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Looking Back

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Album Review

Looking Back was the first release from Mary Black's U.S. label, Curb Records. It was intended to introduce one of Ireland's top-selling pop stars to American audiences. Much of the record does what its title suggests, featuring some of the best songs from four of Black's Gifthorse releases: Without the Fanfare (1985), No Frontiers (1989), Babes in the Wood (1991), and Holy Ground (1993). The tracks from those albums are well chosen. Most of them are carefully arranged with mellow resonance. The slow jazz ballad "Columbus" and the more traditional Jimmy McCarthy favorite, "Bright Blue Rose," are interpreted especially effectively. But Looking Back also contains three previously unreleased tracks aimed directly at American tastes, and it is here that the consistency of the record begins to suffer. Among the new songs, "Only a Woman's Heart" is the sole success. It is a cover of a song by Eleanor McEvoy, another Irishwoman who found an audience across the Atlantic, re-imagined as a beautiful folk duet with one of America's most distinctive female vocalists, Emmylou Harris. The other two new tracks (Shane Howard's "Soul Sister" and John Gorka's "Looking Forward") are buried in overly perky keyboard and saxophone arrangements that lack the subtlety of most of the older recordings. In retrospect, those songs seem to foreshadow the ill-advised gloss pop sound of Shine, Black's 1997 L.A. studio debut. Looking Back is generally best when it does just that.

Customer Reviews

A Great Collection

This is a favorite Mary Black collection of mine - some of the first songs of hers I had ever heard, and some of the best. Mary's instrument is her voice and her song interpretation is second to none. But it and enjoy!


Born: May 22, 1955 in Ireland

Genre: World

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Mary Black is a performer equally at home singing traditional Irish folk tunes and contemporary music including blues, rock, jazz, country, and soul. She was born into a musical family as the daughter of a fiddler and a singer. She started out professionally with her brother and sister in Dublin nightclubs and then performed with General Humbert, a folk group, until 1982 when she released her eponymous solo debut. The album made it to the Top Five on the Irish album charts and won the Irish Independent...
Full Bio

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