What you will get out of this indeed spectacular hour of Celtic music performed by the indefatigable Cincinnati Pops, its conductor Erich Kunzel, and a bevy of guest stars depends entirely on what you bring to it in the first place. If your experience of Celtic music consists of playing it in a pub, with no amplification beyond what your own lungs or motor skills can bring, it's going to be an hour in one of the inner circles of hell. If you like simple arrangements of Irish and Scottish tunes for the instruments of the classical orchestra, it may be a bit much -- the arrangements here are SUV-sized, with the able percussionists of the Cincinnati Pops getting quite a workout. If you're intrigued by the idea of Celtic music itself and its persistence in American culture (does the concept even exist in the British Isles in anything like its American form?), you're going to enjoy the range of music and treatments here, as well as the surprisingly detailed booklet notes exploring the careers of such forgotten figures as Chauncey Olcott, the Buffalo-born (and non-Irish) performer who did as much as anyone else to popularize the "Irish" song. And if you are a fan of Riverdance, Lord of the Dance, and the smaller similar theatrical spectacles that have taken hold in the big old theaters of American downtowns, you're going to love this album. And, one might add, if you're looking for a workout for your top-dollar stereo equipment, this album (as the name Telarc usually signifies) represents a good investment. Kunzel offers music ranging from traditional tunes to full-blown Hollywood spectaculars. The orchestra backs off to give the guests space, as for example on the Chieftains' Chasing the Fox medley (track 8), typically coming back in full force later in the track after the tune has been introduced. The inclusion of Simple Gifts, featuring James Galway (he drops the "Sir" in this context), is interesting; it is indeed an American tune, but one patterned on Celtic melodies, and it has now made the leap back across the pond. There are several vocal tracks, including the ever-present Danny Boy, sung with a nice, circumspectly clear measure of conventional sentiment by tenor John McDermott. In all, an unusually ambitious effort from the group that is arguably America's premier pops orchestra.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
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