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July 21, 2011 / rockroots

Turner & Kirwan of Wexford – Absolutely And Completely

Pierce Turner first teamed up with guitarist Larry Kirwan sometime around 1970. As their name suggests, both were from Wexford Town, and Turner had briefly been keyboard player with Dublin soul/pop group The Arrows in 1969, playing on their single “Mercy”/”See Saw”. Turner and Kirwan released their first single together under the name ‘Aftermath’ in 1971. By 1973 the duo had moved to New York and renamed themselves ‘Turner & Kirwan of Wexford’, presumably to promote themselves in the Irish bars and clubs they were playing there. This first album from 1977 seemed to find them at a crossroads, with a mix of progressive rock and new wave pop.

Lengthy tracks like the title suite betrayed their prog leanings with titles such as “Frodo’s Theme”, but the duo transformed Ewan MacColl’s simple ‘60s folk ballad “Travellin’ People” into a full-blown epic by adding their own passage featuring heavy rock drumming and layers of Pierce Turner’s prog synthesizer. “Father ‘Reilly Says Goodbye” – the mourneful tale of a lonely and depressed priest – also features some spine-tingling keyboard playing from Turner, who is the stand-out musician on the album as far as I’m concerned. Others in the band included Scott Spray (bass), Emil Guadagno (lead guitar) and Scott Bailey (drums). The much shorter and punchier “Warts ‘n All” and “The Girl Next Door” – in which the singer tries to comprehend why his girlfriend has left him for another woman – were in sharp contrast to the other songs, but somehow it works.

Sadly, in 1977 extended keyboard solos were no longer tolerated, and by 1980 Turner & Kirwan had reinvented themselves as new wave group The Major Thinkers, about whom I know nothing but song titles like “Tears And Synthesizers” might give you some idea. Since The Major Thinkers parted ways in the mid-’80s Larry Kirwan has led New York Irish republican/socialist bar band ‘Black 47’, while Pierce Turner launched a solo career that has been hugely critically acclaimed but has never quite broken into the mainstream. His debut solo album in 1986 was titled It’s Only A Long Way Across – a line taken from the lyrics of “Distant Ships” almost a decade earlier.


Turner & Kirwan of Wexford – Absolutely And Completely (192kbps):

01  Absolutely And Completely:
a) Sunshower
b) Absolutely And Completely
c) Frodo’s Theme

02  Warts ‘n All

03  Travelin’ People
(including A Tinker’s Curse)

04  The Girl Next Door

05  Father ‘Reilly Says Goodbye

06  Distant Ships

07  RETREAT… Who Can Fight With The Light?




Leave a Comment
  1. arthdog / Jul 30 2011 15:58

    Thanks for this & the excellent ireland’s Rock Odyssey series where I first heard this band. Great stuff – keep on keeping on!

    • rockroots / Jul 30 2011 20:49

      Thanks for the feedback! Yeah, I like this album a lot.

  2. Etan Ben-Ami / Jul 16 2012 23:45

    I’ll never forget the summer of ’74, when they were the house band for the Bells of Hell, a bar run by the McCourt clan on 13th street in New York. My love and I would come down from Columbia, buy a pitcher of Guinness and catch the show every Saturday night.

  3. Rich / Nov 1 2014 00:56

    Wow, thank you so much. I have immediately fallen in love with this album. Some of the best prog I have heard anywhere, ever. This is very intriguing, I am amazed it is not more well-known. I’d better buy a vinyl before it gets expensive!!!

    • rockroots / Nov 2 2014 00:48

      I love this album. It occasionally turns up on ebay for less the $30, but can go as high as 100. I’ve yet to get my hands on their semi-official ‘Bootleg’ LP (which seems to be demo versions of this album), or some of the other artist albums they guested on, like Michael O’Brien & Chris King’s ‘Eire Nua’ LP (a folk album, but Turner is credited with playing synthesizer on it). The Major Thinkers material is a bit hit-and-miss for me, very dated.


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