CELTUS are quite simply the best band Ireland has ever produced.
Forget U2, The Corrs, Them or any group of any genre – this trio from County Donegal are head and shoulders above them all.
After two brilliant albums their record label, Sony, dropped them just before Christmas – a decision they will live to regret.
Undeterred Celtus have recorded a third album, Rooted, and they have distributed it on their current tour which came to The Stables on Sunday.
I first discovered Celtus when they supported Paul Carrick at Woughton a few years ago. I was impressed then.
This time they were headlining at a packed Wavendon venue and were out of this world.
If some of the audience were not sure what to expect, brothers Pat and John McManus, plus new keyboard player, Dan Axtell (who’s actually from London), had them eating out of their hands by the third number.
Celtus have been likened to a cross between Pink Floyd and Clannad.
Throw in Mike Oldfield influences, together with traditional Irish music, and you’ll get an idea what they might sound like.
But be prepared for the unexpected with Celtus. The Stables set comprised songs from all three albums and showed the depth of their musical range.
Sitting in a high place, the darkness of night passes slowly to a dawn of eager glow. Beneath lie the souls of the loved and the lost. It’s a time of reflection and remembrance; the energy is so strong here that you feel it could ignite the spark to fuel the light of the dawning day.
Moonchild was born out of Tommy’s love, a musical journey through the inner struggle of the joy and celebration of life and the darker places where no exits lead to the reasons why. Moonchild is an uplifting and moving experience that will heal the darkest of hearts.
From this high place you view the gathering armies on the plain below, each with its banner and cause. The air is still and the faces of past and present people’s flash before your eyes. Possessed with the knowledge of all that has passed before, you stare in disbelief. As two worlds collide you shout “I am wide awake, I’m not sleeping”. For a moment time stands still, and the ground beneath you groans “If you believe in peace it will heal the deepest of wounds”. You turn to leave this place to make the steep descent into the valley below with a single thought in your mind ” I have never lost my faith in you”. When you reach the valley below you are met with a single reflection – a Portrait of yourself.
The Folkmaster, Folking.com, 12th March 2000
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It’s a great achievement finally knowing you’ve got there. Celtus have paid their dues and they deserve it.
The band have supported Paul Carrack of Mike and the Mechanics fame, Deacon Blue and Jimmy Nail. It was about time it was their turn.
Each Merseyside gig has shown a professionalism that needed to be rewarded one day for its consistent high standards.
Liverpool audiences are renowned for sticking with support acts and it was a nice touch that Peter Smith of Liverpool band The Flame had a healthy house backing him on him acoustic set.
Celtus came on to blazing glory in a swirling Irish mist, John and Pat McManus and their keyboard man, Dan.
The great thing about this band from Northern Ireland is that they don’t compromise.
Their track record encompasses genres as tight as Crowded House and early Genesis. But Celtus are pure and simple – songs lyrical, whimsical and listenable.
Touch You, their last single, is a loving tribute to a love-gone-wrong scenario on stage. It’s followed by singer John who picks and chooses his pipes like an artist dabbing his next canvas for the next story.
Celtus sing and play from the heart on every song from the albums Moonchild and Portrait where the emotive delivery shines, especially on the epic Cathedral.
Their new album Rooted was given due prominence; the nautically nice song Navigator illustrating at last that the good ship Celtus has come in.
Pat, John & Tommy McManus grew up on a family farm near Enniskillen, in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. The parents, Valerie and John have a history steeped in music. John McManus senior, a fiddle, sax and guitar player and Valerie as a singer, are both respected to this day. They passed their musical talents on to their six children, three girls and three boys. The music was Irish traditional music, and the parents and children toured as a band together, playing gigs all across Ireland.
Pat was drawn to fiddle and guitar and John to whistle, bodhran (Irish drum) and uilleann pipes. Pat made his first TV outing aged seven, going on to become All-Ireland Champion (on fiddle) by the time he was fourteen.
At the age of eight, John notched-up his debut TV appearance with Matt Molloy of The Chieftains, also achieving successive victories at the All-Ulster Championship (on tin whistle) between the ages of seven and twelve.
Tommy was first diagnosed with leukemia at nine years old. His love of music and strong determined will, baffled doctors with his complete recovery. Tom got his first proper drum kit, as a Christmas present aged ten, as his talents for beating out rhythms on the kitchen stools became recognised.
Things began to change in 1978 when Pat, John and Tommy became huge fans of a celtic rock band called Horslips. So much so, they put their fiddles and pipes down and formed their own rock band called Pulse. Pat on guitar, John on bass and vocals and Tommy on drums. The boys followed Horslips around attending nearly every show possible and became good friends with them. Barry Devlin, (Horslips bass player) heard through the grapevine that the young brothers had their own band and were very good. Barry decided to visit the kids at their home to hear them rehearse. He was so impressed he immediately offered them the support slot on Horslips next tour in Ireland in 1979 – which for the boys, was a dream come true, and that was the beginning..
Tony Prince, a DJ at Radio Luxembourg, suggested the name Mama’s Boys, because of their youth and naivety as Tommy was only 13 at the time. What started out as a joke stuck – and the Mama’s Boys monicker became official.
Mama’s Boys gigged extensively around Ireland, and recorded their first (self-funded) album THE OFFICIAL BOOTLEG in 1980 in only 4 hours! Building up a fan base they were invited to support Hawkwind in the UK in 1981.
