Collected - Mary Black

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Collected - Mary Black

1 CD(s) - Irish - Label: Dara - Distributor: RSK/Sony DADC, Proper - Released: 10/02/2003 - 5099343010109

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Review of "Collected - Mary Black"

published 09/07/2017 | 2mennycds
Member since : 28/08/2015
Reviews : 287
Members who trust : 72
About me :
Best wishes to all, and thanks for your kind rates and comments, have been half-expecting the latest announcement for at least the last year. Have thoroughly enjoyed being a member over the last couple of years or so.
Pro Lovely vocals, varied moods, beautifully arranged
Cons A bit short in duration
Quality and consistency of tracks
Cover / Inlay Design and Content
Value for Money

"Lovely vocals, arrangements and moving songs"


Although music reviews earn nothing on Ciao at all (no money, only points!), it seems a shame not to spend some time and effort in writing the occasional one nevertheless! You may (or may not) want to bear the non-PF AND non-payment category in mind if reading/rating)


I first heard Mary Black’s singing on a compilation of Irish folk music (“The Essential Irish Folk Collection”, Dolphin Music) and decided to get one of her own albums. This, a compilation of her work, seemed a good place to start.


Mary Black is an acclaimed Irish singer who sings contemporary songs – including some lesser known – as well as traditional Irish songs. She has received a number of awards in her own land, and, according to an article on her website “What Hi-fi” magazine ( I presume this means “Which hi-fi?”) uses her CDs to play on, and compare, hi-fi systems. It seems that the clarity of her voice is a good test for making comparisons.

Her main work has been as an artist in her own right, but she was part of an early line-up of the band De Danann.

The album

The album plays for 42:13 and contains 10 tracks; I think that this isn’t especially generous for a compilation that by definition is released at relatively low cost

The songs

~~~~ Song For Ireland ~~~~

Sung to a gorgeous piano accompaniment, this is a solid rendition of a great song. I have a rendition (on the Irish music compilation referred to above) by Barleycorn that has fewer vocal trills and other embellishments than Mary’s version, and I slightly prefer the simpler vocal rendition. Nevertheless, this is a good version and, I feel, sets the mood well for the remainder of the album. In addition, the piano playing really repays careful listening.

~~~~ Mo Ghile Mear ~~~~

This is sung in Gaelic. Readers of this review may recognise the song (though not this rendition) from a Specsavers advert in which an ageing shepherd accidentally shears his sheepdog along with his sheep because his un-Specsaver-corrected vision meant he couldn’t tell the difference!)

It’s a lament for a lover departed to sea.

I love the evocative, emotion-laden way in which Mary sings this. The accompaniment is minimal, really highlighting the vocal line, and the backing vocals are similarly unobtrusive yet add considerable feel to the sound. This has to be my favourite track of the album, and Gaelic really is an expressive language – even if incomprehensible to most of us!

~~~~ Men Of Worth ~~~~

It was this song on the compilation that I first heard that led me to getting this album. The accompaniment is largely guitar, but other instruments join in. I especially love the stirring Uileann (Irish) pipe solo, and the bodhran (hand drum) underpinning it.

The song is upbeat in sound, and I love the lilting melody; the upbeat sound however carries along something of a lament; who will continue the traditional ways of life now that the wealth of pipeline employment beckons?

~~~~ She Moves Through The Fair ~~~~

This traditional love song starts unaccompanied. After the first verse, a sitar joins in. It adds an air of mystery and dolefulness, but I’m personally undecided whether it entirely works.

On the other hand, Mary’s voice rises and falls sweetly – and strongly – with the tune. And, in fairness, this is such an old and oft-recorded song that it’s easy to understand the wish to provide a different take on it by adding sitar.

~~~~ Hard Times ~~~~

A song about battling financial hardships, this is again a solid rendition. It’s another upbeat tune despite the theme. “Let us pause in life’s pleasures and count many tears…/Hard times – come again no more!”

An accordion and flute lead the accompaniment very adeptly and beautifully, in my opinion, but again it’s Mary’s delivery of the vocals that make this such a strong track.

~~~~ Isle Of St Helena ~~~~

This is a traditional song about the banishment of Napoleon Bonaparte. Again, it has a soaring and falling melody, and the Uileann pipes provide a haunting addition to the song

~~~~ My Youngest Son Came Home Today ~~~~

This is a song about the First World War. At first it may sound as though the news is welcome, but:

“…like dead meat on the butcher’s tray
My youngest son came home today.”

It’s written by Eric Bogle who wrote the devastatingly sad “Green Fields Of France” (also known as “Willie McBride), which is worth checking out. This song isn’t quite as powerful as “Green Fields”, but it nevertheless tells a sad teal well.

It’s sung here mainly to guitar and mandolin accompaniment, and, again, Mary sings it beautifully and with conviction, in my view.

Concluding comments

I think this would appeal to those with an interest in acoustic music and/or those who enjoy female vocal music; as stated above, the material is far from being entirely traditional. It’s one of only a handful of my CD collection that Mrs M quite likes!

I rate it 4 stars. One or two tracks don’t appeal to me as much as others do, but to compensate there are several that I absolutely love.


Mary’s voice – natural yet emotive, with a fine range of notes, pure and clear, especially on “Mo Ghile Mear” and “Hard Times”.

the varied material – traditional and more modern, yet all delivered with the same conviction and sincerity

the instrumentation – different instruments feature on various tracks (i.e. not all instruments on all tracks. Flute, piano, Uileann pipes, guitar, accordion, mandolin (or possibly bouzouki), brass – all deliver some strong accompaniment and, at times, some gorgeous solos.

the arrangements. Instrumental solos feature, and, as mentioned above, they also provide some adept backing. Along with the backing vocals, though, I really feel that they enhance the songs rather than intruding upon them.

the varied moods captured. Even some of the laments have deceptively happy sounding tunes!


I think the duration is slightly disappointing, especially for a compilation album

nothing else really comes to mind, apart from being undecided about the sitar on “She Moves Through The Fair”.

Available from Amazon (hard copy) for £8.47 new, MP3 for £5.99. Some of their Marketplace suppliers are offering it new, but no cheaper than Amazon themselves. There are used copies to be had through some Marketplace suppliers, however.

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Product Information : Collected - Mary Black

Manufacturer's product description

1 CD(s) - Irish - Label: Dara - Distributor: RSK/Sony DADC, Proper - Released: 10/02/2003 - 5099343010109

Product Details

EAN: 5099343010109


Listed on Ciao since: 28/10/2011