11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Clannad's finest album.,
This review is from: Magical Ring (Audio CD)
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!