The Fureys

Best of the Fureys and Davey Arthur [K-Tel]

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The Fureys never attracted the kind of coverage enjoyed by the likes of the Chieftains, the Clancy Brothers, and Tommy Makem, or the Dubliners, mostly because their work tended toward the romantic pop side of Celtic folk music. Their work was relatively lightweight and sentimental, but also impeccably played and sung, and extremely popular. And all of the elements that drove their success across the '80s and '90s are on display in this 15-song collection, covering the years 1979-1992, when they were teamed up with guitarist Davey Arthur. Starting with their breakthrough 1981 hit, "When You Were Sweet Sixteen," the CD presents a beautiful array of heartfelt ballads that will have special meaning to almost anyone of Irish descent, or with a knowledge of music history. Indeed, this is probably the only place in modern times, outside of a complete recording of the Flotow opera Martha, where one can hear "The Last Rose of Summer." It is sung straight, and it works. Similarly, the group breathes some considerable life into Stephen Foster's "Beautiful Dreamer" and Thomas P. Westendorf's "I'll Take You Home Again Kathleen," two songs best known today for their use in movies. And their rendition of "Annie's Song" -- a chestnut of a '70s pop song if ever there was one -- offers an amazing vocal performance by Finbar Furey, gentle and lusty all at once. And between his banjo and Arthur's guitar, the CD offers enough superb musicianship to satisfy the most hardcore folk purists. The only flaw in the collection is the unvaried pacing -- as so much of the group's best-known repertory is slow- and medium-tempo ballads, so the entire album keeps that pace, with no break, and makes for a certain sameness, even as the instrumentation does shift a bit from guitar and banjo to button accordion. The sound is excellent, however, and the annotation is reasonably thorough as well.

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