Monday, June 11, 2012

Behind the Times

A few months ago, I made a very brief mention of Jerry Holland's "Reel for Carl." I liked that tune rather a lot. I think I only like it better now. My prevailing problem has been finding at least a reel worthy of pairing with it. The ones I  thought most suited in structure tended to be the least suited in key. Or, at least, that had been my problem until I was stopped at a red light, half-listening to a Silly Wizard album that had been living in the car CD player for a rather indefinite length of time and The Tune fairly fell into my lap. It came from a spectacular set to begin with, but when the accordion came driving in, with such a combination of vigour and precision, all I could think was that I must have That Tune, and nothing would do but that I must have it in a set with "Reel for Carl". The reel in question turned out to be one of Phil Cunningham (himself)'s, something called "Wing Commander Donald MacKenzie."*

I set myself to learning it and found that it was everything I would have hoped under the circumstances (i.e. it was wide awake and it didn't sound amiss coming out of C#m). Quite a find, I congratulated myself--and who would have thought to combine two such magnificent reels? Assuredly I was the first! (Never mind that both pieces have been around for at least 20 years.) I'll admit I thought quite gleefully about posting that discovery on this very blog, and in that interest, I went looking for a decent online presentation of "Wing Commander Donald MacKenzie." The first thing I discovered was that a band from Australia called Squeebz had beat me to combining the two reels. The second thing I discovered was that they had added insult to injury by prefacing the set with my favourite Cape Breton strathspey "Alex Dan MacIsaac," a stroke of genius which had not even hinted at striking me. And thirdly, they had done it in an altogether splendid fashion. Have a listen:

*If you'd like to hear the Silly Wizard set that "Wing Commander Donald MacKenzie" was recorded in (and everyone should), it polishes off track 8 on Kiss the Tears Away (the Amazon clip doesn't go far enough to hit the tune in question, but that gives you an idea of where to find it). Gordon Duncan had to modify the second part a bit to get it on the pipes, but it's still the same ol' tune, first track on Just for Gordon. (Just when you thought it couldn't get any quicker, and just when you thought it didn't need any variations. . .)

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