- 16 May 23
20 years ago today, Damien Dempsey released his iconic album Seize The Day. Earlier this year, the acclaimed album – produced by John Reynolds, and featuring the likes of Sinéad O'Connor and Brian Eno – finally hit the No.1 spot on the Official Irish Albums Chart, thanks to the release of a special limited edition vinyl pressing. To celebrate its anniversary, we're revisiting our original review...
Album Review: Damien Dempsey, Seize The Day – originally published in Hot Press in May 2003
Subsequent to the economic boom or C***** Tiger, musicianship in this country enjoyed its own little purple patch. But if after all these giddy years all we have is a bunch of Frames records (however good), a clutch of over-earnest clones and lots of abstract art underground noodling then it’s a pretty poor reflection on the entire notion of artistic endeavour in this country.
The point I’m making is that after hearing so much Irish output in the last few years, from the good to the bad to the downright ugly, the only new artists that I’ve heard engage with pertinent social issues in this country are Barry McCormack and Damien Dempsey (if dear reader, you have written a social observational masterpiece then apologies for the omission). Personally, I think that’s shocking. Ah sure, aren’t we a grand little nation all the same. Well, I'm not so sure about that...
Seize The Day, it turns out, is both hilariously funny and as perceptive as fuck.
Opening track ‘Negative Vibes’ sets a defiant keynote for Damo’s second collection – a vastly superior effort to his promising and at times brilliant debut album, They Don’t Teach This Shit In School. Sinéad O’Connor’s vocals, pleading with the Lord for inner strength and honesty, are a revelation in this new backing role.
Sinead re-appears on the anthemic ‘It’s All Good’ and greed-baiting ‘Celtic Tiger’, two likely long-term highlights in a crown of eleven jewels.
There's an illustrious cast involved throughout, revealing just how fondly and highly Damo is increasingly regarded: Rob Ó Géibheannaigh, Emmet Dempsey, Kieran Kiely, Caroline Dale, Justin Adams and Brian Eno, with production duties handled by John Reynolds.
There is bawdy humour (‘The Jar Song’) tipping a nod and a glass of stout to Behan, McGowan and Christy Moore; a heart-wrenching account of heroin addiction on ‘Ghosts Of Overdoses’; and an indictment of the sectarian “drums of hate” on ‘Marching Season Siege’.
There may be a fair share of disillusionment, frustration and sadness on display – but, overall, there is an overwhelmingly positive energy radiating through Seize the Day.
In particular, ‘It’s All Good’ with its closing refrain of “Love yourself! Today! OK!” could warm the coldest and most broken of hearts.
This is a wonderful record. Carpe Diem!
Watch Damien Dempsey revisiting Seize The Day as part of Hot Press' Up Close & Personal series below:
The limited edition vinyl pressing of Seize The Day is available now here.
Damien's upcoming Irish shows include two nights at the Iveagh Gardens in Dublin (July 7 & 8).
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