I give Prodigals one thing. They have guts. Not satisfied with merging traditional Irish music with rock, they throw a bit of funk, progressive, classical, jazz and even klezmer into the mix and redefine the terms adventurous and ambitious in a whole new light. To say they are professional is a vast understatement, for these four individuals have put together a tight ensemble which pushes the envelope at every turn. Just the instrumentation waves a red flag: guitar, bass, percussion and (?) button accordion(?)? The last non-traditional band to use button accordion was…? Help me out here. Was there one?
Not that these guys don't play traditional music. Here and there they do, though in their own style. I Say I Know, for instance, trips along that edge, as do portions of other songs, some even listing "traditional" as source. If they wanted to, I am sure they could pass themselves off as another fine Irish folk act. Like I said, they are professionals. But they prefer controlled mayhem to straight folk and what a thrill it is to hear it.
The CD opens with Ginley's Gravel, a non-typical four part movement interspersing traditional with some of the oddest original music I've heard since Focus, minus yodel. Basic funk bass and drums support funk guitar until that button accordion tosses a bit of folk over the top and you begin to wonder where this is all going. It is solid, but what the…? Enter the bass movement in which Ed Kollar attempts to emulate Dave Edmunds' mad dash at classical during his Love Sculpture days. On to movement three, woven around button accordion and guest Darren Maloney's fine banjo. Movement four is your basic Russian dance in quickstep. You know the one, where they sit on their haunches and kick their legs out and shout "hey!" all the time. A powerful, powerful arrangement and one I would pay good money to see. Put on headphones, crank it up and you'll see hear what I mean.
Don't get me wrong. It's not all prog, though I have to warn you that these guys came to play. The aforementioned I Say I Know claims Irish folk as its base, as does One Morning As I Roved and Song Of Summer. Troubled Day and Feel the Fragrance are good rockers. For the more adventurous, they give us, in addition to Ginley's Gravel, Hear the Voices (which keys on the chorus), the instrumental Music In the Abbey and the piece de resistance of the whole shebang, the unlisted 15th track, Ginley's Chill, a tour de force mix of third world and new age sounds and rhythms with Irish overtones. Listed as "Neil McLellan vs. The Prodigals", it is a futuristic jam which should find accepting ears no matter where your interests in music lie.
Mention should also be made of The Prodigals' teaming with The Klezmatics in a third world coup—New York Lullaby—which melds Irish and Klezmer music and somehow not only makes it work, but makes me laugh. It is something else!
Not everyone will like this, I am sure. To be honest, the first time through I thought this review would be a bit less than positive. I'm very happy that I stuck it out, though, because I have not heard many things along these lines, if I could figure out what lines those are. I will say this, though. I will be first in line for tickets if The Prodigals play my neck of the woods. Bands like this one are rare and, dollars to donuts, they kick ass in concert.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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