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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Black 47

Bankers and Gangsters

Review by Gary Hill

I’ve always liked Black 47 a lot, but I’ve always considered their Fire of Freedom album to be their best – with nothing else coming close. Well, they have definitely matched it here and perhaps topped. This is a killer album that’s trademark Black 47 and yet it’s new and fresh. I’m sure it will be in my list of best albums of 2010 when this year finishes out. If you’ve liked Black 47 in the past, don’t wait – pick this one up, you’ll love it. If you have yet to sample their particular blend of Celtic rock, then get this thing as a first sampling. Sure, Fire of Freedom has their one hit, but this is every bit as good as that and might be better.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2010  Volume 2 at

Track by Track Review
Long Hot Summer

They open things with a classic horn dominated Black 47 sound. This is a fun track. There’s a bit of a twist thrown into this later with a little, nearly progressive rock, bridge.

Celtic Rocker
A bouncy romp, this is another that’s very fun. It’s got a more straight ahead rock and roller and the lyrics are about a groupie. There is a pure Celtic break that shows up a couple times in this, but a lot of it makes me think of a Black 47 stab at something Bruce Springsteen might do. They give us a little Beatles brand of rock and roll right at the end.
Bankers & Gangsters
Take a pretty typical Black 47 sound and blend in some jazz and power it up into a killer rocker. Now you are in line with this piece. 
Izzy's Irish Rose
Bouncy and more purely Celtic, this is a cool tune. It might not be as strong as some of the other stuff, but the dosage of variety it provides allows it to shine just as brightly. Of course, all that said, a killer klesmer jam later in the track is an unexpected twist – and very cool. 
Wow, now this is exceptional! Take some R&B and some funk. Throw in some progressive rock and some blues. Now you’ve got a good idea of what this sounds like – as long as you remember that it’s Black 47. This is one of my favorite cuts on show here.
That Summer Dress
In many ways this resembles the previous cut. That said it still is unique. It just resides in much the same musical territory. Of course, the other thing it shares is that it’s a highlight of the set.
Red Hugh
They begin this with purely Celtic music and then turn it into an evocative balladic number that gets powered up as it carries on. This is poignant and tasty with some jazz sprinkled in alongside bits of Bob Dylan. Of course, all is delivered in a Black 47 way. 
Wedding Reel
Take a pretty typical Black 47 and blend some country into the mix. Of course, there’s a healthy dosage of punk rock here, too. The wedding in the title here is long past and the magic has certainly worn thin. The interplay between the “husband” and “wife” is priceless.
One Starry Night
Evocative, this is essentially a powerful ballad that gets some fire added to it at points. 
Long Lost Tapes
This is another highlight of the set. It’s Black 47 doing a hard rocking progressive rock song. Yes, I know it’s got some straight ahead segments and isn’t full of crazed changes, but I’d still consider this one to be progressive rock. It’s a great piece in terms of variety and in general. Of course, “the long lost tapes of Hendrix will leave them in the dirt.” Not only do we get a lyrical tribute to Hendrix on this cut – in fact the ghost of Jimi shows up – but they throw some musical nods his way, too.
Although this is a slower cut I’d have to call this one “progressive rock”, too. It’s another great piece of music and has some intriguing musical concepts and some lyrical ones, too. 
The Islands
There’s a bunch of jazz in this, but also a lot of progressive rock. I actually hear some things that make me think of Jon Anderson’s City of Angels album at times. This is slow moving and balladic, but it’s also very tasty. 
Bás In Eireann
The intro to this one makes me think of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Have You Seen The Rain,” of course, delivered in a trademark Black 47 approach. This progression returns here and there throughout the track. The main track includes an extremely catchy hook and some poignant lyrics. It’s classic Black 47. There’s a soulful female vocal on the extended outro that makes me think of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album.
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