Ceolas Profile: Planxty

Planxty was one of the greatest of Irish folk/traditional groups in the pivotal decade of the seventies, where along with the Bothy Band, they fused traditional with folk and popularised it to a huge new audience, the beginning of a celtic revival long before that term was ever being used. Even now, their recordings stand as some of the highlights of Irish folk, and its members have gone on to great success.

Planxty came about in 1972 when folk singer Christy Moore gathered a bunch of musicians for his upcoming album Prosperous. From this grouping, Moore, along with traditional uilleann piper Liam O'Flynn, Dónal Lunny and Andy Irvine, formed Planxty (the name refers to a tune composed for a patron, particularly associated with O'Carolan). Their first eponymous album, known generally as the "Black Album" for it's cover art, stands as a landmark in Irish folk music, mixing authentic traditional music, with the fire of modern folk, and the ballad singing that the likes of the Dubliners and the Clancys were popularising. The harmonies and counterpoint of the group were relatively new to Irish music, which traditionally had been based on solo melodies. The singing of Moore and Irvine was backed by O'Flynn on uileann pipes and whistles, as well as guitar, bouzouki, mandolin and bodhran.

The group grew to huge status in Ireland, Britain and continental Europe, recorded two other albums in the next two years and then split up, with "The Planxty Collection" coming out as a good compilation of the first three albums. Personnel changes along the way included Johnny Moynihan replacing Donal Lunny in July of 1973 (Lunny guested on Cold Blow and the Rainy Night) and Paul Brady stepping in for Christy Moore in 1974.

Late in 1978, the original lineup reformed Planxty, and the band continued for another five years, though on a more low-key note, and with several additions and changes on their albums. One noted addition was Matt Molloy, flautist from the Bothy Band, and now with the Chieftains. Others included fiddlers James Kelly and Noelle Casey on Words & Music, and concertina/fiddle duet Noel Hill and Tony Linnane on The Woman I Loved So Well. Bill Whelan, plays keyboards on both albums, and was also on Prosperous (yes, the same Bill Whelan who created Riverdance). In the end, Christy Moore and Donal Lunny left to concentrate on Moving Hearts and Planxty broke up for the second and final time.

One other postscript to the group, and another link with Bill Whelan and Riverdance: in 1981, Planxty performed a Bill Whelan arrangement called Timedance as the intermission piece during the Eurovision song contest, held that year in Ireland, and later released it as a single. Fourteen years later, Bill Whelan was back doing the intermission piece for another Eurovision Song Contest in Dublin, with a piece that lauched the Irish dancing revolution: Riverdance.


1972   Planxty                            Polydor 2383186     Shanachie 79009 
1973   The well below the valley          Polydor 2383232     Shanachie 79010
1974   Cold blow and the rainy night      Polydor 2383301     Shanachie 79011
1976   The Planxty collection             Polydor 2389397     Shanachie 79012
1979   After the break                    Tara 3001
1980   The woman I loved so well          Tara 3005
1982   Words & Music                      WEA Ireland 2401011 Shanachie 79035 
1984   Aris!                              Polydor 815 229-1
1972   Three drunken maidens              EMI
1972   The cliffs of Doneen               Polydor 
1981?  Timedance/Nancy spain [12"]        WEA IR28207

The Polydor and WEA Ireland releases appear to be out of print now.

Track Listing (Aris)

Side One:
The Kid On The Mountain/An Phis Fhliuch
Arthur McBride
The Old Torn Petticoat/Dublin Reel/Wind that shakes the Barley
Yarmouth Town
Johnny Cope
Only Our Rivers

Side Two:
Dogs Among the Bushes/Jenny's Wedding
Cliffs Of Dooneen
Si Bheag Si Mhor
Fisherman's Lilt/Cronin's Hornpipe
The Well Below The Valley
A more detailed discography, with full track and musicians listings has been compiled by Peter Cassidy as part of his Christy Moore pages.

CD Universe sells all of their albums online and has Real Audio sound samples for several.


Liner notes from The Planxty Collection by Colin Irwin give an excellent pen picture of the band and its impact.

Copyright (c) 1997 Ceolas.

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