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Horslips - Roll Back CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.55 | 11 ratings

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Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
2 stars An album that Fairport Convention or Steeleye Span would be proud of, but not the return to Prog Folk we were all hoping for

Like so many other bands, Horslips fell victim to the changing musical climate of the late 70's. Their last real album (so far?) was Short Stories, Tall Tales from 1979 and that album was a true embarrassment as far as I'm concerned. At least it did not fit in very well with what the band were known for; namely, their fusion of (Prog) Rock and Irish Folk music. I don't know exactly why they broke up after that misguided New Wave styled album, but they have so far never returned with an original album. They did, however, release this album with re-recorded, acoustic arrangements of some of their most well known songs from the 70's. This is not exactly what Prog Folk fans were hoping for perhaps, but it is very welcome to see any sign of life from the band. Let us hope that we will see a full blown comeback in the near future. After all, countless classic bands have reunited in recent years as the times are now much more favourable for classic and progressive Rock than in the 80's and 90's. I would love to see them play The Tain or Book Of Invasions live, or have a brand new album in the style of those classic albums.

The present album consists, as I said, of acoustic re-recordings of older material. This is not strictly speaking true, though, as there is some discrete organ on some songs. But the core of the sound of Roll Back is acoustic and there are no signs at all of any electric guitars or synthesisers. The songs are almost all very laid back and there are not really any up tempo jigs or reels or any kind of prolonged instrumental work. There are a few instrumental cuts, but the songs are primarily vocally driven. The sound and feeling is very different from Drive The Cold Winter Away, which was the band's previous attempt to make a pure Folk album. While that album was distinctively Celtic in its nature, this album is more Folk Rock sometimes even with a slight American Folk sound! I think this is a bit more enjoyable, but also more conventional in a sense.

Almost all of the band's albums are represented here with two cuts each from Happy To Meet, Sorry To Part, Dancehall Sweethearts, Book Of Invasions and The Man Who Built America and one cut each from The Tain, The Unfortunate Cup Of Tea, Aliens and Short Stories, Tall Tales. The remaining tracks are, to my knowledge, not available on other Horslips albums, though they are I'm almost certain traditional Folk tunes.

Some of these new arrangements are more successful than others. Guests Of The Nation, taken from that disastrous last album, is a definitive improvement over the original. The same must be said about Wrath Of The Rain, originally taken from the Aliens album. The same might also be said about The Man Who Built America, but it is less obvious. The songs taken from The Tain and Book Of Invasions had perhaps better been left as they were.

Overall, this is a very competent and professional recording and it is indeed a very pleasant listen. Traditional British Folk Rock bands like Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span would be pround of this album, but I fail to conjure up much enthusiasm over these acoustic arrangements. The songs are not only de-electrified but also de-Progified (but the songs chosen were not really progressive in the first place anyway). Roll Back is thus not at all the kind of album that people who come to this site will be looking for. Still, for fans and collectors of the band and of Folk Rock in general this album is a decent addition.

Primarily for fans and collectors

SouthSideoftheSky | 2/5 |


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