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Film Cuts

The Chieftains

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Album Review

As a practical matter, this collection seems to have been issued at the time to fill a gap in the Irish band's release schedule. But it turns out to be an amazingly vital and bracing collection, all of it originally composed and/or recorded by the group for specific film assignments. From the opening "O'Sullivan's March" from Michael Caton-Jones' 1995 movie Rob Roy (starring Liam Neeson and Jessica Lange), the collection never really lets the listener go — between the haunting lyricism of pieces such as "Air-You're the One" from Circle of Friends, through the deeply atmospheric music from the 1990 TV version of Treasure Island (starring Charlton Heston), there's always something rich and tempting for the listener to grab onto in the melody, the timbre, or the playing and technique, showing off the piping, the drumming, the harp work, or whatever else the various members of the Chieftains (or Paddy Moloney as a composer) bring to the table. Perhaps the most unexpected and challenging part of the collection in their music from the Richard Burton vehicle Tristan And Isolde (aka Lovespell); the Tom Donovan-directed film was meant to take the story back to its traditional Irish origins (and away from Wagner), and along with a very Gaelic cast, the Chieftains' music clearly went a long way toward achieving that. The collection closes out with material from the better-known films The Grey Fox and Far and Away (where the band crosses swords with composer John Williams' bombastic tendencies and comes out unscathed); and the love theme from Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon, the soundtrack that introduced the band to mainstream audiences on American radio, is also present. It should also be noted that the quality of the material is as impressive as anything else here — unlike a lot of pop and rock outfits of their generation, the Chieftains seem to have never regarded a film assignment as a chance to use less-than-first-rate material; even the closing track, the under-two-minute music from the train sequence in the documentary Ireland Moving has a haunt count that keeps the listener wanting more.

Biography

Formed: 1963 in Dublin, Ireland

Genre: World

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

The original traditional Irish folk band, as far as anyone who came of age in the 1970s or '80s is concerned, is the Chieftains. Their sound, built largely on Paddy Moloney's pipes, is otherworldly, almost entirely instrumental, and seems as though it comes out of another age of man's history. That they...
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