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THE DUBLINERS - 50 Years (1962-2012)

THE DUBLINERS - 50 Years (1962-2012)
Irish Music Licensing Ltd. IMEXCD0150

As I opened this amazing triple album in its handsome Digipak, I thought golly, it is not just the Dubliners who go back 50 years. All the original members may have now departed this world – although John Sheahan who joined the band in 1964, is thankfully still with us – but this reviewer is still perilously (?) seated on his perch, and it is getting on for half a century since I saw them make their first appearance at the Royal Albert Hall on the 5th of February, 1966.

And this quite outstanding collection of fifty tracks (geddit?) opened the floodgates and all sorts of good memories came rushing back to me, like the Anna Liffey had been fragranced with “the Black Stuff” on that very day of the start of the expert CD re-mastering (at Trend Studios in Dublin).

This release is an appropriately grand tribute that marks an end of an era. Dear Barney McKenna died last year (although his “Barneyisms” will live on, long beyond most of us reading this), and he was the last of the original members of a band that was so hugely significant. They paved the way for Irish bands like The Chieftains and The Johnstons to make initial inroads into Europe, before even their own government had joined the European Union!! And it could be argued that they were not just the accepted godfathers of the – much later - Pogues, but also the unspoken guiding light for groups like Planxty, The Bothy Band, De Dannan and Moving Hearts, along the way.

The discs are accompanied by liner notes from Colin Irwin which - as one would expect from such a fine music writer as him - are pitched perfectly in thoughtful and evocative language. (He pays tribute to all sorts of people who have helped make The Dubliners the massive success story they eventually became. Alas, too many names to list here.)

But whereas once one saw Colin's name, one may have fully expected quality liner notes, to see alongside them poems from John Sheahan (one for each of his fallen comrades), was a truly genuine surprise. And very good poems they are.

What can I say about the contents of the three CDs? Or more to the point, what do I need to say? I certainly am not daft enough to talk of my favourite tracks here. (Not that I don’t have some, mind: it is just that my favourite today will be something else tomorrow, and over a twelve month period, what’s the betting that all fifty tracks will have featured as my choice selection? The quality is that high.)

So, to sum up: every track that a fan of The Dubs might reasonably want, is represented here. If you have just arrived from the planet Mars and want advice on which Dubs' past release to buy, save your breath to cool your Martian porridge.

This gives a whole new meaning to the word “definitive” and blows every other Dubliners past CD clear out of the water.

Dai Woosnam


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This album was reviewed in Issue 95 of The Living Tradition magazine.