Need some St. Patrick's Day background music?
Columbia/Legacy has released The Ultimate St. Patrick's Day Celebration on CD, featuring Paddy Noonan, The Irish Rovers, Morton Downey, The Dubliners and The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem. Included are the Irish Rovers' version of the popular "The Unicorn," Frank Parker singing "Danny Boy" and "Galway Bay," and Downey's version of "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling."
You might have to look a little harder for this one, but the Boys of the Lough have released Midwinter Night's Dream on Blix Street Records (818-763-9151), a beautifully produced collection of traditional Irish reels, carols, jigs and airs with occasional vocals, played on fiddle, concertina, mandolin, accordion and uillean pipes and whistles. The band appeared at Chicago's Old Town School of Folk last weekend.
Fans of girl-pop family act The Corrs, currently one of Ireland's most popular bands, can now get a "Special Edition" of Talk On Corners, their 1997-98 hit album. The original album has been reworked to feature the worldwide hit mixes of "What Can I Do?," "So Young" and their hit cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams."
Bell, Book & Candle
Read My Sign
Question: What's the best disc to buy for St. Patrick's Day if you're a modern rock fan?
Answer: A German album called Read My Sign.
This Berlin-based trio may not be Irish, but they're the best stand-in for Ireland's The Cranberries that I've ever heard. While their music is generally far more danceable and poppy than the majority of the Cranberries' catalogue, singer Jana Gross' vocals echo the low to high soars and quavers of Delores O'Riordan without overdoing the effect.
Released last month in the U.S., Read My Sign was already riding high on the German charts last year thanks to the staccato folk guitar strums and Enya-like electronics of its single "Rescue Me."
"Hurry Up" opens the album with a pounding anthem of fuzz bass and classic organ backing as Gross cries "Get it and hurry up, Get it and hurry up and go." That's quickly followed by the punchy title track, a frantic-paced guitar rocker in "Realize," the carnival keyboarded "Imagine" and "Heyo," a dead ringer for a Cranberries single in the spirit of "Salvation" or "Free To Decide."
Read My Sign never bogs down in the clumsy sentimentalism and political rants that the Cranberries often fall prey to, instead sticking with electronic backed ballads and big harmony rock songs about love. While nearly all of the songs are written exclusively by the trio, the disc closes with a slow-growing keyboard-based ballad anthem, "Destiny," a track written but not recorded by Sheryl Crow.
Dosage clocks in as a close #2 (following their hit-laden self-titled second album) in the Collective Soul catalog.
The band has taken every trick worked out on its past three records (which spawned the hits "Shine," "Gel," "December," "The World I Know" and "Precious Declaration") and utilized them all here to create an album that both rocks and croons with an alluring intensity.
Opening with the Eastern-tinged "Tremble for My Beloved" (which eventually kicks into a grinding wah-wah guitar fest), and then kicking into the appropriately titled oscillating rhythm rock single, "Heavy," the disc moves from one great riff to the next — these guys got a million of 'em.
"No More, No Less," slows it down a bit, with a funky bassline and gently strummed guitars as leader Ed Roland sings of letting down walls for a lover: "Don't bring me down/Cause there's promise in the night."
"Needs" follows one of the band's finest gentle moments done in the spirit of their previous hit ballad "The World I Know" — lightly picked guitars are augmented with bittersweet strings and Roland's plaintive falsettos as he sings "I don't need nobody/I don't need the weight of words/to crash on thru/I don't need nobody/I just need to learn the depth or doubt of faith to fall into … you're all I need."
"Run" is the album's other top quiet moment, with a chunka-chunka beat, piano and string backing and Roland again showing off his melancholic falsetto. It's a gorgeous moment.
"Slow," despite its title, kicks things back into gear with a crunchy guitar riff and a big vocal chorus and "Compliment," while its "world out there" lyric brings to mind "The World I Know," is actually another strong mid-tempo rock anthem.
The CD also includes a bonus "enhanced" component for computer users. If you allow the CD to install its HyperCD setup (it also will install Netscape if you let it), the album cover artwork opens in your Internet browser and points you to the Atlantic Records/Collective Soul Web site. From that site, you can listen to "Almost You," a rockin' little bonus track hidden on the CD. While the track data is all stored on the CD, you have to install the HyperCD program to your computer and connect to the Internet to play it (a fairly annoying feature if you want to listen to it more than once.) Unlike most enhanced CDs, this one offers no "local" content. The CD offers no hidden videos, lyrics, band history or other goodies on the CD for computer users — just the entree to the Atlantic Web site and the hidden song.