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DE DANNAN
"Welcome to the Hotel Connemara"
RATING:  *
Hummingbird records HBCD0025 Reviewer: Ian Clarke

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De Dannan have always liked to experiment and have a bit of fun with their recordings and when I saw the cover of the new CD I thought "this MUST be a joke!". With a track listing which includes River Deep Mountain High, Take it to the Limit, Whiter Shade of Pale and Bohemian Rhapsody (yes you heard right!), could the most exciting live diddley dee band ever, manage to add value to some of the best classic rock and pop anthems of our time. How would the super vocals of Andrew Murray cope with "You've Lost that Loving Feeling" and "When A Man Loves A Woman" ?

Well, after the first few bars of River Deep my brother-in-law Ernie and I exchanged glances and then exploded with mirth. It sounded like a sort of musical cartoon. We waited for it to take off with some spirited reel time variations. It didn't happen - the tune remained grounded, faithfully rendered more or less note for note with fiddles, whistles and accordion replacing electric guitars and keyboards with an additional dominant but uninspiring bass line.

Sadly the whole album follows this pattern, uninspired, lacking the passion we expect from De Dannan and which the compositions deserve. The players, all gifted instrumentalists, plod through each track and there are NO vocals. A pity because most of the tracks are songs and really need the words to make them work - few stand up as tunes in their own right. The participation of Andrew Murray in the recording might, just might, have saved it from being the horrible aberration it is.

Even on the instrumental "Parisienne Walkways" they strip any feeling out of the tune - Gavin's flute and Hickey's box are no substitute for the majestic guitar playing of Gary Moore and so often the CD just doesn't work, even the pipes are strangely muted on Love Hurts and Whiter Shade of Pale. They take a powerful rock opera like Bohemian Rhapsody and turn it into a teen soap opera. Not just a joke but a sick joke.

The tunes which work best are Hey Jude, which they have already covered on other CDs, and conventional traditional tunes Sally Gardens, Rocks of Bawn and Fr McKenzie's Jig. Sadly, the whole exploitative enterprise reeks of economic rather than artistic motivation, and sounds like it is played from score sheets rather than from the heart. This should be filed along side your "Greatest Hits of Neil Sedaka Played on Panpipes" CDs. I really cannot recommend the recording to anyone. Come on Frankie and Co, you can do so much better than this.