Lots of you will remember Tommy Makem from his ten years with the Clancy Brothers. Before that he was acting professionally, so it was a long apprenticeship. Now it is really over and in the last two years Tommy Makem, solo star, has taken his rightful place in the front line of Irish International Entertainers.
Platitudes over, let me tell you a few truths about Tommy Makem. He is an odd sort of Irishman. Doesn't drink! It's getting the rest of us a bad name but he just continues to look at the world through clear eyes every morning.
Compounding his insolence, he sings drinking songs whilst stone cold sober. Mind you his nature is such that it makes little difference. Listening to this L.P. you will hear the warmth in his voice, the fire in his blood and the simulated tones of a delighted drinker approaching the pint of no return.
An evening in the company of Tommy, is an evening of songs, stories, anecdotes and good humour. Lately he has taken to putting some of his vast store of personal observations into song form and already he has created a lot of interest in his songs. Happy to sing at the drop of a hat, we got the biggest fedora we could and persuaded him to come to The Harp and Bard in Norwood, Massachusetts. There we gave him his head and he surrounded himself with friends and musicians and took off on an evening of song and story.
That evening is this L.P. We had twenty-two black eyes, four broken necks, two nervous breakdowns and a few shattered egos, before we could finally decide what to leave in. Tommy visits me in the hospital every day and we talk about how I got him to leave in "Come By the Hills" and "The Liar."
Really, I think you'll enjoy this record. The people who filled the Harp and Bard enjoyed it, Tommy enjoyed it. Two dogs walked four miles just to sit outside the door and howl the choruses.
Tommy Makem is musical measles, highly infectious and highly contagious. The only cure is a darkened room, plenty fluid and lots of warmth. They have all those in the Harp and Bard.
This record is some combination. If you don't enjoy it I don't want to be personal, but I think you are a grouch.
ONE MORE RIVER — This children's song is as good a song as any on which to start an album. There's always one more river to cross, one more song to sing.
MAID OF AMSTERDAM — Many wonderful things have come from the sea, not the least being the great songs it has inspired.
MATT HYLAND — This beautiful song is from County Fermanagh, a part of Ireland that is abundantly endowed with good music. The theme is an old one, the rich young lady falling in love with a man "below her station" and being opposed by her parents. However, this one ends happily. I learned the words from Robin Morion's book, "Folksongs sung in Ulster."
GREAT BIG SEA — The Maritime Provinces in Canada are listed among my favourite places and this little song, which comes from there, is so lilting and happy, I find myself singing it all the time.
WALTZING MATILDA — For some time now, this has been a particular favourite of mine and audiences everywhere seem to share my liking for it.
REDMOND O'HANLON — A wonderful Robin Hood type of character from my native South Armagh. He was made a Papal Count for something or other that he did. It was after he was so honoured that he was driven from his lands and began taking money from the rich and giving it to the poor. He was also very opinionated about himself. When he was robbing a coach he would tell the passengers to come out and be robbed by the handsomest man in Ireland.
SLIEVE GALLON BRAES — One of those beautiful haunting songs that once it gets into your head it stays forever.
THE FOX — An evergreen favourite with young and old alike. It's like an old fiddle, the older it gets the sweeter it sounds.
DOWN IN THE VALLEY — Everybody's favourite song at one time or another. Just as good and singable today as when it first graced the world.
BOLD FENIAN MEN — An old song that doesn't get as much singing as it should, nowadays. Not only are the Lyrics good, but the tune is really lovely.
A ROOM FULL OF SONG
There are strange things heard, by man, beast and bird,
From the boys who entertain.
And many a night, if they're feeling right,
You'd hear things that would pickle your brain.
And the big full moon has heard many a tune,
And many a hair-raising word.
But they're in their top gear whenever they hear
They've to go to a club to record.
It happened, you know, not too long ago,
On a night that was moonlit and starred,
I got into my car and I drove very far,
'Til I came to "The Harp and Bard."
There's an atmosphere there, that is pleasant and rare,
You can't beat it wherever you roam,
And the music is good and so is the food,
And the staff make you feel right at home.
When I entered the door there were people galore,
Both upstairs and downstairs the same,
Then the young maitre d' he says unto me,
"Have you booked, sir, and what is your name?"
I told him I had, and he said he was glad,
And he stroked my name out of his book,
Then he showed me downstairs, and he found me a chair,
And my place in the corner I took.
The room was just packed from the front to the back,
And the air was alive with good cheer,
The talk and the joke, 'mid the laughter and smoke,
Made friends out of strangers in here.
As quick as you'd wink, I was furnished a drink,
By some old friends I'd ventured upon,
Did you know Mick O'Brien was a good friend of mine?
And the Corcorans, both Brian and John?
We sat in a row, awaiting the show,
Quite relaxed, we'd no cause for concern,
Everything would go right, for the rest of the night,
In the hands of producer, Gene Byrne.
Then the houselights went down, and there wasn't a sound,
You could hear a pin drop in that pause,
The musicians came on, and each single one,
Was greeted with thund'rous applause.
Then the singing began and there wasn't a man
In the house, but was drifted away,
On the tide of a song, and it drove us along,
Til we thought we could feel the earth sway.
And the audience sang and the rafters they rang,
You could feel every spirit rejoice,
'Til between me and you, by a quarter past two,
We'd exhausted each body and voice.
I've often been told, that it's good for the soul,
To be part of a room full of song.
When the going is rough, and things have been tough,
It helps the old spirit along.
And take it from me, if you buy this LP,
It will help you to banish dull care,
Even when you're alone, you can play it at home,
It's almost as good as bein' there.
Listen for the Rafters are Ringing ("Rafters") and Recorded Live. I suppose these records would be considered companion albums — having identical credits and apparently recorded at the same time. While Rafters is relatively easy to find (it was also reissued – see above), Recorded Live is the hardest to find Tommy Makem album. Strangely enough, in my opinion, Rafters is the far superior album.
The Bard and Columbia (CBS S 64481) releases (of Rafters) are exactly the same expect for the label on the records and the references to the corresponding record company on the jacket. I am assuming the Bard is the original American release and the Columbia release is another example of their retaining the "overseas" distribution rights.
The "Columbia ES 90081" release is not in my collection. This appears to be the Canadian release due to the similar "ES" and catalog number on "Recorded Live".
Conclusion: "Rafters" (Columbia ES 90081) was the first release, in 1972, followed by "Recorded Live" (Columbia ES 90203) in 1973.