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Favourite Irish albums of the CLUAS writers

Cormac Looney's top 5 Irish albums of all time...

Act: The Pogues
Album: 'If I Should Fall With Grace From God' (1988)
Thirteen songs born in the parish of Shinrone, burnished on the streets of north London, and released to immediate acclaim. The Pogues' best work contains MacGowan classics like 'The Broad Majestic Shannon', 'The Turkish Song of the Damned' and 'Lullaby of London', along with Phil Chevron's masterwork on immigration 'Thousands Are Sailing'. It was, of course, 'Fairytale of New York' ? with its themes of Ireland, drink, love and violence- that encapsulated the Pogues' oeuvre. The intervening years have been tough on the group, but grown men were seen to cry when a number of these tunes were aired at the reunion gigs a few years back. Still best listened to in a bar in New York/Sydney/London in the wee homesick small hours.

Van Morrison 'Astral Weeks'Act: Van Morrison
Album: 'Astral Weeks' (1968)
An album that consistently tops the critics' lists for all the right reasons. Cut in two sessions in New York with a wrecking squad of local jazz session men, it represented Van's attempt to break from the overt rock'n'roll of Them. The dream-like lyrics ('if I ventured in the slipstream, between the viaducts of your dreams') spoke allusively of the singer's youth and young manhood in Belfast, Boston and New York. The acoustic sounds generated by the band (who never played together before or since) are astounding - with a swooping double bass and a thumping 12-string guitar trying their damndest to match Van's vocal improvisations. The high point remains the ten-minute ode (to a transsexual party host no less) 'Madame George', a recording that the singer has never since matched. It never dented the charts - as history proved, it never needed to.

PlanxtyAct: Planxty
Album: 'Planxty' (1972)
The folk Beatles, as more than one musician has attested. Their debut recording captures all that they would later become renowned for: the furious bouzouki rhythms of Donal Lunny, the presence of Christy Moore, the delicate vocals and immaculate mandolin of Andy Irvine, and the plaintive piping of Liam O'Flynn. Their live shows had something of the flavour of a revivalist meeting, spellbinding for anyone with even a passing interest in folk music. It's hard to pick outstanding tracks ? though the way in which the opener, 'Raggle Taggle Gypsy', segues into the thunderous instrumental 'Tabhair Dom Do Lamh' goes some way to indicating the breath of fresh air Planxty provided to traditional music. Andy Irvine's 'The West Coast of Clare' remains among the finest lost love songs in the folk canon, although his reading of 'The Jolly Beggar' steals the set.

Frank and Walters 'trains, boats and planes'Act: The Frank and Walters
Album: 'Trains, Boats and Planes' (1992)
Whatever record exec allowed this to drift out of print should have their ears, and wallet, examined. Coming in at the back end of Madchester, the Franks combined some of that era's flowery disposition with some truly wonderful pop melodies ? no-one got hurt in a Frank and Walters' song, but everyone hummed. Tipped for great things (and supported by the likes of Radiohead and Suede back in the day), they responded in kind by releasing the pristine 'After All', an ode to enduring love. Other album highlights were 'Fashion Crisis Hits New York'. 'Happy Busman' and 'Trainspotters', but the record's opener 'This Is Not A Song' still contains some of pop's best opening lines: This is not a song about politics, this is not a song about sex...This song is not about old James Dean 'cause he's mentioned in too many songs already?. Domestic pop bliss.

Act: Whipping Boy
Album: 'Heartworm' (1995)
Having inherited 'the next U2' mantle early on, this record cast it off with a vengeance. Eleven tales of bitterness, anger, frustration, and more bitterness, although the two immortal tracks on the album were lovesongs ? 'When We Were Young' saw frontman Fearghal McKee rhapsodise about his youth, while 'We Don't Need Nobody Else' laid bare a fractured relationship. Despite attracting charges of misogyny (?I hit you for the first time today, I don't know why, it just happened?) and freely digging away at the incumbents (?They built portholes for Bono so he could gaze out across the bay, and sing about mountains?) it all looked set for Whipping Boy until?nothing more happened. The band may have disappeared, but 'Heartworm' thrashes on.

(bullet) Allen Conlan (bullet) Anthony Morrissey (bullet) Brano (bullet) Brian Farrelly (bullet) Brian Kelly (bullet) Celine O'Malley (bullet) Chris Ford (bullet) Ciaran Wrenn (bullet) Cormac Looney (bullet) Donal Griffin (bullet) Dromed (bullet) Gav Reilly (bullet) Hugh Tynan (bullet) Jimmy Murphy (bullet) Jules Jackson (bullet) Ollie O'Leary (bullet) Stephen McNulty (bullet)

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