The Chieftains' most elaborately produced recording up to the early '80s is also a major departure from their prior work, having been composed entirely by Paddy Moloney (who, in fairness, is steeped in the influences from the traditional music in which the group specializes) as television soundtrack music. There is also an orchestra present, in keeping with the fact that this is soundtrack music, written for Irish television's adaptation of the historical novel The Year of the French. Some of the material, such as "Treacy's Barnyard Dance," could easily have come from any mid-'70s Chieftains album, while other tracks have a sound unique to this recording. Moloney was required by the structure of the novel and the television production to write through the eyes of the characters, filtering the music through their sensibilities as he understood them, and the resulting union of traditional and contemporary sounds works exceptionally well. Indeed, the best moments of The Year of the French may recall the most sublime moments of Sean O'Riada's I Am Ireland, notable Irish film music of another generation, although Moloney is somewhat freer in his use of traditional material as well as the orchestra. The orchestrations are restrained and tasteful, and if the texture alone in "The French March" doesn't rouse listeners, then they shouldn't be listening to the Chieftains in the first place.
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AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder