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IONA The Circling Hour Open Sky OPENVP11CD (2006)


After a self-enforced lay-off for several years - not least due to Joanne Hogg's throat operation - Iona are back, and more infectious than ever.

They've been peddling their brand of Celtic prog/ambient rock since the late-eighties and since that time they've gathered a loyal following.

'The Circling Hour' sees the band playing with a new verve, retaining their signature sound but more upbeat than the somewhat introspective 'Open Sky'.

Joanne's vocals are again a standout, and it's a relief that she is back to full health. I'm pleased to report there are a couple of shorter tracks here that should serve as an excellent taster, before indulging in the more expansive stuff on offer.

'No Fear In Love' is a classic piece of drama with Hogg's attractive vocals, and topped off by Dave Bainbridge's fluid guitar figures whilst 'Strength' is a steadily building tune that breaks into (for Bainbridge) a heavier riff.

As ever, Bainbridge's guitar spurs things along with a style reminiscent of both Hackett-period Genesis and Marillion's Steve Rothery.

And if you're a fan of the aforementioned bands, you will almost certainly take a shine to tracks like the epic eleven-minute 'Wind Off The Lake' and the 'Wind,Water & Fire' suite. The band are superb multi-instrumentalists, with Frank van Essen doubling on drums and violins, the latter well showcased on 'Wind Water & Fire'.

If 'Open Sky' was mellow, this new album sees the pipes and whistles more prominent and the interplay (notably Bainbridge and Troy Donockley's Uilleann pipes) - if at times similar to Capercaillie - is indisputably infectious.

In essence, Iona haven't become complacent. This is an uplifting, self-assured album that ranks with the best of their output. Fans will love it but others who seek something quite special should seek this one out, quickly.


Review by David Randall

Buy this CD

© 2006 Iona/Voiceprint. All rights reserved.

***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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