Full Tide is Mary's first full studio album since 1999's Speaking With The Angel. This uncharacteristically long break from the recording studio had long-term fans of Mary worrying that she had nothing left to say and was perhaps losing interest in making music. Full Tide is a strong statement to counter any such fears, and is a timely reminder that Mary is still one of the finest voices to come out of Ireland.
The late Noel Brazil has written many of the most popular and enduring songs from Mary's back catalogue, and it is a fitting tribute that Mary has chosen to include four of his songs on this album. The enchanting combination of Mary's voice and Noel Brazil's songs has always been a fruitful partnership and this success remains evident on Full Tide. Two Brazil tracks act as bookends to the album, which opens with a lively "The Land Of Love" and closes with the stirring "Japanese Deluxe." The title of the album is derived from another Noel Brazil composition, "The Real You."
For the first time in her career, Mary has included two tracks on which she shares co-writing credits with her son Danny O'Reilly, who is proving to be a burgeoning young songwriting talent himself. I'll admit to being wary of this new departure, not least because Mary has always insisted she is an interpreter of other's songs and has previously claimed to have little interest in crafting her own material. However, these two tracks -- the emotion-wrought "Your Love" and the up-tempo "Stand Up" -- provide the strongest tracks on the album. It remains to see whether this marks the start of a new chapter in Mary's career, but the quality of these tracks suggest that this new direction could be extremely rewarding.
Full Tide also includes the sumptuous Sandy Denny cover "Full Moon." Mary makes no secret of the fact that Sandy has been a big influence on her own career, but is never lazy in her choice of Sandy's songs. "Full Moon" was recorded during the sessions for Sandy's final solo album, Rendezvous, but never made it to the final album, surfacing some years later on various anthologies and more recently as a bonus track on the 2005 reissue of the original 1978 release.
Bob Dylan also receives cover treatment from Mary on the majestic "Lay Down Your Weary Tune" -- from Dylan's 1985 release, Biograph, which Mary and the band start with a stunning a cappella chorus. The second Dylan cover is "To Make You Feel My Love," to which Mary applies her trademark tenderness and clarity.
For folk aficionados there is the traditional track "Siul A Run," which Mary sings in both English and her native Gaelic. Mary's voice sounds like it has come home on tracks like this, and I long for the day when Mary might record an entire album of traditional folk songs. I imagine I am not alone in this desire!
The uplifting "St. Kilda Again" is likely to prove a crowd pleaser at Mary's live performances and contains some delicious harmony vocals from Mary's daughter, Róisín.
Full Tide contains all the ingredients that have contributed to many great Mary Black recordings in the past: outstanding choice of material, sympathetic arrangements and Mary's effortless vocal style. It may be a cliché, but Full Tide marks a tremendous return to form for this much-loved and critically acclaimed artist.
Reprinted with permission from The Green Man Review.
Copyright (2006) Green Man Review.
Full Tide marks the 11th CD release for Mary Black, and this time round she assumes some of the co-writing and producing responsibilities. This is a snapshot of a musician in her prime, the full swell of her years on the road propelling her to a place where she needs no trickery to take full possession of songs borrowed from the like of Bob Dylan, Noel Brazil and Sandy Denny. It's on her song- writing debuts that Black mines the real depths. The writing team of Black and her 20-year-old son, Danny O’Reilly, shows promise of more to come. Sandy Denny’s Full Moon is an expansive flourish, bolstered by the West Ocean String Quartet. Second winds don’t come more forceful than this. Mary Black’s back, and she’s brought a shiny new repertoire with her.
At 50, Mary Black is just hitting her vocal prime. Her 11th album sees her singing with a newfound ease and confidence, neither forcing herself to belt unnaturally nor restricting her voice to a breathy whisper. Full Tide is also her first album to feature original material. The poignant "Your Love", inspired by her mother's death in 2003, and "Stand Up" were co-written by Black with her son Danny O'Reilly. Both songs hold their own in the august company of Bob Dylan, Sandy Denny and longtime favourite Noel Brazil - who died tragically of a brain aneurysm in 2001 and to whom the final bonus track is dedicated.