For those of you who don’t know this band (me included) Celtic Legacy are an Irish rock band that originally formed in 1997, very much in the mould of Thin Lizzy and Gary Moore. The gang were initially a covers band called Stomp, dating from 1994 before developing their own material in a style that reflects a lot of Celtic influences, although they have always rejected the suggestion that they were a folk metal band. There’s certainly folk influences, but also lots of blues, heavy rock, and some great guitar work all combining to create something unmistakably Irish. In lots of ways they remind me of another quite superb Irish band that remain one of my favourite acts to this day – Horslips. It’s that same blend of semi-acoustic traditional instruments and full-on rock sound that works so well! Ultimately Celtic Legacy might be seen to be terrific imitators of others, but they do it in a fresh, modern, timeless manner that just hits the spot!
For fans of Thin Lizzy, Iron Maiden, Budgie, Deep Purple, Queensryche, Scorpions, Rainbow, Big Country, Simple Minds, Horslips….
Despite never having a record contract (although the band was offered small recording deals on six occasions) the band utilised its resources to fund and record three albums up to 2008. Of the three albums the band released during their initial 12-year period, Resurrection (the second album) is widely regarded as the band’s high water mark, being voted album of the year on several sites in 2003/2004. It received rave reviews when released and is still regarded with huge affection by both die hard fans and casual listeners to the band’s music.
However, back to this little beauty – a complete re-recording of the 1998 debut, Redux is the culmination of nearly 4 years work and sees the return to the band of bassist and founder member, Dave Boylan and introduces John Bonham on vocals. With a vastly improved production sound, Redux updates established tracks and reinstates two songs that were omitted from the original 1998 release. Funnily enough, the word redux is an adjective used in film, literature and video game titles meaning “restored, brought back”, so I wonder at its significance for the original debut album – a sense of continuing the Irish oral tradition maybe? At any rate, Redux is now available in digital and hard-copy formats, made possible due to the band’s fanbase pre-ordering CDs in enough numbers to cover the costs of getting a physical run – brand new artwork. The power of music!
Guitarist Dave Morrissey explained the reasoning behind the album:
“I thought the first album was good enough for its time but I was never very happy with the finished product. We didn’t have the budget or the time to really do what we wanted. With recording technology advancing so far in recent years, the opportunity was there to give that album a fresh coat of paint. And we all decided that if we were going to do it, we were going to do it right and not cut corners. The songs may be a few years old but they’ve never sounded better than they do on this album.”
“Although the recording took longer than expected, largely due to Covid-19 restrictions, the extra time actually benefited the end product as we were able to really take as long as we needed to get it right. We were all on the same page from the start and the guys did a great job. I don’t think there has been a better-sounding Celtic Legacy album than Redux.”
Entirely recorded using home recording technology, no professional recording studio was hired at any time during the making of this album. The band thus avoided costly studio fees, reducing the outlay to bare minimum. The results, however, rival anything released by a professional label or studio. Guitarist Dave Morrissey produced, engineered and mastered the album.
We start with From The Plains, a short dirge-like intro that could only ever be Irish before it fades into Long Ride Home and “Enter The Rock Band” – and straight away I’m thinking what a fine, ‘full-fat’ sound this band has – both in terms of the production but also the richness that this trio creates – some threesomes can sound pretty ‘thin’ in their overall compositions? Anyway, suffice to say this track had me boogieing, the blend of Lizzy, Maiden and Purple doing its job! Next up is Wandering Free, an energetic up-beat rock anthem if ever there was one. Great quality boogie-material, the (multi-layered?) guitars of Dave Morrissey wonderfully weaving their magic and giving John the platform for a huge chorusline.
Catch The Wind reminds me a little of that other amazing trio Budgie, the same mix of great guitar and soulful vocals. John is a newcomer to this band, and he must think he was in heaven with some of the vocals parts he’s now the owner of! The guitar work is again stellar quality, Dave M plays all the guitars, and also mixed, produced, engineered the album; made the tea….it’s a very mid-Atlantic sound, you can picture so many bands playing this sort of stuff and maybe that’s why Celtic Legacy didnt become massive – but they do do it extremely well!
Glen Corr – The Spirit of the Vagabond unashamedly flaunts its celtic roots, this could almost be Big Country – but I think that’s my point, their house style is at once so derivative and yet so distinctive – and played so exceptionally skilfully! This track in particular is an absolute solo-fest, and yet you get the feeling DaveM can do this in his sleep!
Lost Soul is pure Horslips – fiddle intro, then sweet, oh-so-sweet guitar lines of traditional melodic airs. The vocals are perhaps more NWOBHM than Horslips could ever manage, but their shared heritage shines like a beacon ….Shine is appropriately the next track, it’s another one that brings to mind other performers rather than the three currently belting it out – in this case I have a mental image of Stuart Adamson fronting this with Big Country. It’s just got that certain gaelic-guitar chordwork, I cant explain it any better!
As I said, I’ve not listened to Celtic Legacy before, so all this is like reviewing a new record. Talk To Me could be Saxon, Maiden, it’s somehow that classic 80’s riff-work? Another pacey, absolutely anthemic track, wonderful guitar parts, an absolute microcosm of quality NWOBHM, I do wonder why these guys weren’t simply huge (outside Ireland) in the early 80s?
The band’s eponymous title track follows. At a smidge under 13 minutes, this is Irish Epic Saga stuff right from the opening stanzas. Synths and choirs set the scene before some ponderous, heavyweight tribal drums lick in. Even without the benefit of the album’s lyrics, the story unfolding here is pure Irish, from the fables of Cu-Chulain through to the present day – another shared lyrical legacy that evokes the spirit of Horslips (sorry, you’ll have gathered I loved that band); but also Thin Lizzy, Simple Minds, The Answer, U2….these guys all wear their rich history on their sleeves. They all also share simply wonderful guitarists, there must be something in the water over there!
And again, the final track is called, appropriately, Waterfront. A suitably poignant, “end-of-album” affair, this is slower, with weighty, gorgeous guitar work, building to a suitably climactic ending for this sumptuous piece of work, inspired by both mythology and recent history.
All in all, a beautifully restored – nay, reinvented – slab of 80’s hard rock. As I say, this was new to me, and I was completely immersed in both the quality of the musical excellence of three not-so-young performers, and the stories of their native land that ensue. Revisiting (or “reduxing“?) previous work is not easy but you do yourselves great credit, I wonder if Resurrection is next for the remastering treatment?!