Music-Folk Scene: Five Hand Reel, The Waterboys, Sarah McLachlan


This week listening to Celtic rock from the 1970s and 1980s, and bluesy rock from the 1990s coming from one of our Canadian cousins

Five Hand Reel – ‘For A That/The Bonnie Earl O’ Moray’ (Digitally remastered 2006)
Celtic folk rock – a largely Scottish collection of traditional songs receiving the electric guitar/bass, rock-drummer, piano treatment – three albums for the price of one.

These 1977/1978 FHR recordings were the result of a record- company desire to cash in on the English folk group, Steeleye Span having major chart success in the 1970s.  The recording artists never made a penny out of their music – but the albums did make Dick Gaughan’s name and did produce some of the most powerful, original versions of traditional folk songs one will ever hear.

Bearing in mind who best sings and how best to perform Robert Burns’ songs is subjective, the Burns songs receive a force and honesty that has never been equaled ‘(even if the treatment of ‘My Love is Like a Red Red Rose’ is somewhat heavy handed – nobody’s perfect).  The title song, ‘A Man’s A Man For A’ That’ never sounded this powerful – electric guitars drive the brotherhood of man message irresistibly onwards.  I was once told the greatest love song ever written is ‘Ae Fond Kiss’ – I scoffed as a teenager till I heard the late Bobby Eaglesham perform it here and now I understand, and understand more and more with the passage of time…

High points include, the battle song, ‘Haughs O’ Cromdale’ which rages convincingly and ‘The Bonnie Earl O’ Murray’ receives a quite original treatment for a folk song, for any song for that matter – Bobby Eaglesham’s ghostly plea for lost love rests with you.  The finest versions ever recorded of the Irish songs,‘P Stands For Paddy’ and ‘Carrickfergus’ are also in the mix, and the double album set ends with Dick Gaughan’s never bettered and vibrant rendition of ‘Freedom Come All Ye’.

FHR – one of the most historically important groups of musicians ever, find out for yourself.

For A’ That
1) Bratach Bana 2) Pinch Of Snuff 3) A Man’s A Man For A’ That 4) Haughs O’ Cromdale 5) Ae Fond Kiss 6) P Stands For Paddy 7) Paddy Fahey’s Reels 8) The Cruel Brother 9) Carrickfergus

The Bonnie Earl O’ Moray’

1) My Love Is Like A Red Red Rose 2) Sherrifmuir 3) Child On The Road 4) The Bonnie Earl o’ Moray 5) The Trooper and The Maid 6) The Beef-Can Close 7) Jackson And Jane 8) Freedom Come-All-Ye

Five Hand Reel – A Man’s A Man For A’ That

Bonus: Dick Gaughan singing Wild Mountain Thyme

The Waterboys – This Is the Sea (Digitally remastered 2004)

Mike Scott, The Waterboys’ vocalist and song-writer – a fire breathing Dylan with caustic-soda tonsils.

The Edinburgh band, ‘The Waterboys’, created their huge folky-rock stadium sound in the 1980s.  Digitally remastered in 2004, the piercing wit of Mike Scott’s Dylanesque lyrics and the firebrand intimacy of his voice soar above and cut through the breathtaking scope of the album that is, ‘This Is the Sea’.  These 1985 songs sound energetic and fresh – all great music should sound like it was just written and recorded a heartbeat ago, see Mozart.

‘The Whole of the Moon’, was the big hit single from the album, listening to this song, one longs to have known the subject of the song who saw ‘Brigadoon’ and ‘the whole of the Moon’ – those rare creatures able to envision more than the Moon’s jealous crescent.

The simple glory of ‘Spirit’ contrasts to the syncopated beat of social hypocrisy in ‘Old England’ and is followed mercilessly on by the heartily Dylan influenced, ‘Be My Enemy’.

The album’s title track, ‘This is the Sea’ ends the recording but images of Brigadoon and starry-night full moons sparkle into view, after all, we are all of us the subject of the song.

1) Don’t Bang the Drum 2) The Whole of the Moon 3) Spirit 4) The Pan Within 5) Medicine Bow 6) Old England 7) Be My Enemy 8) Trumpets 9) This Is the Sea

The Waterboys – the Whole Of The Moon (Live 1985)

Sarah McLachlan – ‘Fumbling Towards Ecstasy’ – (1994)
This album by Canadian songstress established her as a remarkable talent with a loyal fan base – one of the finest female vocalists ever who here produced an irresistible classic.  Sensitivity, adventure, musicality and the insight that only a woman can have, are the fundamentals of every song on this album – there are no album fillers.

Opening the album with ‘Possession’ and continuing on to songs such as ‘Elsewhere’ and ‘Ice-cream’, the sultry flame burning under the vocals – gorgeous, intimate and powerful at times lifting skywards the intricate musical arrangements, mesmerizing throughout. 

To get an idea just how much talent is wrapped up in this girl, McLachlan delivers a wonderful rendition of Joni Mitchel’s ‘Blue’ – not always easy to cover someone else’s classic – making it her own. 

Magnificent is too wee a word – too much talk – just go listen.

1) Possession 2) Wait 3) Plenty 4) Good Enough 5) Mary 6) Elsewhere 7) Circle 8) Ice 9) ‘Hold On 10) Ice Cream 11) Fear 12) Fumbling Towards Ecstasy 13) Blue

Sarah McLachlan – Hold On

Bonus: Sarah singing ‘Blackbird’ (live)