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Mulligan Records / Compass Records LUNCD3108 

For those of us of a certain vintage, this album scarcely needs a review of its content because it is a lavishly produced CD reissue of an LP which over time became widely regarded as one of the classic albums of the last 50 years. For various reasons this is a welcome re-release, not least because despite the excitement and acclaim that the album eventually received, it was a slow burner and may not be in your personal collection. LPs were an expensive purchase back in those days and for many this would have been an album heard at a friend’s house or one which passed around among enthusiasts. The recording stands the test of time and will bring back memories as well as give fresh enjoyment. However, if this is a first-time experience for you, there is no better starting point.

The CD package includes a scan of the original LP back cover, with song notes by Frank Harte. With some difficulty, and the aid of a magnifying glass, it is possible to read these notes, but it reminds us of the physical limitations of the size of a CD package. However, what is included in the package is a 48-page booklet which includes a 12,000 word essay on the making of the original album set in the context of Irish music and the history of Planxty.

Often referred to as The Purple Album, this recording was as significant to Irish music as The White Album was to The Beatles, but its recognition as a classic took time. The story of the delayed release and low-key reception in the press is revealed in the booklet - “…The meanness and ignorance of Ireland’s mainstream media drove many a great musician to despair.” Written by Gareth Murphy, the booklet, although less than a book, is much more than typical sleeve notes. The story covers an important and interesting period for Irish music and will fill gaps in your knowledge of that era. A few more quotes give a flavour of the richness of the text. “As events were unfolding thick and fast, there was no immediate clues their purple-coloured collaboration would grow into a classic.” An interesting comment on the slightly different career paths of Andy and Paul comes over in another quote: “Both artists love the intensity of live performance, the difference perhaps is that Andy Irvine loves the adventure of getting there, delighted to drive across countries to reach the auditorium or village hall or fete.” And, on the importance of this album we have: “…although there are other must-have classics from the period, Andy Irvine Paul Brady is both a signpost and a landmark, standing right at the crossroads between Planxty and the solo futures of two major figures in Irish folk – both of whom represent so much to so many.”

The original LP was produced by Donal Lunny, with musical contributions by Donal Lunny and Kevin Burke. For those who aren’t lucky enough to own a copy, this is an essential purchase – it’s a classic for very good reason. Irish music at its very best.

Pete Heywood


This review appeared in Issue 144 of The Living Tradition magazine