Black 47s Larry Kirwan’s new book, A History of Irish Music, is set to be published this month. The book is described by Larry as “a very subjective history of Irish music as I witnessed & experienced it.” Larry gave me a preview of the book, its a great read – part history of Irish music, part social history and part memoir.
Running a little late with the list but whatever, great music doesn’t go stale. So without further adieu.
The top five:
#1 The Mahones: The Hunger & The Fight (Part 1)
Twenty five years on and more tour miles driven then the rest of the entire Celtic-punk scene combined, The Mahones on The Hunger & The Fight still have the enthusiasm of a band in the studio for the first time (but thankfully the 25 years and many albums under their belt studio experience).
I’ll go out on a limb and say McCarthy has the finest voice in Celtic-punk (and that includes Dave King), maybe Van the Moan threw in a few vocal lessons to boot. Of course a good voice won’t do it alone, the band are tight as f#*k, loud and fast and the songs first class and while still fast and trashy
Pissed and angry but still a party. Its great to have’em back.
Honestly not a bad song over the entire almost hour of music and more then a few that could wake the dead and induce them into jig.
#5 (joint) Black 47: Last Call
Black 47 hung up their green suede shoes in November, 2014 after 25 years of hard jigging and gigging. Two albums were released in 2014; Last Call, their final original album, full of fresh and originals ideas and, Rise Up – The Political Songs, a collection of, well, political songs as a reminder of how good this band was.
Rise Up – Read the full review here
Last Call – Read the full review here
The best of the rest (in no particular order):
The Pourmen: Too Old to Die Young
Finnegan’s Hell: Drunk, Sick And Blue
Craic: Amongst the Mischief and Malarkey
Wages of Sin: Queensbury Rules
Bastard Bearded Irishmen: Rise of the Bastard
The Biblecode Sundays: Live Near Abbey Road (Park Royal)
Bodh’aktan: Against Winds and Tides
Best of ballads and folk:
Irish Whispa: Irish Whispa
The Canny Brothers Band: The Guinness Situation
Hugh Morrison: Scotland is Free
The Fenian Sons: 617
Punk rock shout out
The Hex Bombs: Everything Earned
Greenland Whalefishers: 20 Years Of Waiting (DVD)
And a very special shout out.
Radiators from Space: Sound City Beat
One Last Jig with Black 47
(New York City) – Twenty five years ago, Larry Kirwan sat in Paddy Reilly’s with Chris Byrne and launched a different kind of Irish band, with a sound that drew in not just Irish music, but funk, soul, punk, reggae, folk, and blues, all tinged with Kirwan’s Irish Republican rebel point of view. It was a formula that attracted thousands to their now legendary gigs at Reilly’s (and later Connolly’s) on Saturday nights, and led them to major label deals, festivals like Farm Aid, appearances on Letterman, Conan and the Tonight Show, and a reputation as “the house band of New York City.” Eventually, Byrne moved on to his own musical projects, Joseph Mulvanerty stepped in on the pipes, and but for a few changes, the band lineup of Kirwan, sax player Geoffrey Blythe, trombone and whistle player Fred Parcells, bass player Joseph “Bearclaw” Burcaw, and drummer Thomas Hamlin has stayed more or less in tact over the last decade.
Last Saturday, they put their final coda on it and played their last show at BB King’s in Times Square, and fans and friends from all over came out of the woodwork to send them off. The two and a half hour show featured all of their biggest hits, some fan favorites, and guest appearances for nearly every song. It was an Irish wake for a band that, up until the very end, made every show a scorcher.
The room was absolutely packed. The night kicked off right at 8 with “Green Suede Shoes,” and the band didn’t look back from there. Kirwan was in rare form, telling stories about the early days, relating the inspiration for some of the band’s most popular songs, and beaming with pride as his son Rory joined them on stage for the toasting rap in Fire of Freedom. Other guests like Mary Courtney (“Livin’ in America”) and Christine Ohlman (“Blood Wedding”) added a special touch to the evening. The highlight, for this writer, was seeing Byrne join them one last time for “Walk All the Days.”
