(RCA/BMG, 1998)

Clannad's Grammy Award-winning album Landmarks consists of 10 original tracks, all of which contain the distinctive sound the group has become known for. Written in both English and Irish, with a couple of instrumental pieces included as well, the songs retain the traditional flavour of Clannad while moving the group forward. The Grammy was in the category "Best New Age Album," which is an indication of the direction the band chose to take with this recording.

The album, aside from having several Irish-language songs and some traditional instruments, has very little tying it to Irish traditional music. The overall sound is much more ethereal than some of their previous albums, and a bit more contemporary, making broad use of electric instruments and with the saxophone popping up periodically. It definitely lives up to its new age label.

The songs are a mix of knock-you-over wonderful and "hmm, I've forgotten what that one is like" bland. An example of wonderful is "A Mhuirnin O," by Ciaran and Maire Brennan, with a fantastic beat, strong vocals, great harmony and a lot of attitude. "The Bridge of Tears" by Noel Duggan draws heavily on the new age aspect, but masterfully combines English and Irish lyrics. Maire Brennan's "Let Me See" and Ciaran Brennan's "An Gleann" and "Autumn Leaves Are Falling" are also in the wonderful pile.

The songs in the bland pile are just that, bland. They sound very similar to each other and don't have much of a base to ground them in. They flow by, creating nice background music, but without much to sink your teeth into.

One hates to say anything bad about Clannad, after all the great things they have done for the Irish language and Irish music. However, the saxophone is horrid! A perfectly beautiful song will be made completely unbearable by this instrument of torture wailing away in the background! Of course, if you don't harbour such resentments against saxophones you will probably enjoy it more.

Two other small complaints are that sometimes the music gets fairly airy and the beautiful vocals are lost. The other is that there are no translations from the Irish in the liner notes. Handy if you already know the language or if you are a student of it. A bit of a pain if you aren't, because you are left entirely in the dark as not even the titles are translated.

A combination of styles and tempos, this album definitely has its high and low points. There are other Clannad albums I enjoy more overall, but Landmarks' high points make it a worthwhile investment.

- Rambles
written by Jean Emma Price
published 26 June 2004

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