The great Paul Robeson, whose version I have on an old two-LP Vanguard set, "The Essential Paul Robeson."
For just the instrumental Leonard Slatkin with the Saint Louis Symphony has a nice SACD or CD out with Percy Grainger's Irish Tune from County Derry (Danny Boy) along with Tchaikovsky's Serenade for strings, Pachelebl's Canon, Vaughn William's Fantasia on Greensleeves, Fuare's Pavanne, Barber's Adagio for Strings and again Vaughn william's Fantansia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis. By far my favorite instrumental version.
I highly recommend you get a copy of THE KERRY DANCERS AND OTHER SWINGING FOLK, by the late great Little Giant Johnny Griffin and his quartet on Riverside records.
His version of Danny Boy/The Londonderry Air still brings tears to my eyes it's so beautiful. This group also has Barry Harris, Ron Carter, and Ben Riley and the rest of the songs, along with the sound quality is reference level.
John McCormack, the great Irish tenor sang a precursor (name eludes me) of Danny Boy that is, for all intents and purposes, the same song. Very scratchy, early (possibly pre-electronic) recording of poor quality, but an amazing rendition.
I'm not sure if he ever recorded the actual "Danny Boy", but - if you like those sad Irish ballads, I'd check him out, anyway.
Thanks to all. Great suggestions. I have both the Eva Cassidy and Jacintha versions and really enjoy them. If you like them, you might want to try the Jheena Lodwick version. I also like the Carly Simon verion on her My Romance CD. The female vocalist are very different than the traditional Irish tenors, but I really like them. To Larryi's point, the tenors often make it into an extremely somber song, whereas the females seem a little more life to them. I am working my way through the other suggestions. I also added Ronin Tynin to the mix. On CD Universe I found over 1200 versions. Azaud - do you know if there is a 24/192 version of your suggestion? It certainly should be heard in the highest resolution possible :) Thanks to all.
Al, thanks for the Paul Robeson reminder. My folks visited when my first good system was new. My mom is Welsh and has been a Robeson admirer since she was young, so I played my best Robeson vinyl for her (I have the Vanguard and some others). His Danny Boy is great and he also does a wonderful version of the Welsh classic "All Through the Night"; almost as good as my mom singing it in Welsh!
I checked out the John McCormack version; nice! I also found a good rendition by John McDermott and I definitely like the Frank Patterson.
In this more traditional vein, I was reminded of the Welsh/American baritone Thomas L. Thomas (The Voice of Firestone) who I grew up on. His "All Through the Night" is the best (in Welsh).
Dtc, I can't really help you as I've never really focused on the various performances of this song. I've Cassidy's version and I love her performance as well.
My question for you is based on my perception that the lasting power of this simple music is in its political content, the bitter undertone about the way the British treated the Irish (for 800 years). Of the various performances you have heard, which one(s) do you think really express this sentiment? I know it when I hear it, but I haven't heard (or can't recall) most of the versions referred to above.
Newbee - actually I listen to Danny Boy as an emotional ballad, not based on its political content. From what I understand, the author said it was not a political statement, but I am really not an expert. I will leave any political interpretation to others. I am still working through the various recommendations, but do like the Frank Patterson version, as well as my original favorite from Jheena Lodwich.
02-10-11: Martykl writes:
I mentioned John McCormack in a post just above yours! He has done "Danny Boy" and glorious it is. I wrote:
For a sweet melancoly Irish rendition of this song I agree with Marty, the Great Irish Tenor John McCormack is a good one. I am not sure if he ever recorded "Danny Boy" but I have a later recording of "Oh Mary Dear"/Londonderry Air recorded in 1936. His voice is worth checking out to those unfamiliar with this contemporary of Enrico Caruso.