By Earle Hitchner
THE SEA OF DREAMS, by Davy Spillane, Covert Records 1676.
Is it a coincidence that uilleann piper/low whistle player Davy Spillane performed on a track entitled "The Titanic" on Moving Hearts’ last studio recording, "The Storm," and 13 years later covers "My Heart Will Go On," also known as the love theme of the mega-movie "Titanic," on his new album, "The Sea of Dreams"?
Perhaps. But what is obvious is that his latest recording shows sign of imaginative fatigue apart from his superfluous rendition of the Oscar-winning hit chest-thumped into the charts by Celine Dion. Spillane reprises "River of Gems" and "Daire’s Dream" from no less than two previous albums, 1987’s "Atlantic Bridge" and 1988’s "Out of the Air"; redoes "Equinox" from his 1990 "Shadow Hunter" release; offers another take on "Midnight Walker" that surfaced on 1991’s "Pipedreams"; and comes up with another version of "May Morning Dew" that he recorded on Moving Hearts’ "The Storm" in 1985. Whatever personal, copyright, or commercial considerations may apply to these reheated compositions, the one that matters, musical, suffers.
This inescapable sense of duplication and déjà vu even pertains to a brand-new composition, "The Dreaming of the Bones," that appears once as a song, another as an instrumental. On an album of a dozen tracks, just three can be regarded as completely original and unrepeated: "Big Sea Ballad," "Inagh," and "Sea of Dreams." The only defensible ‘sthetic motivation for dipping back into the well for already recorded tunes is to freshen them up dramatically somehow, give them new coats of paint, but the maundering mood of this album is like trying to capture mist with a fist.
There are a few notable exceptions to the recording’s rather mind-wearying pensiveness. The song "The Dreaming of the Bones, "co-written by Spillane, Greg Boland, and Sinéad O’Connor, is sung with quiet fervor by guest vocalist O’Connor, who also delivers a moving, hushed rendition of "Danny Boy." Behind both songs is the skillful, sensitive playing of Spillane on low whistle and uilleann pipes, though the synth swells marring much of the rest of the album occasionally distract there as well.
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Of the rehashed melodies, the rendition of "Midnight Walker" shows some inspiration and vitality, with Spillane’s pristine piping a marvel to hear. Fact is, Davy Spillane is one of the finest uilleann pipes and low whistle players on the planet and his formidable, multi-dimensional talent can produce Irish music of sumptuous beauty or crackling high energy.
But "The Sea of Dreams" offers too little of either — and much too much of either.