The Belfast Gypsies

Them Belfast Gypsies

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The Belfast Gypsies' sole album was first issued in Scandinavia by Sonet in 1967. Though the lettering on the sleeve led many to incorrectly think it was an album by Them titled "Belfast Gypsies," the name of the group is indeed the Belfast Gypsies (though some of the group had played in Them when Van Morrison was their lead singer), and the album title Them Belfast Gypsies. That clarification out of the way, as for the music itself, producer Kim Fowley gives this rough-hewn R&B a manic, freaky edge on cuts like "People, Let's Freak Out," "Suicide Song," and "Secret Police." The Them-like atmosphere is heightened by singer Jackie McAuley, who's very much a Van Morrison-style vocalist ("Gloria's Dream" is a blatant cop of "Gloria"), though not in Morrison's league. Still, it's quite a solid effort, McAuley's organ pacing the band's brittle rock-R&B, with some decent originals and a diverse assortment of imaginative covers, ranging from Donovan to traditional folk to a tongue-in-cheek classical instrumental. Their tense version of "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" is one of the greatest obscure Dylan covers, and the magnificent harmonica on "Midnight Train" is a highlight. [The record was first reissued on LP in 1978 with a slightly different cover bearing the subtitle "Legendary Master Recordings" and historical liner notes by Brian Hogg, though much later many more definite details about the band emerged. In 2003, it was reissued on CD by Rev-Ola with six bonus tracks, though most of these were different mixes of songs from the original LP.]

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