (permanent?) retirement. Originally, Live in London was scheduled to arrive in early 2007 as a way of marketing Iona on its new U.S. label, Voiceprint. Its delay by well over a year testifies to the sad inactivity of this marvelous band, and it would have been better (for fans, at least) if a more recent concert could have been substituted. And if you can only buy this concert in one format, by all means go for the DVD so that you can not only hear, but see the talents of the band members!
Any Iona album is better than none, and there's nothing to critique about the concert recording itself. It will provide an excellent introduction to the band for new listeners, and it is appreciated even by this long-time admirer of the band. It's an excellent concert; it just needs a reactivated band ready to make new music behind it.