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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 20 April 2010
I have extremely mixed views about this recording project. It is ultimately an anti-climax and I doubt if I would harbour these feelings if I had just bought the CD and not this "De Luxe" version.

For starters much of the music is delightful but I started to ask why so many happy songs about such a tragic series of events ? - Paddy Moloney tap dancing away on the DVD is incongruous with the hanging and branding of Irish freedom fighters. Many of the songs on this recording appear to have nothing to do with the San Patricios, and if they have I'd like to know why there are no translations of the Spanish songs which might provide an authentic insight into this period ?

None of the Chieftains apart from Moloney appear on the DVD and one is left with the impression that most of the recording was done Stateside (only half a dozen tracks actually recorded in Mexico)and a tape was sent back to Dublin for the rest of the group to play along with! Much of the music on the disc is not played by the Chieftains at all but by excellent Mexican groups.

The DVD was also a missed opportunity to give a proper historical analysis of the San Patricios, unfortunately neither Paddy Moloney (who quotes an incorrect date in the discussion) nor Ry Cooder seem to know much about it, and they end up in a bland back-slapping conversation about the power of music to unite.

Amazon incorrectly states that Carlos Nunez is a Mexican musician - he's Galician and there's no explanation given for the Galician link with the San Patricios either. This whole recording smacks of a clever spotting of a commercial opportunity (Moloney has a cheek in jamming along to Mexican tunes played by Mexican musicians and then claiming royalties with his "trad arranged by Moloney" credit !)

So - you'll have to look elsewhere for musical perspectives on this event (Tim O'Brien has an excellent song called John Riley, who led the San Patricios, on his "The Crossing " CD which is more emotional than any of the numbers here).If you want to hear excellent Mexican music with added Irish instrumental embellishment and a few token songs relating to this Irish Brigade then this will work very well for you, but ignore the DVD and stick to the CD only version! Linda Ronstadt has recorded some brilliant Mexican music back 20 or so years ago (when her voice was much stronger) and a CD called "Jardin Azul" is an excellent compilation if you'd like to delve further into this genre.

Musically I actually prefer "San Patricio" to the above mentioned Buena Vista Social Club as it is rhythmically more upbeat, but at least that album WAS recorded in Cuba and provided an excellent accompanying booklet.
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on 13 April 2010
I first heard Mike Harding playing the Ry Cooder/ Chieftains track "Sands of Mexico" on BBC Radio 2 a couple of weeks ago and knew I had to get this album. The San Patricios are seen as a forgotten part of Irish history, so it is important that their stories are highlighted and the role of Irishmen who, too often had fought in imperialist armies, often found themselves on opposing sides in many of the conflicts in recent history- compare for example to the men and women who joined the International Brigades and those who joined O'Duffy' s Blueshirts in Spain a few decades later.
The mixture of Irish music and a mixture of Mexican and English lyrics make for an inspiring CD and will invoke in listeners a desire to find more about this brave bunch of men who joined the Mexicans as they fought the US. While there is actaully a small touch of an old crooner in Ry Cooder's rendition of the "Sands of Mexico" it is quality stuff throughout and the mixture of styles adds to an international feel.
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Like the lead reviewer, I have mixed feelings about this album. In part however, I accept the blame for this. I read a bit about the album in the press and, as soon as I saw the CD in a record store, I bought it. I was mistakenly under the impression that it was a Ry Cooder project featuring the Chieftains whereas it's actually a Chieftains project featuring Cooder (and Cooder's on-album role is relatively small though one is led to believe that he was largely responsible for rounding up the excellent Mexican contributors which, if true, is credit-worthy). I've several Cooder albums in my collection though I don't automatically like everything he does. I have nothing from the Chieftains other than their collaboration with Van Morrison from way way back. But I've nothing against them (or Irish traditional music in general).

That's my background. With regard to the contents of the album, over two thirds of the songs come from the many and varied, Mexicans and almost all of these are traditional. I enjoyed many of these although I did sometimes find the presence of Paddy Moloney's whistle or pipe, a tad irritating. Sorry if that offends any Irish readers. Perhaps this is due to my lack of exposure to Paddy's charms. I would single out the tracks by Lila Downs, Chavela Vargas and Los Tigres Del Norte as highlights for me.

Although several reviewers have referred to the blending of Irish and Mexican as successful, I have to say that I was less convinced. There were parts, particularly in the Finale where I felt chunks from different cultures were just stuck together without a lot of thought given to the outcome. And I did want this to work.

Cooder's two contributions are good, with the first one, "The Sands of Mexico", being one of the very few tracks which relates to the theme of the album. His second number, an instrumental with backing only from Van Dyke Parks, is lovely.

