A couple of times in the mid-70s my cousin used to invite me to stay with him for a weekend. Click here for a post that goes into a little more detail about those visits. On one of those visits, Jeff played me this album. I don't know why but it left an incredible impression on me. Jeff is six years older than me. Back then in 1974 when he was 21 I was an awkward and uncomfortable 14 year old. He was the coolest guy I knew. But that album hit me hard. I bought it very soon after my visit when I got home. I played it once and never played it again until 1977.
I'm often like that with music. If it doesn't hit me immediately then it's gone. Usually forever. But in 1977 I was seriously ill. I was recovering from a disease and still suffering from it. District nurses used to come between once and three times a week to dress the wounds on my legs. One District nurse was Irish. She came from Dublin. She was great and we got on well.
So one day I fished through my growing collection of albums and found this one collecting dust. I suppose I wanted to thank her for all her help. She was quite a character. So whenever she came I played it. I played it often. Again and again over weeks or months. It really got into me. By the time she'd finished coming, I was hooked. It was in my blood. Suddenly the world of Irish Traditional Folk music opened to me. It was years before the invention of 'World Music.' This music was real, visceral and absolutely compelling.
Click here for a performance of Planxty playing one of the songs from the album. It's an incredible performance of The Blacksmith, I think.
Amazing to see Christy Moore - playing the harmonium. He's barely visible for the first half of the performance, dominated by Andy Irving and Donnal Lunny on mandolines. Then the camera switches from stage left to stage right. Its focus is Christy Moore's hands playing the harmonium. Then pans back to the brilliant Liam O'Flynn. His uilleann pipes lie across his lap. He's sitting patiently for his moment. He could be waiting for a bus. But then his moment comes. He's just off-screen. Then we see the band from centre stage. My eyes are on Christy Moore and the Bodhran balanced on the back of the chairs no one is using. Suddenly he picks it up with the beater. We are now somewhere else. A heart beating full of desire, urgently pounding out this rhythm.
Here is a band at the very peak of there short-lived but brilliant career. I'm still completely blown away by the freshness and energy of their performance.
In fact, why not Click here for another performance. This one's probably recorded in 1973, a year after the first one. I love how Liam O'Flynn's uilleann pipes now take centre stage. He takes charge of the instrumental that follows the song.
But for me, it's hearing Christy Moore's voice, that really lifts this song onto another plane. He's still unaware of its quality. He's belting out these lyrics unselfconsciously, seemingly unaware of the treasure he holds in his throat and vocal cords.