Reviewed by Jamie Hailstone
Iona fans have waited a long time for this CD. The Celtic group's last release, 'Open Sky', was six years ago, so the £60,000 question is - was their patience justified? The answer is an emphatic yes. 'The Circling Hour' is what journalists like to describe as a return to form. Iona may be in their 17th year, but they sound fresh and focused on this 11 track CD. All of the band's signature elements are present and correct, from Joanne Hogg's ethereal vocals, to the swirling mixture of drums, keyboards, guitars and uillean pipes. The opener, "Empyrean Dawn", has a deceptively quiet introduction, before the whole comes in with a thunderous crescendo. The backbone of the record is a stunning three song set marked "Wind, Water and Fire". The set is a testament to the sheer musicianship that Iona has to offer. They are highly proficient, without ever being over-indulgent, lush and evocative. Mixer John Kellogg, who has worked with Chicago, Deep Purple and the Black Crowes, among others, gives the recording a rich, cinematic feel. The band are clearly firing on all cylinders and loving every minute of it. If only they could get into the studio more often. Six years is a long time to wait!
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