Search - Iona :: River Flows

River Flows
River Flows
Genres: Folk, World Music, Pop, Rock
  •  Track Listings (12) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (13) - Disc #2
  •  Track Listings (15) - Disc #3
  •  Track Listings (14) - Disc #4

Limited Four CD Box Set featuring their First Three Releases, plus a Bonus CD with Previously Unreleased and Live Material. Includes 60 Page Booklet and Guest Appearance from Robert Fripp.


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CD Details

All Artists: Iona
Title: River Flows
Members Wishing: 6
Total Copies: 0
Label: Open Sky UK
Release Date: 1/13/2008
Album Type: Single, Import
Genres: Folk, World Music, Pop, Rock
Styles: Celtic, Progressive, Progressive Rock
Number of Discs: 4
SwapaCD Credits: 4


Album Details
Limited Four CD Box Set featuring their First Three Releases, plus a Bonus CD with Previously Unreleased and Live Material. Includes 60 Page Booklet and Guest Appearance from Robert Fripp.

CD Reviews

First-Rate Musical Exploration of Celtic Christianity
Chip Webb | Fairfax Station, VA | 05/17/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I first heard about Iona back in 1991 when their self-titled debut premiered stateside. The description of their first album intrigued me, and I was interested even more when I read a glowing review of their second album in the fall of 1992. In February 1993, I decided to go down the rabbit hole, and I got my copy of The Book of Kells, Iona's sophomore release. I was stunned -- I had perhaps never heard a recording so original, combining a variety of musical styles with contemplative lyrics to produce an overview of the 8th century Book of Kells and its relevance for today. A bit over a year later, I caught up with the band, purchasing (in order) the self-titled debut and their (then) newest release, Beyond These Shores. Since then, I have purchased their releases as soon as they're released stateside.

These three CDs apparently went out of print in the late 1990s, but now are available in this boxed set. The River Flows would be worth your money if it consisted of the three original recordings. However, Dave Bainbridge and other band members were not content to stop there. You'd expect the CDs to be remastered, but I wasn't prepared for what amounts to practically a remake of the first album, thanks to a new arrangement of one track and extensive remixes of seven other tracks. (Only four of the original tracks are left untouched.) On top of that, a fourth disc of rarities, called Dunes, is added to make the package attractive to die-hard fans.


Let's take the CDs one-by-one:

*Iona (originally released, 1990; revised, 2002) -- A stunning debut on almost any terms, this first album presents an overview of Iona and its significance for today. (Iona, for those of you who don't know, is an island off the coast of Scotland where Columcille founded a Christian monastery. From there, his monks went out and preached the faith to pagan Britain.) There are only five songs among the 12 compositions; the rest are instrumental. I have a review of the original recording elsewhere on Amazon, and I won't repeat those thoughts here. I do have a quibble with the band revising the album at all, even if the "remake" (my term) is greatly superior to the original in technical quality. But in any form, this is a top-notch album.

*The Book of Kells (1992)-- This is a sheer work of genius. To take an album and revolve it thematically around paintings from an 8th century manuscript requires a lot of artistry and ambition, and the band doesn't flag in either department. "Kells Opening Theme" (track 1) sets up the overarching theme for the rest of the album -- "to seek the way, the truth, the life." With this purpose in mind, we are led into a forthright declaration of the speaker's need for a revelation from God in track 2, appropriately titled "Revelation." We are then brought face to face with that revelation in track 3, "Man" (titled "Matthew -- the Man" on the original release). The Book of Kells contains paintings of Jesus as depicted in each of the four gospels, and in the painting for Matthew, He is represented as a man. "Man" is an epic, roughly 10-minute long composition that juxtaposes rushing musical sounds that evoke a sense of action and perhaps even conflict with two quiet contemplative spots where Joanne Hogg breaks through with beautifully poetic, hearfelt lyrics.

The album goes on from there, looking at the different depictions of Christ (as a lion in Mark, as a calf in Luke, and as an eagle in John) in the paintings for each of the three other gospels. A soothing reflection in the middle of the album, "The River Flows," gives this boxed set its title. There are also musical depictions of various events in Christ's life (again tied into the paintings of the 8th century manuscript) before we are brought back to a revision of the first track, now called "Kells." If the first track was contemplative, this second version is hard and raw; uncertainty and reflection have given way to confidence and action, as Joanne nearly shouts, "And the word (i.e., Jesus) is a sword that pierces the heart/And the truth is a light that cuts through the dark of this world/Nations shall rise and nations shall fall/But nothing shall stand in the wake of the word." A musical meditation on eternity closes this exceptional album.

