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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Alan Stivell: International Tour


1) Ar C'hoant Dimezin; 2) Rouantelezh Vreizh; 3) Dugelezh Vreizh; 4) Stok Ouzh An Enez; 5) Liegemen Of The Trembling Slo­pes; 6) We Shall Survive; 7) Cailin Og Deas; 8) O'Carolan's Farewell/The Musical Priest; 9) An Nighean Dubh; 10) Fest-Hypnoz.

Now this one is truly a «nice little live album»: enjoyable throughout, but easily the most «skip­pable» of Alan's live releases. Recorded at different venues, in Germany for the most part, unlike his previous concert LPs, this one mostly concentrates on slightly rearranged versions of tunes from Alan's recent past — an excerpt from the Celtic history suite on Raok Dilestra, another exceprt from the Breton poets tribute on Trema'n Inis, a couple of recreated highlights from Un Dwezh Barz Ger, etc. It's all nice and good, but was it supposed to signify that the man was be­ginning to run out of ideas? Not a particularly ominous sign for the upcoming 1980's.

That said, it only takes a brief comparison of the originals with the new live renditions to under­stand that these tour versions at least try to add to or improve on the past. For instance, 'Stok Ouzh An Enez' is about two minutes longer, allowing Alan to launch into some very tricky and sonically enchanting passages (improvs?) on the harp, masterminding the ringing strings into something so proverbially Elven-like, even Arwen "Liv Tyler" Undomiel would likely want it for her ringtone. 'The Breton Kingdom' is played in a much harder-rocking setting, with Dan Ar Bras really putting that low grumbling metal thing in his sound, so that the whole idea of «Celtic rock» gets a vivid upgrade. 'Black-Haired Maiden' gets an extra flute part that seems to have been lack­ing on the original (well, they couldn't just let the flute player stand around empty-handed all day... or, wait, is that Stivell himself playing the flute? Whatever).

So, in the end, «skippable» refers to those who want to limit their Stivell collection to a moderate­ly reasonable size — for those who really dig this Celtic thang, it is a must-own. But neither should one hesitate to hear it if it happens to be the only Stivell record in sight: the selections are diverse, the music clearly dominates over the nationalism (even that long long long piece of poe­tic propaganda masquerading as Celtic music on Trema'n Inis is reduced from sixteen minutes to five, concentrating on sound far more than the message), and the inspiration has not yet waned, or, rather, has not been subtly poisoned by changing musical fashions.

Finally, one of the few new numbers, the show-closer 'Fest-Hypnoz', with its spasmodic flute part will be a great joy to all you fans of Jethro Tull. Considering that, around 1978-79, Stivell and Ian Anderson had pretty much the same length of head and facial hair floating around the upper parts of their bodies, not to mention oddly converging musical tastes, it seems almost unjust that some­thing like Heavy Horses would still be selling and these albums would not. Sure, all the songs are in this goddamn internationally incomprehensible language that managed to reduce its Indo-European legacy to much the same rubble as English, but it's not as if we so totally understood what Ian is singing about, either, even when he gets all his articles and tenses right.

Check "International Tour" (CD) on Amazon

1 comment:

  1. Just so you know, by now Dan Ar Bras was not anymore in Alan's live band (I guess he was already doing his own thing).