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.
01 Absolutely And Completely:
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?