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BLACK 47/FIRE OF FREEDOM (SBK Records/EMI 0777 7 80686 2 4)

This CD, the bandís second, was originally released in 1993. It served as Black 47ís major label debut and thus included some reworked tracks from their first disc, which was independently released. This disc was co-produced by former Cars leader Ric Ocasek. Black 47 presents traditional Irish instrumentation and melodies in a rock format. The bandís sound is thus a sort of melding, or fusion, of Irish, rock, punk, and even an occasional bit of rap.

Band leader, and principle song writer, Larry Kirwan frequently uses his lyrics to present capsules of Irish history to his listeners. This is one area where Black 47 stands apart from their contemporaries because Kirwanís ability to turn these nuggets of history into song is exceptional. "James Connolly", about Irelandís labor struggles and one of its leaders, is an absolute masterpiece. Itís also the best example of Kirwanís abilities, on this release. Other songs deal with the struggles of Irish immigrants living in America (more specifically New York City) and, of course, love. "Rockiní The Bronx" presents an entertaining, and autobiographical, tale of the bandís beginnings.

This disc is definitely Irish, and it definitely rocks, and therein lies its problem. Itís too Irish for the rock format and too rockiní for the traditional Irish format. Black 47 is thus left as a sort of bastard child which neither side wants to embrace wholeheartedly. This is very likely the reason why you donít hear the band on the radio. If your interests include that gray area between rock and traditional ethnic music then you owe it to yourself to look into Black 47.

Black 47ís fans are a dedicated bunch who spread the word about the band and frequently show up at the bandís concerts, whether they be at a bar, an Irish-American club, or an Irish festival. The fact is this band sizzles in concert and their fans know that! A Black 47 show is like a big Irish pep rally and usually includes some Irish dancing (on and off stage!) and plenty of fists, raised high, as the crowd joins in on the choruses. If this band ever actually breaks it will be because of the efforts of their fan base, the talent of the band itself is already there.

At the time of this writing (12/97) the band also has two other releases available, 1994ís "Home Of The Brave" and 1996ís "Green Suede Shoes", and is currently working on their next recording.