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The Blue Idol
The Blue Idol
Genres: Folk, World Music, New Age, Pop
  •  Track Listings (13) - Disc #1

On The Blue Idol, Irish music superstars Altan have come up with an elegant solution to the problem of how to play music that satisfies both the traditional purist and the fan who wants a contemporary edge in his or her...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Altan
Title: The Blue Idol
Members Wishing: 4
Total Copies: 0
Label: Narada
Release Date: 2/26/2002
Genres: Folk, World Music, New Age, Pop
Styles: Traditional Folk, British & Celtic Folk, Contemporary Folk, Celtic, Europe, British Isles, Celtic New Age
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPCs: 724381195529, 0724381195550, 724381195550

On The Blue Idol, Irish music superstars Altan have come up with an elegant solution to the problem of how to play music that satisfies both the traditional purist and the fan who wants a contemporary edge in his or her music. When the band members play instrumental sets of dance tunes, they never stray far from their Donegal roots, and when they sing songs they stretch the boundaries by performing with guest artists like Paul Brady and Dolly Parton while adding unexpected instruments like didgeridoo and saxophone. On songs such as "Daily Growing" and "Uncle Rat"--which feature the exquisite voice of Mairéd Ní Mhaonaigh--the band creates a mood of jazzy medievalism that reveals hints of Pentangle's early recordings. And when they hunker down for a set of jigs or reels, they play with the sort of passionate abandon you only hear at the finest sessions. The contemporary and traditional strains of music on The Blue Idol are like two streams that join together to form a river that flows further and with more power than either could alone. --Michael Simmons

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CD Reviews

There is a Profound Reason why they are the best
o dubhthaigh | north rustico, pei, canada | 02/28/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Altan has released their latest CD and it reenforces what all of us know about them. They are simply the best at Irish music period. They eschew all manner of new age, new celtic, new synth dominated dixie chic poptrash and deliver sets of music wherein the remarkable talents of this stunning ensemble display just how well they listen to each other. This is musicians' music: set clearly and squarely in service of the Muse, allowing MUSIC itself to lean over and take them into its confidence. More than once, I have said this is the finest ensemble playing any kind of music since the Miles-Evans-Coltrane... of the 50's.As with the last release, the CD is strongly song driven, which is a bit of a departure from their earlier cannon. All the same, there are reels, schottisches and slip jigs that confirm just how incredibly this group manages to find and expand upon the nuances inherent in the music. The double fiddle attack of Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh and Ciaran Tourish is the single most formidable line up in Traditional music. While I'm not interested in seeing Tourish in a belly-shirt, he could certainly outmaneuver any celtoid babe strutting instead of playing. Mairead and Ciaran have taken the dynamic Donegal fiddle tradition into this century with a consuming passion and their interaction brings a sense of wonder, especially live. There is no more heartfelt player in Irish music than Dermot Byrne and his box work is impressionistically sensitive throughout this album. Rhythm mates Ciarran Curran and Daithi Sproule and Mark Kelly drive the engine that enables Mairead and Tourish to set fire to everything in sight.This CD, like the last, is strongly song driven, and they are all quite remarkable. I'm not a big Paul Brady fan, but his appearances on this CD are so well integrated that for once he does not leaden the proceedings, especially on the first tune, a salacious little number about a woman of 24 bedding a boy of 14. The liner notes trace the folksong pedigree of this tale, but, you know, Shane MacGowan could not of come up with a more scandaolus theme, so it is kind of funny to hear Brady sing the part of the father of the bride who arranges this tryst. Elsewhere, Dolly Parton joins Mairead in a seamlessly shared vocal. First time through the CD, I didn't realize it was Parton. This is a natural forum for her and you can tell that she and Mairead are definitely on the same wavelength. Anna Ni Mhaoniagh and Daithi Sproule back up much of the vocal work.
Liam O Flynn lends his remarkable piping at one point, and you are left with the desire to hear more of him with Altan. It works so intensely. James Blennerhasset on bass and Jimmy Higgins on bodhran give the CD "something for the trunk," as they say in hip hop. Donal Lunny fills the middle beautifully with his bouzouki work.
It is a shame there isn't a 4 1/2 star rating you could give it, for this is certainly more than just 4 stars. Altan has in fact recorded the 2 best CDs in all of Irish music, "Harvest Storm" and "Island Angel". In the case of these two recordings, 5 stars is an insult. "The Blue Idol" is a remarkable disc, and a worthy addition to their work. Perhaps in the future there will be a live DVD: this band takes no prisoners in concert, and you get more of a sense of how tightly the hairpin turns are executed when you see them live. Mairead feeds off the energy of a crowd as few other artists have ever managed. She can raise your temperature to boiling with her blistering attack, then send you into the place where the spirits dwell poetically with her haunting voice. Accompanied , and sometimes offset, by Daithi Sproule, it is a remarkable experience. Daithi comes off underutilized in the studio, but live, he is as compelling a singer and as powerful a guitarist as there is in music. I seem to remember an English quartet whose lead guitarist was a bit underutilized. Oh well, all things must pass.
Altan is on tour this Spring in the US. Go! They are not to be missed. Nor is this CD. Live or in the studio, they are as good as it gets."
Brilliance and beauty, as usual
Jerome Clark | Canby, Minnesota | 03/12/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Altan has never released a less than fully satisfying recording, and in that sense The Blue Idol is entirely predictable. As Altan always does, it wraps the Irish tradition in inventive modern arrangements, without resorting to cloying New Age or sappy pop-fusion sounds. Altan is, instead, a branch from a tree with deep, deep roots.Even by the standards Altan has set for itself, however, Blue Idol is exceptional. The opener, "Daily Growing" (often recorded as "The Trees They Do Grow High"), is something of a folk standard -- I first heard it on a Judy Collins album in the 1960s, and Collins was hardly the first revival singer to pick it up -- but Altan's version is such a perfect wedding of the erotic and the tragic that it draws the listener in, takes the breath away, and commands the ear and the heart. It's also a pleasure to hear Paul Brady's reedy tenor, now in service to its owner's career as rock singer-songwriter, working in a traditional context again. In "The Pretty Young Girl" Dolly Parton so convincingly assumes the persona of a veteran Altanian that I didn't recognize her until I looked at the liner notes. Which surely says a whole lot, all of it favorable, about both her and the band. "Uncle Rat" is a rarity, a non-American variant of the famous children's song "Froggie Went A-Courting," recorded by everybody from Burl Ives to Bob Dylan. Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh's vocals, always an object of wonder, are as welcome as always; I am especially enamored of her handling of "The Sea-Apprentice Boy." The jigs and reels are, of course, well chosen and brilliantly performed.It all raises the unsettling question of how a band so good could keep getting better. Here's to a long, long life and the even greater music -- though the mind boggles at the very concept -- to come."
The Fairest of Them All
Jeffery C Brewer | Dumfries, VA United States | 03/06/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I've collected all of Altan's CD's and "The Blue Idol" is by far the most graceful, the "prettiest" of them all. Some music impresses by it's brute force or by it's passion and intensity, like a drag racer opening the throttle and exploding down the track. The Blue Idol is like watching Formula One driver Michael Schumacher move 800 Horsepower around a twisting, curving race track like a ballet dancer. There is power and intensity here, but it's precisely and expertly driven. And what a lovely surprise to hear Dolly Parton on track four; it's a beautiful affair.This CD is a treasure that you'll not want to pass up."