*Beyond These Shores (1993) -- This album signaled a major departure for Iona, and not just from the loss of co-founder David Fitzgerald. While the previous two albums were largely instrumental, only a handful of pieces on this album fall into that category. Instead, there are many songs, and more surprisingly, forays into straight pop. The most obvious example of this is the radio single "Treasure," but "Burning Like Fire" and a few other tracks also seem to have been calculated for the mass market. This album explores the voyages of Brendan the Navigator, a Celtic Christian saint who left everything behind to journey out on the open sea as an act of devotion to God, and their relevance for today. (This type of journey, when someone journeys with no set destination but with a firm trust in the providence of God to lead, is called a peregrinatio.)

Tracks 1, 3, 6, 10, 12, and 14 are mostly instrumental and directly track Brendan's voyages. The other tracks (there are 15 in all) examine contemporary applications from the life of Brendan -- examining to whom or what our heart owes allegiance ("Treasure"), preparing to journey into the unknown while relying only upon God ("Edge of the World" -- the speaker of this track attempts to feel what Brendan did), rejoicing in the God who will go with us ("Today"), being open to the leading of the Holy Spirit ("Bird of Heaven"), finding love in either God or another human being ("Murlough Bay," a favorite spot of Hogg and her husband), seeking direction from God ("Burning Like Fire"), reflecting on the importance of each life ("Beachyhead," a reference to a place of many suicides in Ireland), finding restoration after difficulty ("Healing"), and realizing that no matter what the situation, God is with us (the title track).

*Dunes (2002) -- This collection of rarities from 1994-2002 is mostly for diehard fans. Almost half of this disc is composed of music that the band wrote for a 1994 BBC TV series, "Snowdonia -- Realm of the Ravens" (although, oddly enough, the band inserts a later composition, "Song of the Waves," in the middle of this set). Then we get a few concert favorites recorded live in the studio, followed by a second outtake from the band's album Open Sky, and concluding with an outtake from Beyond These Shores. Any music from Iona is much appreciated, and "Song of the Waves" (both parts) and "The Final Journey" should have been placed on the albums for which they were intended, but it does seem like the band threw in the kitchen sink here.


This is an outstanding boxed set, and while (in the U.S., at least), Iona is known (if at all) for "Christian music," anyone who loves a quality fusion of progressive rock, jazz, and serene melodies should find Iona more than accessible. Immensely talented and creative on the musical end, Iona also displays a contemplative yet modern faith that can lead anyone to get excited about Celtic Christianity, and even Christianity in general."
Full Circle on the Island of Iona
John D. Dooley | Southern California United States | 03/11/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Starting out with progressive rock during the 1970's, Classical music during the 1980's, Jazz during the 1990's, & World/Folk during the 2000's, I feel that I have come full circle finding the group Iona. They are not your typical mediocre Christian rock band; but a fusion of "Yes" progressive rock with a cleaner more tighter "Happy-The-Man" playing ability. Mix in some fast Irish gigs of "Silly Wizard" with the Soul & Jazziness of "Van Morrison", & sung by the main female singer Joanne Hogg with haunting spiritual (Christian Mysticism) lyrics about the ancient Celtic saints (St. Patrick, St. Brandon, etc...) before the 1054 AD spilt of the Roman Catholic & Eastern Orthodox churches. This CD is Iona's own personal production with their first 3 CD's: Iona (remixed), Beyond These Shores, & The Book of Kells (the Gospels written by Celtic Monks), with extra material that was never released: Dunes. Comes with a great inbound 60 page book with photos & the history of the band. A must for any spiritual journey."
Must have!
Joseph Krepps | York, PA. USA | 01/31/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"If you're an Iona fan at all, this IS a "Must Have"! Other reviewers have given a disc-by-disc review so I'll skip that. If you must only have 1 Iona CD, this is the one. (Okay, there are 4 CDs but you get the idea.)

My _only_ complaint is with the design of the 'book' which holds the CDs. Be very careful the first time you open it. It's an incredibly poor design! The discs are guaranteed to hit the floor, probably uncovered & unprotected, if you're careless. Mine spend too much time in the CD player at home + the one in the car to fall out! :)

I'll close with a utterly shameless plug for "Murlough Bay" - a better rendition than the studio version on another disc. If the hairs on the back of your neck don't stand up for this song, you probably need immediate medical help."