Exposé Online banner

Iona — Journey into the Morn
(ALD 050, 1995, CD)

by Peter Thelen, 1996-08-01:

Journey into the Morn Cover art

Released quietly at the end of last year, this seems to be the album that will earn Iona the recognition and following they have long deserved. This is clearly their strongest effort yet, touching all the bases from their previous releases, but with more surefooted self-confidence and dynamic strength. Led by the powerful voice of Joanne Hogg, and powered by a five-piece band playing numerous instruments plus guests, the uninitiated should know that Iona play what might be called Celtic Rock, similar in texture to Clannad, but with an adventurous edge. Similarities could also be drawn with Sandy Denny period Fairport, and even Heart in their better, more introspective moments, yet the whole intensity level is ratcheted up several notches here. The album begins with a short Gaelic tune, followed by three relatively accessible tracks. After "Everything Changes," the album quickly ascends into prog territory: longer, involved excursions with non-traditional structures, and traditional folk instrumentation: the tin whistles, Uillean pipes, violin, and hand drums integrated seamlessly into the sound of the rock ensemble. Blazing rock power surges punctuate the more gentle ethereal vocal passages on "Encircling" and "Inside My Heart," with fortified melodics carrying the moment on "Lindisfarne." They back down a bit with the more pop-styled "No Heart Beats," but quickly turn it around again for the remainder, with the instrumental "Heaven's Bright Sun" being perhaps the album's high point. Fripp adds his frippertronic touch as guest on a couple tracks. Overall, this is uplifting, powerful music that engages the soul. My highest recommendation.


by Rob Walker, 1996-08-01:

While this is for the most part an unabashedly pop-styled album, it also happens to be a solid, captivating, and thoroughly enjoyable listen. Similar to Clannad at times, Iona's music is a lush and energetic Celtic pop, with strong nods to both traditional Irish sounds as well as various contemporary pop styles. Carried by Joanne Hogg's enchanting voice, the songs have that air of majesty and melancholy that is uniquely Irish. The melodies are catchy and original and the instrumental accompaniment sophisticated, with some excellent acoustic guitar work and traditional tin whistles and Uilleann pipes mingling skillfully with the standard pop sounds. But the high points by far are the numerous finely executed instrumental features with powerful symphonic textures maneuvering through some surprise turns and supporting fluid leads and aggressive guitar solos from Dave Bainbridge. Also notable are guest appearances by Robert Fripp and Clannad's Maire Brennan. Though nominally a pop album, Journey into the Morn is a truly excellent recording by any standard and possesses an impressive amount of musical wealth and progressive ideas, all wrapped up within the grandious Celtic spirit. Strongly recommended, if you're not afraid of good pop music.


by Mike McLatchey, 1996-08-01:

The first 15 minutes of this album (except the two-minute opener) give the listener no idea of what is to come. If you judge an album based on a cursory listen of the first few songs , this one would certainly have thrown you for a loop. By track 4, "Everything Changes," I was wondering what the hell I was even reviewing this for as the practically soul/pop drumbeat was way too radio friendly for these ears. After the Clannad (well, Maire Brennan makes an appearance)/Kate Bush/Fleetwood Mac styled pop songs at the beginning I was fairly disillusioned. But bam just as I thought the cause was lost up comes "Inside My Heart" and a completely tremendous guitar solo. I was floored by this point and as it faded out and the 12-minute epic "Encircling" started up with a Celtic drone feel I was totally bewildered. What's going on? This album gets so good by this point with deep rich synths and a spacey feel that is so spiritually connected that you almost get used to the goosebumps. This is what "neo-progressive" should sound like in my opinion. It's rich, melodic, diverse, and not purposefully melancholy. By the time you get to "The Search" and "Divine Presence," Mr. Fripp has climbed aboard with his guitar synths and the deep spacey atmospherics take the album to a nearly ambient level. There’s even more here — reel like tracks and songs with a more accessible style that work as a vehicle for Joanne Hogg's beautiful voice. Even if you program out some of the more poppier tracks there is still a solid albums worth of fantastic music here. Iona are a rare breed, I can't help but recommend this highly, especially to those inclined to modern productions.


Filed under: New releases , Issue 10 , 1995 releases

Related artist(s): Robert Fripp, Iona, Dave Bainbridge

More info

Latest news

2020-02-18
Jon Christensen RIP – Word reaches us today of the passing of Norwegian drummer Jon Christensen, a musician whose sensitive playing did much to help define the atmospheric sound of ECM jazz recordings. His work with Jan Garbarek, Bobo Stenson, Terje Rypdal, and many more was sensitive and varied, adapting to a wide variety of styles while maintaining a distinct identity of its own. Christensen was 76. » Read more

2020-01-21
Gong Announces UK Tour for 2020 – Having spent the last few years touring the world, including dates in Japan with psych legend Steve Hillage, multiple headline European tours and festivals, America’s Cruise to the Edge festival, a South America headline tour, and a headline performance at Tomorrow Festival in China, the band have won the hearts of both traditional and modern Gong fanbases. During this live journey, Gong has delved further into the truly psychedelic, exploratory, and mind-expanding side of the music. » Read more

2020-01-15
Carlos Alvarado RIP – Carlos Alvarado, pioneering composer, multi-instrumentalist and pioneer of progressive rock and electronic experimental music in Mexico, passed away January 14th, 2020 at age 68 after a two year battle with cancer.  » Read more

2020-01-12
Wolfgang Dauner RIP – Pianist Wolfgang Dauner, one of the pioneers of both European free jazz and jazz rock, has died at the age of 84. With his own groups and with the United Jazz+Rock Ensemble, his playing and compositions were a prominent presence in European jazz from the mid-60s until just recently. » Read more

2020-01-12
Michael Allison RIP – Michael Allison, who since 1997 has been recording as Darshan Ambient, passed away on January 9th after a long and brave battle with cancer. He has been at at the forefront of the new ambient/electronic music scene, with over eighteen releases to his credit. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Klaus Schulze - Revisited Reissues, Part 2 (Plus) – The four latest Klaus Schulze reissues include one from the 70s and three from the new millennium, bringing the total to 34 and closing out the first 21 Schulze albums. As Virtual Outback is...  (2008) » Read more

Metamorfosi - Paradiso – It’s been quite some time since Metamorfosi tackled Hell in their classic 1973 album Inferno, and now they’re ready to take on Heaven. With the vocalist and keyboard player from that bygone era...  (2005) » Read more

Pierrot Lunaire - Gudrun – Of the avant-progressive scene in Italy – i.e. Opus Avantra, Alfredo Tisocco, Franco Battiato and many others – Pierrot Lunaire's second has to rate as one of the very best. It's...  (1995) » Read more

Kraan - Diamonds – Kraan, now down to a trio of Hellmut Hattler, Jan Fride, and Peter Wolbrandt (bass, drums, and guitars/vocals respectively), seems to have found new freedom and energy in the three-piece format, as...  (2011) » Read more

Flamborough Head - Looking for John Maddock – This Dutch outfit has been active since the early 90s, inspired by both 70s symphonic prog and 80s neo-prog. Their sound straddles the two, though for the most part they echo the warm and engaging...  (2010) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues