Joe O'Donnell is a classically trained violin player from Limerick who is best known for his innovative playing in various folk-rock bands including The Woods Band and East Of Eden. He also pioneered the development of the electric violin, making his own instruments. However, he is not the same Joe O'Donnell who played fiddle for celtic rock band Mushroom in 1973.
Joe O'Donnell began playing violin at a young age. During the beat era he played with a number of groups, most notably the Limerick bands Granny's Intentions (a short stint as guitarist in 1966) and Sweet Street (1967-69), with a pre Horslips Johnny Fean. Sweet Street folded when Joe moved to Dublin to study at the Royal Irish Academy of Music. Joe was also briefly in an unrecorded, late lineup of psychedelic pioneers the Orange Machine in 1969, taking the band in a Jefferson Airplane-ish direction.
In 1971 he joined The Woods Band who'd just released their debut LP on the Greenwich label. This band folded and Gay & Terry Woods signed to Polydor as a duo. Joe appears on their debut LP "Backwoods", released in 1972. He then joined the fourth, unrecorded lineup of UK folkrock legends the Trees. This was reputedly the most rockin' version of the band (see Ugly Things #25 for an extensive band history). Bootleg live recordings of this lineup exist but unfortunately I've not heard them. In 1973, Joe replaced Dave Arbus in East Of Eden.
At this point it's worth clearing up a common misunderstanding. Around the time Joe was playing with Trees and East Of Eden, there was another musician named Joe O'Donnell playing fiddle and recording with Dublin band Mushroom. That Joe O'Donnell left Mushroom in 1973, shortly before their LP came out, and is thanked in the credits. He appears to have gone completely off the radar thereafter, and at some point the two Joes became confused for the same man, and Mushroom was added to Joe's list of credits my mistake. This error has been repeated consistently over the years. Even the bio on Joe's own website contained it at one point. For the record, the Joe O'Donnell discussed here was never a member of Mushroom and it is not he who is thanked in the credits of the "One Fine Morning" LP. If the Mushroom Joe O'Donnell is out there reading this, please get in touch!
During 1973-76, Joe was involved in a number of projects. I haven't worked out the exact chronology. He was a member of a East Of Eden from 1973 onwards, debuting on the "Sin City Girls" single and playing on the "Another Eden" LP, recorded in 1974 but not released until 1975 (only in Germany). He guested on Riff Raff's "Original Man" LP, also recorded in London in 1974. Joe toured with East Of Eden throughout Europe, including Ireland (and an Irish TV appearance in November 1973 on RTE's Talk About Pop). He was not involved in the attempted reunion of the original lineup in early 1975 but was back touring with East Of Eden by March '75, supporting Deep Purple in Germany. He leaves after the tour but would perform again when needed in 1976.
Joe was also a member of Headstone circa 1975, while in and out of East Of Eden. Headstone was formed by Steve Gould, Dave Kaffinetti and Mark Ashton of Rare Bird, with guitarist Steve Bolton (ex Atomic Rooster, who later played on Joe's solo LP. Joe appears on the second, self-titled Headstone LP from 1975 and probably also their 2nd single, but I am unsure of his contribution to the rest of their discography. Also in 1975 he guested on Henry McCullough's solo debut LP "Mind Your Own Business", released in October that year on George Harrison's Dark Horse label (via A&M).
During 1976-78, Joe fronted his own Joe O'Donnell Band who did not record. In 1976 he appeared on Jade Warrior's "Kites" album (which also featured Clodagh Simmonds of Mellow Candle). The recordings were engineered by Tom Newman (ex July, co-owner of Manor House Studios with Richard Branson of Virgin Records, producer of "Tubular Bells", etc). Joe contributed to Newman's second solo LP "Faerie Symphony" released on Decca in 1977. Joe approached Jon Field (of Jade Warrior) and Newman about recording his own concept LP. This lead to a deal with Decca, who gave Joe full freedom in recording "Gaodhal's Vision", a fusion of Celtic music with rock and jazz. The album was produced and engineered by Newman & Field. The musicians included Rory Gallagher, Steve Bolton (of Atomic Rooster, Headstone, as mentioned above), Theodor Thunder and David Lennox (ex Uptown Band, Elmer Fudd, Funky Junction, Rory Gallagher Band). Through Rory, Joe meet Rory's brother and manager Donal Gallagher, who became Joe's manager and secured a release from Decca. The LP came out instead on Rory's label Polydor Records.
Joe O'Donnell - violin, violectra 8-string violin
Rory Gallagher - guitars (lead on "Poets and Storytellers")
Bill Smith - bass
Theodore Thunder (Jon Dentith) - drums
David Lennox - keyboards
Jon Field - bass, flutes
Conductor: Fiachra French
Producer: Jon Field
Engineers: Tom Newman and Tom Nordon
Recorded at: The Argonaut and Decca Studios
Executive Producer: Donal Gallagher
All compositions by Joe O'Donnell.
Though you wouldn't guess as much from the credits, this is a reissue of "Gaodhal's Vision", possibly remixed though I don't hear any differences. AudioLabor was a German audiophile label with high quality pressings. Additional sleeve credits not present on the Polydor original include:
• Steve Bolton - guitar
• Paul McDonald - guitar
• String arrangements - Jon Field & Joe O'Donnell & Roger
and the drummer is identified as John Dentith.
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