The second self-financed album PLUG IT IN was recorded in a week in 1982 leading to the UK support slot for Wishbone Ash and headlining dates in Switzerland. The single ‘Needle In The Groove’ led to radio airplay, giving them their first hit in Ireland.
In 1983 they recorded their third album TURN IT UP and their popularity was growing fast. The big break came when Phil Lynott asked them to support on the Thin Lizzy Farewell Tour of Ireland, UK and Scandinavia. They were then subsequently offered a slot at the Reading festival where they were seen by Jive Records – and signed a world-wide record deal.
The first album on Jive titled MAMA’S BOYS was released in 1984. It was a compilation of the first two self-financed albums with 3 new tracks. One was a cover version of Slade’s ‘Mama Weer All Crazee Now’ and another, a cover of ‘If The Kids Are United’ by Sham 69
Jive licenced the album through Arista Records for release in the US and Canada and this led to extensive airplay creating positive media exposure globally. The boys toured to promote the album which included supporting the Scorpions in France and the UK.
Next was the band’s first trip was America. The single ‘Mama Weer All Crazee Now’ was generating American radio airplay. The boys made their first video for the song which attained heavy rotation on MTV. First US dates were as support to Ratt and Rush and some further headlining shows in Canada.
POWER & PASSION was recorded in 1985 and while touring in Ireland, they heard the good news the album had gone into the Billboard Top 100 in the States. They returned to the US to tour again with Ratt and Bon Jovi.
During the US tour, they flew to England to play the Knebworth festival with Deep Purple and flew straight back to New York. From there they went to Japan to play with Foreigner and Sting and back to Ireland for a week off.
Tommy had been feeling tired and unwell and it was discovered he had a relapse to the leukemia he had miraculously survived as a child. The band had to finish the POWER & PASSION tour in Europe, and were forced to find a replacement drummer to dep for Tommy. In came the American Jimmy DeGrasso, who later joined a band called Y&T. Pat and John were in constant contact with Tommy, who convinced them he was recovering well and would be fit and healthy enough to finish the tour which concluded in Ireland. This proved to be a bad decision, as Tommy was rushed back to hospital, suffering from another relapse as well as from dehydration.
It was to be two years before the next album release. Jive Records decided as a new marketing ploy, to bring in a more commercial sounding session singer by the name of Keith Murrell. In 1987 GROWING UP THE HARD WAY was released and the now 4-piece band toured Ireland, UK and Europe. Although Tommy, had recovered completely, the band lost impetus and most hard core fans objected strongly to this drastic change in the line-up. In 1988, the Jive contract was not renewed. Keith Murrell was last seen as a backing singer for Cliff Richard.
1989 brought new management and the brothers moved to the UK. Singer Mike Wilson (who was previously signed to Led Zeppelin’s management) joined the brothers giving the sound a harder edge. Dates in Ireland and Europe saw them back on the road, and the fan base expanded rapidly. In 1991 a live album titled ‘Live Tonite’ was released on CTM Records and over 100 concerts in Europe were completed.
1992 the studio album RELATIVITY was released on CTM which received critical acclaim, but unfortunately, it was to be their last. Tommy became ill again on tour in Italy in 1993 and forced the band to cancel all bookings. After extensive treatment, the doctors felt a bone marrow transplant would be the only sensible solution while he was still young. It was almost a year before a match was found and the transplant went ahead. Sadly, Tommy did not survive and passed away aged twenty eight in London in November 1994.
This left Pat and John completely crushed and devastated. Both could not see themselves ever playing music again – and didn’t for a full year..
On the first anniversary of Tommy’s death, John picked up the low whistle and composed the instrumental track ‘Brother’s Lament’ in memory of Tommy. He played it to Pat who loved it and they started to play some Irish music purely for fun. But, ideas started to formulate for songs, which caught the attention of Muff Winwood and in 1996 they signed a new record deal with Sony and CELTUS was born.
MAMA’S BOYS Discography…
Original 3-piece rock band, brothers Pat, John & Tommy McManus:
Year Releases Label:
1982 PLUG IT IN Self-financed/Albion
1983 TURN IT UP Self-financed
1984 MAMA’S BOYS Jive Records
1985 POWER AND PASSION Jive Records
With the addition of new session singer Keith Murrell:
1987 GROWING UP THE HARD WAY Jive Records
With the addition of new vocalist Mike Wilson:
1991 LIVE TONITE CTM Records
1992 RELATIVITY CTM Records
Original 3-piece rock band, brothers Pat, John & Tommy McManus:
2000 THE COLLECTION (re-release) Connoisseur Collection
Folking.com are fortunate to have several of the above original Mama’s Boys albums for sale (CD and Tape). If you are interested in finding out more then please email email@example.com for more information.
1983 – Thin Lizzy – Ireland, UK, Scandinavia. Mama’s Boys – Reading festival
1984 – Scorpions – France, UK. Ratt & Rush – USA. Mama’s Boys headline – Canada.
1985 – Ratt & Bon Jovi – USA & Canada. Foreigner & Dio – Japan.
1986 – Gary Moore – Germany & Scandinavia. Marillion, Jethro Tull, Status Quo, at various festivals. Mama’s boys headline – Ireland, UK, France, Switzerland, Holland, Scandinavia.
1988 – Mama’s Boys headline – Ireland, UK, Germany, Switzerland, France.
1989 – Mama’s Boys headline – Ireland, UK.
1990 – Mama’s Boys headline – Austria, Switzerland, UK.
1991 – Mama’s Boys headline – UK, France, Switzerland, Germany.