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Reunion - A Decade of Solas

Review By Steven Stone
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  For over ten years Solas has delighted their fans with a unique brand of high-octane Celtic music. To celebrate their tenth year Solas created a special live concert CD/DVD that displays the full breath of their artistry. Seldom have I seen a concert, recorded or in person, where I've witnessed the creation of more genuine and spontaneous music-making.

All the past and present members of the band joined Solas' two principal members, multi-instrumentalist Seamus Eagan and fiddler Winifred Horan to create this live concert CD. Singers Karan Casey and Deirdre Scanlan, guitarists John Doyle and Donal Clancy, and accordionist John Williams joined current members; guitarist Eamon McElholm, vocalist Antie Duvekot, and accordionist Mick McAuley, for the reunion. Philadelphia-based musicians who had played on past Solas albums, including percussionists John Anthony and Michael Aharon, drummer Ben Whitman, and electric bassist Chico Huff also joined the festivities. Several days before the show the band got together to work up material for the concert. According to Seamus Egan, "We worked up twenty-five or twenty-six pieces of music…almost everything that happened at the concert is either on the CD or DVD." The CD has seventeen selections while the DVD's song listing includes sixteen tunes and nine bonus tracks.

Unlike some concert DVDs, which are merely complete concerts, the Solas DVD intercuts live concert performances with interviews of the band members. These brief sections serve as introductions to the songs. Due to the wonders of the DVD medium viewers aren't forced to watch the interviews over and over again. If they prefer, they can go straight to each song via the scene selection menu. Other DVD features include a photo gallery and the nine bonus tracks, some of which were recorded during rehearsals. With a choice of either stereo or a 5.1 channel mix, the DVD offers a distinctly different sonic perspective than the CD. On a well-configured multi-channel home theater system the 5.1 mix opens up the soundstage and allows listeners to hear more of the intricacies of the live sound than on the two-channel tracks.

The picture quality on the DVD is adequate but not outstanding. Close-up shots are sharp enough, but the wide-angle shots of the whole band are noticeably soft. Too bad the concert wasn't shot on the latest HD video cameras. The DVD was shot and formatted for 16:9 displays so owners of older 4:3 TVs will see a "letterboxed" screen area with blank areas above and below the image area.

The CD's track sequencing is radically different than on the DVD, even though the performances are the same. I suspect the disparity stems from the continuity requirements of the film. Fortunately, between the two mediums Solas fans get a complete picture of the whole concert.

Usually live concert releases bore me. Too often the primary sentiment appears to be, "You shoulda' been there." On Reunion – A Decade of Solas you experience the concert event with the same intimacy and sense of personal involvement as the actual concert audience. But in addition to being a faithful document of a live concert this CD also serves as a fine introduction to Solas music. It appeals not only to longtime fans but also to those completely unfamiliar with the Solas catalog. Take it from me; contemporary Celtic music doesn't get any better.




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