As you’d expect, all the big hits were aired out – “Big Fellah,” “Rockin’ the Bronx,” “Fanatic Heart,” “40 Shades of Blue,” and a particularly stirring version of “James Connolly” that had nearly every fist in the room raised. They ended their regular set with “Funky Ceili,” before coming back out for an encore of “Maria’s Wedding,” a medley of “Gloria/I Fought the Law (with Byrne once again coming out to join in, along with longtime tour manager P2, superfan Tom Marlow, and former bass player Rob Graziano),” and an impromptu a capella version of “Happy Trails,” Van Halen style, with Burcaw providing the “bum-bah-dee-dah” a la David Lee Roth; Mulvanerty, Graziano and P2 doing the harmonizing.
While it was bittersweet to think that this was the last time we’d all be together for a Black 47 show, there were very few tears at the end of the night. We all knew we’d been part of an amazing ride with one of the best live bands in rock ‘n’ roll. There’s no doubt they’ll be missed, but as cliché as it sounds, the musical legacy they’ve left behind will be around for a very long time. As the song goes, “That’s the story so far of Black 47.”
Review & photos John Curtin
I didn’t actually need to listen to Rise Up to review it as I know every song on this 15 track complication almost by heart. I did listen as it would be unethical to review an album without listening to it and any excuse to listen to Black 47 is a good one. As you may be aware Black 47 are winding down after a twenty five year run and Rise Up is a parting review of how good this band can be. The 15 tracks are Black 47 at their historical and political finest that run the gauntlet of Irish freedom (The Big Fellah and Bobby Sands MP), to socialist heroes (James Connelly & Jim Larkin), historical (Black 47 and San Patricio Brigade) and the more contemporary (Stars and Stripes, Downtown Baghdad Blues & US of A 2014), taken from right across the bands career from the cassette only EP (Patriot Games – the Dominic “brother of Brendan” Behan classic) through their final album Last Call. My count has Black 47 with 50 or 60 political songs under their belt so I’m surprised Rise Up isn’t at least a double album or box set. I’m sure longtime fans may be wondering their personal favorite is (what no Land of de Valera?) though never the less it’s a great representation of the band and what they are (or were come November) and still more informative, entertaining and affordable then taking a political history class at NYU.
RISE UP – a collection of Black 47s political/historical songs will be released on Sept. 27 at the bands final show at NYCs Connolly’s.
Larry Kirwan has compiled 15 tracks of remastered favorites and rarities recorded over Black 47’s controversial career. From their first recording of Patriot Game two months after forming to their final shot with US OF A 2014 Black 47 show why many have hailed them as America’s primary political band. 78 minutes of white hot rebellion, resistance & redemption!
1. Patriot Game (Behan)
2. Sam Hall
3. James Connolly
5. San Patricio Brigade
6. The Big Fellah
7. For What Its Worth (Stills)
8. Stars and Stripes
9. Bobby Sands MP
10. The Day They Set Jim Larkin Free
11. Bobby Kennedy
12. Downtown Baghdad Blues
13. Black 47
14. Joe Hills Last Will
15. US of A 2014
Sadden that Last Call will be the final album by NYC Irish-rock legends Black 47. If you don’t know it already the band are calling it a day and disbanding this coming November on the 25th anniversary of the bands first gig. Nothing like calling it on your own terms.
Happy that Last Call is a very fine album. It’s got all that makes Black 47 so special – the irrestiable mix of Celtic, Latin and Jazz and the sounds of the five boroughs stitched together on top of a rock’n’roll steel frame. Larry’s lyrics takes us from the hedonistic days of old Culchie Prince and Dublin Days to the US of A of 2014 with often an uncompromising (and sometime unpopular) political stance – Let The People In.
Favorites – The Night The Showbands Died (about the Miami Show Band massacre), the laid back Salsa O’Keefe and the epic Ballad of Brendan Behan.
Thanks guys for all the music and the shows over the years. You’ll be missed.
Black 47’s swansong, Last Call, should by digitally available in the coming week with the physical copies following shortly.
The fill track list as narrated by Larry is as follows:
1. Salsa O’Keefe – We’ve always loved Latin music – so strange that it took us until now to really have a blow at it. No matter, it’s a Bronx story and dedicated to a major influence, Bert Berns, songwriter and producer extraordinaire! How about Mr. Hamlin’s cowbell!
