Clannad – In A Lifetime: Album Review

A fond farewell to the Irish family who can clock off after fifty years of music-making.

Release Date:  13th March 2020

Label:  BMG

Formats: 2CD media book – digipack / 2LP / box set (2LP, 4CD, poster, book, Macalla LP, 7” single, postcards)

Clannad’s sixteen album legacy represents everything form traditional Irish folk to mainstream crossover, new aged film soundtracking for which their sound is a natural fit. The most significant factor is the ethereal vocal of Moya Brennan. “One of the greatest voices the human ear has ever experienced,” being one of Bono’s more passable announcements. The key to the underlying vein of spirituality to Clannad’s music.

So how do you cram five decades of music onto two shiny platters?

The key reference points might be the hits; the songs you’re going to find on the Very Best Of… collections. The Harry’s Game theme (first heard myself accompanying the U2 Under A Blood Red Sky film) from the Magical Ring album in 1983 was the one that really kick started the band in terms of wider appeal and interestingly followed the departure of Enya. Her brief tenure sparking a high profile solo career.

The Robin Of Sherwood soundtrack (another personal favourite TV series) and the Macalla album also cemented their position in the mainstream. However, don’t head straight down the tourist route. Try following some of the paths highlighted by the first handful of tracks that have their roots strictly planted in the Irish tradition. You can also plot the development into more electronic based sound. At the same time take particular note of the Two Sisters murder ballad for anyone who feels that that a little edge to the general polish is needed. It’s also worth even checking out Moya’s version with Dervish from Shrewsbury Folk Festival in 2010.

The poppier flavour of Closer To Your Heart and the Almost Seems (Too Late To Turn) ballad play up to the mass appeal market. Having said that, plenty on the nineties trio of albums, Anam, Banba and Lore backs up their early eighties output.

Like any compilation, In A Lifetime will open up the world of Clannad for those who’ve not dug deeply. Music that strikes a deep resonating chord and more often than not fits into the haunting and ambient bracket.

An anthology is rarely complete with the almost obligatory new tracks, so two produced by Trevor Horn show Clannad in 2020. First up, A Celtic Heart is archetypal Clannad. Spot the join if you can. Secondly, Who Knows (Where The Time Goes) isn’t what you may think, yet owes a debt to Sandy Denny’s never bettered hymn.

The perfect pair of contemporary sentiments to accompany a collection, complimented by the images created in Anton Corbijn’s iconic monochrome photography. The perfect partener to what’s just the tip of an iceberg of a career packed with heart-melting moments. Barely a breath or whisper wasted.

The band are currently on tour in the UK and will also play at Fairport’s Cropredy Festival in August 2020.

Watch the video for A Celtic Dream here:

Clannad online:  Website / Facebook / Youtube / Instagram

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