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Raymond McCullough | The great China Bike Ride

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Folk: Celtic Fusion Folk: Celtic Folk Moods: Mood: Quirky
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The great China Bike Ride

by Raymond McCullough

Irish/Celtic folk/rock – Clannad meets Bob Dylan, with a touch of Luka Bloom, Christy Moore – even Horslips. Fiddler's Green International Festival described Raymond as "the discovery of the festival". 'Our Land' No.1 14 weeks on CM Radio.Net – Celtic.
Genre: Folk: Celtic Fusion
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Ballad of Beijing (radio mix)
4:24 $0.99
2. Smoke Goes Up
5:25 $0.99
3. 1989
4:29 $0.99
4. Wake Up, You Sleeper
5:01 $0.99
5. Ballad of Beijing (full 11-verse version)
8:11 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Singer/songwriter, Raymond McCullough, has been writing songs since 1973 - "Hopefully," he says, "they have improved a little over the years!" He plays guitar (a George Lowden acoustic/electric, actually!), mandolin and, now and then, a little bit of keyboard.

He has travelled and performed, (literally busking for his supper, on one occasion!), in Israel, China (Beijing), Scotland and Ireland, north and south - playing pubs, concerts, churches - on the street, if required! At the Fiddler's Green International Festival in Rostrevor, Ireland recently he was described by one of the organisers as "the discovery of the festival!"

He travelled to the People's Republic of China in 1999 - their anniversary year - to take part in a charity cycle event, organised to raise funds for MenCap. He says, "Friends said just because I'd gone to China, I didn't need to make a song about it - of course, that is exactly what I DID do!" The 11-verse saga, 'Ballad of Beijing', unfolded bit by bit over the two weeks he spent there.

"As we flew over the Mongolian mountains into Beijing, I just happened to be talking with the beautiful Irish girl who had the seat next to me - about my music, of course! - when a little tune came into my head and sort of stuck there. I added a traditional Chinese rhythm, which I heard performed every afternoon on the streets of Beijing - on Taiko drum and two cymbals - and the words just seemed to write themselves!"

When he returned home he spent the best part of the next month in the studio, just recording that one song - he nearly drove the engineer mad! He then spent the next month adding another four to make up the mini album, 'The great China Bike Ride'.

Raymond has had a very varied career; including college lecturing in computing, selling French perfume, running an Internet cafe, publishing an Irish magazine and two books, hosting his own radio show, producing TV and corporate video and, recently, restoring a classic wooden boat!

He has just set up 'Precious Oil Productions' - a media production company, and has been busily recording for two future full-length albums of Celtic music. He is also producing some documentary video, plus a DVD version of 'The great China Bike Ride'.

The album has gone down well so far in his native Ulster and beyond:

Gerry Anderson - BBC Radio Ulster:
"Isn't that good? .... Very good indeed! Excellent! I must play a wee bit of that again";

Tommy Sands - Downtown Radio:
"A very interesting man! If you ever come across him you could do well to spend a few hours with him!"

Robin Elliot - CityBeat, Belfast:
"Good song ... 'Ballad of Beijing'. 'Smoke goes up' ... great stuff!"

Colum Sands - 'Folk Club', BBC Radio Ulster:
"captures some of that Canterbury Tales-like feel of travelling with fellow pilgrims in a far off place ... the atmosphere coming through on it very well"

Jim Larkin, WBET Radio - Brockton, Massachussetts:
"What I heard sounds great! I would love to play [it] on my Radio Shows. Many thanks! I loved it."

Lee Templeton, One Night at McSorleys - Irish Music Internet Radio/Live365.com:
"Very cool! Planning on buying the album and giving it some spin on the air. Thank you again for thinking of McSorleys."

Sarah Meier, Radio AENA, Germany:
"I am always very glad when artists write us and even more if their music fit as well as yours. ... a fantastic enrichment to our program!!!

Marc Gunn, Celtic MP3 Music Magazine, Texas:
"includes an absolutely fascinating mix of Chinese and contemporary Irish songwriting."

Naim Cinar, Radio OGU - (Osmangazi Univ.), Istanbul, Turkey:
"My favourite songs are 'Ballad of Beijing' and 'Ar Tir Seo Aguinne' ... I feel the sound of 60's rock in your songs ... 'Wake up, you sleeper' reminds me of the sound of Dire Straits, ( I'm a fan :) )."

Ciro Velazquez, Radio Eufonia, Monterrey, Mexico:
"McCullough's ... is the kind of voice so characteristic, (but different among them), of the traditional singer/songwriter. A lot of feeling ..."

