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When a Christy Moore studio album arrives on a reviewer’s desk, it should be a moment for great rejoicing.   For Christy is emphatically not one of those artistes going in and out of the recording studio like it’s a revolving door, and producing studio CDs with a regularity bordering on the incontinent.

No, this is his first studio album in 4 years.   And so I held out real hopes for it.   Particularly when I read these words of his, in the notes that accompanied the album: “I have never been a prolific writer.  To replenish my repertoire […] I have always preferred to sing good songs from other writers, than lesser songs by myself.  All singers need songwriters and many songwriters need singers.  Let the music keep our spirits high”.

And with that last sentence tipping his hat to the great Jackson Browne, my appetite was well-and-truly whetted.   But, now three plays of the whole album over, I have to confess to feeling curiously empty.   Disappointed, even.

Now, is that me (did I have my ears on wrong?) or is it the album?   Let’s look at the evidence.

Did I set my hopes too high?   No, not really.   After all, Christy Moore is a magnificent performer: a man who can turn a mundane song into the very special.  (He very nearly does it a couple of times here: q.v.)   And one can understand that it is impossible for him to write magnificent songs for each album of the quality of – say - his masterpiece, Viva la Quince Brigada.    Thus, one understands him not wanting to sing “lesser songs by myself”.

So, I really did have my feet on the ground – I promise - when I started listening to this.   But, I think it was those fine words of his quoted above, that did the damage.    I was expecting some ace songs from other pens.   And they just weren’t there.

True, he did near miracles with Pink Floyd’s Shine On You Crazy Diamond, that heartfelt song of theirs, lamenting the loss to mental breakdown of their leader Syd Barrett.    He gives it a poignancy that even the Floyd could never manage.

And he does a similar fine job with Ian Prowse’s Does This Train Stop On Merseyside?  But golly Christy, this song is not really worthy of your talents.   (And to say – as you say in your sparse liner notes, that “it was a favourite too of the late John Peel”, is as far as I am concerned, akin to a classic case of “damning with faint praise”.   For nobody backed more untalented artistes and lost causes that Mr Peel: engaging broadcaster though he was.)

As for the three Christy Moore self-penned compositions here: the best of the three is Barrowland, his evocative recall of that veritable institution of a dancehall in the East End of Glasgow.   But to be honest, even that works better as a set of words on the page, than a song.

The best cut on the CD, is the old favourite from Bill Caddick, John O’ Dreams.  (I note by the way, it is here credited only to Bill: isn’t it about time that some artistes started crediting the music of this song to a certain Mr Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky?!)   It is closely followed, as second “high spot” on the CD, by that Dick Glasser pop hit for the late Billy Fury, I Will.

This, by the way, is thoughtfully sung by the album’s co-producer (and Moving Hearts colleague from way-back), Declan Sinnott.  That is his one vocal solo: the other songs are led by Christy.

Trying to find this cup half full, rather than empty, I guess I can honestly say that the album is strong on the “thoughtful” and the “sincere”.   And I guess we could also add that much-valued quality, “understated”.

Were it a CD from A.N. Other from my local folk club, I would be the first to pat him or her on the back.   But it comes here from a hero of mine.

And thus it is, that I feel sad that I cannot enthuse over it like I wanted to.

Dai Woosnam
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This album was reviewed in Issue 84 of The Living Tradition magazine.