Tir na nOg
Tir na nOg have been described as Alt Folk, Prog Folk, Psych Folk, and even Space Folk! But the duo, formed by Leo O’Kelly & Sonny Condell in 1970, transcends all these categories. What is not in doubt is that they are two of the most original and influential songwriters and performers Ireland has ever produced. Songs like Condell’s ‘Two White Horses’, and O’Kelly’s ‘Looking Up’, both of which are featured on Live At The Half Moon, are as good as anything Ireland’s produced in the past four decades.
Tir na nOg ended 2015 on a high when Classic Rock magazine voted their album The Dark Dance number 3 in its best albums of 2015. 2016 looks to be just exciting and busy. Tir na nOg Live At The Half Moon is available as a limited edition green vinyl LP (250 copies) available exclusively from Mega Dodo. Tir na nOg's most recent studio album The Dark Dance also available on limited edition silver or black vinyl. Both editions are limited to 250 copies.
It was welcome news for these ears when I heard that this fine Irish folk duo, who had some lovely psyche-folk songs on their first three albums from the 1970s, were back decades later playing live. I have yet to catch a show, but now have this fine live album to show where they are at in the 21st century. Sonny Condell and Leo O’Kelly still sound exquisite in harmony and their guitar playing evokes all the mysteries of a foggy island morning, even more than in the past. They add some violin and percussion, which add amazing textures and punctuation. The guitars are stinging throughout and these two work are quite inventive working together. The material is split between old and new and if you were not familiar with their material, it would be difficult to tell which is which, as they have simply grown from their early days without losing their core sound and abilities to create something unique.There are a few more cool rock moves than I remembered, such as in ‘Free Ride’. This was quite a treat and I can attest that even if this were some brand new band, I would really love this record, although I am not sure a brand new band could have this many fine songs to put into a set.
Of all the “oh my God, not another” reformations and revivications that have pocked the last decade like teenaged acne, a handful step forth to send all your cynicism sailing away, and Tír na nÓg are certainly one of them.
Rising and falling in the early 1970s, and only sporadically revived since then, the duo of Leo O’Kelly and Sonny Condell reunited for an astonishing Fruits de Mer single in 2014; followed through with an equally laudable album last year; and now cement their return with a live set that allows old and new to stand together, and the intervening decades just tumble away.
Now as then, they have a very full sound for a simple duo, a wash of instrumentation that hangs behind the lyrics like a third voice. Kicking off with the now-aptly titled “Time Is Like A Promise,” the opening cut from their debut LP back in 1971 (“Looking Up,” from the same album, appears later) the set delivers a strong snapshot of past glories, but an economical one as well – “The Lady I Love” and the CD bonus track “Two White Horses” represent their sophomore set; 1973’s Strong in the Sun delivers just the propulsive “Free Ride”; and“Eyelids into Snow” dates from Condell’s solo doings during one of the band’s longer lay-offs.
The remainder is otherwise predicated around last year’s The Dark Dance – but this is no repeat performance. Live, songs that the album set in stone shrug off past trappings and begin again… the show stopping “Ricochet,” the lovely “You In Yellow,” the wry “I Pick Up Birds at Funerals” and, most impressively of all, the somber “I Have Known Love” hang like gentle incantations over an audience whose silence feels like a collective holding-of-the-breath.
That is the kind of album this is; an evening in with a handful of friends who know secrets that you have never guessed before. And, once again, one of the most welcome returns of recent years.
Dave Thompson: Goldmine
Tír na nÓg, the Irish songwriting duo of Leo O’Kelly and Sonny Condell, wrote and recorded some of the finest music to come out of the early 70s folk scene. After releasing three fine albums they separated to embark on new projects before recapturing their muse in recent years.
Last year they released ‘The Dark Dance’, their first studio album in over 40 years. Receiving universal acclaim, it stood proudly with their work on Chrysalis Records all those years ago. They’ve followed this up with a limited live album recorded at The Half Moon, Putney that brings together songs new and old into one set.
The sound on ‘Live At The Half Moon’ is as clear as a bell with a little echo adding to the atmosphere. Leo and Sonny are in great voice throughout and the audience are clearly in raptures.
‘Time Is Like A Promise’ sets the tone, its peerless melody and harmonies reverberating across the Half Moon.
The new material works extremely well including Leo’s ‘Ricochet’ which revisits the duo’s psych prog beginnings. Their live version of the Silver Apples ‘I Have Known Love’ shines whilst the live set also gives them chance to play Sonny’s classic track from his work in Scullion, ‘Eyelids Into Snow’.
Material myth-making from the inhabitants of ethereal otherworld: famed Irish duo condense their murk for all to see.
This little collective seemed a vital piece in an Éire musical mosaic, and their three Charisma albums traced Leo O’Kelly and Sonny Condell’s progress from acoustic troubadours to full-fledged folk rockers, yet it took the veterans more than four decades to grace the studio again. The result was 2015’s “The Dark Dance” – brought on-stage in Putney on the day of its release and preserved for posterity here – a success and a natural successor to an original records run.
