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Comments for Stivell, Alan, I Douar

At long last a *great* album from Stivell, after a series of interesting, adventurous but not totally convincing projects. 1 Douar is on a par with Stivell''s best from the 1970s, but in the spirit of 90s world music fusion (the only flirting with rock is in an surprising collaboration with Velvet underground''s John Cale. From its scintillating opening track guesting Youssou ''N Dour, to the lush lyrical tones of its last numbers, the album showcases Stivell''s inventiveness both in rhythm and melody, and his sureness of touch in dramatic arrangement. Happily, the harp resounds throughout the album, sometimes in melodic lead, often in rhythmic counterpoint. Beautifully produced (in part by Afro-Celt wizard Simon Emmerson), the new technologies enhance rather than drown the whole. Sampling is intelligent and compelling (the late Goadec sisters are thrilling in La Memoire de L''Humain), and even the wacky Scots Are Right, which could have been Stivell at his ranting embarassing worst, has a playfulness and an experimental deftness that pulls it through. The two elegies (one to the great Breton bard Glenmor) are simply gorgeous. The Irish classic Una Bhan in sean-nos style is set against a hypnotic harp loop, and look out for the majestic crescendo of bagpipe drones that subsides like a wave instead of exploding). Another winner is the wonderful Kan-ha-diskan/Rai fusion sung with Khaled. The political optimism at the heart of the album is matched by the musical exuberance of both Stivell and his distinguished guests. Twenty-five years after promoting the musical adventurism that would become "world music", Stivell proves here that he can still reinvent himself, still surprise and still captivate. This is his best since "Dublin".
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