Great Big Sea

Great Big Sea

Zoe Records, 2004

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


This CD should be subtitled "Portraits Of The Artists As Severely Young Men."

Zoe's re-release of Canadian folk/Celt/rock outfit Great Big Sea (hereafter known as GBS) comes hard on the heels of successful CD releases and tours, and completes GBS's catalog's release in America. While for completists it's nice to finally be able to get our hands on my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Great Big Sea without having to pay ruinous import prices, this is, to be honest, the weakest of the band's CDs.

Originally recorded in 1993, Great Big Sea is where GBS was finding their identities and voices. The song choice is still a little awkward - there's more traditional songs than they would ever do again, and to be honest only "Excursion 'Round The Bay" remains a classic, still performed in some of their live shows -- and the production is at best adequate. However, the energy is as bright and insistent as later CDs, and frankly there are times when this CD is downright fun in a raw sort of way.

The highlights remain the original songs. "Someday Soon", while perhaps being a little naïve, is a sweet, straightforward commentary on dishonest politicians and broken promises. "What Are You At?" is a rollicking, delightful paean to how good it can be in a strange town to hear a hometown accent. "The Fisherman's Lament", with lyrics written by Sean McCann's father Edward, is a 'death of the fishing industry' song, somewhat reminiscent of Billy Joel's "Downeaster Alexa", that is heartbreaking. Among the traditional songs, only the aforementioned "Excursion" and a driving, fierce "Drunken Sailor" stand out. The other traditional tracks aren't bad, and if this weren't a GBS CD I'd probably be kinder to them. Nevertheless, if I wanted to hear Ye Olde Generic Celtic Fiddle Music I could go down to that mood music display in my local Target and press the buttons that aren't already broken.

In the long run, Great Big Sea would become one of the greatest Celtic bands of all time, and even this early in their career there are flashes of greatness. Great Big Sea is worth it, if only for the historical reference point.

Rating: B-

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© 2005 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Zoe Records, and is used for informational purposes only.