I own six Clannad albums, the first of which I bought twenty years ago. Macalla, originally released in 1985, is not just my favourite Clannad album, but one of the best-loved albums in my entire collection. I believe it is their strongest and most widely accessible work. Whereas their earlier albums were strongly rooted in the traditional folk genre (lovely, but not always accessible to the eclectic listener) and their later albums leaned more strongly towards pop and new age (to my folk-leaning ear, usually too sweet and over-produced), Macalla is a beautifully conceived crossover album. The majesty and beauty of Clannad's traditional folk harmonies and Celtic musicianship are enriched and enhanced on Macalla by exciting, sophisticated pop, rock and jazz influences. The lead vocalist, Máire Brenna, is the star of the album. Máire's haunting, clear and delicate voice has never sounded more beautiful or compelling than it does here. Her vocals on the standout track 'A Wild Cry' are nothing short of ravishing. Other particularly fine tracks are 'Caislean Oir', 'In a Lifetime', 'Almost Seems (Too Late to Turn)', 'Buachaill on Eirne' and 'Northern Skyline'. Interesting changes in pace throughout the album provide entertaining contrasts. 'Indoor' is a sparkling, exhilarating pop-rock track with guitars, drums, sax, heartracing lead vocals by Máire and gorgeous harmonies which are all reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac at their very best. 'Closer to Your Heart' is a jaunty, enjoyable, guitar-based pop track, and one of their best-known songs. Perhaps the odd track out here is Blackstairs, with one of the Clannad men on lead vocal, which nevertheless provides a pleasant, gentle interlude. In summary, Macalla is a beautiful, timeless album of melodic folk pop, representing Clannad's career best.
This 2003 digitally remastered reissue with new artwork includes one bonus track, 'Caislean Oir' (Planet Heaven Mix), as well as new sleeve notes and rare photos. Clannad's official site reports that Pol Brennan oversaw the remastering from the original tapes, and that the band are very happy with the results. Despite what I feel was a misjudged decision to replace the striking 1985 black and white artwork - with Máire in Edvard Munch's 'The Scream' pose - given also that the original CD was issued with frustratingly minimalist sleeve notes, giving no track credits, this reissue is therefore to be highly recommended on all counts.