The Essential Chieftains
First Appeared in The Music Box, May 2006, Volume 13, #5
Written by Kirk deCordova
On the two-disc set The Essential Chieftains, the Oscar- and Grammy-winning Irish band continues to do precisely what it has done for the better part of the last 40 years: It delivers classic Celtic sounds in a refreshing and unique fashion. The Chieftains forever has changed how the public at large views Celtic music. By traveling the world and interacting with global musicians, the ensemble has left behind a legacy that is almost unparalleled.
The Chieftains uses only traditional Celtic instruments, playing them with care and precision, and it never resorts to employing modern instrumentation, such as the guitar. Nevertheless, the group often has collaborated with contemporary musicians from the country, rock, folk, and Latino worlds. By meshing the traditional sounds of Ireland with the best of the ensemble's work with popular artists, The Essential Chieftains highlights the full range of the collective's abilities.
The first disc of The Essential Chieftains offers a retrospective examination of The Chieftains’ career. Included is the pounding O’Sullivan’s March (The Theme From Rob Roy), the lively The Munster Cloak/Tabhair Dom Do Lamh, the light and airy Sea Image, and the energetic Chasing the Fox (which was culled from the National Geographic television program Ballad of the Irish Horse). Also featured is the seasonal Bells of Dublin/Christmas Eve, the Chinese influenced Full of Joy, the Spanish-tinged Santiago de Cuba, and the ever-spirited The French March.
The latter half of The Essential Chieftains boasts an impressive review of the Irish outfit’s frequent collaborative efforts with pop music artists, and as such, it is likely to be of greater interest to casual fans. Some of the highlights of this portion of the endeavor are Shenandoah, which features the soulful voice of Van Morrison; The Squid Jiggin’ Ground, which is uniquely styled by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band; and an incredible rendition of Cotton-Eyed Joe, a pairing with Ricky Skaggs. Other tracks of note are Guadalupe with Linda Ronstadt and Los Lobos, Sting’s Mo Ghile Mear, and Love is Teasin’, which showcases the surreal and almost otherworldly voice of ’60’s survivor Marianne Faithfull. In fact, the second disc The Essential Chieftains is so full of sensational performances that it is truly difficult to mention only a few.
The bottom line is that The Essential Chieftains provides a sterling overview of The Chieftains’ canon. Not only does it compile the best of the band’s work, but it also contains some of its finer collaborations with a wide-ranging assortment of other artists. As its title suggests, this isn’t just a greatest hits set — it’s The Essential Chieftains.
The Essential Chieftains is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box