Planxty as a group have had two periods as a band (with a third on the way). They first formed in 1972 and performed and recorded together until 1974 when the original members, Christy Moore, Andy Irvine, Liam O'Flynn and Donal Lunny, went on to pursue solo projects.
By 1978, Christy had his own band 'The Christy Moore Band', Donal was in The Bothy Band, Liam and Andy was playing solo gigs.
It was Christy who thought that it would a good time to recreate the ''Original Planxty''. Liam and Andy agreed wholeheartedly. Donal also agreed and he was persuaded flute player, Matt Molloy, who was with the Bothy Band at the time to join the band with him.
The band had a new manager in Kevin 'Lofty' Flynn from County Sligo, a man who was responsible for the Ballisodare festival in Sligo which was one of Ireland's top festivals of the time. Kevin put together a hectic touring schedule for the band which started at the Hammersmith Odeon and went on through Britain and Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, Holland and finally, Ireland all this in just an 8 week period.
Planxty – After The Break (Tara Records CD3001)
Planxty : "After The Break"
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.