PLANXTY BIOGRAPHY

 
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Album
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After The Break
The Woman I Loved So Well
Prosperous - Christy Moore and Friends

 

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Early Planxty photo

Without Doubt Planxty were the most influential band in the history of Irish traditional music.

In 1972 Planxty was born out of the recording of Christy Moore's second album Prosperous. The core members were Christy, his old school mate Donal Lunny, piper extraordinaire Liam O'Flynn, and Andy Irvine who was a founding member of the groundbreaking Irish group Sweeney's Men in the mid-sixties. The four enjoyed each others company so much during the recording of Prosperous' that they decided to have a go at making it a full-time adventure. They released a highly acclaimed single 'The Cliffs of Dooneen' and were promptly signed to an exclusive recording contract with Polydor Records.

Over the following years the group grew to huge status in Ireland, Britain and throughout Europe, they recorded two other albums in the next two years and then split up, with The Planxty Collection coming out as a good compilation of the first three albums. Personnel changes along the way included Johnny Moynihan replacing Donal Lunny (who left to join another band that never got off the ground although he guested on Cold Blow and the Rainy Night) in July of 1973 and Paul Brady stepping in for Christy Moore in 1974.

The original lineup of Christy, Andy, Liam and Donal reformed Planxty in 1979. They recorded three further albums including After the Break and The Woman I Loved So Well. There were several additions and changes to their lineup most notably the addition of Matt Molloy, flautist from the Bothy Band, and later with The Chieftains.

Others included fiddlers James Kelly and Nollaig Casey on Words & Music, Bill Whelan, later of Riverdance fame, plays keyboards on The Woman I Love So Well as do concertina/fiddle duet Noel Hill and Tony Linnane. In 1981, Planxty performed a Bill Whelan arrangement called Timedance as the intermission piece during the Eurovision song contest, held that year in Ireland, and later released it as a single (and included on Bill's The Seville Suite album released by Tara in 1992. Fourteen years later, Bill Whelan was back doing the intermission piece for another Eurovision Song Contest in Dublin, with a piece called Riverdance that launched the Irish dancing revolution. In 1983, Christy Moore and Donal Lunny left to concentrate on Moving Hearts, with Liam and Andy pursuing solo careers.

For many that was the end of Planxty with each of the four prusing successful recording careers. However the four lads were regularly getting together for private sessions. In October 2003 the band got together in West Clare for a few rehearsals and a low-key gig in Lisdoonvarna. Which inspired them to put the band together for a series of Dublin concerts (and 2 concerts in Ennis, Co. Clare) in 2004. Some of these concerts were filmed by hummingbird productions and a DVD/CD was released in 2004. This was followed by a further series of dates in Dublin, Belfast and London at the end of 2004 and Jan 2005. While further dates are expected there are no details at present.

Planxty – After The Break (Tara CD3001)
"Originally released in 1979, the re-release on CD is given as 1992, but it dropped onto my doormat a few short weeks ago. There's a bit of a mystery here, but I'm not complaining. This was, is and always be one of the classic, defining albums of the folk revival. In those far-off days my experience of Irish Music seemed to be defined by the sweateriness of the Clancy Brothers, the tweediness of the Chieftains and the beardiness of the Dubliners. Great music, great songs, but a bit formulaic and stereotyped. Then along came Planxty and the formulas and stereotypes were blown out of the water. They were just so undeniably groovy, I suppose....
'After The break' celebrates the five-piece, with Matt Molloy's wonderful flute complementing the breathtaking skills of Christy Moore, Donal Lunny, Andy Irvine and Liam O'Flynn. The album consists of five tune sets and five songs, all arranged with impeccable taste and played with unerring flair. It's an impossible job to pick a standout track - as each new piece begins it supplants the previous one as the all-time favourite. Andy and Christy sing out of their skins, Matt and Liam play their socks off and Donal keeps the whole shebang in safe, sure hands.
Nowadays, with Celtic music as an all-conquering globe-spanner, it's difficult to imagine the impact that Planxty had in their day. Listen to 'After The Break' and all becomes clear. Groovy or what?"

