The Dubliners released three albums on the Transatlantic label between 1964 and 1966, but it wasn't until they moved to Philip Solomon's new Major Minor label in 1967 that they had their first real success. A Drop of the Hard Stuff was released in the spring of 1967 followed by the rather unimaginatively titled More of the Hard Stuff later that year - both albums heavily promoted by Radio Caroline. Drinkin' & Courtin' was released in 1968, the year the original Radio Caroline went off the air, so had to rely more on the BBC for airplay and At It Again followed later that year and was the final studio album for the label.
The Major Minor label released some interesting material, David McWilliams for example, and the four studio albums they released by the Dubliners still sound great today. It may be surprising then that these albums have never been issued on CD before - although most of the tracks have appeared on various compilations over the years. The Major Minor label ended up as a part of EMI and was mothballed for many years (it was briefly revived for a Morrissey album in 2010!), but EMI have now finally given the Dubliner's four Major Minor studio albums the re-issue they deserve.
The Major Minor albums include this one, its three predecessors -A Drop of the Hard Stuff and More of the Hard Stuff- both from 1967, and their third album - from 1968 - Drinkin' & Courtin'. All have been freshly remastered in 2012 by Peter Mew at Abbey Road studios from the original MONO master tapes (some compilations use the stereo mixes). The thin accompanying booklet contains an essay by John Tobler, front and back reproductions of the original sleeve, facsimiles of the disc labels, track details and a couple of photos of the band.
The Dubliner's numerous fans will have waited many years for these re-issues and they do not disappoint. A presentation of the four discs as a collector's box set to mark the band's 50 years in the business would perhaps have been even better, but you can currently pick up the set of four from Amazon for less than twenty quid so they represent pretty good value even so. Newcomers to the band's music may be better off with a compilation album to start with - I would suggest EMI's Original Dubliners from 1993, which contains stereo tracks from the four Major Minor studio albums, and a couple of tracks from the live Albert Hall album from 1969.
This re-issue is a straightforward version of the original album in mono with no bonus tracks and is aimed at those who remember the LP and want to have good sounding versions of these tracks in the original album order. For the target audience I give this CD five stars; At It Again! Is a good album and contains a few classic tracks - but is probably the weakest of the four Major Minor studio albums. The Dubliners then went on to join producers / songwriters Phil Coulter and Bill Martin at EMI, and Major Minor released another two albums by the band in 1969. A concert recorded by the band at the Albert Hall in London on January 1st 1969 was released as a live album that year, and a budget compilation A Drop of the Dubliners completed the Major Minor albums. The live album has been available from EMI Ireland for a number of years - but was not remastered again for the 2012 series. The compilation album included tracks from the studio albums plus Lock Up Your Daughters - which I have never yet seen on CD.