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CHRIS ARMSTRONG "X-treme" Lochshore CDLDL 1314
RODDY (R.S) MACDONALD "Good Drying " Greentrax CDTRAX 235.

In a field where being talented only allows you to walk up the path, being very talented gets you in the door and being exceptionally talented gets you to sit at the table. Chris Armstrong has walked right in and helped himself to dinner. The major piping prizes are all now starting to fall to Chris (Gold Medal 2003 to name but one) and he is competing against and regularly beating the likes of William McCallum, Allistair Gillies and Roddy MacLeod. This despite being at the very vanguard of modern piping the antithesis of competition piping something they used to say was impossible.

X-treme sees Chris in great form with fingers bouncing about like kangaroos on speed. As always Chris's compositions make up the bulk of the tunes on offer, and as always they blister along like a cheetah with go faster stripes. It will some day be scientifically proved that Chris has a third hand that allows him to squeeze all the notes in. Most of the sets feature a pounding beat and the exemplary cast of supporting musicians weave in and out of Chris's playing with great style and panache. Little touches like vocals by Bruce the dog , Chris vocalising Canntaireachd and superb cameos by Wendy Wetherby on Cello, all add to the feeling that anything can and probably will happen on this CD. his is a CD that should be played loud - very loud, and to hell with the neighbours and your hearing in later life. Chris's fantastic playing and brilliant imagination make this a CD packed with energy and vitality and one that no home should be without.

The name Roddy MacDonald may be unfamiliar to you, but the tag R.S MacDonald certainly shouldn't be. As for the last decade or so as the R.S macDonald tag has been listed as composer of many of the tracks on the best piping CD's released. Bands such as The Vale of Atholl, The 78th Fraser Highlanders and the Simon Fraser University as well as folk bands such as MacUmba and Ceolbeg and of course Gordon Duncan have all recorded Roddy's tunes. Yet the man himself has stayed firmly in the background preferring his music to take the limelight. But some determined encouragement from Gordon Duncan has finally enticed Roddy to record, and for that we should all give thanks.

That he can write good tunes is well established, with tunes such as 'Good Drying', 'Last Tango in Harris' and of course 'I'll Paco Grande', but this CD proves he can also play them beautifully. He has tied up with Murray Blair for production and the resulting arrangements are fabulous. The CD sweeps from the techo influenced 'Bullet Train' and 'Electric Chopsticks' via the flamenco of 'I'll Paco Grande' and the gaelic air 'Meal Fuar-Mhonaidh' to the catchy 'The Funnel' and 'The Beaver Club'.

With fantastic tunes, sparkling arrangements and delicious playing "Good Drying" is a glorious CD that proves the new wave of piping can produce tunes every bit as melodic as the old masters. Indeed time will, I'm sure, allot Roddy his place in among the great tunesmiths.

Chris MacKenzie

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This album was reviewed in Issue 54 of The Living Tradition magazine.