That, however, wasn't my initial reaction when I first learned that one of my favorite '70s acts were reforming for a handful of concerts in Ireland and the UK. While anticipatory I was also a bit leary. Afterall when a bunch of 60-somethings decide to "get the band back together again" the results are often less than satisfactory, sullying an otherwise stellar career - relegating their act to casinos and county fairs playing aside local cover bands. And in Horslips' case they hadn't played together (excepting the ROLL BACK sessions) for nearly 30 years. Several members had left the music scene decades ago although Johnny Fean had continued playing in several obscure ventures. I recall seeing Charles O'Connor's name exactly twice in the past 20+ years - once as co-performer on the ANGEL ON THE MANTLEPIECE CD and then as co-producer for More Power to Your Elbow's second album FINGERS OF FUN. What about Devlin and Lockhardt? Had they kept up playing (and singing) as hobbies or otherwise? I don't know. For unspecified reasons drummer Eamon Carr was unable to perform. That's why this looming CD held both promise and dread.
Well my fears were almost entirely alliviated within seconds of inserting the CD into my player for its maiden voyage. The playing was tight and crisp as I remembered it back when. Carr's replacement, Ray Fean (Johnny's much younger brother), who's impressive session credits include Natalie MacMaster, Sharon Shannon, Dan ar Braz, Clannad and Capercaillie, was the perfect fit. He was probably as familiar with Horslips as anyone other than the longtime quintet. The first track 'King of the Fairies' is an instrumental so one unanswered question still remained... How would they acquit themselves vocally? Lead singers Fean and Devlin were aproaching 60 years of age and beyond respectively. And to this day I'm not certain if and when O'Connor sings lead. If anyone knows please respond. Johnny Fean had the 1st crack at singing on 'Power and the Glory' with Barry Devlin following up on two DANCEHALL SWEETHEARTS pieces 'Mad Pat' and 'Blind Man'. These guys sounded fine. Older certainly, but completely acceptable. To think that 30 years had passed since their swansong BELFAST GIGS was unbelievable. The extended piece 'Furniture' was even more urgent and captivating than on HAPPY TO MEET and HORSLIPS LIVE. Thank you Johnny Fean! LIVE AT THE O2 is, incidentally, the best live Horslips recording. HORSLIPS LIVE (1976?) always suffered from poor sound. My LP was nearly unlistenable while the Edsel CD was a slight improvement. That first live album also featured much material from their weakest record UNFORTUNATE CUP OF TEA (1975). A few years later BELFAST GIGS (1980) was an all-to-brief concert recording which seemed to lack inspiration and cohesiveness. Horslips knew the jig was up at that point. LIVE AT THE O2 is different. It's full of energy and a renewed pride in their body of work and their place in rock 'n' roll history. The tracklisting is impeccable. They played virtually all of their most important cuts with a great emphasis on their tour de force(s) BOOK OF INVASIONS and THE TAIN with only minimal acknowledgement to their two lesser efforts UNFORTUNATE CUP OF TEA and SHORT STORIES/TALL TALES. Perhaps the inclusion of 'Hall of Mirrors' would have made this even more perfect; Or Jim Lockhardt's use of the uillean pipes. But I understand the logistics of utilizing that cumbersome instrument in a live setting.
Hearing this CD for the first time brought an immense smile to my face and had I been fortunate enough to have been there in concert I'm certain that smile wouldn't have left all evening. All group members are top notch musicians and any rock fan needs to seriously consider Johnny Fean as one of the giants in the world of '70s guitarists - NOT Irish guitarists, but rock guitarists, period. Along with Howe, Hackett, Beck, May, Nelson, Barre, Page et.al. Clapton hasn't wowed me in over 40 years but this album clearly illustrates Fean's craft; His fluidity, melody and complexity. Although the term 'gorgeous' is rarely used to describe an electric guitar solo check out the absolutely stunning fretwork on 'I'll be Waiting.' Tell me it isn't gorgeous.
Horslips fans needn't be leary of this album. Fans of Celtic rock need listen to this exposition to understand the trailblazing efforts this band provided. BTW, as I write this am listening to this disc for the 5th time and that smile :) is still there.
I saw these guys playing many times way back in the seventies when Ireland had a dreadful culture of country music that was just soul destroying. These guys were a breath of fresh air way back then. I have their original live album from that era too. This recording just takes me back to my younger days where I had many a good hot and sweaty night in the dancehalls of Donegal jumping around buck mad (before health and safety was even invented) with my mates. To those who were there at that time........ well you know what I am talking about. To those who haven't a clue what I'm talking about.......... you missed it.... now go and ask your parents. Us oul guys could teach you a thing or to about how to enjoy yourself at a gig. This album is just brilliant - make sure you buy it.
This is a really fantastic album from a brilliant band. All the tracks will already be known to Horslips fans but they are played in a vibrant and fresh manner with lots of power and some really good vocals. The musicianship is stunning especially on tracks like Furniture - 11 minutes of great guitar work etc. Maeve's Court is hauntingly beautiful and followed up by a fabulous rendition of Charolais. It is a greatest hits of the band - live and jumping! Just a shame that they didn't follow it up with a full tour. I couldn't get to Dublin to see them but would love to go to a gig on British mainland if they were to tour again. CD is brilliant value at this price. Go get it........!!
I can't - and don't intend to - disagree with any of the preceding reviews of this fantastic double album; suffice to say that if you are already a fan of Horslips then a) you won't be disappointed and b) you really must add this to your collection. The lads can still both play and sing and it's a joy to hear them belt out the old classics, especially tracks like 'Maeve's Court' and 'Charolais' and later material from 'Man Who Built America', 'Aliens' and the brilliant 'Book of Invasions', which I don't have elsewhere in a 'live' format. Recording quality seems top notch too, a real bonus given the quality of some their back-catalogue. All in all, an excellent addition to my collection, and seriously worthy of your consideration.