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BMG Music presents
The Chieftains: The Long Black Veil (2000)

"They play authentic music, Celtic music, and they're nice guys as well. But the way they do it is the key."
- Tom Jones

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: September 20, 2000

Stars: Paddy Molony, Derek Bell, Matt Malloy, Kevin Conneff, Martin Fay, Sean Keáne
Other Stars: Sting, Ry Cooder, Mark Knopfler, Sinéad O'Connor, Marianne Faithfull, Tom Jones
Director: Maurice Linnane

Manufacturer: Sonopress USA
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 00h:45m:48s
Release Date: August 15, 2000
UPC: 090266819294
Genre: celtic

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

With the resurgence of interest in Celtic and international folk music, it is nice to visit with a group who has been recording and performing in the genre for decades. For over 37 years Paddy Molony has led the troupe of traditional Irish musicians under the name The Chieftains. He started the band in 1963 with fellow founder Martin Fay, recording the first Chieftains album as a one off project. Fourteen years and 8 albums later (excluding tracks used on the Barry Lyndon soundtrack), the band emerged in its current lineup in 1979 for their ninth album, Boil The Breakfast Early. The following years would see the band on tour and recording albums with people such as Van Morrison, James Galway and acting as guests on scores of other artists recordings. In 1995, Paddy decided it was time to turn the situation around and invite friends to record on a Chieftains album, which was how the concept for The Long Black Veil came about. This DVD is a documentary on the recording of that album, and features interview and performance footage from the studios where the album was recorded.

The heart of The Chieftains' sound is traditional Irish music. Harpist Derek Bell (also tiompán and keyboards, who joined the group for their fourth album in 1973) notes his dislike of the recording process, feeling it takes the life out of the music. Thus, a Chieftains recording session assembles the whole ensemble and captures the performance live, unlike most modern recordings where parts are added one at a time. The Chieftains play real, old world instruments: uilleann pipes, fiddle, harp, bohdrán, tin whistle and flute, and are joined on this album by a collection of popular musicians, starting off with Sting, who joins them in the traditional Gaelic piece Mo Ghile Mear (Our Hero), partially translated into English for this arrangement. Live studio footage is intercut with interviews and rehearsal tape, as we learn the story of the how the song and collaboration took place. As the instrumental Dunmore Lassies continues the music, we visit each of the Chieftains (Paddy Molony - uilleann pipes, tin whistle, Derek Bell, Matt Malloy - flute, Kevin Conneff - bodhrán, vocals, Martin Fay - fiddle and Sean Keáne - fiddle) in brief interview clips, which will continue to tell the story of how the album came about, and some of the history and philosophy of the Chieftains. Legendary guitarist Ry Cooder then joins in, for the recording of Coast Of Malobar, followed by The Lily of the West featuring Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler. Following He Moved Through the Fair, we join Sinéad O'Connor for a rendition of The Foggy Dew, and Marianne Faithfull lends her voice to Love Is Teasin'. We then cross the Atlantic to Frank Sinatra's studio, where his sons interview Tom Jones about his track on the album, Tennesee Waltz (which also inspired Paddy to pen The Tennesse Mazurka which follows). The Long Black Veil plays under the closing credits.

The documentary style of the disc gives a great insight into the world's foremost Celtic band. We hear from the individual members as the story of the album unfolds, and though we don't get any complete performances, we do see the album being recorded in a collection of studios. The guest artists also add their comments as we visit their pieces. Overall a very good introduction to this long working band.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The only trouble with this disc is the amount of grain present in a majority of the scenes. This wasn't filmed under ideal conditions, so the lighting tends towards yellow in several places, and is sometimes quite dark an undefined. Interview footage is fine, but location shots suffer from excess grain noise, that does not look wholly natural.

Image Transfer Grade: C-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The audio on the other hand is very good. The long drums and bohdrán will keep your subwoofer happy. While there is some ambient noise on the location footage, the sound portion of the disc is quite acceptable. As expected the 2.0 stereo track is not as impressive sounding as the 5.1 track.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Music/Song Access with 10 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Discography
Extras Review: Aside from a web link page and the usual setup features, we get a catalogue of Chieftains recordings, though not a complete one. These are album cover shots with their corresponding catalogue numbers, accessed a title at a time. Menus are full motion and feature background music from the album.

Extras Grade: C


Final Comments

Though the video quality is really lacking on the location footage, the content of the interview footage makes this a very nice retrospective of The Long Black Veil, and would make a good introduction to the group as well. We have the words from members of one of the oldest traditional Irish bands, who with any luck will be performing for years to come. Recommended for those who enjoy this style of music, or anyone interested in a look at a legendary musical group who have survived three decades in the industry.


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