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Alan Stivell - Chemins De Terre CD (album) cover

CHEMINS DE TERRE

Alan Stivell

 

Prog Folk

4.14 | 33 ratings

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kenethlevine
Special Collaborator
Prog-Folk Team
5 stars "Chemins de Terre" celebrates a raunchy wedding between Celtic and Rock and roll music. While at times violent culture clashes occur between the in-laws, ultimately they all fall into bed together in a happy heap in the wee hours. Alan Stivell, who had already produced several groundbreaking disks by this time, with his adept fingers and old soul vocals blew this tsunami over the Celtic world. If he didn't quite launch the careers of DAN AR BRAZ and GABRIEL YACOUB, both of whom play prominent roles on "Chemin de Terre", he certainly changed their courses. In the meantime, in Nantes, TRI YANN were taking note, and, in waves across the channel, bands like STEELEYE SPAN, HORSLIPS and PLANXTY were under the spell as well.

Offering a seamless blend of the traditional and original with the raucous and the ethereal, STIVELL offers a varied assortment of instrumentals and songs that never drag. Fiddles, harps and pipes are all predominant but so are the more traditionally rock instruments and even a touch of mellotron strings on the closing number. The alternative currents running through this subversive recording do not seem contrived in the least, even though it's clear what Stivell was trying to do, and he certainly didn't try to hide it, which is perhaps part of its charm.

It's a little difficult for me to pick the now oft covered traditional songs as highlights even though "Suzy MacGuire" seems to have captured the primordial atmosphere in its grooves. For me, the album peaks on the gorgeous but brief Scottish song "Oidche Mhaith" with Stivell largely unaccompanied on voice and harp, slowly brought to term by organ; the breathless pipe led instrumental "An Dro Nevez" and its banjo and rhythm and lead guitar layers; and the mournful Acapella "Maro Ma Mestrez". I'll also add the lovely "An Hani a Garan" which which combines the sensitivity of "Reflets" with plucking reminiscent of "Renaissance de la Harpe Celtique". But nothing here is remotely superfluous, even if some prog fans may balk at the predominance of traditional instrumentation.

While Stivell has enjoyed a charmed career by any yardstick, and his "Renaissance de la Harpe Celtique" remains perhaps his best known, "Chemins de Terre" represents arguably his most significant contribution to Celtic Rock as a thriving genre, and the endearing subset of those earthy folk we classify as prog.

kenethlevine | 5/5 |

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