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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Alan Stivell: E Dulenn


1) Spered Hollvedel; 2) Délivrance; 3) Ha Kompren't 'Vin Erfin; 4) Tenwal Eo'r Bed; 5) Digor Eo An Hent; 6) Deb­h­air An Rinceoir / Jig Gwengamp; 7) Pachpi Kozh / Pachpi New; 8) Laridenn; 9) Ton-Bale Pourled; 10) Bal Ha Dans Plinn'; 11) An Droiou.

Now this is more like it, and a worthy companion to the Olympia concert. «This nice little live album features folky and electric arrangements of traditional music», the AMG review informs the listener in a raging fit of laconicity, and, sure enough, those who have not buried themselves throat-deep in the intricacies of «traditional music», will probably have little else to say about the record other than «uh... nice little live album!».

On the other hand, at least there is always the factual side. Recorded on November 26 and 27, 1974, at the National Stadium in Dublin (Dulenn). Released in 1975. Played with the aid of Sti­vell's regular band, including Dan Ar Bras on guitars and... others. Also involved in the perfor­mances is Bagad Bleimor, a traditional Breton pipe band, equipped with lots of bagpipes, flutes, and bo­mbards (the reed-shaped ones, not the cannons — these guys ain't no AC/DC). Tunes are mostly of Breton origin, with a few Irish divertissements thrown in for good measure (note the location of the concert — a Breton playing nothing but Breton tunes in the heart of Ireland would be an odd type of chauvinist, to say the least).

As for the setlist, there are, actually, several Stivell originals here, such as the rabble-rousing an­them 'Délivrance', with which he gets the audience up on their feet at the very start of the show, reciting freedom-loving lyrics to the sound of freedom-loving bagpipes. But overall, there is in­deed heavier emphasis on the «traditional» here than on the Olympia concert, with most of Sti­vell's usual inventive wit invested into rearrangements. Sometimes the wit is demonstrated head-on: 'Pach Pi Kozh' (translated loosely as 'Ancient Passe-Pied', a type of Breton dance) starts out driven by flutes, violins, and pipes, then, two minutes on, is provided with a rock rhythm section (but no electric guitars).

Of course, merely adding rock drums and bass to a traditional tune is not necessarily the best in­dication of wit; the most glaring example of Alan's «Celtic rock» here is 'Bal Ha Dans Plinn', wi­sely chosen as the show closer, as it is here that the band really pulls out all the stops, as you get flutes folksily whistling the same melody as the progressive rock guitar in the adjacent channel. Then the violins start coming in, the bagpipes, the bass starts shredding à la Chris Squire, the gui­tar player eventually takes over the flashy playing à la... Ritchie Blackmore?, and finally it all comes down in a mighty final clash of all the instruments on stage. Thar be sum b'dass Celtic rock, mate, as any famous Celtic pirate — Sir Henry Morgan, for one — would surely testify.

Overall, there is not too much rational sequencing going on here, but sparsely arranged ballads are mixed well enough with bombastic folk-rock to prevent any onset of boredom. Of the former, 'Debhair' is a particularly gallant gentlemanly-pastoral masterpiece, and of the latter, 'Ton-Bale Pourled' deserves special mention as the «heaviest» number on the album, with a gloomy, mur­derous riff that some heavy metal bands would kill for — until, midway through, it vanishes into thin air, replaced by a couple of fawnish pipes to alleviate the feelings. Quite exquisite.

In passing, it should perhaps be mentioned that both of Stivell's famous live sets almost never du­plicate his contemporary studio recordings — and, with more emphasis on band interplay and basic brawn than the generally subtler non-live creations, are every bit as essential as something like Chemins De Terre. «Nice little live album», aye. Thumbs up.

Check "E Dulenn" (CD) on Amazon

1 comment:

  1. I have precious little to add to your review of this nice little live album (oops) but I just have to say that the flute theme that breaks in about a minute into 'Pachpi Kozh' has suddenly become one of my absolute favourite moments in all of music. I know Stivell sure didn't write it, probably one of those magical melodies passed on and perfected for generations, but gosh darn it is it ever magical.
    I have similar feelings for the flute theme in Clannad's 'Down By The Sally Gardens' if anyone cares to know.
    Those Celtic people sure knew how to pen a flute melody to make all time stand still for a few brief moments.