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Monday, March 4, 2013

Celtic Thunder: Mythology, CD #2

So you've heard Celtic Thunder's new album, Mythology, on spotify or maybe having purchased it or listened to a friend's copy. Right? Well, actually that album is only half of the Mythology CD release, because for those people who purchase the deluxe version off the Celtic Thunder webpage, and for folks who purchase this 2-disc CD set through PBS, there is a whole second album's-worth of music to be heard. And, while many of the 2-disc special editions bands release simply include a bunch of different live and studio versions of the same few songs from the primary album, the Celtic Thunder deluxe package really is two different sets of songs. (This was my first query when Celtic Thunder started posting tracklists a few months ago.) The second CD gives you an additional 15 songs that are not on the other disc. Is it worth the extra money? Well... short answer- yes, of course. Long answer...

Unlike some of their earlier albums, this year the new Celtic Thunder show has very few repeats of songs from earlier shows. "Danny Boy" makes yet another appearance on Mythology (on disc 1), and "Seven Drunken Nights" is back, still only with the first 5 'clean' verses (the last two verses would make this song decidedly not one for a family show). "Danny Boy" is now a solo, though, and has a different intro that almost makes it a whole different song. And there are several songs off Keith Harkin's solo CD ("Rosa", "Tears of Hercules") mixed into the Mythology show. [For the most part it probably is just an artifact of the fact that Keith was very busy in L.A. getting his own album finished. I doubt Celtic Thunder is planning to ditch Keith any time soon, though I do think Keith will need to spend a bit more time and attention on his solo career over the next year.] I love "Tears of Hercules" (disc 2), easily my favorite song of Keith's solo album, and the Celtic Thunder stage version is gorgeous, and I like the idea that "Rosa" might be one of the songs Keith sings on tour this fall, since it is a personal song written for his young god-daughter who is still back in Derry while Keith is away touring. It's not the same as having him home, but at least the real Rosa can know Keith thinks of her whenever he sings her song.

Two 'Paul Byrom tunes' turn up in Mythology- "Galileo" (originally written and recorded by Declan O'Rourke in 2006 and recorded by Josh Groban in 2010) and  "My Land"(on disc 1) This one is somewhat misleadingly touted as one of the new original songs written for Celtic Thunder, though fans know that Paul has recorded this song as well, a few years ago, though the arrangement in Mythology is new; it is now a 6-part ensemble piece, not a solo. "My Land" was written for Celtic Thunder, I'm sure, but back when Paul was a member of this group still. But otherwise most of the songs that the Celtic Thunder singers and band perform in this new show are actually new additions. For new fans this of course doesn't matter, but for those of us who have been fans for years, it is great to hear more new songs from these musicians.

The second disc has a lot of different covers of popular tunes, including "Galileo", Simon & Garfunkel's "Sounds of Silence", and another Garth Brooks cover by Ryan, "Thunder Rolls". In fact, over half of this disc is made up of such covers. They are very good covers, not just cheap imitations of the original songs and most of them on par with, even improving on their originals, though Celtic Thunder may wish to practice a bit more before launching a side career as a bluegrass band. (They cover "Man of Constant Sorrow" on disc 2, and I'm sure it will be great fun to sing along to live in concert, but after hearing this song performed live last year by Alison Krauss & Union Station, with Dan Tyminski on lead vocals and Jerry Douglas on dobro, well, Celtic Thunder did a great job for not being a bluegrass band....)

Not quite all of disc 2 is pop covers. but the tracks I am most in love with off this disc are covers. One of the nicest surprises in the Mythology show, for me, was hearing Keith Harkin and Colm Keegan singing together. For some reason when I met these fellows a few months ago I got the impression that these two, Keith and Colm, were really not the best of friends, however professional they can both appear. So I really hadn't considered what they might sound like together. Well, these two lads perform "Sound of Silence" together and while I still like Art Garfunkel's part better for singing along, I actually like this new Celtic Thunder recording at least as well as the original, which has always been one of my favorite songs.

Actually my other favorite on this 'album' (disc 2) is "Galileo". I love Josh Groban, and this is a gorgeous song, but it was never quite a favorite of mine on Paul Byrom's album, or even on Josh Groban's album. I got the impression from Josh's version that this song needed a voicing that sounded less formally trained, and Paul's version took it in the opposite direction, turning it into something that would blend in well with a Frank Sinatra & Friends radio station's playlists. It's pretty, and many people love it for good reason. I prefer Neil Byrne's new rendition of this song, which sounds just about perfectly like what I'd hoped to hear.

There are of course things to like about the rest of the 15 tracks on this second Mythology CD as well, but long story short, yes if you have the opportunity it is well worth the extra money to buy both CDs. I only bought the standard DVD, and have not yet found a friend who has the deluxe DVD package for me to borrow, or the money to buy it myself, but I know there is still some more excellent music on that version of the DVD that I have yet to hear, too. These deluxe packages will be available as part of the various PBS pledge drives Celtic Thunder will be involved with over the coming weeks. Contact your local PBS station for information about whether Celtic Thunder will be coming through your area this month on their promotional tour, and if you live outside the US, or in states whose PBS stations are not promoting Celtic Thunder this year, check out the Celtic Thunder webpage to order the deluxe CD and DVD packages (these are not available in stores anywhere or on amazon.com).

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