Album Review: Brian McFadden – The Irish Connection
Back in the late nineties when the boy band era was truly at its peak, Westlife ruled the airwaves with songs that included Flying Without Wings, If I Let You Go and My Love. For over 12 years the group led the charge on the charts and found astronomical success before splitting in 2012. Brian McFadden was once a member of that group but, following the release of their fourth studio album Turnaround and weeks ahead of a sold out tour, he departed from the group. Most thought that the decision was career suicide for the once-prominent member of the group. It is also pretty fair to say that it was also the time when Westlife started going downhill. Perhaps down to the loss of McFadden? We certainly think so.
Since going solo things have been bright for Brian. His first solo outing, Irish Son was released in late 2004 and was met with critical acclaim, spawning a series of chart placing singles including the album’s title track and Demons, the final single to be released from the record. Two singles from Irish Son also made their way swiftly to the number one spot – the lead single from the album, Real To Me and Almost There, a duet with Australian songbird Delta Goodrem.
The following few years saw the release of two follow up records – 2008’s Set In Stone and Wall of Soundz in 2010.
Five years on from the release of Wall of Soundz Brian is about to unleash The Irish Connection, an appropriate collection of some of Ireland’s biggest hits from some of the county’s most successful and iconic artists and along the way he is joined by a few familiar faces.
The record is a very fitting release for McFadden who himself is a highly successful Irish export. Among the numbers that he has chosen to offer us on the album there is a few that really do stand out and remind us of the credibility and brilliance of some of Ireland’s musical acts.
No Frontiers, a cherished Irish penning by music veteran Jimmy MacCarthy, provides the record with an emotive and nostalgic beauty in the center of the track-listing while the Enya hit, Only Time misses the mark slightly and proves to be one of the more repetitious, clumsy covers featured her on The Irish Connection.
Collaborations run through the track listing of The Irish Connection, mixing up the record nicely.
Iconic, musical pioneer Sinead O’Connor offers a lick of her distinctive vocals to the traditional folk hit Black Is The Color. The song has had quite a life, going back to the 1930’s and has been covered by a long list of artists including Joan Baez, Cara Dillion and The Corrs. The track suits the vocal style of Brian and Sinead perfectly as both voices blend beautifully around a gentle guitar picking making this one a standout track here on The Irish Connection. Further into the record, Brian puts his own stamp on the once-Sinead O’Connor covered masterpiece and Prince penned, Nothing Compares To U, doing a superb job in revisiting and re-imagining one of Ireland’s most successful singles.
Ronan Keating, who invited Brian on tour with him recently for the singers Fires Tour, joins Brian on the singers cover of the U2 hit, All I Want Is You. It’s a much more stripped back version of the track when compared to the original 1988 version but still effective in its delivery as it unites two of Irelands leading male vocalists within a powerful performance of one of the country’s finest musical pennings.
Crazy World is another collaborative gem on the record with its warm, anthemic chorus and the blend of McFadden and Aslan front man Christy Dignam skilled vocals.
The collection Brian has put together doesn’t just reminds us of the quality of songs that have emerged from the Irish music scene over the years but it also places him in the spotlight once again after a 3 year break from studio releases.