2. Culchie Prince – A memory of a wild weekend in the County Clare shortly before I first left for New York. A “culchie” is anyone unsophisticated enough to be born outside the city of Dublin; while a “brasser” – in my day – was a young working class Dublin lady, unafraid to speak her mind who invariably sported peroxide curls. And oh, those crazy uilleann pipes, Joseph Mulvanerty, blowing like a gale from the Bronx to the Cliffs of Moher.
3. Dublin Days – Everyone I knew lived close to the borderline in Dublin and yet we always found ways to cadge a pint and fall in love. Even today, if I walk from Stephen’s Green to Trinity College I invariably brush against her shadow. This is for every college student who ever spent a semester in Ireland. Go Christine, the Beehive Queen!
4. US of A 2014 – It amazes me how people can be so resistant to fixing a system that will consign their children to second-class citizenship. Profits rise, wages fall, Connolly turns in his grave, and Black 47 is outa here! And the question remains: Who stole the scent from the American rose?
5. The Night The Showbands Died – Fran O’Toole had a voice to die for. There wasn’t a culchie rocker who didn’t adore him. My teenage group opened for The Miami Showband a couple of times; we were awful, Fran couldn’t have been nicer. I had moved to the Lower East Side in 1975 when news of the massacre broke. It seemed unreal, it still does. Fred’s subtle trombone chorale is a tribute unto itself to the great horn players of the showband days.
6. Johnny Comes a’Courtin – Did the Irish invent Reggae? You can hear the lilt of the melodies and the dropped “th’s” all across Marley’s magnificent music. Oliver Cromwell sent his Irish prisoners to the Caribbean islands. They intermarried with the African slaves and formed a new culture. Ms. Oona Roche summonses the spirit of a young 17th Century Irishwoman who has a momentous decision to make.
7. Let The People In – There’s always been a No Nothing Party that wishes to pull the ladder up behind its members. But immigration is the lifeblood of this country and its economic engine. Then again, I lived here illegally for three years, so I’m probably biased. Play that funky bass, Mr. Bearclaw!
8. Lament for John Kuhlman – He was Fred Parcells’ roommate and collaborator. A sax-playing composer with an open heart and a smile for everyone, John was a big unfocused talent. He had demons – who hasn’t? – but that last night we partied with him in LA, it seemed like he had them under control. That’s his hurdy-gurdy opening the track.
9. St. Patrick’s Day – I’ve always seen March 17th as a wild stallion. Once you’re atop its back, you’ve no choice but to hang on and hope for the best. Puritans may want to control it but, in essence, it’s the Irish stating that they have survived, they have arrived, and to hell with inhibition!
10. Queen of Coney Island – I still love it out there on the boardwalk but it used to be a shabby paradise. The music, the lights, the Atlantic, the ladies of the night, innocent and otherwise, I drank it all in through small town eyes like an icy beer on a sweltering day. Shotsie, Legsy, Mr. Ragonese, and Hot Lips, where are you now?
11. Shanty Irish Baby – It’s pretty much vanished, the split between Lace Curtain and Shanty. But late at night when the drinks are flying you can hear its echo, and I always know which side I’m on. What a soprano solo from Mr. Blythe!
12. Ballad of Brendan Behan – We loved him because the straights all hated him – he was a “disgrace to the Irish.” But to us he was a big man in a small country. Was he the first modern victim of fame, or just another drinker with a writing problem? Whatever! He was our Borstal boy and rebel without pause.
13. Hard Times – I never cared for the teary-eyed versions of this song – they just missed the point. Foster was far from the melancholic innocent. Guy survived the Five Points for over three years. He could have gone home. He was just too proud – couldn’t admit defeat. A fitting song for Black 47 to go out on.
As you know Black 47 plan to hang up their Green Suede show in November 2014, exactly 25 years after their first gig. But before then they are planning to record an new album – Last Call. The album is being funded via pledge music – see Larry’s note below on how to get involved.
Join us as we make our final album, Last Call! Get exclusive songs, videos, pictures + more Hi: As you probably know Black 47 will disband in November 2014 exactly 25 years after our first gig. What a long, strange and amazing trip – from the bars of the Bronx to Leno, Letterman and O’Brien. From Paddy Reilly’s Pub to Farm Aid with Neil Young and Johnny Cash.
