Friday, May 11, 2012

Peace in Ulster - Back Up The Antrim Road

I have recently finished Greil Marcus' short but extremely interesting 2010 overview of the music of Van Morrison which incorporates a cross-section of analysis of early Them tracks through to the classic live version of Caravan at The Band's The Last Waltz, an especially insightful commentary upon 1991's Take Me Back and on to The Healing Game album of 1997. 

Three tracks from Astral Weeks are also considered in detail - this standing as Morrison's classic reflection on time, space, loss, remembrance and closure and whose release at the commencement of the Ulster Troubles underscores the ethereal and haunted mood of introspection and insight grounded on the physical geography of a now fragmented Belfast City.

I mentioned some posts ago how the digital revolution has not only radically and irreversibly broken down the perameters of information and opinion dissemination - and particularly interview or lecture material from those regarded today as renegade political figures such as George Galloway or Nigel Farage - but has also opened unique pathways to fond or conversely pained remembrance of times past as alike the core underpinnings of Astral Weeks itself.

That dynamic certainly not having let up in the past week when I have come across the wonderful bubblegum soul of Liberia's finest The Soulful Dynamics and their Mademoiselle Ninette of 1970 through to the utterly extraordinary flamenco glam of Carmen's Bulerias as performed on David Bowie's 1973 The Midnight Special television feature. Carmen, along with Ireland's Horslips, being surely one of the most underrated groups in popular music history.

However nothing prepared me for discovering the Ulster Television start-up music from the Seventies and early Eighties and thus hearing The Antrim Road for the first time in perhaps three decades - a wonderful piece whose moods range from mischievous Celtic shadows to sweeping John Ford western panoramas.

This particular introduction is regarded as one of the finest of its ilk be to used across the Independent Television Authority at the time and commenced in 1971 when Northern Ireland society descended from chronic civil unrest to borderline civil war. The Antrim Road itself was the residential area where the Jewish community settled in the early to middle point of the last century - as noted in an earlier post - and was a very troubled and violent district in its urban stretches adjacent to Belfast city centre during the course of the conflict.

A fleeting two and a half minutes of mere commercial continuity in esscence - as composed by Wayne Hill and Earl Ward and featured on the De Wolf LP The British Isles - but yet music which immediately recalls both lost constructs of community and place alongside reflections of a people of humour, bravery and character.

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