Monday, April 12, 2010
That’s a tough question. There are so many stellar albums to choose from. Solo vs. band? Traditional vs. contemporary? Piobaieachd vs. light music? Pure piping vs. mixed instrumental? I have favorites in all of these genres, but over the years the ones that tend to get the most play time are the live pipe band concert albums. I love the tangible energy that comes across in the recording from the crowd as well as the feel of adrenaline in the music that is a product of live performances.
With so many stellar live concert albums to choose from, narrowing it down to one choice is a difficult order. If I were to base my pick on sentimentality and sheer enjoyment, the clear winner for me is Simon Fraser University’s “Alive in America” album.
Although not as well known or acclaimed as their “Live at Carnegie Hall” album recorded two years later, “Alive in America” captures the band on a high right after their first win at the worlds in 1995 and shortly before repeating in ‘96. The album is almost entirely pure pipe band playing with no tricks or gimmicks. From the opening track the bright tone and extremely musical playing draws you in and holds your interest until the last note is played, leaving you wanting more.
I practically wore out my walkman listening to the cassette tape of this album over and over during the formative years when I was just starting out on the pipes. Listening to the album today is somewhat sentimental because it brings back the feelings I had then, when my sheer excitement to play the pipes and passion for the music was in its formative stages. Whereas I am more prone now to listen with a critical ear, back then I was utterly awestruck with the brilliant and seemingly impossible music which seemed to be flowing so effortlessly.
Part of the reason why I find this album so enjoyable is that it helps me to remember those feelings I had and the passion for the music which is so easily overlooked in the ever obsessive and sometimes frustrating quest that is piping. I certainly don’t expect this album to have the same effect on you as it does on me, but by all means I recommend you pick it up if you can find it. You won’t be disappointed.
What is your favorite piping album and why?