A collection of posts from my original weblog...or the inscrutable rantings of a madman...could be both...

Saturday, March 16, 2002

It's that time again, kids...yep, it's March 17th tomorrow...time for people of Irish descent (mainly in the U.S.A.) to celebrate their heritage by wearing green clothing and heading to a drinking establishment and raising a toast to fair Eire, jewel of the British Isles. Ah, St. Patrick's Day...when I was a practicing Roman Catholic it used to mean a lot more--you know, "he drove the snakes from Ireland's shores", the snakes representing the evil temptations of the horned one, Lucifer. That's if you see it the R.C. way..if you see it the ancient Celtic way..it's actually the knowledge of the Druids, who were driven out as the Christian faith spread throughout Ireland. In fact, I could be wrong, but I think St. Paddy's Day is another one of those "cover-up-the-pagan-holidays-with-a-Christian-one" deals. It's supposed to be St. Patrick's brithday, I believe, but who really knows when the guy was born--though I suppose the Romans may have kept decent birth records along with the census and all that. He was a slave who escaped to Ireland and converted to Christianity, returned to Rome and then went back to Ireland to preach the gospel of Jesus to the "heathen" Celts. I may have some of the details wrong--but that's the basic gist. I think that whole "using the shamrock to teach about The Holy Trinity" stems (no pun intended) from him as well.
I tend to think the Christian faith has brought more problems to Eire than good--especially in light of "the troubles" in the north and the endless divorce/abortion debates that take place because of the directives of the Catholic Church. Divorce is now legal in Ireland, but the process takes almost twice the time to complete as it does here..and abortion was finally legalized about four years ago--women who wanted one before that had to travel to England for the operation, and then were demonized when they returned. Still, despite all of the seemingly "backwards" ways (a lot due to the religious fervor) of it's people...the Irish are a fascinating and humourous race and I'm happy (I agree with George Carlin about the saying "I'm PROUD to be (blank)"--it seems strange and a bit jingoistic) to have some Irish descent...
Anyway, while most people will break out their U2, Clancy Brothers, Chieftains and Riverdance LPs and CDs...I figured I would spotlight a few Irish gems I recently dusted off. The first is by the obscure Irish progressive-folk group Mellow Candle, who released just one record, called Swaddling Songs, in 1972. I read about them in Vernon Joynson's "A Tapestry Of Delights" and checked E-Bay for the CD--and found an auction almost immediately. I won that, then I found out there's a mini-LP disc available, so I had "the luck of the Irish" and won the mini-LP a short time later. It's a well-made record and a shame that the group split before recording a follow-up. The group were: Clodagh Simonds, vocals/piano David Williams, guitar/backing vocals Alison Williams, lead vocals Frank Boylan, bass/backing vocals and William A. Murray, drums/perc. Their music is actually closer to progressive rock with a lot of electric guitar passages and Murray's up-front drumming. Clodagh Simonds' and Alison Williams' voices are very harmonious together and provide a nice counterpoint to the boys' prog-rock rhythm section. At times they remind me of early Renaissance (the English progressive band), with singer Annie Haslam's voice being double-tracked instead of singing solo or harmonizing with herself...this is especially true of the opening track on "Swaddling..", Heaven Heath. This is a great find for you musos who are looking for stuff similar to your Sandy Denny-era Fairport Convention or Steeleye Span, though it's closer to Fairport or Renaissance than Steeleye. You can tell it's an early 70s album just from the goofy/hippie descriptions of the band members in the inside cover, such as: Frank Boylan, Aries, bass/vocals if pressed. Well-known in St. Stephen's Green where he is repeatedly being mistaken for a statue. Notorious for his opinions on the Devil's position in present day rock. Is at present in the throes of inventing a pair of spectacles whose lenses incorporate maps of the sun.--they all have "bios" like that. The album was released on Deram Records originally and the cover art was by David Anstey, who designed Caravan's Waterloo Lily the same year. Clodagh Simonds would go on to work with Mike Oldfield on quite a few of his 70s records, including "Hergest Ridge" and "Ommdawn"..and the rest of the group? Perhps they were drawn into the Kingdom Of The Faeries...well, lads and lasses..I've got to be going now--but I'll finish my St. Paddy's Day reviews tomorror...I've got some drinkin' o' the ale tae do...Slan!!