|Declan O’Rourke – Mag Pai Zai (2011)|
Declan O’Rourke – Mag Pai Zai
Location: Galway, Galway, Ireland
Genre: Classical / Folk Rock / Roots Music
Record Label: Rimecoat Records
O'Rourke first posted news of his planned third studio album on his website in May 2009, noting "plans are underway to begin recording this summer." The album, entitled "Mag Pai Zai" was released on 8 April 2011 and is O'Rourke's first independent project released on his own record label.
01. Slieve Bloom
02. Time Machine
03. A little Something
04. Be Brave and Believe
05. Lightning Bird Wind River Man
06. Langley’s Requiem
07. Dancing Song
08. Caterpillar DNA
09. Orphan Wind Song
10. The Hardest Fight
- Rob Calder Guitar (Bass)
- Paddy Casey Engineer
- Darren Clarke Engineer, Pre-Production
- Dave Clauss Mixing
- Greg Clooney Assistant Engineer
- Karen Dervan Viola
- Eugene Donegan Assistant Engineer
- Richard Dowling Mastering
- Kevin Geiger Mixing Assistant
- Ari Hest Guest Appearance, Guitar (Acoustic), Vocals (Background)
- The Irish Film Orchestra Orchestra
- Kieran Lynch Engineer
- Tim Martin Engineer
- Maria Mason Arranger, Cello, Violin
- Tim Mitchell Engineer
- Larissa O'Grady Violin
- Edward O'Rourke Composer, Management, Piano
- Elmear O'Grady Arranger, Brass Conductor, Cello, Conductor, Omnichord, Orchestration, Soloist, Viloncello, Violin
- Declan O'Rourke Arranger, Composer, Conductor, Engineer, Guitar, Handbells, Harmonium, Mandolin, Piano (Thumb), Producer, Ukulele, Vocals, Vocals (Background), Wurlitzer
- Kevin Shinstock Mixing Assistant
- Fiachra Trench Conductor, Orchestral Arrangements, Orchestration, String Conductor
- Steve Wickham Soloist, Violin
- Doug Yowell Drums, Engineer, Percussion
Review by Jon O'Brien
Despite plaudits from Paul Weller (who recently chose “Galileo” as the song he wished he’d written from the last 20 years), Snow Patrol (who invited him to play guitar with them at the Oxegen Festival), and Josh Groban and Eddi Reader (both of whom have covered his songs), Dublin singer/songwriter Declan O’Rourke hasn’t yet achieved the commercial success to match his star-studded championing. Released through his own Rimecoat Records label, his third album, the bizarrely titled Mag Pai Zai, is unlikely to change matters, such is its subdued and slightly idiosyncratic nature. There are a few concessions to the more commercial folk-rock sound of its predecessor, Big Bad Beautiful World, such as lead single “A Little Something,” a gorgeous string-soaked tale of unrequited love, the Neil Young-esque blues of “Caterpillar DNA,” and the uplifting ukulele-led Hawaiian-style ditty “Lightning Bird Wind River Man.” But elsewhere, O’Rourke has used his newfound freedom to showcase his unique storytelling with an eclectic production and elastic vocal range, which sees him effortlessly switch from soaring falsetto on the life-affirming “Be Brave and Believe” to dark-timbred baritone on the Tony Bennett-referencing old-school crooner “Dancing Song.” Opening track “Slieve Boom” starts out with a gently plucked mandolin before a flurry of skittering rhythms and haunting violins kicks in, echoing the song’s narrative of a midnight journey through various isolated towns, “Langley’s Requiem” is a suitably eerie piano ballad based on the true tale of the Collyer Brothers, two compulsive hoarders who lived as hermits in 1930s New York, while “The Old Black Crow” sees O’Rourke adopt his best long Long John Silver impression as he swaggers and even caws his way through an unashamedly silly romp about the hardship of being a crow. The latter may be at odds with his rather moody poetic reputation, but it’s indicative of how the album consistently mines captivating material from the most obscure subject matter. Mag Pai Zai should ensure that the rave reviews keep on coming, but it deserves to find a wider audience beyond his array of celebrity admirers.
Declan O’Rourke is back! After a long but eventful absence of three years, Declan returns with his third studio album Mag Pai Zai, available on Friday 8th April.
Mag Pai Zai is the first album to be released on Declan’s own record label, Rimecoat Records. Recorded primarily at The Factory and Windmill Lane in Dublin, and mixed at world-famous Platinum Sound Recording Studios, NYC, the album sees the return of some old collaborators: Steve Wickham, who played the dreamy strings for ‘Galileo (Someone Like You),’ features on the folk ballad ‘Time Machine’; and some new ones: veteran arranger Fiachra Trench, whose catalogue includes The Pogues’ perennial classic ‘Fairytale of New York,’ Sinead O’Connor’s ‘Nothing Compares 2 U,’ and Van Morrison’s ‘Brown Eyed Girl’, created the lush arrangement for the poignant track ‘The Hardest Fight’ which closes the album.
