Top Irish-American albums of the decade
Top Irish albums of the decade
Pierce Turner’s "3 Minute World" is an orchestral pop masterpiece, plain and simple. We may all argue over what albums deserve to be on a list like this, but no one will argue that Turner is one of the most-original voices on this list or any other, for that matter.
A record obsessed with time, Turner vacillates with measuring it and reflecting on how it slips through the fingers like sand. Time is everywhere; the ticking of clock parts provides percussion and the chimes providing cymbal crashes. A dreamy merry-go-round melody induces drowsiness on “You Won’t Mind” as Turner lazily mourns the fact that he has missed his train.
“I’m a busy man / I’m up to my eyes but I remain calm/have you seen the time / honest to goodness how the days fly by / I have to find a pair of socks I could live with plus a t-shirt that’s cleaner than the one I wore to bed,” he sings on “Busy Man,” as whimsical strings and chimes float in the background. It’s surreal and cinematic stuff, like a musical concoction made by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
“It's odd because I thought it had gone unnoticed,” Turner says when told that his CD made our best of the decade list. “But then, Hot Press did a survey for the best 100 Irish albums of all time and '3 minute World' was in there. Just this year someone suggested that I should perform the whole album from top to tail, not a bad idea for a concept album. So I did, and found that it had all the correct ups and downs of a proper set.”
While the theme unifies "3 Minute World," the musical interludes seem pieced together by a mad toy man cobbling scraps from Santa’s Workshop. Classical 40-second interludes clear the palette between balladry, while synthesizer effects tango with a string quartet. A jazzy, flamenco acoustic guitar riff strums lazily on “Beyond the Blue” while Beach Boy harmonies waft through the breezy arrangement. “We’re all high tech but what the heck?” Turner asks. Speaking of The Beach Boys, "3 Minute World" is the Irish cousin to "Pet Sounds" in its inventiveness.
“It was a lot of work!” Turner exclaims. “After taking three years to write the songs and testing them out live for a year at least, I recorded the initial tracks of keyboards, guitar, and vocals in my own studio. I went to a separate studio to record real bass and drums, and then went to another studio to record the string quartet. It was pretty lonely as there was no record company, no real band or manager. Sometimes, real doubt took hold. But when I heard the finished thing, I did wonder how I had ever written it. Some fans believe it will be hard to top, and they are encouraging me to perform it as a whole again.”
“I want to walk around your holy ground / lay me down in your very cold rain,” Turner sings on “Oh Ireland,” a brilliant track with Gregorian-like chanting in the chorus.
One of the sad facts about digital music is that you cannot appreciate the artwork that goes with the music. Turner is quick to point out the artistry of the packaging as well.
“The booklet was also a huge amount of work, with a series of photos by Padraig Grant taken all over Wexford to match the theme of the songs, and the a wonderful lyric booklet designed by Joseph Prieboy. Plus two beautiful paintings of the storybook '3 Minute World' by Paraic Doyle. It was slow and expensive. Fortunately, I got a contributory grant from the Irish Arts Council.”
Every artist is lucky to make one great album in their life, but Pierce believes his best work is ahead of him.
“I am working on three things right now,” he says. “A full performance piece of '3 Minute World' (ironically) with visual footage by the Irish filmmaker PJ Dillon is next. A new album is all written and ready to record. I am working on an audio book of stories relating to my own lyrics and new pared-down performances of those songs. I am also honored that I have been asked to perform in Carnegie Hall on Feb. 26 with Philip Glass, and with Patty Smith backing me as part of the 'Brilliant Annual Tibetan House Benefit.'”
For more information, log onto www.pierceturner.com.