Think Like A Key 2022
From Éire to eternity, progressive folkies’ apocryphal transmissions ride the crest of a wave.
With only two albums released in 1969 and 1970, plus their pre-millennial sequel and an archival offering issued a decade and a half ago, one may wonder why the legend of this Irish collective still lingers, because the troupe’s current reunion doesn’t have anything to do with it – and neither had such prominent players as Gary Moore and Dave Mattacks who accompanied the core trio in the studio. The answer to that potential question can be found here, on the first-ever gathering of the group’s live recordings – the earliest of which had been transmitted before their sophomore classic saw the light of day and the latest aired shortly before the ensemble bowed out. Living up to the trad-experimentalists’ name, explained in the interview at the disc’s end, the radio sessions reveal how much stronger and fuller they sounded in front of the audience rather than when left to their own inventive devices.
It’s obvious from the rehearsal run through “Sign On My Mind” in April 1970 and from this epic’s abridged version which was laid down in Denmark in April of the following year – one month prior to the band bidding farewell – as organ waves by, respectively, Ivan Pawle and the briefly returned founding member Brian Tench drive guitar strum, while the voices’ weave and unamplified beats bring hypnotic whiff to the faux-monotone tune. However, there’s vibrancy to the meditative “Ashling” and the frivolous “Mary Malone Of Moscow” which, sung by Tims Booth and Goulding, the combo lent to ether for “Top Gear” – both pieces taken from the in-progress “Heavy Petting” – yet, weirdly, for the “In Concert” programme, preserved for posterity soon after the platter hit the shelves, they selected only one fresh cut, the mandolin-boasting “Ballad Of The Wasps” which rocks with a lot of panache, and allocated the rest of time to two tracks from the “Kip Of The Serenes” LP and a couple of numbers that would land on a hard media in a few decades.
Here, “Frosty Mornings” is acoustically dry, though exquisite, as is the harmonium-anchored “On The West Cork Hack” – whereas the bluesy, also piano-sprinkled, “Horse Of A Different Hue” could evoke music from Big Pink, if not for the applause-eliciting, mellifluous, almost vaudevillian vocal harmonies and ripples of ivories. The bongos-spiced “Sweet Red Rape” swings from nervous to jovial folk tropes rather elegantly too, but, once the group deliver the brisk, sprawling “Gave My Love An Apple” for the listeners in Holland, they use electric instruments to a great effect – and to a great regret that the promise inherent in these songs remains tentative even today. Hearing it echoing down the years cannot be more poignantly wondrous.