March 17, 2000|By J.D. Considine

Eight essential Irish albums: The Chieftains -- "The Chieftains Collection" (Claddagh/Atlantic 83224). The best of the landmark band's early years.

Derek Bell -- "Carolan's Receipt" (Claddagh/Atlantic 83282). A delicate and lyrical tribute to the great Irish harp composer Turlough O'Carolan, performed by Bell and other Chieftains.

Clannad -- "Fuaim" (Celtic Heartbeat 82481). Clannad started out traditional folk and evolved into pop. In this album, it draws on jazz and pop but staysclose to its Irish roots. (It features a teen-age Enya on keyboards).

Moving Hearts -- "The Storm" (Tara 3014). Most Celtic rock sounds like regular rock with pipes pasted on, but Moving Hearts comes across as a traditional band that just happens to know how to rock. A classic.

Dolores Keane & John Faulkner -- "Sail Og Rua" (Shanachie 78027). This collection of songs and reels backs Keane's gorgeous voice with some of Ireland's finest traditional instrumentalists.

Eileen Ivers -- "Eileen Ivers" (Green Linnet 1139). A veteran of "Riverdance," the Brooklyn-born Ivers is considered one of the finest Irish fiddlers around.

Altan -- "Island Angel" (Green Linnet 1137). Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh's warm, evocative singing and Frankie Kennedy's agile, melancholy fiddle playing is used to great effect here.

Afro Celt Sound System -- "Afro Celt Sound System" (Real World 62359). What makes this blend of Irish, African and dance music so much fun is that every performance is based on songs, not riffs.

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