Mary Black,
(Dara, 1984)

Mary Black's second solo album, Collected, is a selection of songs from various sources sung in Black's highly recognisable voice. A combination of five traditional and five original pieces, many of the original songs have the same tone as the traditional, making the whole very cohesive. Black's strong, pure vocals are the most prominent feature of the album, though the arrangements bring forth the best of the musicians.

The beautiful "Song For Ireland" starts the album on a fantastic footing. The liner notes, though, are very mysterious and the first mystery appears here. This CD has a copyright date of 1984, but this track is listed as the 1988 version. I can come up with several fairly logical explanations for this that I won't go into now, but I do still find it mysterious. Mystery No. 2 becomes quickly apparent upon noticing that the remaining nine tracks are all followed by a virtually incomprehensible system of asterisk labeling. The varying number of asterisks refer to equally mysterious explanations at the bottom. Add to this the fact that there are actually two different releases of this CD with slightly different track lists and you are in for one confusing time trying to figure out where songs came from. My advice: ignore the liner notes, as they will only cause you grief and confusion. Instead, listen to the CD, because bewildering liner notes notwithstanding, it is wonderful.

The album is softer sounding than her first solo recording and is much more traditional than many of her other albums. "Song for Ireland," though an original piece by Phil Colclough, fits in with the traditional sound. Many of Black's renditions of the songs would stand up beside versions from some of the greatest traditional Irish singers, both male and female. "Fare Thee Well My Own True Love," "Live Not Where I Love" and "Isle of St. Helena" are beautifully arranged with traditional instruments backing Black's amazing vocals. "She Moves Through the Fair" gets a bit of a new working as it includes a sitar and a Middle Eastern-sounding bridge.

"Hard Times," "Both Sides the Tweed" and "Men of Worth" are also fantastic, both in arrangement and vocals. "My Youngest Son Came Home Today" is a lament for a son killed in battle and is especially heartwrenching now, with the many conflicts and tragic casualties.

The recording also contains the only Irish language song I have ever heard Black perform. "Mo Ghile Mear" has minimal accompaniment and Black's voice is very pure. It makes me wonder why she doesn't sing in Irish more often as she is very talented at it.

The album is extremely beautiful and evocative. Black has done a wonderful job of breathing new life into some old songs, while maintaining their distinctive sounds and messages. As she isn't known for her traditional singing, preferring to sing more modern songs, this album is even more stunning due to the unique repertoire. It is a soft, yet passionate album deserving of repeated listening.

- Rambles
written by Jean Emma Price
published 17 July 2004

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