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Horslips - The Man Who Built America CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.14 | 19 ratings

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Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
3 stars Aliens part II

As every Prog fan knows, the late 70's and early 80's meant some changes in musical direction for almost all our favourite bands who originally started out in the late 60's or early 70's. Horslips was no exception to this general trend and The Man Who Built America is a good case in point. For Prog Folk bands in particular it was often the case that the Folk influences became less important with each subsequent album and the Rock and Pop elements became stronger. This is true for Strawbs, Gryphon and to an extent also Jethro Tull (but for the latter the change came a bit later). The present album is not that far away in style from Strawbs' Deadlines and to a lesser extent Jethro Tull's A. These are not bad albums and The Man Who Built America isn't bad either. It might, however, be considered a somewhat guilty pleasure from the Prog fan's perspective.

With regards to those Folk influences, this album is the very opposite of the Drive The Cold Winter Away album for which Horslips opted for a pure Celtic Folk approach with little or no Rock aspects. The Man Who Built America is a Rock album with only hints of Folk left to speak of. It is, however, not entirely void of Folk and also Prog influences, but it is miles away from band's early albums like The Tain and Happy To Meet, Sorry To Part or even the more recent (at the time) Book Of Invasions.

The previous album, Aliens, was a concept album about the Irish emigration to America. The present album is also a conceptual album and this time it is rather about how those (Irish?) people who came to America helped to build what that country is today. The concept is, however, not particularly obvious and the songs are wholly independent from each other musically. The songs are generally in the three or four minute range and there are no real deviations from conventional song structures (but was there ever on Horslips albums?). There are, however, several short but tasteful flute, fiddle, keyboard and guitar solos. The flute sound still has a very Ian Anderson-like sound, but the vintage keyboards and Hammond organs are replaced with the latest synthesisers of the day.

The songs are generally catchy and it is hard not to feel a desire to sing along. There is a nice balance between rockers and ballads and there are no really bad songs to speak of even if a couple of choruses are a bit simplistic both lyrically and musically. The vocals are generally stronger than on the early albums and the production is much improved. This is indeed a professional and polished affair, but it is not too glossy. They have not lost their Hard Rock attitude even if the grittiness of The Tain is nowhere to be found.

Needless to say, this is not one of Horslips best albums and anyone who contemplates venturing this deep into the discography of this great Irish band ought to see to it that they have acquired several of their other albums first. But for those who have all or most of the band's previous albums, The Man Who Built America is a worthy addition.

Good, but by no means essential

SouthSideoftheSky | 3/5 |


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