At long last some of the most popular of the Clannad back catalogue has been digitally remastered and re-released! For some, this was Clannads break-through mainstream album following hot on the success of the theme from Harry's Game and a contract with RCA. Access to a fully equiped studio allowed Clannad to experiment with colour and sound - this remastered CD finally allows you to fully appreciate it. The CD has sleeve notes and photographs. If you bought this first time round have no hesitation in rushing out and replacng the original.
Back in 1990 my holy trinity of albums consisted of Passion by Peter Gabriel, Hounds Of Love by Kate Bush and Clannad's Macalla. Nowadays, with much water under the bridge, Clannad don't hold such a hallowed place in my collection and I couldn't narrow it down to three key albums, but I see Magical Ring as Clannad's finest album. It documents a turning point in their story that had been hinted at on certain songs on Fuaim (such as "Ni La Na Gaoithe La Na Scoilb"), but that now came to the fore. Where Fuaim to me seems overall to be pleasant but unexceptional, Magical Ring is alive and bristling with the qualities that made Clannad so good. Their early albums have a naivete about them, and that sense is present here to a lesser degree, but here on Magical Ring something new has galvanized the band. Furthermore, half of the songs were written by the band, and they are all really strong pieces, from the song that brought them to a larger audience "Theme From Harry's Game" to the earthy "Tower Hill" and haunted "Newgrange".
Clannad, onto something good, evolved their signature sound over subsequent albums, sometimes taking it too far or down blind alleys (Sirius), here their early experiments are more rough-hewn, and the music feels imbued with an energy that comes when the artists are clearly excited about the new territory that they are exploring. Nowadays, the mystical New Age Celt thing has been run in to the ground by artists too numerous to mention, but back in 1983, Clannad were practically alone. It's hard to imagine, and I would think that a newcomer to Magical Ring nowadays mightn't notice that anything exceptional was afoot, having heard one variant or other of dreamy New Age Celt music wafting on the air in every tourist info centre or metaphysical bookshop across the land.
I suspect that Magical Ring might be catagorized today as Acid Folk, were Clannad's other albums not taken into account, because it has many similarities to some bands in that scene, and like many of the modern purveyors of Acid Folk, Clannad were also drawing inspiration from classic folk-rock and the deeper veins of traditional music. This album has echoes of their roots, but steps forward into the unknown, and despite all of the technical gadgetry that they embraced in later years, (and which seemed perfect for their sound), albums like Anam and Banba don't hold a candle to this one. But how could they: this was the formative time, they were engaged in invention, not in merely tweaking the existing formula, and so much of what they got right here cannot be replicated with more layers of synths or overdubbed vocals, it was the chemistry of the moment, the songs they were writing, the context of the times. I highly recommend this album!
Clannad in my opinion are in a class of their own; no-one can touch them or recreate what this group have done. I think any Clannad album is worth purchasing if you want to chill and generally escape from the world this one included..Its haunting and mysterious...
If I was choosing my top 10 albums, this will always nestle within it. This is the best of the new-agey material that this group produce, and also the first one too. The sound is always clear, if a little dated, but the nostalgia isn't one for the 1980s, rather for another world long gone. Essential.
I love Clannad and this is a terrific album. I was grateful to be able to secure a copy and it was sent to me promptly and in perfect condition I already bought and reviewed this CD. I played it twice and now it is stuck and will not play. Gerry Mc Menemy
Ah, I love this! Must be my favourite Clannad album. I had (still have) the vinyl version when it was first released, and I still love it. Other-worldly in places, quite haunting, truly lovely, brings back happy memories.