Fling’s The Wild Swans At Coole

cover, The Wild Swans at CooleTim Hoke wrote this review.

With a name like Fling, you would expect something fast, wild, and maybe a bit out of control. You’ll find none of that here. This Dutch band favors a mellower sound, with lush, almost orchestral arrangements. Evertjan’t Hart’s uilleann pipes strain at the leash sometimes, but never quite break loose.

The recording starts with “As The Rain Sets In,” a Hart composition that is slow and moody. This sets the tone for the rest of the album. Even the jigs and reels sound relaxed, although they are played at speed. The dance tunes are the only fast cuts on the album, featuring a nice blend of pipes, flute, fiddle, and African drums.

Six of the ten tracks are vocal. Probably the best is a cover of Jim McLean’s “Hush, Hush,” a lament of the Highland Clearances. Fling’s low-key approach suits the song very well. “The Fisherman” and the title track are both poems by Yeats that have been set to music. Unfortunately, the dull arrangements cannot do justice to the words. The end result is rather monotonous. “Wild Swans” is helped by some pretty instrumental interludes, but otherwise sounds dreary.

The traditional songs are familiar, perhaps too much so. “I Live Not Where I Love” begins with a cool Breton-sounding intro featuring fiddle and bouzouki. The rest of the song is uninteresting. The same holds true for “Carrickfergus,” and Fling’s version of “Lakes Of The Pontchartrain” can only be described as plodding. Singer Gerrit Breteler has a strong voice, but often his singing borders on shouting, wisely mixed down to soften it. His voice might be more suited to some rowdier material.

Some of the cuts have an atmospheric keyboard background. This isn’t prominent enough in the mix to detract (much), but it doesn’t add anything either. Careful listening will reveal plenty of instrumental subtleties, but these, too, are buried in the mix and difficult to hear.

Perhaps I’m being harsh. It isn’t because I dislike the band. It’s because I hear potential in this recording that isn’t lived up to. I think that Fling could produce an outstanding album if they would allow themselves to cut loose once in a while and to break away from the over-structured approach heard here.

(Fling, 1997)

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