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Great introduction to Glen Hansard as well as serving as an amazing soundtrack
on May 26, 2007
Many visiting Amazon will remember the film THE COMMITMENTS telling the story of an Irish soul band specializing in many of the Stax classics of the sixties. Though most of the attention was focused on the rotund lead singer, the guitarist Outspan Foster was played by a veteran 21-year-old busker by the name of Glen Hansard. He played, in fact, one of the two first members of the band, since he and the band's keyboardist asked Jimmy Rabbitte to help them form a band (though they would dispense of their tentative name, And And And, though they were also considering And And! And). Though no one at the time would have guessed it, it was Hansard more than any other member of the fictional band (though it did tour as a real band in the wake of the movie's success) who would achieve musical success. About the same time that filming for the Commitments began, Hansard had formed a band, the Frames, that would over the course of the next seventeen years develop a reputation for being one of the best live bands in the world and though their recorded output never quite matched the extraordinary live performances they would release several superb albums. Two of the Frames' albums--FITZCARRALDO and THE COST--would be nothing short of masterpieces. One of the original members of the Frames was John Carney. To complete the background story, Carney met the young Czech singer Markéta Irglová while visiting Prague and she later provided some vocals for his 2006 solo album THE SWELL SEASON.
I'm not quite sure whose idea it was to make a movie, but former-Frame Carney and Hansard, with the help of our young Czech heroine, came up with the idea to make a movie based on Carney and Hansard's experiences in Dublin. Though the Frames are not well known in the United States, there are many who regard them and not U2 as the great Irish band. Those seeing this movie are not going to have a great deal of difficulty believing that. Hansard is one of the world's great frontmen, singing with a white-hot intensity remarkably emotional and passionate songs. For those unfamiliar with his work, he will have seemed to drop out of the sky like a meteor. They will have trouble believing someone this talented is not already a household name.
The songs for the movie are culled from a number of places. The absolutely extraordinary "Say It To Me," one of Hansard's greatest songs, comes from the great 1996 Frames' album FITZCARRALDO, "Lies" and "Falling Slowly" come from Hansard's solo album THE SWELL SEASON (on which Irglová also sings), and "When Your Mind's Made Up" is one of the best songs off this year's amazing new Frames' album THE COST. Regardless of the source, the songs here are amazingly well performed, more acoustic than in their original versions. I know some audience members for the film are blown away by the music and I think part of the reason is that they don't realize that these songs represent highlights from a large and exceedingly great body of work. Even so, the great news is that Hansard has written far more great music than appears on this album.
I strongly recommend this disc for people who saw the movie and loved the music (and hey, what's not to adore?). This is simply gorgeous stuff and anyone who isn't moved by it probably is never moved by great music. So the album can act as a terminus, but it should also act as a door to the rest of Hansard's work. The two albums I would most recommend are the two I mentioned above, FITZCARRALDO and THE COST. These are filled with great songs, all songs magnificently by Hansard, who also wrote them. If those don't exhaust your interest you could also look at BURN THE MAPS as well as the aforementioned solo album THE SWELL SEASON. And as fine as this soundtrack is, the two main Frames albums I mentioned are each even better.