Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music
After the lacklustre Unfortunate Cup of Tea, the next album was going to be a watershed for Horslips. In the end, they returned broadly to the formula that had brought them so much acclaim for The Tain and produced a concept album based on Irish mythology and full of great songs based on Irish traditional tunes. And it works just as well as The Tain, having brought them enormous critical acclaim. If anything, they show their amazing musicianship off even more, with Charles O’Connor’s fiddle and mandolin swopping riffs with Johnny Fean’s scything lead guitar and Jim Lockhart’s flute,whistle, pipes and keyboards.
Twelve years after they released their first Merle Haggard box, The Untamed Hawk, Bear Family delivered the sequel, Hag: The Studio Recordings 1969-1976. This picks up where The Untamed Hawk left off, which is more of a musical dividing point than it initially seems. If The Untamed Hawk caught Haggard as he was reaching full flight, Hag captures him in his prime, as every single he released reached the Country Top Ten – often capturing the number one slot – and as he sometimes crossed over into the pop Top 40. Hag was without a doubt the biggest star in country music but the remarkable thing about his reign at the top was that he never played it safe.