Columbia 828767-3968-2; 50 minutes; 2005
Ireland’s most renowned troubadour returns for his first studio album since 2001’s This is the Day in cahoots with his old Moving Hearts mucker and perfect foil, guitarist Declan Sinnott. Burning Times is a finely honed affair and proves that Christy’s song-spotting talents have not waned over the years.
Kicking off with a rambunctious Sixteen Fisherman Raving (‘Why face the angry squall when you could go Go-Go dancing?’), Moore’s choice here is ever eclectic and features material from the pens of Natalie Merchant and Phil Ochs, as well as a potent rendition of Dylan’s The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll. And, Morrissey. Yep, you read that right, the bold old trooper from Newbridge covers a ditty by Manchester’s favourite former-gladioli-waving son. However, learn that said song is the ironically entitled America, I Love You, and remember that Christy never shirks from sharing his well-formed worldview with his audience and its inclusion comes as no shock at all.
Moore’s politics have long been wide-ranging, so it’s no surprise that he’s finally turned his attention to Joni Mitchell’s The Magdalene Laundries (about the scandal of unmarried Irish mothers being forced into slave labour) or The Handsome Family’s Peace in the Valley Once Again (a paean against consumerism) or the title-track itself, Charlie Murphy’s eloquent plea for a return to an understanding of the Earth’s own powers. But, as ever with Christy, there’s a tenderness here too, senses of reflection and recognition, that achieve their apogee in the juxtaposition of Wally Page’s Mercy and Richard Thompson’s Beeswing, two very different tales of loss. An utterly gripping album!
Sony 886974-8000-2; 45 minutes; 2009
Once only a legend in his own lunchtime but nowadays one of Ireland’s national treasures, the Kildare singer’s solo career spans more than forty years (and also comprises spells with two of his country’s most influential bands, Planxty and Moving Hearts). Christy has only ever released one bad album (his 1969 debut Paddy on the Road – so bad that, reputedly, he hunts down copies on eBay with the intent of destroying them), but Listen, his first studio release for four years, ventures into new territories – the soporific and the utterly bland.
Said ‘qualities’ are utterly apparent in a hugely misguided cover version of Pink Floyd’s Shine on You Crazy Diamond (What next? Christy sings Led Zep?) with its thoroughly redundant replication of Dave Gilmour’s guitar solo by his long-time musical sidekick Declan Sinnott.
There’s worse elsewhere. A self-composed paean to jockey Ruby Walsh is delivered so laboriously that its unlikely the horse would have made it past the first fence. His version here of John O’Dreams would have sat happily in the late Jimmy Young’s Radio 2 playlist.
Much of the rest is equally stupefying, deeply sentimental, often maudlin, rendered lame by the Vaseline-smeared touch of Tim Martin’s production and only made bearable by the cutting edge inquisition of Duffy’s Cut’.
These reviews by Geoff Wallis were written for Songlines magazine – www.songlines.co.uk.