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SSOLAS -Reunion

SOLAS - Reunion
Compass Records 4431

To mark their tenth anniversary, Solas have released this CD and DVD of a reunion concert in Philadelphia with a small but enthusiastic crowd. The present line-up is augmented by ex-members Karan Casey, John Williams, John Doyle, Donal Clancy and many more. With seventeen tracks on the CD and twenty-five on the DVD, this is one of the biggest albums I can remember. Quantity is not an issue! The audio quality is what you'd expect from Solas and Compass: very high. The live feel is there alright, but the mix and definition is up to studio standard.

With such a big line-up, the power of the music is awesome. Newry Highwayman could be a number by some big folk-rock band. The double box and banjo on Leslie's March take it a long way from the gentler Chieftains' version. Solas' trademark - Pastures of Plenty - sweeps all before it, and the climactic Níl Na Lá more than justifies the two encores. For sheer excitement you just can't beat the good old sound of fiddle, box, flute, banjo, bouzouki, whistle, guitar, keyboards, drums and bass.

The DVD is a definite bonus. Concert tracks are interspersed with interview clips, giving good insight into what makes the band and its members tick. The sound is not always well synched with the image, and this can be distracting if you're trying to follow the fingerwork, but it's not a big problem. Two tracks from the CD (Highlands of Holland and Beauty Spot) are not on the DVD, which means that ten tracks on the DVD are not on the CD, giving a combined total of 27 tracks. There's also some behind-the-scenes footage and a still photo gallery.

Reunion really is something special. Solas fans will not want to miss this one. Nor will anyone with an eye for a musical bargain. It's big, it's bold, it's brilliant. As they say in Philadelphia, go figure. Or just say cheese.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 70 of The Living Tradition magazine.