Mega Dodo 2021
Esteemed Éire ensemble send some shining silver streams through the mists of time.
Sonny Condell and Leo O’Kelly, known collectively as TIR NA NÓG, are one of the most prominent folk, or folk rock, groups to have hailed from Ireland, and their albums, such as "Strong In The Sun" from 1973, resonate through the years. Sadly, the same can’t be said of the the two friends’ concert recordings of which there have been few, including "Live At The Half Moon" that documented the veterans’ 2015 concert, because none of those platters hark back to the band’s beginnings. This one does – dusting off the tapes the duo did laid down for broadcast, with songs unheard for ages and songs known and loved for decades.
The little ensemble’s TV appearance on “Doing Their Thing” – preserved for posterity on video – in September 1970 must be most memorable, starting with the revealing of a B-side of their first single “Let My Love Grow” a fortnight before its release. The lads display their astonishing balladry on “Time Is Like A Promise” alongside future live favorites, such as the nervous “Looking Up” and the jovial “Daisy Lady” which crop up on this disc a few times, in increasingly exquisite variants. Many of the early numbers would land on the minstrels’ 1971 debut album, whereas dramatic likes of the blues-tinctured “Mill Pond” remained a part of their forgotten lore until now, despite Leo and Sonny’s impressive guitars’ weave and vocal harmonies.
Less surprising is the fact that among the tracks that got lost to history on the way to vinyl was their take on Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock” – the classic which by the late 1970 had already been covered not only by CSNY but also by MATTHEWS SOUTHERN COMFORT and to which the Irishmen didn’t bring anything new – while the duet reading of Bob Dylan’s “Maggie’s Farm” has an edge rarely projected on their originals. Yet if there’s a touch on flamenco on this cut, a Latin tinge is much more pronounced on the aforementioned ’45’s A-side, Condell’s “I’m Happy To Be (On This Mountain)” – the group’s most innocent offering, unfortunately abridged here. However, “Tír Na nÓg” – presented to the British public on “John Peel’s Sunday Show” in May 1971, around the album’s release date, prefaced with the explanation of the band’s name – is given a glorious treatment on-stage, featuring the great Barry Dransfield on fiddle, with a slightly raw sound spicing up the piece’s epic drone.
And although O’Kelly’s reflective “Boat Song” drifts from a trad tunefulness to chamber baroque, the lively “Aberdeen Angus” finds a space for a laughter in the Dubliners’ repertoire, and the delicate “Mariner Blues” locates tears in their voices. So when, in August 1971, the ensemble played “Live A Day” and “Dante” on “Sounds of the Seventies” – almost absentmindedly yet perfectly summery – there could be no doubt they were to go far. Indeed, they did, but the document of their not-so-humble beginnings doesn’t fail to enchant even today.