TÍR NA NÓG – Love Lost (MIG Music MIG02942 CD)

Love LostOlder readers will remember Sonny Condell and Leo O’Kelly, otherwise Tír na nÓg. For the young folk, Tír na nÓg formed in Dublin in 1969 and were big in the seventies but in a small way. An acoustic duo, Sonny and Leo never followed Tyrannosaurus Rex and Medicine Head into the rock arena and in their original incarnation they recorded three studio albums with a collection of demos, an EP and a fourth album following a reunion in the 80s. Love Lost is the sixth live album to be released, all well after the band’s heyday, recorded in Bremen in 1973 by Radio Bremen who did an awful lot for music back then.

I have to say that Love Lost is a very enjoyable record. Tír na nÓg had a reputation for being musically a bit flaky but their third album, Strong In The Sun, released just after this gig was a more commercial proposition. Imagine the Incredible String Band without Robin Williamson’s rambling epics and the whimsy. Actually, Sonny and Leo headed that way with ‘Bluebottle Stew’ and ‘Love Lost’ but perhaps they tried too hard for the laughs. The body of this album is their serious material, though, opening with Leo’s ‘Lady Ocean’ from their second album and Sonny’s ‘Most Magical’ from their third, a track which proves that they could have gone full-on rock’n’roll had they chosen to – just listen to those harmonies.

At this point Sonny and Leo settle into their task and the performances become, not looser, but just a bit more relaxed. They groove through ‘Teesside’, ‘Cinema’, ‘Strong In The Sun’ and ‘Time Is Like A Promise’ which lie at the heart of the set. There are two covers here. The first is Loudon Wainwright’s ‘Saw Your Name In The Paper’ which they try to do something different with although perhaps Wainwright’s ingrained cynicism does quite suit them. The second is a thunderous version of ‘Free Ride’ which sounds like nothing that Nick Drake could have imagined – quite magnificent.

It’s sad that Tír na nÓg split up when they did and sadder still that Love Lost wasn’t released at the time of recording. It would have been a fitting valediction for a much underrated band.

Dai Jeffries

Label website: www.mig-music.de

‘Time Is Like A Promise’ – live in 1970: