CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: CALLINAN-FLYNN – Freedom’s Lament (1972)

The latest in our series of reviews of albums from the past that deserve to be aired again! Freedom’s Lament is an album from the early 1970’s from Callinan-Flynn, a Irish Folk duo that only recorded one album and one single of contemporary Irish Folk that still stands proud today almost fifty years on. 

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I was after a copy of this album for quite a while after reading about it but gave up on hearing how rare it was so I was delighted to come across the album hidden away on the internet and I’ve been obsessed with it ever since. Recorded between sometime between 1971 and 1972, things are a bit vague!, by the duo David Callinan and Mick Flyn and accompanied by drummer Kieran O’Connor and Romey Young on mouth harp. The album was recorded at Chalk Farm Studios , London and came out on the small micro-label Mushroom records (I wonder if this has anything to do with them not remembering when they recorded it) in 1972 and with a tiny circulation of only 200 on vinyl though it was re-issued by by Dolphin Records a couple of years later. So no surprise that it would soon become a highly sought after collectors item with original albums at well over £200 on eBay. A CD version did come out in 1991 on UFO Records with two extra songs that were released in 1972 as the ’72 With The Songs’ single.

Mick Flynn (left) David Callinan (right) perform live on stage at the Roundhouse in London in 1972. (Photo by Fin Costello/Redferns)

The songs on the album are evenly split credit wise with only three covers, rather unusual at the time in Irish Folk music. ‘Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shore’, Moon Coin Reel’ and ‘The Banks Of Newfoundland’ making up the covers. The music itself is played quite simply and is all the more memorable for it. The opening track ‘Puckarees’ is a perfect example with Mick Flynn’s strong but gentle vocal over the drone of the jew’s harp giving it a fairly typical 70’s Folk sound. Later on in the song it takes a turn into traditional Irish that at the time I’m sure would horrified the Folk snobs purists but even now sounds totally contempory. Therein lies part of the problem with the gatekeepers of Irish music. Always unwilling to change and to give those that do their full due. I have often heard trad Irish played better by Celtic-Punk bands than trad bands!

The main accompaniment to the vocals is acoustic guitar though often other instruments do appear, their appearance is often used sparingly and rather on the quiet side. Back in the day Callinan-Flynn would have been lumped together in the ‘Psych Folk’ scene despite not being particularly ‘Psych’ at all! It does have a haunting, melancholy feel at times but the music is far more standard Irish Folk than anything. The album strays away from the Celtic/Irish sound occasionally with ‘Marion’s Song’ a particular highlight but I’m sure songs like the republican ‘Ballad Of Belfast’ would also have upset the Folk music orthodoxy. While songs of 1798 were welcomed any mention of the ongoing war just a 100 odd miles north of Dublin saw the powers of the Irish state come down on performers. At the time ballad bands like the Wolfe Tones and Barleycorn were playing to packed houses both at home, and also over this side of the Irish sea, playing the ‘people’s music’ that was banned from the airwaves and television. Sometimes a simple plea for ‘1 man 1 vote’ in the north of Ireland, as in ‘We Are The People’, would be enough for a song to be banned.

Looking at Freedom’s Lament through modern eyes it’s easy to see it as a ‘rebel’ album but I think it so much more. It played a very important part in the development of Irish Folk music that would lead later onto the Celtic-Rock scene. Radical politics were common place in the 70’s and in fact put what passes for radical politics in this day and age to shame. The war in Ireland was awakening. Civil rights, equal votes and decent jobs and housing were all denied to Catholics in the north and it was inevitable that the new generation of musicians would sing about these things.
Tracks:
01. Puckaree – 5:13
02. Freedom’s Lament – 3:15
03. Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shore – 4:18
04. Moon Coin Reel (Johnson’s Favourite) – 2:16
05. The Old Man And The Flower – 2:32
06. The Banks Of Newfoundland – 4:46
07. Beyond The Pale – 2:40
08. Ballad Of Belfast – 3:53
09. Marion’s Song – 3:33
10. Paddy’s Delight (Tinkers’ Polka) – 2:33
11. London N.W.2 – 2:23
12. Fortune For The Finder – 3:43
13. We Are the People (The Road to Derry Town) – 3:55
14. A Woman Is a Woman – 3:42

Vocals, Guitar [6 String], Harmonica – Dave Callinan * Vocals, Guitar [6 String], Twelve-string Guitar, Flute, Bodhrán, Bongos, Mandolin, Harmonica, Autoharp, Tin Whistle [Penny Whistle] – Mick Flynn * Drums – Kieran O’Connor * Jew’s Harp [Jaw’s Harp] – Romey Young

Design [Cover Design] – Romey Young * Producer, Engineer – Vic Keary

These days David Callinan is is better known as a writer and author with a back catalogue of books ranging from thrillers to children’s books and stories and non-fiction. He began his musical career in The Spalpeens in the boom years of the Irish ballad scene before moving to ‘Celtic Swamp Music’ with Urban Clearway, with whom he toured with the likes of Elton John, Billy Connolly, Fairport Convention and Rod Stewart. A highlight of his musical career was co-writing a Celtic-Rock opera for the Edinburgh Festival. Pucka-Ri starring Pierce Brosnan. After Urban Clearway split, Callinan joined forces with Mick Flynn in the folk-rock singer-songwriter duo Callinan-Flynn. Mick Flynn began his career playing and recording with the Tinkers and is still recording with Mick Flynn & The Rustic Rolls Royces releasing Uisce Beatha three years back.

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David Callinan has said that he was shocked by the relative success of the album seeing as how it had little impact on release.

“I was quite amazed when I found out that an album I made in 1972 has become a surprise underground rare hit and been sought after by fans and collectors all over the world. They are calling it folk-psych (whatever that is). A new wave Irish chanteur, Sean Tyrrell has also recorded some songs I wrote many years ago.
Could be the start of a revival.”

DOWNLOAD FREEDOM’S LAMENT

HERE  HERE

David Callinan Web Site

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