ALAN STIVELL: UN DWEZH BARZ GER (1978)
1) Trinquons Nos Verres (Let's Clink Glasses); 2) Ar Wezenn Awalou (The Apple Tree); 3) Henchou Kuzh (Hidden Ways); 4) Tabud Kemper (Wrath In Quimper); 5) Warlec'h Koan (After Dinner); 6) An Try Marrak (The Three Knights); 7) 'Tal An Tan (In Front Of The Hearth); 8) An Nighean Dubh (The Black-Haired Maiden); 9) Slan Chearbhallain (O'Carolan's Farewell); 10) Inisi Hanternos (North Of Midnight Islands).
A brief interlude, conveniently titled Journée A La Maison (A Day At Home, although the usual English title is A Homecoming); taking a break from his bombastic synthesis of Druidism and Steve Howe, Alan records a short, quiet album of new rearrangements of traditional tunes, fully stripped of electric instruments and pretentious anthemic statements. Yet it is not a minimalist creation — the multi-instrumental approach is preserved. You will not miss the bombarde, or the tabla, or the cellos. It's like a small home party that the guy throws at you from his porch. Overlooking the white cliffs of... uh... well, I guess Armorica has plenty of white cliffs, but I'm not exactly an expert on that kind of geography (I did visit the Île-de-Bréhat once, quite a long time ago, though, which should count as some qualification).
Concerning the music, there is not much to write about. The only minor surprise is the mini-«Celto-Indian» suite of 'The Apple Tree / Hidden Ways', accompanied all the way through with a grand sitar melody. Stivell probably has, or, at least, at the time had a strict monopoly on crossing Indian instruments with his trademark Celtic harp, so these resulting sonic waves are unique — I am not sure if they inspire unique emotions, but if you take a very firm decision to give in to this effect, you are in for your personal world of magic, able to beat up any other world of magic in no time. 1001 Nights meets Lord Of The Rings, that kind of weirdass concoction.
Side B, with the exception of the near-tribal-sounding 'Black-Haired Maiden', is all dark forests lit with firefly sparks. Lots and lots of fair harp drones, some crossed with tender multi-tracked harmonies that relate this kind of music to David Crosby ('Three Knights' just so totally belongs on If I Could Only Remember My Name, although, of course, in terms of overall influences it is Dave drawing his inspiration from acid-drenched night visits of Queen Guinevere, rather than Stivell popularizing his work by adapting it to hippie sensibilities).
Overall, this «nice little studio album» is just a minor blip on Stivell's radar, but many people live for such minor blips rather than nuclear explosions, and it is to those humble souls that I dedicate my thumbs up. Just do not judge the man's position in the pantheon of world music by this little adventure-on-the-porch.
Check "Un Dwezh Barz Ger" (CD) on Amazon