Favourite Irish albums of the CLUAS writers
Jules Jackson's top 5 Irish albums of all time...
Album: "Back To The Centre" (1985)
This was the record that transformed Brady from folk music's best kept secret to a songwriter of International repute. Recorded in England and featuring contributions from a host of A-List guest artists such Eric Clapton, Larry Mullen Jnr and Loudon Wainwright III the album is masterclass in great writing and performing. It begins with a the brilliant chug of 'Walk The White Line', through the soaring melody of 'Follow On' to the searing indictment of the great anti war ballad 'The Island', before fading out with the fireside romp of 'Homes of Donegal' where Brady says a final, fond farewell to his folk roots. The songs throughout were marked by Brady's ability to marry wonderful melodies to dark tortured lyrics like, "Too much needing leave you bleeding inside / Too much wanting bring you pain". The record marked a definitive break with traditional music forms for Brady and is the point where he finally embraced the electric guitar and started to forge his own unique brand of Celtic rock. As he sings himself, "Follow on / For the open road is waiting / Like the song / We will welcome what tomorrow has to bring".
Act: Christy Moore
Album: "Ordinary Man" (1985)
Nothing highlights the tensions that exist between the role of popular entertainer and that of political activist more than this record. Although a number of the tracks were light hearted ballads such as 'Continental C?l? and 'Delirium Tremens' (which dealt wryly with Christy's own struggles with the bottle) they were balanced by darker material such as 'Ordinary Man' and 'Quiet Desperation'. Christy's own energetic presence was augmented by a stellar list of Irish musicians such as Arty McGlyn, Enya N?Bhraon?n, Liam ? O'Flynn, Andy Irvine and Donal Lunny whose production throughout is flawless in execution. But the album's classic status rests with one track that was actually deleted from the record after a high profile case was taken by the main subject of the song, the owners of the Stardust Nightclub in Dublin where 48 young people burned to death on St Valentine's night 1981. 'They Never Came Home', which was written in strict adherence to Woody Guthrie's philosophy of protest songwriting, spelt out in stark terms the awful tragedy of the night and the terrible way that the families of the victims were treated in its aftermath. The court case against Christy Moore and WEA is estimated to have cost the defendants 100,000 pounds in legal fees and punitive damages but resulted in the families achieving some measure of retribution for the irreplaceable loss of their loved ones. The affair also brought to light the the terrible limitations on freedom of speech that exist in this country when that speech is directed at the wealthy and the powerful. As Christy sings in the last verse, "Our laws favour the rich or so it appears / A woman still waits for her lads to come home / Injustice breeds anger and that's what's been done". Folk music doesn't get any better than this.
Act: The Pogues
Album: "If I Should Fall From Grace With God" (1988)
Before this record, Shane McGowan was considered as 'a comer' in songwriting circles but his compositional achievements on 'If I Should Fall' catapulted him into the A-List of Irish artists alongside veterans such as Van Morrison. Leaving aside the now classic, 'Fairytale of New York', the album is replete with great tunes such as 'Fiesta', 'Bottle of Smoke' and the title track itself. Recorded in London, around the same time as Country Icon (and drinking buddy) Steve Earle was laying down tracks for his own 'Copperhead Road, the album brims with rootsy electricity. The lads even took time out to play on Earle's own 'Johnny Come Lately', written especially for them after he heard them play and containing the line 'gonna drink Camden Town dry tonight' in honour of their mutual partying. Political awareness is also present here with the driving ballad 'Streets of Sorrow / Birmingham Six'. 'If I Should Fall' turned out to be the band's finest hour and none of their subsequent releases, either together or solo, could match it. A subsequent 'Best Of' was made up primarily of tracks from this record.
Act: Hothouse Flowers
Album: "Home" (1990)
Before 'Home', The Flowers were lining up to be written off as One Hit Wonders who would never fulfil their stated aim of being the first Gaelic/Gospel/Soul, Memphis via Blackrock, Hot Band. That all changed in 1990 with the release of 'Home' which featured their finest collection of songs. 'Christchurch Bells', 'Movies', and 'Hardstone City' all spoke of the Dublin that the band called home whilst, in 'Sweet Marie', they produced one of the great Irish songs of lost love and regret. The record also included a shimmering version of Bill Withers 'I Can See Clearly Now' and closed with a emotionally charged performance of the Sean Nos song, 'Seoladh na nGamhna'. In retrospect, the album not only prophesised a new artistic acceptance of Gaelic within our society, it also helped to make the 'cupla focal' hip to a new, confident, media literate generation of Irish people. In effect, a cultural movement which began with a couple of shaggy haired buskers singing 'Rideri Ar An Stoirm' in Grafton Street, eventually led to the creation of TG4. Not bad for a bunch of Southside Hippies.
Act: Luka Bloom
Album: "Riverside" (1990)
No Irish musician casts a longer or more influential shadow over the current crop of Irish songsters than Luka Bloom (aka Barry Moore). More than Bono, Geldof or Morrison, Bloom/Moore has helped create the figure of the Irish Songer/Songwriter who, alone on a stage with an electro acoustic, sings his/her poetic songs of love and life. Damien Rice, David Kitt and Paddy Casey all follow on from the job description which Moore created for himself in the 1990s. This influence began when Moore, sick of being overlooked in favour of older brother Christy, returned from New York with a fancy blue guitar and a moniker which paid homage to both James Joyce and Suzanne Vega. His debut 'Riverside', recorded in NYC, showcased both his own original writing skills and his preoccupation with the idea of the Irish in America as titles such as 'Dreams in America', 'Irishman in Chinatown' and 'Hudson Lady' clearly show. The album closes with what became a live favourite, 'You Couldn't Have Come At A Better Time'. Moore's songwriting received the ultimate accolade when he was invited in 1993 by Lou Reed to be one of four songwriters to perform in a special 'Birthday' gig to honour the Bottom Line Club in New York. The other three songwriters, apart from Moore, were David Byrne, Roseanne Cash and Reed himself. Welcome to Valhalla Luka.
- Check out the final Top 50 Irish Albums of All Time as voted by CLUAS.com readers
- Discuss this selection of best Irish albums of all time on the CLUAS Discussion Board.
- Check out the top 5 Irish albums of all time chosen by these other CLUAS writers:
Allen Conlan Anthony Morrissey Brano Brian Farrelly Brian Kelly Celine O'Malley Chris Ford Ciaran Wrenn Cormac Looney Donal Griffin Dromed Gav Reilly Hugh Tynan Jimmy Murphy Jules Jackson Ollie O'Leary Stephen McNulty