Michael O'Shea

Michael O'Shea

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Michael O'Shea Review

by Wilson Neate

Having encountered Michael O'Shea busking in a doorway with a bizarre homemade instrument, wearing a pleated skirt and matching turban, Wire's Graham Lewis and Bruce Gilbert were eager to record him for their Dome label. O'Shea -- a well-traveled Irishman of ever-changing professions and outfits -- was leery of the music business and only pursued the offer a year later; he arrived at the studio one morning, out of the blue, announcing that his horoscope augured well for that day. This is the only album by O'Shea, the late virtuoso of an instrument that he christened the Mo Cara ("my friend" in Gaelic): a curious composite of the obscure Algerian Zelochord, a sitar, and a hammered dulcimer, conceived and built by O'Shea himself. Supplemented with extra tracks, this largely instrumental CD is a reissue of O'Shea's eponymous 1982 album for Dome records. Like its famously eccentric and unpredictable creator, this haunting, moving music is truly unique. Although the ethereal rhythmic chiming of the Mo Cara evokes different ethnic and cultural traditions, suggesting a fusion of Eastern and Western folk forms, it ultimately has a multifaceted identity all its own, shaped by O'Shea's rich imagination. An Oriental dimension can be heard especially on "A Dead Rose," which introduces a sitar into the arrangement, while on "Guitar No. 1," O'Shea accompanies himself on Western pop's most conventional tool, the electric guitar. The centerpiece, however, is the 15-minute "No Journey's End," a hypnotic, emotive sonic landscape that envelops the listener. Similarly compelling is the atmospheric "Easter Island," recorded at home by O'Shea with Larry Cosgrave, who also provides spoken-word vocals based on a Bob Kaufman poem. While it's unfortunate that O'Shea's recorded legacy is so small, the sheer beauty of this music is some compensation.

Track Listing

Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
feat: Michael O'Shea Amazon
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