Planxty are one of those seminal Irish acts doomed to bask in an aura of reverence while remaining essentially obscure to all but a tiny subset of the listening public.
They placed a rocket under the trad scene in the 1970s, imbuing their old-timey sound with psychedelic and British folk revival influences. Yet their accomplishments were quickly overshadowed as frontman Christy Moore went solo (his singer-songwriter incarnation actually predated Planxty, assembled to provide backing for his second album).
Dónal Lunny and Andy Irvine, the band’s instrumental engine room, would meanwhile go on to rewarding careers of their own (most prominently with Moving Hearts), and Liam O’Flynn would also become the most famous uileann piper on the planet.
A new overview of their accomplishments, may go towards restoring the group to the prominence folk purists agree they deserve.
What’s immediately striking is that tension that defined with work, with whipsmart instrumental pieces such as ‘The Blacksmith/Blacksmithereens’ and ‘Timedance’ suggesting a fusion of session music and progressive rock, and the more direct ‘The Cliffs Of Dooneen’ foreshadowing Moore’s subsequent incarnation.
There were excursions, too, into Dubliners-style urban folk, as best demonstrated by the hard-bitten, pipe-driven ‘Pat Reilly’. Between the Jigs and the Reels is a fascinating collection, by turns melancholy and rambunctious and, 40 years on, the music’s rebellious swagger endures.
This was the sound of four young men deconstructing a genre and rebuilding it from the ground up — and sounding as if they were enjoying every moment of their unlikely and tragically short lived odyssey.
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