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Greentrax CDTRAX064

The Scottish Gas Caledonian Pipe Band are a "Thunder Band" in the making. Some of the tracks on this C.D. would do justice to any of our established "Celtic Bands" such as the Tannahill Weavers or the Battlefield Band. That should give an indication that this is not a run of the mill pipe band recording. A further indicator is that two members of my family (my wife and mother-in-law), who don't normally enjoy pipe band music, liked listening to this C.D.

The reason for their enjoyment is the recording's divergence from tradition through the Scottish Gas Caledonian Ceilidh Band. The ceilidh band have a starring role on this recording and fully justify the position. They are all band members (bar one - the musical director's brother) and prove to be as adept with fiddles, keyboards and tin whistles as they are with the pipes and drums.

The pipes feature on all of the tracks but in some of the ceilidh numbers, fight for prominence with all of the other instruments, as Finlay MacLeod very skillfully blends the whole sound together. He has produced arrangements of some very familiar tunes - "The Jig of Slurs", "The Little Cascade" and "The Train Journey North" which are fresh, lively and keep your feet tapping.

The full Pipe Band compete with ceilidh band and hold their own comfortably. Just to prove that they are an accomplished pipe band in the traditional sense, the recording has two March, Strathspey and Reel sets, and two competition medleys. In these the tunes are again very familiar, for example, "Lord Alexander Kennedy", "Atholl Cummers" and "John Morrison of Assynt House" is the first MSR, although there are some new tunes too such as "Charlie's Calypso" and the superbly named "Thomson's Directory" (played just before the well known "Thomson's Reel"). Most of the new tunes were composed by the band's Pipe Major, Gordon Campbell, who is certainly a talented composer.

The competition sets are solidly played, as is expected from one of our better grade two bands.

Other sets have a mixture of pipes, drums and assorted instruments with very well crafted arrangements. One such set is entirely composed of Irish Tunes including "Gillie Mor" and "The March of the Mayo Men" and is a delight to listen to. In the penultimate set the ceilidh band give "The Seagull", "The Curlew" and "The Jig of Slurs" as good a "Thunder" treatment as you get. The production on the album is excellent with the sweet tone of the band being faithfully reproduced.

This recording will doubtless annoy the pipe band purists but it is far more likely to introduce "new" listeners to pipe bands than any of the "heavy" recordings. If you think you don't like pipe music, then I urge you to give this recording a listen - it could just change your mind. It could be called a pipe band C.D. for "beginners".

I thoroughly enjoy listening to this C.D., and suspect I will for a long time to come.

Chris MacKenzie

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