It's March 17, better known as St. Patrick's Day. But with pubs closed and pandemic restrictions still in place, we've put together this little playlist of some of our favourite Irish progressive music that you could, were you to feel inclined to, pour yourself a can of ice cold Guinness, or perhaps a nice glass of Jamesons whiskey, put your feet up and enjoy. Either way, we hope you enjoy it, and happy St.Patrick's Day to you, wherever you may be.
Horslips - Dearg Doom
Often unfairly labelled Ireland’s answer to Jethro Tull, simply by means of reaching into folky tradition for inspiration, there was always a more rumbustuous Celtic rock vibe running through much of what the great Dublin sextet conjured up in the studio. Dearg Doom is taken from the band’s excellent 1973 album The Tain, which along with 1976’s The Book Of Invasions, arguably their finest work.
Fruupp - The Perfect Wish
The oddly named Fruupp were a Belfast quartet who recorded four albums for Pye Records’ proggy offshoot label Dawn. The Perfect Wish is taken from 1974’s The Prince Of Heaven’s Eyes, the band’s third album and the last one to feature founding member, keyboard player Stephen Houston, who would leave the band to become a Christian minister. The band split in the face of punk rock, as they were attempting to record a new album. The four Fruupp releases were reissued by Esoteric Records back in 2009, who last year also released Maid In Ireland ~ The Best Of Fruupp.
Mellow Candle - Sheep Season
Fronted by young female vocalists Clodagh Simmonds and Alison O’Donnell who were both at school when their debut single, Feelin’ High was released in 1968. Their only album, Swaddling Songs, appeared in 1972 on the Deram label, from which Sheep Season is taken. Simmonds would later work with Mike Oldfield, for whom she sang Man In The Rain from Tubular Bells III, Jade Warrior and Steve Wilson, whilst O’Donnell has worked mostly in traditional folk music.
Clannad - Sirius
More folk prog than out and out prog, although Clannad are favoured by many prog fans. And no less a source as ProgArchives lists them as prog folk, so we think we can get away with their inclusion here. And guitarist Pol Brennan certainly thought they had enough prog in their material when we interviewed the band a few years ago. Sirius is the bold title track of the band’s tenth album, released in 1987 when they were probably at the very peak of their commercial appeal.
Tír na nÓg - Strong In The Sun
The band name's certainly something of a tongue twister. But this Irish duo of Leo O’Kelly and Sonny Condell are often hailed as one of the very first progressive bands. Strong In The Sun is taken from the band’s third album, also entitled Strong In The Sun. it also featured Procol Harum’s Matthew Fisher on keyboards. Over the years the band supported the likes of Jethro Tull, ELP and The Who and are still to be found gigging today.
God Is An Astronaut - Reverse World
And finally, to prove that Irish progressive music isn’t just a thing of heritage, here are County Wicklow post rockers God Is An Astronaut. This sweeping slice of cinematic beauty is from Origins, the band’s sixth album released in 2013. The band deem all their albums as a sonic “photograph or snapshot of where we are in that moment of time”. That sounds pretty proggy to us, as does this achingly beautiful five minutes of music. The band released their latest album Ghost Tapes #10 in February.
M-Opus - Infinite Within
Taken from the Irish trio M-Opus' 2020 album Origins, which was a narrative piece that includes a cast of actors and guest performers; part rock album, part audio play, part soundtrack, written by composer Jonathan Casey (vocals, bass, keyboards). “I wanted the Origins album to be a cohesive, cinematic piece; a story that was as developed and plot-driven as a movie or novel, with strong, immediate music," says Casey. "So you can rock out to it, chill out with it, or follow the story closely, it’s all there."
And So I Watch You from Afar - A Slow Unfolding Of Wings
The Belfast instrumental post-rock quartet And So I Watch You From Afar last released an album back in 2017, with The Endless Shimmering, from which comes this judderingly atmospheric. They've been regulars in Prog Magazine since they released their self-titled debut album back in 2009, the very same year the magazine launched. We look forward to their next musical move.
Dr. Strangely Strange - Strangely Strange But Oddly Normal
Perhaps a bit more acid folk than prog, it's no surprise that this Dublin trio ended up signing to The Incredible String Band's manager and producer, and mainstay of the whole folk rock movement of the late 60s and early 70s Joe Boyd, who produced the band's 1969 debut album Kip Of The Serenes, from which this is the opening track. Late Thin Lizzy guitarist Gary Moore cropped up on the band's second album, Heavy Petting, after which the band split, although there have been sporadic reunions since.
Fovea Hex - The Golden Sun Rises Upon the World Again
A second appearance on this list for Clodagh Simmonds, who was also in Mellow Candle, and is perhaps best-known to a wider audience as the voice on Far Above The Clouds from Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells III. She also featured on Oldfield's Hergest Ridge, Ommadawn and Amarok albums and Steven Wilson's solo debut Insurgentes. Fovea Hex is an experimental prog outfit who formed in 2005 and have released a string of EPs and the Here Is Where We Used To Sing album. The Golden Sun Rises Upon the World Again isn taken from 2016's The Salt Garden 1 EP, released on Steven Wilson's Headphone Dust label.