But none of it would have been possible without you – our friends and fans who stuck with us through thick and thin. As you know, Black 47 has always been more than a band. We’ve fought to get political prisoners out of jail, keep immigrant churches open and be a voice for the voiceless – Irish and otherwise.
We could have run down the clock but instead we decided to record a new album, Last Call. It’s celebratory, full of passion, and audiences are already singing along. It’s got a whole new cast of Black 47 characters, including Salsa O’Keefe, Shotsie Murphy, Legsy Malone, Culchie Prince, Dublin Brasser, Filipino Sister along with a ballad for Brendan Behan and a song for the lost Irish sent as slaves to Jamaica by Oliver Cromwell.
As you can imagine, this will be a very meaningful album for us and we’d love for you to play a part in the making of it! We’ve teamed up with PledgeMusic to make this happen. You can pre-order a copy of Last Call and be well ahead of the general public. There are many more items and experiences listed on the other side of the page that you can pledge for, including an opportunity to sing with us on Shanty Irish Baby, or get a signed copy of the original lyrics. Our initial goal will cover recording costs. Anything raised after that will help with promotion and touring, with 10% going to National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. Note that everyone who pledges will get a digital download of the album once its ready to be released.
Everyone who gets involved will have their name permanently engraved on a Last Call Comrades page at black47.com You’ll also get access to a special ‘pledger only’ part of this site where we’ll share music, pictures and videos from the recording with you. We begin tracking on November 5th and hope to release the album in late January 2014.
Whatever way you care to get involved will be deeply appreciated – just as we’ve valued your support down all the crazy days since 1989. Thanks so much and take care of yourselves, okay? See you at a gig over the next year. All the best.
James Michael Curley the infamous Mayor of Boston when we wanted to ruin someones day he did it early. As too does Black 47s Larry Kirwan with his 6AM email this morning announcing that Black 47 are to hang up their Green Suede Shoes in November 2014 on the 25 anniversary of their 1st gig.
In early November 2014, exactly 25 years after our first gig, Black 47 will disband.
There are no fights, differences over musical policy, or general skulduggery, we remain as good friends as when we first played together. We just have a simple wish to finish up at the top our game after 25 years of relentless touring and, as always, on our own terms. The last gig we played at the South Buffalo Irish Festival was as good as any we’ve ever performed. Our goal now is to play another full year plus and dedicate all of those gigs to you who’ve supported us through thick and thin. Rather than just running out the clock we will be recording “Last Call,” an album of new songs in November and as usual will be working out the material onstage. We would like to say goodbye to you all personally and will make every effort to come play in your city, town, college, pub, club, performing arts center and should you wish to alert your local promoter you can download booking particulars here (PDF 1.92MB).
Black 47 has always been more than a band, we’ve spoken out for the nationalist population in the North of Ireland, against the war but for the troops in Iraq, for our gay brothers & sisters, immigrants, legal and undocumented, as well as for the voiceless of 1845-47; but in the end it all comes down to the music, the songs, and the desire to give audiences the time of their lives and send them home smiling and, perhaps, with a question on their lips. We look forward to seeing you all at the upcoming gigs. Thanks for the support and the memories – lets make many more over the next year.
I’ve said this before have experience putting together compilation albums – it’s not easy. It isn’t a job of slapping a few ol’ track on a disk and pressing. The music and the tracks have to flow and complement each other, so hats off to Black 47’s Larry Kirwan for a fine job. The idea of this compilation is to showcase various bands that Larry has featured on his Celtic Crush show on Sirius XM radio. The comp has a nice mix of Celtic tinged acts – most more radio friendly then the stuff we do at Shite’n’Onions. We have some big mainstream names like Hothouse Flowers, Runrig and The Waterboys with a phenomenal live version of “Savage Earth”. There is Black 47 themselves with Uncle Jim, Shite’n’Onions fav’s Blaggards (no The) with an almost metal version of “The Irish Rover” and a classic blast from the past in Pat McGuire’s, “You’re So Beautiful”. The rest of the album is given to showcase some fine less established banks like Barleyjuice, Celtic Cross, Peatbog Faeries, Garrahan’s Ghost’s and Shilelagh Law.