A Drop of the Hard Stuff

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  • A Drop of the Hard Stuff
    • 2012 - Parlophone 50999 4 64300 2 1 CD (UK)
  • Tracklist
    1. Seven Drunken Nights
    2. The Galway Races
    3. The Old Alarm Clock
    4. Colonel Fraser & O'Rourke's Reel
    5. The Rising of the Moon
    6. McCafferty
    7. I'm a Rover
    8. Weile Waile
    9. The Travelling People (MacColl)
    10. Limerick Rake
    11. Zoological Gardens
    12. The Fairmoye Lasses & Sporting Paddy
    13. Black Velvet Band
    14. Paddy on the Railway

  • The Dubliners
    • Ronnie Drew: Vocals & Guitar
    • Luke Kelly: Vocals & 5-String Banjo
    • Barney McKenna: Tenor Banjo & Mandolin
    • Ciarán Bourke: Tin Whistle, Harmonica, Guitar & Vocals
    • John Sheahan: Fiddle, Tin Whistle & Mandolin
  • Credits
    • All tracks digitally remastered by Peter Mew at Abbey Road Studios from original mono tapes.
    • Album Produced by Tommy Scott
    • Product managed by Jon Wilson
    • Artwork by Alan Gillett, EMI Creative
    • Special thanks to Fiachra Sheahan, Shay Hennessy & John Tobler
    • All tracks: Trad. Arr. Bourke, Drew, Kelly, McKenna, Sheahan, unless otherwise noted.

Sleeve Notes

The Dubliners began in O'Donoghue's pub on Merrion Row, Dublin in 1962 as a quartet known as the Ronnie Drew Ballad Group. They comprised Ronnie Drew (vocals and guitar), Luke Kelly (vocals and 5-string banjo), Barney McKenna (tenor banjo, mandolin, melodeon and vocals) and Ciarán Bourke (vocals, guitar, tin whistle and harmonica). Drew was rather reluctant to be regarded as the nominal leader of the band and Kelly, who at the time was reading 'Dubliners' by the great Irish author James Joyce, suggested that 'The Dubliners' was a better name for the band.

The Dubliners' repertoire largely comprised traditional songs, to which they added an element of Celtic magic and humour.

As Ronnie Drew noted: "When we started, Irish music always sounded a bit staid, not much fun, and tended to be presented in an academic way. We never did it like that. In England and America, there'd been folk revivals, but in Ireland it hadn't needed it because it had always been alive". Their material and approach brought them surprising commercial success.

In 1963, The Dubliners were spotted playing at the Edinburgh festival by Nat Joseph of Transatlantic Records, for whom they started recording. Their first album, 'The Dubliners', was not released until 1964, soon after which Luke Kelly left and Bobby Lynch (vocals and guitar) and John Sheahan (fiddle, tin whistle, mandolin, concertina, guitar and vocals) both joined. When Kelly returned and Lynch left in 1965, the widely accepted 'classic lineup' of the band was in place, which lasted until 1974.

After two further LPs for Transatlantic, the live albums 'In Concert' and 'Finnegan Wakes' (the latter named after a run of shows at the Gate Theatre), The Dubliners signed to Major Minor Records, a label launched by Phil Solomon (1926-2011) whose family had been involved in the Irish entertainment business, and who promoted such Irish acts as Ruby Murray and The Bachelors. Following this, Solomon became heavily involved with the pirate radio station Radio Caroline, on which he ensured that Major Minor releases enjoyed heavy rotation.

The legendary group's four original Major Minor studio albums from the 1960s, which have never previously been released on CD in their original form, have been expertly digitally remastered from original mono source tapes.

The first of these LPs, 'A Drop of The Hard Stuff' (a reference to strong liquor, and to the musical difficulty of the songs chosen for the album) was released in the spring of 1967. It was quickly re-titled and re-issued as 'Seven Drunken Nights' after the opening track was released as a single that stayed in the UK chart for four months and peaked at No.7 in June 1967, despite its risqué lyrics causing it to be initially banned by most radio stations. The single's success was greatly helped by Radio Caroline playing the record round the clock, and one day alone it sold 40,000 copies! Though some felt that the success of the 'Seven Drunken Nights' single was unlikely to ever be repeated, 'A Drop of The Hard Stuff', spent nearly ten months on the UK albums chart, reaching No.5. This chart success was further reinforced by the release of a second single from the album, 'Black Velvet Band', a traditional English and Irish folk song describing transportation to Australia, a common punishment in 19th century Britain and Ireland. The single also made the UK Top 20 and led Transatlantic Records to release an album of their earlier recordings, 'Best of The Dubliners' that joined 'A Drop Of The Hard Stuff' in the UK album chart for over two months.

Among the other songs here are 'The Rising of the Moon', an Irish ballad recounting a battle between the United Irishmen and the British Army during the Irish Rebellion of 1798. The song was also been recorded by Peter, Paul & Mary, Fairport Convention and The Pogues, who combined with The Dubliners in 1987 for 'The Irish Rover', a UK Top 5 single. 'Paddy On The Railway', which tells the story of an Irishman who moved to Glasgow in search of work, was probably first heard during Victorian times, and 'The Galway Races' relates to an annual week long horse facing meeting at Ballybrit in Galway, which begins on the last Monday of July every year and first took place in 1869. 'Weila Waile' is an Irish murder ballad and alternative name for The River Saile, itself a local name given to Dublin's river Poddle. Also notable is the highly intricate fiddle and banjo work on the reels.

In addition to 'A Drop Of The Hard Stuff and a second chart album, 'More Of The Hard Stuff', this remaster and re-issue of The Dubliners' early work also includes the classic albums 'Drinkin' & Courtin'' and 'At It Again!', all of which have never sounded so good!

Despite the fact that most of the original members are sadly no longer with us, The Dubliners remain active in 2012, fifty years after their formation! They are deservedly revered around the world and their unique take on Irish traditional music ensures that they rank alongside other notable acts from Ireland such as The Chieftains, Van Morrison and U2 and remain one of the most influential of Ireland's traditional folk bands.

John Tobler, Washington, UK), March, 2012 Edited by Jon Wilson