The Chieftains

Chieftains Live!

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This live album closed out the Chieftains' stay on Island Records with something of a bang. The group's albums, being all instrumental, were an almost otherworldly listening experience, especially when heard for the first time. This concert recording, derived from performances in Boston and Toronto -- no dates are given, but it was the then-current lineup with Derek Bell very much present on harp -- features the group in an exuberant mood, and demonstrates their close verbal interaction with their audience. And the results are bracing, whether the group is reaching back to repertory from their second and third albums (the former a decade in the past at that point), performing work from Chieftains 5, their current album at the time of these shows, or bringing new material to the fore. What's more, the recording quality is superb, which makes a huge difference on this recording -- the harp, in particular, is a difficult instrument to capture well in any live setting, but Bell's instrument plays such a central role to the content and timbre of the group's work, that anything less than perfect could render an album like this an exercise in futility; and the recording is well-nigh perfect, so that numbers such as "Carolan's Concerto" lose nothing, even captured off the stage. Coupled with the virtuosity and the boisterous spirits of the players, this concert recording can be recommended as essential listening for any fan of the group as a vital document of their classic lineup at work amid their first flush of international success.

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