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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Celtic Thunder: Mythology (album review)

I try to never review any new albums or singles until and unless I have heard them multiple times, preferably over enough time to let the music sink in a bit. So, finally, here's my nod to the new Celtic Thunder album, Mythology.

This is a fantastic album of course, well worth purchasing, and from what I've seen on social media this week, all those extras that come with the better packages are also worth the extra money. Sadly I won't be able to justify the added expense to get all those extras right now, so it may be a while before I can speak intelligently about the rest of the new material Celtic Thunder has just released. Still, the album and basic DVD are more than plenty to keep me happy for a long time. The new songs are refreshingly different without getting away from the concept of Celtic Thunder, and the musicians singing and playing in this show all look like they had a blast making this show happen.

Voices- The first time I heard it, I was actually a bit turned off by the first song on this album, which appeared partially in the preview 'sizzle reels' that have been on the Celtic Thunder website. "Voices" is more of a continuation of the musical theater stuff that we saw in the Storm production, which fans are still not all sure of, and certainly even after hearing it 4 or 5 times in context, this song still sounds like it was inspired by songs like the all-cast numbers in Les Miserables. But, I really, really like Les Miserables (the musical, the movies and the book), and especially after some obnoxious and as my nice semi-stable current living arrangements suffered some yet unresolved major setbacks mid-week, the lyrics of this one express nicely the constant litany of doubts and fears I'm probably going to be obsessing over for the next few months. So, now that I can relate personally to it, I really appreciate this song. I am also amused that the lyrics could easily be the voiced thoughts of the performers themselves as they put themselves out on a stage for another round of shows in the risky world of live-music entertainment.

Solo songs- Mythology includes a great solo song by each of the principal singers, Colm Keegan sings "Katie", Emmet Cahill sings "The Isle of Innisfree" (which is quickly becoming my favorite to sing along to) and a solo arrangement of "Danny Boy", and George Donaldson sings a nice cover of "Scarlet Ribbons". Ryan Kelly sings a gorgeous rendition of "Carrickfergus, which we've heard about before as his audition song from way back in 2007, but which we'd not had the pleasure of hearing on the Celtic Thunder stage until now. Neil Byrne sings "Carolina Rua", a song written by the American songwriter Thom Moore, though there are quite a few older Irish songs that no doubt inspire this one. Keith Harkin sings my favorite song off his own album, "Tears of Hercules", and also has the solo portion of a magically gorgeous track, "Now We Are Free". This one, when the rest of the singers come in, sounds a heck of a lot like their voices are being artificially echoed using some sort of effects-pedal or something, but one has simply to watch the DVD to be certain they are in fact just singing these complicated echoes really well.

My favorite thing about this album is that it utilizes the stunningly luscious sound that these 6 men achieve when harmonizing together. They sounded amazing when singing together for "Steal Away" during their last tour, better than any other voice combination or arrangement I've yet heard on that song, and those same gorgeous sounds come through in the various group numbers Mythology introduces. Back when Celtic Thunder first formed its 5 members had a synergy that helped considerably towards putting Celtic Thunder safely at the top of the world music charts. Since the, as Paul and Damian moved on, Neil stepped up from band-member to principal singer, and Emmet and Colm joined the group, these fellows have always kept high enough standards to stay on top, but not always with quite the same magical synergy as they had right at first. Well, after regrouping, preparing all-new material and truly incorporating Colm and Emmet, Celtic Thunder may be rekindling that old magic.

I am especially in love with their rendition of "She Moved Through The Fair", a song which Josh Groban also just recently covered for his new album. As my regular readers might recall, I tend to sing along to everything, but listening to this one song in particular, the Celtic Thunder version, I don't really want to sing along yet, because that would break the spell these men so carefully weave through their lush harmonies. Besides being completely captivated by their singing, I once again have to wonder whether the woman in this song is a young bride impatient to enjoy conjugal bliss with her beloved, or a young woman who died before her wedding day and returns to her beloved as a ghost. In other versions it always seems more like the story is along the lines of the first option, but this new version makes her almost certainly dead and returned from her grave, perhaps implying her beloved's pending doom as well. Love stories are a dime a dozen, but ghost stories, especially in Celtic Thunder shows, are more rare and thus more enticing.

The Mythology DVD, while offering almost the same songlist, with just a few additional songs, is also a decidedly rewarding purchase. The lads are of course rather easy on the eyes, but there are enough extra songs that are each in themselves worth buying an album for, too. At the top of my list would be the cover of "Sound of Silence", sung by Keith Harkin and Colm Keegan. Not having heard Colm sing much beyond cheesy romantic pop covers, I would not have pegged this pairing as at all special, but actually for covering Simon & Garfunkel tunes, these two men have the perfect combination of voices. I'd love to hear more of this pair together.

The special features that one could get on DVD with this new show are not on the standard DVD at all, so I am just going from the screenshots and comments other fans have posted, but I gather that the extra material is particularly cool this year. I only finally got a chance not too long ago to use my sister's DVD player and actually see the special features that were on the earlier shows' discs (my player, even before the speakers died, lost its ability to navigate through menu screens). Maybe by next year I'll have had the chance somehow to see all the other stuff my basic discs lack. From what I've seen so far, it should be an exciting year for us Celtic Thunder fans anyway, whether I see those other videos or not.

2 comments:

  1. The extras on the Deluxe edition are the guys showing us all places around Ireland (Trinity College, Guinness, some pubs, and some of their hometown stuff), And the other part of it is a behind the scenes look at the making of Mythology (where you get to see Colm change his trousers :) )

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  2. Loving the extras on the deluxe versions. If you can afford to, get it!

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