Personnel: Des Moore (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, mandolin); Ray Lynam (acoustic guitar); Kevin Sheerin (electric guitar, steel guitar); Scott Vestal (banjo); Eamon McLoughlin (mandolin, fiddle); Ronnie Kennedy (accordion); John Ryan (piano); James Blennerhassett (acoustic bass, electric bass); Billy Burgoyne (drums); Crawford Bell, Leon McCrum, Danny Sheerin, Trionagh Moore (background vocals).
Audio Mixer: Daire Winston.
Recording information: Beechpark Studios, Dublin.
Director: Orla Flanagan.
Photographer: Kip Carroll.
Arrangers: John Tate; John Ryan .
Celebrating both his 50th birthday and 30th anniversary in the music industry, easy listening Irish crooner Daniel O'Donnell continues his prolific streak with his third release of 2011, The Ultimate Collection. Further showcasing his strong work ethic, the 40-track compilation features eight brand-new studio recordings, including the string-soaked "Love Is a Beautiful Song," the John Denver-esque "I'd Live My Life Over with You," and the country ballad "Can't Hold the Years Back," alongside a re-recording of one of his early numbers, "My Donegal Shore," and two live renditions taken from his recent Nashville PBS special ("Here at the Grand Ole Opry," "Erin Tennessee"). Elsewhere, the more familiar material spans his impressive enduring career, with tracks taken from 1984 debut The Boy from Donegal ("Four Country Roads") right up to 2011's Moon Over Ireland ("Tipperary Girl"), including 1992 breakthrough hit single "I Just Want to Dance with You," his own take on the modern standard "You Raise Me Up," and his last Top 40 hit, 2006's "Crush on You." But his first official major-label retrospective since 1998's Greatest Hits is more notable for its omissions than its inclusions. Nine of his 14 U.K. chart singles are missing, including his only Top Ten, 1998's "Give a Little Love," while longtime singing partner Mary Duff, who he's released two duet albums with, is conspicuous by her absence. However, it's hard to argue against the selection when it's been personally chosen by O'Donnell himself, and while he will continue to remain under the radar of most of the British record-buying public, The Ultimate Collection should make a decent stocking-filler for most of his loyal dedicated fan base. ~ Jon O'Brien