Alan Rose - The Living Tradition

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Planxty – After The Break (Tara Records CD3001)
"It might only be a re-issue but what a re-issue. Planxty captured at the very peak of their magnificence with the towering first track ‘The Good Ship Kangaroo’ just for starters. The bouzouki and mandolin interplay from Donal Lunny and Andy Irvine setting the scene for Christy Moore’s sublime vocals topped by Matt Molloy’s flute and Liam O’Flynn’s uilleann pipes – what more could any true devotee of Celtic music require? You couldn’t in my humble opinion for here was a band that paved the way for many imitators but were never (and I do mean never) bettered. The choice of material and the pace set was so spot on that next to their first (‘Black’) album I’d rank this as probably my favourite Planxty recording of all time. With the introduction of Matt’s breathy tones they appeared to shine as an art-house band so finely polished that it made grown men want to weep. I remember at the time I was playing alongside John Bowe at the White Hart in Fulham and everyone in the audience were requesting if we knew tracks from the record so it just goes to show how influential it was. ‘You Rambling Boys Of Pleasure’, ‘The Rambling Siuler’ and ‘The Pursuit Of Farmer Michael Hayes’ are all there plus (if memory serves me right) there is the inclusion of ‘The Bonny Light Horseman’ that never appeared on the original album but featured on a compilation called the High Kings Of Tara. Whatever, the recording is an undisputed classic and should be in every self-respecting folk musicians collection."
Pete Fyfe - Living Tradition

Planxty : "After The Break"
(Colin Irwin review for Melody Maker 15/12/79)

The gravest danger in the resurrection of Planxty was always that, in attempting to recreate the extraordinary verve and majesty of their original incarnation, they neglected natural current instincts and succeeded only in becoming a parody of their former selves. That they managed with ease to avoid this considerable pitfall alone makes this a great record.

Naturally there's no conceivable way that "After The Break" can manage the same impact as their bold debut LP, purely because "Planxty" came first and hit upon a blend that evidently inspired all those involved. If "The Well Below The Valley" and "Cold Blow The Rainy Night" fell short of it (albeit narrowly) then it was because that sharpness and charged sense of restrained dynamics had to a small degree dissipated. On several tracks here notably "The Rambling Suiler", "The Pursuit Of Farmer Michael Hayes", and two sets of reels, it's fully recaptured.

Yet the track that defiantly declares that they are looking ahead and not behind is "Smeceno Horo", a frantic Bulgarian dance tune that's proved so popular on gigs it even merits a "FEATURING SMECENO HORO" sticker on the sleeve. A joker in the pack, it's a complete departure from everything they've done before, even allowing for some of Andy Irvine's flirtations with Eastern European music in the past. Undeniably invigorating and infectious, it's nevertheless my least favourite track on the record, jarring in relation to the rest of the album, but I admire their resolve in tackling it. It comes over much more powerfully live.

The only other real quibbles are that Christy Moore (on "The Good Ship Kangaroo" and Andy Irvine (on "You Rambling Boys Of Pleasure") seem to take the understated vocal style perhaps a shade too far, or maybe the vocals are a fraction too low in the mix. But these really are details - the arrangements around both tracks are superb, the instrumental break tagged on to the end of "The Good Ship Kangaroo", the opening track, stirring memories of "Raggle Taggle Gypsy" and "Tabhair Dum Do Lamh", "The Rambling Suiler", a Scots moral tale of a colonel who dresses up as a beggar and pulls a farmer's daughter, and "The Pursuit Of Farmer Michael Hayes", a geographical guide to Ireland through the eyes of a fleeing murderer, are both vintage Planxty.

Matt Molloy and Liam O'Flynn are at the helm of the instrumental tracks (two sets of reels and one of double-jigs) and two things emerge. One is that Liam O'Flynn has become an even more accomplished piper than he was before, and that Matt Molloy's brief contribution on flute was greater than it actually appeared on stage. His blend with O'Flynn is mesmerising here.

This is of course, an essential album.

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