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Planxty iTunes Tracks

Planxty

From 50s/60s acts The CLANCY BROTHERS, The DUBLINERS and The CHIEFTAINS, traditional folk had caught the attention of acolytes living outside the green pastures of Ireland. Just when it looked as if Celtic connections had switched its allegiances in the early 70s to folk-rock (i.e. HORSLIPS and the like), along came the gracious and virtuosic PLANXTY; meaning “good health” or indeed “slainte” in the Irish vernacular. Led by an ex-bank clerk from County Kildare, Christy Moore, and comprising equally impressive multi-musicians Donal Lunny (ex-EMMET SPICELAND), Liam O’Flynn and Andy Irvine (the latter ex-SWEENEY’S MEN and born in London), this line-up unleashed a triumvirate of quality LPs before singer MOORE succumbed to becoming a renowned solo artist.
It all came together in 1972 when all (plus Clive Collins and Dave Bland) were involved with MOORE’s sophomore solo set, `Prosperous’, a record to match his previous DOMINIC BEHAN-produced attempt for Mercury Records: `Paddy On The Road’ (1969).
Polydor Records – in both Ireland and Britain – would give the eponymous PLANXTY {*8} LP its deserved chance to shine among the FAIRPORTs, STEELEYEs and INCREDIBLE STRING BANDs of the day, albeit with an organic digging of the treasure troves under the public domain. Sourcing these traditional and rarefied renditions by way of `Raggle Taggle Gypsy’, `The Jolly Beggar – Reel’ and `The Blacksmith’, there was also individually-penned pieces from Turlough O’Carolan (`Planxty Irwin’), Michael MacConnell (`Only Our Rivers’), Andy Irvine, himself (`The West Coast Of Clare’) and EWAN MacCOLL (`Sweet Thames Flow Softly’).
Quickly proving PLANXTY were no one-trick-pony and improving on their dynamic debut, THE WELL BELOW THE VALLEY {*9} turned in album number two of 1973. The “Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter” or “Wicker Man” of Celtic-folk music, and awash with tricky musicianship from all and sundry on `Cunla’, `Slip Jigs’ a) `The Kid On The Mountain’, b) `An Phis Fhlinch’, `Reels’ a) `The Dogs Among The Bushes’, b) `Jenny’s Wedding’ and `Hewlett’, there was the rousingly-gentile title track – one to hear before you pass to the other side. The quirky whistle-strewn `As I Roved Out’, the pipe-dreaming `Bean Phaidin’ and the haunting coda `Time Will Cure Me’, all were perched upon the shoulders of giants: PLANXTY had fast-become Ireland’s pot of gold at the bottom of the rainbow.
Although Lunny had taken flight to join The BOTHY BAND (replaced by Johnny Moynihan from SWEENEY’S MEN), 1974’s COLD BLOW AND THE RAINY NIGHT {*8} was still a commendable piece of work. As inspiring as its mighty predecessor, the template was cast in the Blarney Stone: meticulous instrumentation on the polkas, reels and jigs, and the drip-dry emotion-fuelled tales from times long gone (e.g. the title track, `P Stands For Paddy, I Suppose’, `Baneasa’s Green Glade’, `The Lakes Of Pontchartrain’ and `The Green Fields Of America’).
Questioning where Celtic-folk stood in the context of modern music mainly from overseas, CHRISTY MOORE wanted once more to explore the possibilities of a successful solo career. In his place was Northern Ireland-born PAUL BRADY (vocals, guitar), but, by 1975, all was at sea when Moynihan joined DE DANAAN: the Irvine/O’Flynn/Moynihan/Brady had toured incessantly, but the split was inevitable.
Just as inevitable was PLANXTY’s reformation in 1978; the original four – plus The BOTHY BAND’s Matt Molloy (on flute and whistle) – creating quite a stir when touring Europe up to, and in the wake of the “comeback” set, coyly-titled AFTER THE BREAK (1979) {*6}. A record to incorporate Eastern European themes (e.g. the Bulgarian `Smeceno Horo’) into the Celtic-folk melting pot, PLANXTY’s attempt at worldly, change-of-scenery themes went awry among the plethora of dextrous double jigs and reels. Not long afterwards, Molloy could not resist the temptation to join the ranks of The CHIEFTAINS.
Filling his berth for 1980’s THE WOMAN I LOVED SO WELL {*6} came Bill Whelan (keyboards), Noel Hill (concertina) and Tony Linnane (fiddle), but the PLANXTY blueprint was wearing thin in an ever-changing market that preferred U2, The BOOMTOWN RATS et al.
When further personnel upheavals resulted in fiddlers Nollaig Casey and James Kelly superseding Linnane, and bassist Eoghan O’Neill replacing Hill, the timeless WORDS & MUSIC (1982) {*6} created not a stir outside Ireland. Despite the historic significance of the excellent `Thousands Are Sailing’ (the concept later borrowed by the incumbent folk-rockers The POGUES via Phil Chevron), plus DYLAN’s `I Pity The Poor Immigrant’ and William Byrd’s `The Irish Marche’, the template trad pieces could not pull it from the mire.
Solo artists LUNNY and MOORE had now found this ship had sailed long ago, but another expedition was about to board under the banner of MOVING HEARTS – PLANXTY’s little brother so to speak. After a few decades exploring their own Irish roots and visions, the briefly re-formed PLANXTY originals left behind one further document of note: LIVE 2004 (2004) {*6}.
© MC Strong/MCS 2010/GFD3 shelved // rev-up MCS Jul2016

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