Iona — Journey into the Morn
(ALD 050, 1995, CD)
by Peter Thelen, 1996-08-01:
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.
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
Cathedral & Rum - The Moon Is the Lord of Twisted Trees – Cathedral & Rum is essentially LA-based singer/songwriter Chris Hartford plus a host of guest musicians, depending on the album or song. Though make no mistake: Hartford is the creative nexus... (2010) » Read more