I was puzzled by the contributions of Carlos Nunez. With no disrespect to his musicianship, I didn't see how, coming from a Galician background, he related to the overall theme. I did wonder if he was one of Paddy's mates!

In general I felt that there was just not enough on the album which related to the story of Los Patricios. Unlike, say, Cooder's "Chavez Ravine", or, Tom Russell's "The Man from God Knows Where", the story line is given minimal attention. Which is a pity. The album could have been much better.

So, as the old saying goes, to me this is a curate's egg. Some parts are very good; other parts are not so good.
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Ry Cooder has collaborated with the Chieftains before, most notably on their wonderful 'Long Black Veil" CD where his three contributions "The coast of Malabar", "Dunmore lassies" and "He moved through the fair" were among the most successful collaborations. On that occasion as well as singing he played marvelous, brooding blues slide guitar which perfectly integrated with the Chieftains sound.

In his two tracks here he is firmly back in 'Chavez Ravine' mode (sadly not playing with a slide) to tell the amazing story of the Irish-American San Patricio Battalion who fought on the side of Mexico in the Mexican-American War (sounds like the plot of a Cormac McCarthy novel!) He joins the Chieftains, together with Linda Ronstadt, Lila Downs, Carlos Nunez, Liam Neeson and Los Tigres del Norte amongst many others. However, none of the guests are highlighted much, this is very much an ensemble record. At times I felt that the Irish element was being overpowered by the Mexican sound, only for it to slowly emerge from the mix. This mix shouldn't really work but somehow it does, as demonstrated in the uplifting closing track "Finale" with both musics perfectly integrated. An amazing meeting of cultures through the collaboration of very talented musicians.
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on 9 October 2013
I have always liked Irish music and have a large collection of Spanish and South American music as well. I would never have thought there could be connections between the two, or that they could be combined in any way. There is real genius and originality in this collection, which manages to convey what is most valuable and timeless about the two genres. I came upon it by chance and took a chance in buying it - ignoring reviews that said the Chieftains hadn't quite pulled this off, or that it wouldn't appeal to many. It appeals to me, and I think they did pull it off. It is now one of the most prized albums I have. My only regret is that, as a concept album, bringing together such diverse players and singers, I don't suppose it will ever be possible to see any performances of the tracks recorded.
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VINE VOICEon 23 April 2011
A collaboration between two of recent times' most prolific collaborators, Ry Cooder & the Chieftains - I was looking forward to this one, but was disappointed. The main problem for me was the squawky high-pitched vocals, which grated on me horribly. A few good tunes & songs between tracks 6 & 10, but this isn't one I'll keep
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on 23 February 2011
Great,really fantastic, a mixture of traditional Mexican with an Irish undertone.
Ry Cooder has the touch to produce great traditional Latin music.
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on 6 March 2010
I've been listening to and watching The Chieftains now for well over 30 years , first saw them at Leeds Uni in the '70s.This is just another wonderful page from their book of musical pleasure. They have never stopped discovering the rich traditions of World Music and it has never seemed to be anything less than a pleasure for them to play the tunes of Ireland and other countries and to work with other musicians.
A really enjoyable CD which will, I suspect, grow on me even more as I find out about the San Patricios.
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on 11 March 2010
A lovely CD and FINALLY a recognition by leading Mexican figures that they were NOT ALONE - European and North American dissenters stood should to shoulder with their ancestors.
All we need now is to recognize the German speaking members of the brigada.

A belated, beautiful and timely collection of a Mexican-Irish melodic mélange. Other reviewers have done an excellent job on the melodies.

For a Historical Synopsis:-
the Brigada San Patricio fought for Mexico against American SLAVE state expansion(1846-48) and also for their religious rights. Of the 900 men (some with experience of the Napoleonic wars in Europe, it is estimated that approximately 30% were German speaking). - see the dvd of the 'film' - 'One Man's Hero' - with : Tom Berenger, Joaquim de Almeida, director: Lance Hool ASIN: 630571889X -

In Europe Republican governments were replaced by the Napoleonic dictatorship followed by the restored Monarchies (1815).
Post the American war of independence, Article 5 of the Paris treaty (Nov 1782), American democrats had to guarantee the `the rights of confiscated `property' of Loyalist Americans (this included slaves and estates). Although small loyalist farmers lost out, the larger Southern plantations owned by English aristocrats remained. Less than 5% of loyalist left for Europe, Canada or the Caribbean. Little changed from the `Ancienne Regime'

Paddy is wrong in his assertion on the dominating factors.
Slave power continued to be the main economic driving forces in the southern states of the new world.
Within the slave states, non slaveholding whites were barred from important offices and opportunities. With the Missouri line `Dixiland' could only expand west or south.

The Slave States:-
The Mexican constitution's (1824) abolition of slavery, in particular the sale of slaves incensed slave traders. In 1827 President John Adams offered Mexico US$1 Million to buy Tecas, in 1829 President Andrew Jackson tried with an offer of US$5 million but was also rejected.
See also `La Constitución de Apatzingán' by Ernesto de la Torre Villar ISBN 9688371777
Along with delegates Andres Quintana Roo & Carlos Bustamante (1814 - they called for popular sovereignty, republican government, abolition of slavery, equality before the law, representative government, separation of church and state.
Austin and Houston (both of Virginia) were instigators of the Tecas land grab. The addition of Texas to the Union as a SLAVE state, was blocked until the election in 1844 of president Polk.

After 1815 and the restoration of the European ancienne regimes the 'White Royalist Terror' was unleashed on Republican, Radical Enlightenment, anti monarchic and anti-autocratic church elements. As a consequence many Europeans came to America seeking refuge as the United Irishmen before them - 'United Irishmen, United States' by David Wilson ISBN:0801431751.
The Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854) expanded slavery north into Kansas.
In New York slavery was abolished only in 1827 and a re-introduction was attempted again following this act.
Implementation of the `Fugitive Slave act' (1850) along with the need to fix the route of the railways finally provoked the American Civil War

General Zachariou Taylor (who owned more than 100 slaves in Louisiana & Mississippi) went into Mexico beyond the Neuces river (Corpus Christi).
Lincoln denounced the war in Congress. Thoreau went to jail rather than pay taxes to support it, and Ulysses Grant (who served in Mexico) described it as "the most unjust war ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation". The Catholic Hierarchy more interested in protecting Anglo interests in the period of the legalisation of the Catholic church in England, sent two priests McEvoy (GaelicSpeaker) and Rein (GermanSpeaker) to stem the flow of support for Mexico.
The war was a prelude as many later took different sides in the North American Civil War (1861-65).
Some examples of the correspondence by Grant, Lee, Sherman, Taylor, Scott, Bragg on their personal experiences of the Mexican war prior to the Northern Civil War.

In consolation to the Mexican people, it was Californian gold that allowed Lincoln to subsequently defeat the combined forces of the slavistocracy and European royalty.
The Northern states at that time were the last refuge of the 'Republic of Letters' and the light of the Enlightenment, perilously close to being extinguished.

One of the etymologies of 'Gringo' in Irish folklore is the fact that many Patricios sang the Napoleonic song 'Green grows the Lilio' as they marched thro' Mexico.
One notable United Irishman, Jemmy Hope, still on the run, was interviewed by R. Madden in the 1840's aged in his 80's. I would like to see a film based on his life.
See 'United Irishman: The Autobiography of James Hope' by John Newsinger [Merlin] 0850364965.
Yes Liam, green was also the color of Rainsborough's, the Levellers, Liliburns banner. William Drennan would be proud of you, togha fear !

Other References:-
'Los Soldados Irlandeses de Mexico' Hogan ISBN:9687846070, 'United Irishmen, United States' by David Wilson ISBN:0801431751; 'The Rogue's March' ISBN:1574887386, 'Short Killing Affair by Foos ISBN:0807854050,
'Rise of the English Empire in the American South' Gallay ISBN:0300101937, 'Irish Slave Girl' by McCafferty ISBN:014200183X,White Women, Black Men by Martha Hodesh [Yale UP 1997] 0300069707, 0300077505;`Duffy's Cut' ISBN0275987272 &9780275987275; 'Letters on Jackson Edited by B. Leigh ISBN:0548321833 ; 'California Gold Rush and the Coming of the Civil War' by Richards ISBN:030726520X; How the Irish Became White' by Noel Ignatiev ISBN:0415918251 ;'
Colonel Despard: The Life and Death of an English/Irish Jacobin by Clifford C. Conner ISBN-10: 1580970265; Friends of Liberty - the English Democractic Movement by A Goodwin ISBN 0674323394;'United Irishman: The Autobiography of James Hope' by John Newsinger [Merlin] 0850364965; Dissent into Treason - Unitarians, King-Killers and the Society of United Irishmen by Fergus Whelan 9780863224294; Just Like Me by Michael Fallaw 1436385075.
See also Ron Kavana's song entitled "The Men That God Made Mad"
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on 30 March 2013
The Chieftains always stir the emotions in their attempts to capture different cultures. Any opportunity to catch Neeson talking is worth the effort.
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