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RED HOT CHILLI PIPERS - Music for the Kilted Generation

Music for the Kilted Generation
REL Records  RECD572

I suppose there must still be some sad souls out there who have not experienced the Red Hot Chilli Pipers, so let me fill you in. Coming to most people's attention on a national talent show, this quartet of young pipers is led by ace chanterman Stuart Cassells and backed by a rock-band rhythm section featuring Stevie Lawrence. Their excellent traditional credentials are applied to a range of music from White Heather to Deep Purple, Auchtermuchty to AC/DC, Willie Ross to Robbie Williams. This is their fourth CD (there's a previous DVD too, with girls in mini-kilts), and you can rest assured that the Kilted Generation does not refer to those old guys in hairy socks and anoraks who used to wander around Perthshire in the eighties. The Chillis are aiming at a slightly younger audience, ceilidh-goers and aspiring pipers, who also identify with the music of Snow Patrol, C&C Music Factory, and the glam-heavy rock of Queen, Ozzy Osbourne, and even Pete Townshend.

So where do the bagpipes come in? Well, every track is pipes-led, with tunes and arrangements carefully chosen to fit the nine-plus notes of the highland chanter. Some settings are more successful than others - I particularly enjoyed Black Knight and Let Me Entertain You. There are several straight piping pieces too, given foot-stomping treatments: The Little Cascade, The Hag at the Churn, The Steam Train to Mallaig, plus moments of musical genius in the shape of Davy Websters and Hellbound Train by Gordon Duncan and Mark Saul. The band present some of their own compositions - the stirring Just for Willie and the powerful air The Hidden Gem. Anyone who's ever thought of the pipes as just a saxophone with a hot water bottle attached will be delighted with the jazz funk horns of Low Rider, and if you really have to listen to Amazing Grace the version here takes some beating: born between Gospel and Motown, bags of bluesy beat, rivalling De Danann's Harlem Operator for best combination of Black American and Ginger Celt music. Whether you're a highland rocker or a Glasgow grunge fan, if you like the pipes these boys are the business: but you probably knew that already.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 87 of The Living Tradition magazine.