WHAT MAKES The Clancy Brothers stand out in the world of show business like the headlight on an engine (to use a phrase that is rapidly becoming obsolete) is that they are artists and they have class.
Although their music rises from the culture and history of Ireland like the early morning mist from a peat bog, you don't have to be Irish or know a thing about Ireland's heroes or its history to dig the Clancys.
That's because they have taken the songs and the stories they grew up with and have lent them the poet's grace and the touch of pure creativity and thus made them part of the world.
They mix the songs with poetry, they sing Dominic Behan and recite James Clarence Mangan and Yeats.
AND THEY are funny. "Imagine," Liam Clancy said Saturday night at the Masonic Memorial where the Clancys filled the hall, "England starting with an Empire and ending with Twiggy!"
They are also real. I am sure they have sung nights when they didn't feel like it, but I'll bet they felt like it before they finished. The pleasure in their own work which they radiate cannot be faked.
The Clancys' audience is growing as it begins to spread out past the folk music fans and the American Irish. They'll be one of the biggest things in television before they're through and I can hear them making hit single records. There are two right now on the charts which the Clancys could have done (and done better, to my way of thinking): "Quinn, The Eskimo" and "Bottle of Wine."
There is no much show biz tinsel and pretense these days, so much phoniness from the stage Irishman on the Merv Griffin show to the fake sincerity and syrupy sentimentality of the Rod MeKuens, that the blast of pure honest emotion, unashamed sentiment, and poetic imagery of The Clancys is a delight.
When I was a good deal younger I spent my money and my time sitting in the balcony for all the performances in New York of the Abbey Players. I never see the Clancys now without wanting to re-stage all those plays and cast them in the central roles. They are literature, history, mythology, all wrapped in one.
Ralph J. Gleason
San Francisco Chronicle