That Declan O’Rourke is in a new, different and more elevated place as a songwriter is proven by the sheer quality of the material on Mag Pai Zai. From the deceptively simple opening song, ‘Slieve Bloom’ and the heart-wrenching tale found within ‘Langley’s Requiem’ to the life affirming ‘Be Brave And Believe,’ he has fortified his talent with a firm mixture of intuitive lyrics and pure melodies.
By Alan Owens
Published on Thursday 19 May 2011 18:14
DECLAN O’Rourke is a happy man. The usually reserved, often cagey, Dubliner has been released from the shackles of corporate music industry hell, and is celebrating the release of his first ever independent album, Mag Pai Zai.
A gorgeous album that bears string arrangements by Fiacra Trench - who scored Nothing Compares 2U and who has worked with Paul McCartney, an appearance by the Irish Film Orchestra, and the first ever co-written song with his brother, Declan overcame a period of immense frustration to release possibly his finest album to date, the album he was born to make.
Following an intense period of writer’s block, O’Rourke wrote the songs for Mag Pai Zai in a rush in late 2009, he tells the Limerick Leader.
“I did indeed. It wasn’t very different (to my usual process), but I was a bit more free with myself, a bit more open to ideas that I would have been a bit dismissive of before,” he explains. “It was a very liberating experience and it was quite a truthful experiment and I am delighted with the results,” he adds.
The songs were borne out of a period of intense frustration for the singer songwriter - a flirtation with the mainstream record industry has left him in a situation where he doesn’t own 2005 debut Since Kyabram, and has “very little control over that and the second record”, Big Bad Beautiful World, released in 2008.
Put simply, he wanted control back.
“That is right, that was the whole idea - I wanted control over where my music was available and how much it cost, rather than it not being available at all and somebody saying to me, I can’t get your record and not having an answer for them,” he says passionately.
“I didn’t want to be caught in that situation again. But I think it is the age of independent music anyway - the current climate in the world lends itself very well to people being a bit more organic about things, certainly the people I worked with on this record were a lot more opening to contributing for less dangerous reasons like money. It made the whole experience much more friendly and the people that I worked with made it magical and the memory of it will stick with me for a long time,” he says.
Since writing Mag Pai Zai, O’Rourke has been overcome by a flourish of creativity, and says he already has enough material for two follow-up albums. It was all about changing his process, he explains.
“I think I was over analysing what I was doing before - I think I thought I knew what I was doing too much!” he laughs. “Do you know what I mean? They say you can’t teach a man what he thinks he already knows, so I had to unlearn stuff, which was interesting - and that is what paid off. Taking the fact that I was brave enough to do that, paid off.”
The album is more mature, less bombastic, a tad more introspective than his previous work, which has been covered by Eddi Reader and Josh Groban, and admired by Paul Weller.
“There are songs in different veins, some love songs, songs about growing - I think in your early 30s you start to re-evaluate a lot of things in your life, so there was a bit of that and some kind of healing, life changing stuff,” he says.
“I think I knew a little bit more about what I was doing production-wise - I always produce my own stuff, so third time round I think it formed a little better. I am very proud of all of the songs, and I think it is a good consistent bunch of songs,” he adds.
You can’t mistake the note of happiness and pride in his voice as he talks candidly about the album and the impending five-week national tour to celebrate its release, accompanied on most of the dates by a full band.
“It is fairly substantial, five weeks around the country, so it is going to be great - we will all love each other or hate each other by the end of it,” he laughs.
“I have probably never done one that extensive around Ireland, so it is very exciting. We are playing a lot of lovely venues - I know them all and am familiar with the terrain, they are tried and tested and really good places to play.”
O’Rourke speaks glowingly about Dolan’s Warehouse, which will be a “highlight”, he says.
“I can’t wait to play there, I’ve been telling the boys about it. The Warehouse is one of my very favourite places to play in the country, a combination of good vibes, a great atmosphere and being looked after the minute you walk in the door.”
He will be welcomed with open arms having always been popular in these parts, and his army of fans will be pleased to note that trademark grin has returned to his face.
“Yeah, and I hope people take that from it when they listen to the music, take some of that positivity, we all need it,” he laughs.
Ballyknow Quay, Claddagh Galway is the most central port on the West Coast of Ireland in the sheltered eastern corner of Galway Bay. The harbour can be used by vessels up to 10,000 metric tons deadweight (DWT) and the inner dock can accommodate up to 9 vessels at any one time. Pending approval, Galway Harbour may see major changes, should the €1.5 billion development plan go ahead.
Regular passenger ferry and freight services operate between Galway and the Aran Islands. The islands also have regular links with the towns of Rossaveal and Doolin, which are physically closer but far smaller.
Commuter ferry services have been proposed to the tourism town of Kinvara, on the opposite side of Galway Bay.
Major work in the harbour area was carried out in 2009 to accommodate the stopover of the Volvo Ocean Race. This was one of the biggest events ever to visit Galway.
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