Basically, they’re the band, he’s the singer, albeit one who is also credited with guitar and even drums. Half the songs are duets with Mary Black, Maura O’Connell, June Boyce and/or the band’s own Kevin Conneff. Each side begins with an infectious jig, and both “Star Of The County Down” and “I’ll Tell Me Ma” encourage singalongs. Some of the tunes, like “Raglan Road”, “Carrickfergus” and “She Moved Through The Fair” are already standards of sorts, and are welcome here. Less well-known are “Tá Mo Chleamhnas Déanta” (sung in both Gaelic and English) and the moody “My Lagan Love”, where he really lets loose with the Irish equivalent of scatting. It all comes to a joyous close with “Marie’s Wedding”.
It sounds like a no-brainer today, but this was merely the first of the Chieftains’ successful summits with singers not normally filed in the same part of the record store. But while they appeared on other Van albums after this one, Irish Heartbeat has yet to spawn a sequel, which is too bad, seeing as they don’t have as much time left. It was also arguably the last time he sounded remotely happy.
Van Morrison & The Chieftains Irish Heartbeat (1988)—4