Best of Slainte

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AllMusic Review by Murrday Fisher

Slainte's back, with their Best of Slainte collection, featuring perennial favorites "All For Mairi's Wedding" and "Cup of Tea" that so nicely showcase the group's distinctive vocal harmonies and melodic instrumentals. "All For Mairi's Wedding" appears on three of their albums, and this is a case where the repeat play is thoroughly merited, as it is one of the loveliest versions of this song available. What's something of a surprise is to find "Black Velvet Band" on this album. As a performance it's not quite up to par with "All For Mairi's Wedding." This is another case where the light female lead vocals, though attractive, are somehow less satisfying than if a more robust male voice had been utilized. Since the song is traditionally sung by a man, this is one composition that traditionalists might urge Slainte to consider re-recording, with a male lead. This performance is also a somewhat truncated version of the lyrics, as it leaves off the closing verse where usually the protagonist would warn other young men to avoid the colleens when drinking. Though it's a song to greatly please the casual listener, still, traditionalists may find this diluted variation irksome. "Sally Gardens" and "Star of the County Down" are two more examples of this tendency of Slainte's to have the female vocalists perform lyrics that are distinctly male oriented, and it just doesn't come off as emotionally authentic, no matter how glorious the harmonies are, and indeed, they are most amazingly elegant. It's simply that the woman's voice does not fit the lyrics about the young man who wants to wed the sweet colleen, and to a traditionalist, this will stick in the throat every time. Casual listeners will dismiss this caveat, and simply concentrate on the beauty of the harmonies, but traditionalists will again urge the group to consider letting a male take the lead, as the lyrics call for. In a group that clearly includes talented male vocalists as well as females, allowing the male vocalists to sing male leads would seem to make better sense. The instrumental numbers, such as "The Lark in the Morning," "The Mountain Road," and "Fanny Power," are well represented and are all skillfully performed, with a light and lilting touch on the strings. Take particular note of the haunting and ethereal arrangement of "The Butterfly," which appeared as a signature song throughout the movie The Secret of Roan Inish. Traditional performance concerns aside, this is an album full of truly lovely interweaving vocal harmonies and delicate, melodic instrumentals. It is an effective overall introduction to the group and a must for new fans, though long-time audience members may already have most of the songs from their three previous releases, Cup of Tea, Slainte: The Songs, and Slainte: The Tunes.