July 31, 2005

Piping in the kitchen

Angus MacColl – Live
Angus MacColl
Keil Croft Music, KCMCD001

Reviewer's rating: 5 gracenotes out of a possible 5

Reviewed by Bob Worrall

Angus MacColl is unquestionably at the top of his form in the recently released Angus MacColl – Live recording. The CD is produced under the Keil Croft Music label and was recorded at a live concert in Oban’s famed McTavish’s Kitchens.

Over the last two decades, Angus has emerged as one of our most successful competitive pipers. In concert, few can rival his ability to captivate an audience. This live recording is a wonderful representation of a musician at the top of his game. Thirteen cuts on the CD rely on a cross section of traditional and contemporary compositions. Traditional 3/4 and 4/4 marches are delivered with the same panache as the more demanding march, strathspey and reel selections.

There are so many wonderful aspects of this recording to share in this review. First of all, the pipe itself is magnificent throughout. All the fun of a live recording is present, from hearing the movement of the player on stage throughout the marches, through to the audience being heard singing along to the Gaelic songs in the last two cuts of the CD. The MacColl magic is evident in the intricacy and rhythmic accuracy of his top hand work in his jig playing. The fluency in his delivery of reels is showcased in four cuts on the CD. Sophisticated phrasing in his 2/4 marches is a hallmark of Angus MacColl’s playing. The recording doesn’t disappoint.

The Irish influence is evident in his choice of jigs. In addition, classic Donald MacLeod compositions work their way into a number of his selections (including one of my favourite contemporary piobaireachds, “The Field of Gold”). I was pleased to hear the inclusion of Iain MacCrimmon’s 6/8 march, “Triumph Street Pipe Band.” Gordon Walker’s “The Fiddlers Rally” is a fitting conclusion to the final selection in the recording.

While listening to Angus MacColl – Live with some piping friends, I was asked what my favourite selection was from the CD. I would have to say that the cut that commences with “The Highland Wedding” and “The Cameronian Rant,” and concludes with “Charlie’s Welcome,” “Pretty Marion” and “Mrs. MacPherson of Inveran” was absolutely stunning. In addition, Angus takes us on a magnificent lyrical musical journey in the six Gaelic songs in cut 12. While these may be my own personal favourites, I can guarantee that this will be a recording that you will play repeatedly in its entirety. A first-rate performance from a master musician.

Bob Worrall was one of the world’s top solo pipers in the 1970s and ’80s, and currently is a judge and teacher of the highest order. He has adjudicated at the World Pipe Band Championships many times, and this year will serve on the judging panel of the Argyllshire Gathering. He lives in Burlington, Ontario, and is a high school teacher by profession.


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