The “Half Moon” performance encompasses all the duo’s history, including their wilderness years when Sonny and Leo started to play the drily rocking “Eyelids Into Snow” that has yet to see a non-concert release, but starting with “Time Is Like A Promise” which, aeons ago, opened the group’s self-titled debut and, while still gentle, turned youthful hope into a seasoned traveler’s rumination on life lived on the road now. Two voices’ twine timelessly smooth and two guitars’ web eternally light, the past taps into the present in the elegiac haze of “I Have Known Love” and three more new tunes, the gloomy ones, as “Ricochet” drowns screams in a sparsely echoing trance and “You In Yellow” weaves a heart-wrenching fiddle in its fiber.
Paradoxically, in front of the audience, the pieces’ aloofness increases, but then there are “Looking Up” whose electric charge is mesmeric, marrying drone to a twang, and the merry “The Lady I Love” off "A Tear And A Smile" which gets unhinged to exist in the moment of delivery. The only saggy spot of it all is the show’s only cut from "Strong In The Sun", as “Free Ride” has somehow lost its momentum towards the finale, before “Two White Horses” slowly rides into the sunset leaving an impression that the night of the dark dance wouldn’t be TIR NA NOG’s last. Their fire is still burning bright in the shadow of time.
Let It Rock
Tir na nog are no strangers to the pages of Shindig!, having been featured both in review and in a more in-depth appraisal since their re-formation in recent years. This new live album sees the Irish duo of Leo O'Kelly and Sonny Condell successfully covering old and new ground. It may be based around folk music, but it's almost boundless in its parameters. Opener 'Time Is Like A Promise' (from 1971's Tir na nog debut) sets the tone for what is quite a remarkable performance that includes the unsettling 'I Pick Up Birds At Funerals', their weavingly woozy cover of Silver Apples' I Have Known Love' and the deliciously trippy sounding 'Ricochet'. Nick Drake's 'Free Ride', also part of their set since their college gigging days, sounds urgent, bolstered by an intense echo-fuelled delivery and elongated bongo solo. The bonus cut (CD only) of 'Two White Horses' serves as another major highlight.
Lenny Helsing: Shindig! magazine
The return of Irish acid folk duo Tir na n has been a gradual one- first mooted in the mid-'80s with some Irish concerts and a sin-gle, Love k Like A Violin. Since then they have reconvened occasionally to tour in Ireland but much more outside returning briefly to the UK in 1995. Here their presence has been heightened with re-issues of their three Chrysalis albums. Their return studio album, The Dark Dance, highlighted both ability and ingenuity undimmed by time. Indeed, their capadties hadgrown int he interim to pro-duce a staggeringly potent acoustic/electric folk-rock sound which retained its melodic sensibilities. Now comes Live At The Half Moon recorded in London at The Half Moon in Putney at the launch of The Dark Dance which captures their present state of creativi-ty and renewed presence as a touring act. Both Sonny Condell and Leo O'Kelly are composite vocalists, composers and instru-mentalists. Their combined alchemy effort-lessly creates an atmosphere both spacious and intimate, gentle yet raunchy enough to crossover into rockier terrains yet maintain a capricious edge. the At The Half Moon finds them travelling through their back cat-alogue and new material including Time Is Like A Promise and Looking Up from their debut album Tir na nog and the rare 1972 single The Lady I Love to You In Yellow, I Have Known Love and I Pick Up Birds At Funerals from The Dark Dance. The latter tracks highlight Leo Cr Kell ysspacey electro acoustic guitar work, allied to chunky rhyth-mic patterns redolent of John Martyn echoplex experiments while Sonny CondelPs You In Yellow and Eyelids Into Snow both capture his lyrical narrative bent. The perfor-mances are confident bold and spacious enveloping the audience in Tir na neg's renewed vigour and versatility.
John O'Regan: Folk Roots
Even by rock'n’roll’s mercurial standards, 42 years spent sweating over a new album is pushing it, yet that’s how long it took esteemed Irish prog- folk duo Tir na nOg to followup 1973’s Strong In The Sun. Of course, their acclaimed 2015 LP The Dark Dance wasn’t really such a Lazarus- esque comeback, as Sonny Condell and Leo O’Kelly have been gainfully occupied with solo LPs, production work and - in Condell’s case - folk- rockers Scullion in the interim. However, it’s fair to say that TNN’s collective presence has been missed and when they came to launch The Dark Dance, they did so with a hotly-anticipated show at one of their favourite haunts, the Half Moon in Putney. The highlights of that night’s rapturously-received set now appear on this self- explanatory live LP which is initially available on green vinyl and presents a track-listing evenly split between old and new. Ranging from a funky, percussive remoulding of Nick Drake’s Free Ride to Condell’s mystical, melancholic ballad Time Is Like A Promise, the selections from the duo’s early 70s heyday continue to resonate down the years, while newer songs such as the ghostly, Eastern-influenced Ricochet and O’Kelly's splendidly odd I Pick Up Birds At Funerals show that TNN’s restless muse still steadfastly refuses to be pigeonholed.
