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Magic Moments

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Album Review

A throwback to the wholesome easy listening pop sound of the 1960s, country-folk duo Foster & Allen are second only to housewives' favorite Daniel O'Donnell on the list of prolific Irish artists who sell millions of records but remain a complete mystery to anyone too young to remember the likes of Pat Boone and Val Doonican. Since their 1983 debut album, Maggie, accordionist Mick Foster and acoustic guitarist Tony Allen have released a staggering 27 albums, all of which have charted in the U.K., building up a loyal if increasingly aging audience in the process. Released in 2010, Magic Moments is perhaps their most high-profile in a decade after their tabloid-promoted tongue-in-cheek declaration of war on Take That, who released their long-awaited Robbie-featuring opus Progress in the same week. The duo may have cheekily changed their logo to resemble the boy band's symbol and performed a traditional Gallic take on "Back for Good" online, but this two-disc, 40-track collection, which sticks to their tried and tested formula of big-band numbers, laid-back vocal pop, and traditional folk, is unlikely to convert any of their screaming fan base. Released to celebrate their 35th year of working together, it's fitting that Magic Moments is packed with songs associated with those special milestones in life. Alongside renditions of the Perry Como title track, Cliff Richard's Eurovision entry "Congratulations," and the "Happy Anniversary" theme tune to the 1959 film of the same name, there are also acoustic reworkings of songs by such iconic vocalists as Frank Sinatra ("My Way"), Neil Diamond ("Sweet Caroline"), and Nat King Cole ("Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer"), medleys based on Spain and Glenn Miller, and tracks dedicated to particular loved ones ("Grandad [The First Time I Heard Him Say]," "A Mother's Way," "My Forever Friend"), all of which are performed in their own indomitable old-fashioned Celtic style. Five decades into their career, Magic Moments doesn't defy anybody's expectations of what a Foster & Allen album will sound like. The arrangements are basic, the vocals are of typical pub singer standard, and there's nothing here that would sound out of a place on a late-'50s/early-'60s compilation, but it still retains their trademark charm and fans of cardigan-wearing Irish balladeers will find much to admire. ~ Jon O'Brien, Rovi

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