ATN Tribute Sunday: Rockers Do Yeats

Shane MacGowan adds his two-bits to the William Butler Yeats tribute album.

Stranger choices for cover album subjects have been made, although none come to

mind presently. So what is it that brought together famed actor/barfly Richard

Harris, famed singer/barfly Shane MacGowan (ex-Pogues), Van Morrison, World

Party's Karl Wallinger, The Waterboys, The Cranberries and ex-Waterboy Mike

Scott? Would you believe renowned poet William Butler Yeats?

Now and In

Time To Be is the name of a 14-track collection featuring an impressive

roster of Irish musicians putting the words of Yeats, who died in January of

1939, to music.

The idea was hatched when two friends--journalists Frank

Dunne and Michael Tuft--toured the coast of Ireland in 1993, visiting the towns

of Sligo and Galway, where Yeats lived and wrote, while listening to Van

Morrison's Too Long in Exile and the Waterboys' Fisherman's

Blues, both of which feature songs that use portions of Yeats' poetry as


What began as an idea to put together a personal compilation of

Yeats poetry put to music quickly turned into Now, and the pair got an

early boost of support from the Waterboys' Scott, who had long harbored a

desire to compile a similar project, as well as the blessing of Yeats' son and

daughter, Michael and Anne.

The album...

The album cover features an Impressionistic painting by

the poet's brother, Jack Yeats and the liner notes contain an essay from the

journalists that asks the question, "Why do they sing Yeats?"


answer: "For one thing, it's relatively easy. The ballad, with it's haunting

refrains, regular rhyme schemes and metrical simplicity, is ready-made for

musical settings."

The collection begins and ends with Richard Harris'

rich reading of "Under Ben Bulben," one of the poet's last great works, and

runs the gamut from a slurred, uptempo performance of "An Irish Airman Forsees

His Death" by ex-Pogues singer Shane MacGowan to Wallinger's typically

pop-inflected acoustic piano and guitar rendition of "Politics," Van Morrison's

jazzy "Before the World Was Made" and The Cranberries' somewhat psychedelic

half-original/half Yeats contribution "Yeat's Grave," with an excerpt from the

poem "No Second Troy."

Also included are: Mike Scott & Sharon Shannon ("A

Song of the Rosy-Cross"), Sinead Lohan ("The Fish"), Tamalin ("Gort na Sailean

[Down by the Salley Gardens]"), World Party ("The Four Ages of Man"), Christy

Moore ("The Song of Wandering Aengus"), Nervous ("He Wishes For the Cloths of

Heaven"), The Waterboys ("The Stolen Child") and Yeats himself reading his most

famous work, "The Lake Isle of Innisfree."

For those of you willing to go

that extra mile to celebrate Yates (whose birthday is June 13), the annual

Irish music festival, the Fleadh, will, for the first time, be bringing its

Gaelic sounds to U.S. shores.

On June 14-15, New York's Randall's Island

(site of this year's Tibetan Freedom Concert) will be overrun with all things

Irish as Van Morrison, Sinead O'Connor (in her first U.S. appearance in more

than 3 years), Shane MacGowan, Christy Moore, Sinead Lohan and Mary Black among

others, perform for an expected crowd of over 25,000 each day. In fact, the

organizers tell ATN that they might even try to convince some of the artists on

the Yeats collection to perform a few poems on the Irish Village side stage

during the course of the celebration.