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sung with orchestra (11 songs) or piano (5 songs)
John McCormack sings
: Mother Ireland, Rose of Tralee, Mother Machree, Kathleen Mavourneen
Robert White sings: Come Back to Erin; Danny Boy; Ballynure Ballad; She Moved through the Fair; Bard of Armagh; Molly Malone; 'Tis the Last Rose of Summer
Dennis Day sings: When Irish Eyes; A Shawl of Galway Grey;
Frank Patterson sings: Galway Bay; I'll Take You Home again Kathleen; The Fields of Athenry;
Robert White with National PO/Charles Gerhardt; with Samuel Sanders
John McCormack with orch conducted by Nathaniel Shilkret; Edwin Schneider
RCA BMG 09026 - 63732 - 2 [58.04]


Is it just me or are all market record stalls heaped high with Irish tenor CDs and cassettes. The stock in trade of such discs is sentimentality and the glycerine tear. This is often creamed over Mantovani style. How does this disc shape up?

RCA has the most exalted stable of Irish tenor tapes on which to draw. This is a strength. However the company seem determined not to embarrass us with riches. Just look at the playing time. For a disc like this it should have been stacked high, wide and deep. You could have given us eighty minutes if you had wanted. This is not, however, the end of the debit side of the account.

Robert White with his distressing vocal throb sets the seal on this shamrock-saccharine production. This is connived at in Come Back to Erin by the usually more careful Charles Gerhardt and the National Philharmonic warm from their Great Film Scores series. In the same session (Jan 1979) White also set down Danny Boy, She Moved Through the Fair and The Bard of Armagh. Come ye Back has a dreadful bleat (you may love it - I don't) but Gerhardt's regal orchestration compensates considerably in dewy splendour. The problem is that people are not buying this disc for the orchestral trimmings! In all fairness White is much better in the jaunty rapid nonsense of the Ballynure Ballad and is tolerable in Cockles And Mussels. He is no match for Gerhardt's superbly touching Delian treatment of She Moved Through The Fair where a hushed trance is magically conjured.

Dennis Day recorded in 1945 with a less syrupy orchestral accompaniment is much more satisfactory if you like your Irishry leis'a Bhing Crosby and with a dollop of Hollywood glitz in the strings. Frank Patterson, recorded in 1998, is nasal and seems to strain at some of the higher notes in a way at odds with Galway Bay's sentiments. This comes complete with its own tearful angel choir. He is much better in I'll take you home again Kathleen. Patterson is a fine artist; witness his role in the Anthony Burgess opera Blooms of Dublin. In The Fields Of Anthenry he is good though the arrangement is nowhere near as skilled as Gerhardt's. McCormack's recordings are from 1927 and 1930 and it shows.

I can take sentimentality from American musicals but this is daffy stuff dripping with Guinness and molasses. I would advise against trying this all at one go. Dedicated collectors will already have most of these tracks but if you have a very sweet Celtic tooth and a tolerance for vibrato then this is not a bad place to start though the portions are on the thin side.

Rob Barnett

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