His early career found him immersed more in American blues and jazz than his own Celtic heritage, but Van Morrison has periodically revisited that facet of his music since the mid-'70s, when Veedon Fleece offered his first clutch of explicitly Irish songs. No album has found him digging deeper than this 1988 collaboration with the Chieftains, who more than meet Morrison's always high standards for musicianship and produce a rich, empathic backdrop for a set of traditional ballads, jigs, and reels, with an acoustic remake of Morrison's own "Celtic Ray" and the lovely title song. With two of Ireland's finest female singers (Maura O'Connell and Mary Black) along for the ride, this amounts to an Irish supergroup--and the music lives up to that promise. --Sam Sutherland
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A generally inspired collaboration
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Chieftains' recordings with pop artists have been only intermittently successful, but this album is the exception. Morrison owes a greater debt to traditional, unaccompanied "sean-nos" Irish singing than is often realized. Most of these tunes show off his skills well, from the chipper "Star of the County Down" (which is usually given a far too sentimental performance) to the passionate "She Moved Through the Fair" and "My Lagan Love," and what is surely the definitive version of "Carrickfergus." His own "Irish Heartbeat" and "Celtic Ray" are given spirited performances as well. "I'll Tell Me Ma" and "Marie's Wedding" don't particularly suit his style (the latter is too self-consciously cute), but his performances are tongue-in-cheek enough to make them palatable. Overall, a good show."
The best of the best
Kit van Cleave | Houston, TX United States | 10/12/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Van Morrison and the Chieftains? Whoa! This great album is absolutely among the best of the best of Irish traditional music -- and with lyrics, which one doesn't often find these days. If you love Irish music, you MUST own this album -- and give it to friends."