Tim Peacock: Record Collector
So, why doesn't this get the full five stars, bunting and balloons, and street parties across the land? It's a matter of mixing. For my old and failing ears, it's just a little bit too boomy in the bottom register, lacking some distinction, and occasionally overwhelming the vocals. Having got that out of the way, I have to admit this is an album I've been reaching for at every possible opportunity since it arrived. Recorded at last year's launch gig for The Dark Dance, it's natural that the set includes a few from that first release since the early 70s. The echo-drenched 'Ricochet' in particular is a highlight, storming implacably through the darkness, always threatening to break out of control. At the opposite end of the spectrum, 'I Have Known Love' drifts like an autumn leaf on a slow-moving stream, with shivers of wah-wah guitar sending ripples in its wake. Impressive stuff. Of course, there's also a healthy dose of old favourites. 'Time Is Like A Promise' takes us right back to the start, 'Eyelids Into Snow' draws on Sonny's time in Scullion, 'The Lady I Love' skips into the summer of '72, and a propulsive, raga-like 'Free Ride' closes the set in as near to acoustic space-rock mode as you could imagine. Classic fare.
Oz Hardwick: R2
Last year saw the release of The Dark Dance, Tír na nÓg's first new studio album in 42 years. Their live performance at the album's launch at the Half Moon in Putney was recorded and has just been released on limited edition vinyl, as well as CD and download, by Mega Dodo. The set comprised a mixture of Tír na nÓg's classic tracks from the 1970s alongside new material from The Dark Dance. Tír na nÓg are often tagged as prog folk, psych folk, or alt folk. There is truth in all of those descriptions, though I also find that some of their material (e.g. Time is Like a Promise and You in Yellow) has a certain sombreness that recalls the neofolk/dark folk style, particularly that point on the continuum in which neofolk and psych folk overlap to a considerable degree, as heard in the work of bands such as In Gowan Ring. Looking Up is a rockier track with prog elements and flowing, psychedelic guitar work. Ricochet blends psych-folk, Middle Eastern influences, and a brooding atmosphere in a similar way to Stone Breath, whilst adding raw and intense rock elements. I Have Known Love and The Lady I Love both start with a basis in American style folk, combining that with atmospheric, spacey sound effects and bluesy 1970s rock respectively, whilst Free Ride is a kind of hypnotic, psychedelic blues with some nicely mood-altering rhythmic percussion. The CD includes an extra bonus track, The White Horses, a really lovely acoustic psych-folk number that brings to mind the aforementioned In Gowan Ring. Superb stuff - available only at www.mega-dodo.co.uk
Kim Hartnen: www.blissaquamarine.net/albumreviews30.html
From 1971 to 1973, legendary Irish duo Tír na nÓg made three studio albums for Chrysalis records which were highly acclaimed by critics but didn't receive any big commercial success although they regularly toured the folk clubs of the United Kingdom or internationally as a support act for several major rock bands and were championed by John Peel. Returning with their first studio album in 42 years, Tir na nOg played an album launch show at The Half Moon in Putney to showcase the new songs from The Dark Dance along with some old favourites……….fortunately the tapes were rolling during this show and the good folks at Mega Dodo will soon be releasing Live At The Half Moon, an album that captures the spirit and vitality of their stunning live performances. Often considered as one of the first progressive folk bands with other artists like Nick Drake or groups like Pentangle and The Incredible String Band ,they have been described as Alt Folk, Prog Folk, Psych Folk, and even Space Folk! But the duo, formed by Leo O’Kelly & Sonny Condell in 1970, transcends all these categories. What is not in doubt is that they are two of the most original and influential songwriters and performers Ireland has ever produced. Their music mainly consists of their own compositions, based on strong Celtic roots and typically featuring intricate acoustic guitar playing and close harmony singing. The Dark Days album reintroduced Tir na nOg to the more discerning music lover and 2015 ended on a high when Classic Rock magazine voted their album The Dark Dance number 3 in its best albums of year.
Live At The Half Moon is good mix of the old and the new with nearly half the album including songs from The Dark Dance……………the new tracks ‘You In Yellow’, ‘I Pick Up Birds At Funerals’ and ‘I Have Known Love’ get an airing along with the totally psychedelic guitar and percussion workout ‘Ricochet’. True to its title, shards of echoing guitar notes bounce around the room underpinned by driving, trance inducing, tribal drumming…….a truly wonderful song and the best of the new bunch of tunes. From the first three Chrysalis albums Live At The Half Moon includes classic tunes such as ‘Time Is Like A Promise’, a fantastic live version of ‘Looking Up’, a bluesy ‘The Lady I Love’ and a stunning cover of Nick Drake’s ‘Free Ride’………….the CD includes ‘Two White Horses’ as a bonus track. Live At The Half Moon is an absolutely brilliant Prog/Psych Folk record that fans of the band are going to love and one that serves as an excellent introduction to Tír na nÓg for newer listeners.
Live At The Half Moon is set for release on 6th June 2016 on a limited edition run of 250 copies on groovy green vinyl and 250 on regulation black vinyl available to pre-order now from the Mega Dodo webstore. This fantastic album will also be available on CD and as a digital download. Tir na nOg also have two British tours lined up in June and September, we will see you there when they play Birmingham on June 7th.