Barry Nothstine, 'Soul Frequency', WDNS, Kentucky, USA:
"very good stuff! Thanks so much for considering us to showcase your fine music. God Bless"

Genevieve Tudor, BBC Radio Shropshire, UK:
"Enjoyed it - it has style."

'Ar tir seo aguinne (Our Land)' has now been in the 'Celtic' chart for 42 weeks on CMRadio.Net and spent 14 weeks at No.1!

This track has also won two 'Reviewers Picks Awards', (best 'Potential Soundtrack'), at GarageBand.com - http://www.garageband.com/song?|pe1|S8LTM0LdsaSkYlizZms - and is currently all-time No. 45 on their Irish chart.

A second track, 'Smoke goes up', has spent 10 weeks in the chart and has now reached No.2 on CMRadio.Net - Celtic. Check it out (and rate it!) at: http://cmradio.net/charts/20_weeklychart.html

(Photos, MP3 streams, reviews and merchandise available - see website)



to write a review

Rod Cordner

Chinese/Celtic/rap and traditional Irish folk ballad - grows on you!
“The great China Bike Ride”, what a cracker title, what a cracker idea! The main track, “Ballad of Beijing”, I can best describe as a fusion of Chinese/Celtic/rap - really different. Two versions of it also on the album, the 8 minute one just a bit long for my taste, but still a great idea. “Smoke goes Up”, a song I’ve heard Raymond sing many a time, is perhaps my favourite - a song about Ireland in the Irish folk ballad tradition and, of course, dealing with our little problems here in the North. The collection finishes with a nice little instrumental, "Ar tir seo aguinne", translated, "Our Land" - a piece of music that grows on you. Well done Raymond!

Robert McMillen - Irish News, Belfast

Sound approach to oriental bike ride for charity
It's easy to see how the beautiful landscapes of China could awaken the creative spirit in you, but singer/songwriter Raymond McCullough did it the hard way. In October 1999, Raymond went on the Mencap China Bike Ride - despite not having been on a bike for 29 years!

"I thought I'd never do it," he said, "The journey was 444 kilometres long over four-and-a-half days. On the first day we did 40 miles, instead of 40 km, which was tough, but the following morning, we woke up in this beautiful hotel with the sun shining down on the pomegranate trees, and I had a shower, put the shorts on and thought, 'I can do this'. By the third day I had caught up on the lead riders," says Raymond with obvious pride.

The scenery was breathtaking, he recalled, but going up 18 hairpin bends to get the views wasn't all fun!

Even on the flight to Beijing, though, there was a song brewing in Ray's imagination.

" Making our way over the Mongolian mountains, about six in the morning, I got this wee tune, three chords, in my head, and that became the chorus of 'Ballad of Beijing'.

In the second week, whever I went I heard this particular tune played by three percussionists and I incorporated that into the song as well."

The 'Ballad of Beijing' can be found on 'The great China Bike Ride', a mini-album with five other songs from Ray's vast repertoire.

'Smoke goes up' is a lovely song about Ireland's smell of turf, which Ray wrote on a journey home from Cork through Ireland's towns and villages. "The smoke goes up, the rain comes down," is an image many will find familiar!

'1989' is about the fall of the Berlin Wall and there is a lovely instrumental called, 'Ar tir seo aguinne (Our Land)'.

(Robert McMillen)

Sam Rea

Celtic folk/rock/ballad - his own very individual style! - catchy too!
Raymond has obviously improved as the years have passed. This album at long last introduces his talent to the world at large.
'Ballad of Beijing' is a musical saga of a charity cycle ride across China - 11 verses in the full mix! - with a traditional north Chinese rhythm featured in the chorus. 'Shen zhu fu ni, Bei Jing' apparently means, 'God bless you, Beijing!'
'Smoke goes up' is a very Irish tune, commenting on the beauty of the land, 'but I see there's something wrong ... your fear is tearing you apart.' He also writes, 'And the future, it is plain ... we'll be a nation once again, only when we're on our knees!'
'1989' is another social commentary - this time referring to the liberation of eastern Europe; 'And now it is November, and walls are coming down, and goverments are falling all around ... the bells of freedom ringing out again.'
'Wake up, you sleeper' is a more soulful and personal song, encouraging the hearer, 'If you are thirsty, why don't you take a drink?' and to 'open up your eyes and see the writing on the wall.'
The album finishes with 'Ar tir seo aguinne', meaning 'Our Land' - an instrumental mix that is reminiscent of Horslips in places. The helicopter sound at the start leaves no doubt as to which land he is referring to!
Raymond is an eclectic performer and this album cannot hope to encompass his wide range of material, but it does whet the appetite for more. When is the next album coming, eh?