78th Fraser Highlanders Pipe Band – Live In Ireland

Well, I don’t think any bagpiper or Scottish drummer would disagree that the 78th Frasers Live in Ireland CD from 1987 is an all-time classic.


The Frasers, under the direction of Pipe Major Bill Livingstone and Leading Drummer J. Reid Maxwell, set the tone for a new pipe band era – literally.  Their sound, their music and their swagger where all one of a kind.  Pipers and Drummers, the World over, were in musical awe – and in my opinion, still are to this day.

The music on the CD is magnificent – a powerful sound and very raw.  The 78th Frasers really struck a fine balance between traditional tunes and innovative suites.  

Some of my highlights include the swinging 6/8 March tracks with the Question and Answer drumming unisons. The style of pipe band drumming at that time was certainly a lot different to modern day pipe band drumming. However, it was extremely impressive and unique.  The dynamic drive is so enjoyable to listen to and the forward movement is obvious throughout the CD.

A few pipe band classics such as the Masons Apron and the Clumsy Lover come to life on this album.  The side drum settings are simple and effective for these tunes and provide such dynamic excitement. The reprise of Clumsy Lover and the rapturous applause from the Northern Irish pipe band audience makes the hairs stand on the back of your neck.

To be totally fair, the pinnacle of the CD is the “Journey to Skye” track.    It starts off with a solo bagpiper, and then the full pipe corps joins in creating some beautiful harmony all at a very slow pace.  It then gradually builds into a marching tempo in simple time, then developing into Compound time.  From this point, the percussion joins with a subtle and simple rhythm to build the theme of what the pipers have established. As the suite builds, the side drummers take the lead, the pipers then take the lead, they share the drive, then meet in the middle. It’s a fantastic piece, and way ahead of its time. If you haven’t listened to it – you need to. The roto-toms are are killer!  The wee early chanter squeak has to get a mention too !

The 78th Fraser Highlanders Pipe Band Live in Ireland is an epic pipe band album in every sense of the word.


Go to iTunes and add this Album to your Pipe Band collection!

4 thoughts on “78th Fraser Highlanders Pipe Band – Live In Ireland

  1. The side drum work from that era has a lot of open single runs and Reid’s corps pulls it off well. I am impressed that he was able to get such a pleasant sound out of the Remo Legato side drum. I saw seasoned drummers at Santa Rosa killing themselves to get those drums sounding good. Reid must have had the touch.

  2. A big part of the trick to get the Legatos to sound good was to tear off the practice pad the company had glued to the shell. The manufacterer did not even call them shells, but spacers. Because of the dual rim design they did not think the shell contributed much (if anything) to the sound so it was just a plastic tube. With a rubber pud on the side it was handy to be able to flip your drum and run through a section or just keep your hands loose without having the PM yell at the corps to keep quiet, but the rubber absorbed the vibrations and affected the tone. The projection off the bottom was greatly improved after we took those pads off. If my memory is correct it was Jimmy Blakely who sugested it.

    It was great night though . . one I will certainly never forget. As a drummer, one thing I like about the recording is that the drums are easy to hear (and for good reason). We had mics on every drum. However, after the show the sound engineer told us he thought the entire recording might be a bust because from the first time we touched the drums every sound meter maxed out (even those on mics far from the drums). The drum sound you hear on the album is “only” what the mics set up for the pipes picked up. They turned off EVERY mic from the drum corps to keep the drum volume as low as it is (which is still a bit much for pipers; however, as I mentioned, as a drummer it sounds fine to me 🙂 🙂 )

    I still listen to this album every so often. I used to try and play along but hands are not that fast any more.

    • Tim, thank you so much for sharing that. That 78th Live in Ireland album is simply my most favourite pipe band album of all time. The drumming is sick! I often let my students listen to tracks from that album – they always comment on the cool drum scores!

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