This is the disc for the listener who loves -- really loves -- "Danny Boy." The melody is the famous Londonderry Air, an Irish tune by blind harpist Rory Dall O'Cathan that goes back to the seventeenth century and the English conquest of Ireland. The words are by Frederick Weatherly, an English barrister who lost both his father and his son to death within three months of each other in 1910 and who found that his heartbreaking words suited O'Cathan's heartwarming tune in 1913. The combination is a poignant hymn to irrevocable loss and the abiding consolation of love.
But even the most dedicated lover of "Danny Boy" will have to take this disc featuring 19 different arrangements of the song a bit at a time. This is not to say that the arrangements aren't effective and the performances aren't affecting. They are, one or two at a time. But no matter how moving Judy Garland or Bing Crosby or Mario Lanza or John McCormack's interpretations are, it's hard to have your heart broken and mended again and again and again. And while the interpolation of a choral arrangement, flute arrangement, guitar arrangement, piano arrangement, harmonica arrangement, orchestral arrangement, and even a dance band arrangement of the song does break up the series of vocal performances, this disc is still a whole lot of "Danny Boy." "Danny Boy" is one of the greatest songs of all time, and while 19 arrangements may be too much to take all at once, one or two at a time will surely bring a tear to the eye and a lump to the throat of all but the most curmudgeonly listeners.