The legendary Irish band Clannad are celebrating their 40th year together this year with a two-CD, 30-song set, The Essential Clannad. The five-member group features three members of the Brennan family; Moya, Ciaran, and Pol. The group is rounded out with their older twin Duggan uncles; Padraig, and Noel. Since their inception, Clannad have helped bring international attention to traditional Irish music, and have inspired countless others to investigate their Irish roots.
The 30 tracks on The Essential Clannad pull songs from nine albums released between 1982-1998. While their earlier music was much more traditionally Irish, this material represents the group bridging the gap between Celtic music and pop. This is evidenced with the appearance of guest stars, beginning with the 1985 duet with Bono “In A Lifetime.” Artists such as Bruce Hornsby, Steve Perry, and JD Souther also recorded with the band during this time.
The collection leads off with “I Will Find You (Them from The Last of the Mohicans)" from 1993. By this point, Clannad had reached a peak commercially, through a number of associations. One was the huge success of Enya, a younger Brennan sister, who actually began her career as a member of Clannad in the late '70s. Other highlights of the first disc are “Something To Believe In,” (with Bruce Hornsby on piano, accordion, and guest vocals), “White Fool,” (guest vocals by Steve Perry), and “Let Me See.”
The second disc of the collection contains a mix of “hits” and lesser known tracks. “Ri na Cruinne” was composed for the One World One Voice campaign. The track won the Billboard Music Award for World Music Song of the Year in 1992. Reaching all the way back to 1982, Clannad recorded the “Theme From Harry’s Game,” for the Granada series - which was set in Northern Ireland. The set ends with the gorgeous “Banba Oir,” from the 1993 album Banba.
The Essential Clannad has just been released, and coincides with a huge St. Patrick’s Day (March 17) celebration of the group on public television, titled Clannad - Live at Christchurch Cathedral, Dublin. The set, and airing of the concert also serves as a prelude to their September 2012 tour of North America, which will be Clannad’s first in 20 years.
The music of Clannad melds a wide variety of sounds. It is almost as if the term “world music” was coined to describe them. For fans of Celtic, pop, jazz, and even new age, this collection is recommended.