A Magical Gathering: The Clannad Anthology


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A Magical Gathering: The Clannad Anthology Review

by Richie Unterberger

As a survey of the first quarter century or so of Clannad's recording career, this double-CD compilation is intelligently selected and annotated. It draws pretty evenly from the various phases of the group's lifespan, from their most traditional folk-based albums in 1973 and 1974 to the slicker rock, pop, and new age-influenced sounds that gave them some crossover pop success in Europe and America in the 1980s and 1990s. Their most well-known tracks, and cuts with celebrity cameos, are here: the big early-'80s British hit "Harry's Game," "In a Lifetime" (with Bono of U2), "Something to Believe In" (with Bruce Hornsby), "I Will Find You (Theme From 'The Last of the Mohicans')," and four early-'80s songs on which a young Enya (then known as Eithne Brennan) was a vocalist with the band. No criticism can be levied at the packaging, complete with a 44-page booklet of liner notes. What's more problematic is the variation in quality, as the band changes from an exciting group who merged traditional Irish folk with folk-rock and jazz to a less-exciting, still folk-based one to a more successful but blander group who submerged the folk deeper in contemporary mainstream pop, rock, and new age production. The break is particularly noticeable toward the end of disc one: prior to that point the collection is wholly comprised of traditional material, but it then switches primarily to group originals for the rest of the anthology. It's likely that there will be a significant number of Clannad listeners who won't find some or much of the collection to their taste, whether it's those who liked their folkiest output the best and may have little time for the post-1970s material or those who became fans of their pop material and aren't especially interested in their folk roots.

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