Iona — Iona
(Open Sky DVD1, 1990/2003, DVD)
Iona — Live in London
(Open Sky DVD2, 2006, DVD)
by Paul Hightower, Published 2008-01-01
Celtic prog band Iona are back in a big way, not only with their recent studio release, The Circling Hour, but also with two new DVDs. This is a great set both for fans and those new to the band as it documents Iona in their early days as well as up to the present. The first and older of the two DVDs was released in 1990, concurrently with The Book of Kells, Iona's second album. At 30 minutes it's a bit short; it was probably originally intended as a television program. The material switches between the group performing songs from the first two albums before a live audience, and interviews filmed on the island of Iona itself, plus footage of the band tromping around a la Pink Floyd Live at Pompeii. The focus of the interviews is both personal histories with the band, but moreover their personal connection with Iona and the Christian themes behind it. This part of the video may bother some, though given Iona's intense spiritual focus on their early records it's no surprise. The good news is that the musical performances are so good and the scenery of Iona so starkly beautiful that the religious musings of what were then a young and earnest group can be forgiven.
Live in London is literally that: Iona in performance at The University of London in 2004. They play two sets, the first a short unplugged selection that showcases Troy Donnockley's mastery of myriad flutes, pipes, acoustic stringed instruments, etc. as well as the band's folkier, more traditionally "Celtic" flavored music. The other half of DVD number one consists of lengthy interviews with each band member. Besides insights into Joanna Hogg's recent decision to take time off to have two kids, what comes through loud and clear is Iona's collective desire to distance themselves from the ardent Christian philosophizing that was so prevalent in their early albums (and so evident on the earlier DVD). DVD number two is the main concert performance, spanning Iona's entire history, though leaning on selections from their two most recent albums. The camera work is terrific throughout with minimal video effects or distractions (though the cameraman should have realized that Joanna Hogg's huge microphone muffler was covering half of her face at times.) I've always been impressed by this group's musicianship, but seeing them tear through songs like "Woven Cord" and "Castlerigg/Reels" is something to behold and sure to convert anyone into an instant fan. This is aided by a gloriously clean and full 5.1 Dolby stereo mix that gets you surprisingly close to the music. It's great to have Iona back in service and with this set of DVDs now everyone can get an idea of what all the fuss is about. If only they'd come play the States...
Ginger Baker RIP – Legendary English drummer Ginger Baker has died at the age of 80. After coming to fame with Cream in the 60s alongside Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce, he became one of the most recognized and influential drummers of the rock era. On September 25, his family announced that he was critically ill, and on October 6 his death was confirmed. » Read more
Alex's Hand Seeks Spa Treatment – American / European band Alex's Hand has a new album in the works called Hungarian Spa, which looks to be their biggest and best yet, featuring a large roster of guest musicians. They're seeking funding to take the project on the road, and are looking for help from the crowd of wisdom. » Read more
Legendary Co-Founder of The 13th Floor Elevators Passes Away at Age 71 – Sadly, Roky Erickson passed away on May 31, 2019. Known as the father of psychedelic music and co-founder of the ground breaking 13th Floor Elevators, Roky had a profound influence on music from the 60s to today. Plagued by his own personal demons, Roky had a difficult life and is now free of these burdens. » Read more
Help MoonJune Bring Great Music to Life – Like many music lovers around the world, we’ve been thrilled and amazed to hear the recordings that have been released by MoonJune from sessions at La Casa Murada in Spain. Such label stalwarts as Mark Wingfield, Markus Reuter, Asaf Sirkis, Tony Levin, Dusan Jevtovic, Vasil Hadzimanov, and many more have gathered in various combinations at the studio to produce some of the most creative music in recent years. Now, label head Leonardo Pavkovic is offering a compilation, La Casa Murada - MoonJune Sessions, Volume One, as a fundraiser for upcoming sessions. » Read more
The Pineapple Thief to Tour North America – November and December of 2019 will see The Pineapple Thief bringing their music to Canada, Mexico, and the US, and famed drummer Gavin Harrison will be on board. The band has been touring extensively in Europe, but North America will be new territory for them. » Read more