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An Ancient Muse
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An Ancient Muse
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An Ancient Muse is "eclectic celtic" - singer/composer Loreena McKennitt's highly-anticipated first new studio recording in nine years. Taking up where her previous work left off, McKennitt fuses the melodic sensibility of Celtic Balladry with musical traditions from Greece, Turkey, Spain, and beyond. Once heard, never forgotten, Loreena MacKennitt leads the listener on a timeless journey from the Scottish borders to the caravanserais of the Silk Road to the wine-dark seas of Homer's Odyssey. McKennitt's worldwide multi-platinum sales culminated in her most recent album, 1997's The Book of Secrets, which reached #17 on the Billboard Top 200 Chart.
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Top Customer Reviews
There is a little booklet of liner notes included with the CD that lists out the lyrics on the album so you can follow along as McKennitt sings. Since McKennitt's voice can be quiet at times, this booklet is a real treasure that allowed me to hear the lyrics clearly as she sang.
If there is a theme to this collection it is "travel." The album bounces around in time and place, visiting a number of exotic locales through its songs. The unusual sounds of the album richly evoke distant places and lost times, recalling Western Europe, the Middle East, and the Far East. McKennitt's haunting voice is superb at telling stories through lyrics, and you won't go wrong as you listen in to her tales.
McKennitt continues her exploration of Middle Eastern musical phrasing, so wonderful & prominent in NIGHTS FROM THE ALLHAMBRA.
Another element that really shines out in this CD is the superlative quality of the accompanying instrumental composition & musicians. "Kecharitomene" is a powerful non-vocal composition & performance. It's really great to hear the hurdy gurdy played on many of the pieces. I can't single out any performer because they all sounded wonderful. Also, there were some instruments I wasn't familiar with--and synthesizing made identification difficult at some points. The lead instrument in the "Caravanserai" selection sounded like a violin. was SO GOOD. In fact, it reflected a very pleasant overall romantic feel to this CD.
"Caravanserai" bestows "the gift of tears" (at least for me) and beckons like a ray of light in this very sad world. This lovely song can be heard as a musical prologue to the next song The English Ladye and The Knights, with its Palestrina like choral intro and conclusion.
"Kecharitomene" is a powerful non-vocal composition & incredible performance.
Nights from the Alhambra - (Jewel 2 CD + DVD)
The Book of Secrets
The Mask and Mirror
Very similar in style to "The Mask and the Mirror" and some songs from "Book of Secrets". This isn't a bad thing. Two of my favorite songs of McKennitt's are "Dante's Prayer" and "The Mystic's Dream" and almost every song on this CD feels similar to those two songs. The problem, if you can consider it one, is that there's less variety. Each individual song on its own would be a standout on most of her other CDs. Together, they blend and only once in awhile do I feel compelled to truly pay attention to one of the songs when it's playing. Probably the solution for me will be to make a mix of her CDs or my other music, so that each song can have a bit of a spotlight when it comes up.
For those who haven't been exposed to McKennitt, this may be the 'safest' entry to start with. Her voice is wonderful, perhaps one of the clearest and most haunting voices I've heard from a female singer. The music mostly exists to frame her voice, but it's lovely in its own right, if sometimes repetitive.
For those who enjoy McKennitt's other CDs, there's very little of her 'old' Celtic style (no harps, no feet thumping songs like her live version of "The Old Ways"), but if you like the sound of her past two CDs you'll probably consider this album like you would an old friend who hasn't changed much. It's comfortable, still the same as you remembered... and that's not always a bad thing.
Then -- there in The Lyric (the Baltimore opera house) -- Loreena McKennitt on tour! First I bought the tickets. Then I bought AN ANCIENT MUSE.
Having moved on from my "new age" phase of some years back my head's been in different musical spaces: serious/wondrous jazz, guitar virtuosos, classical music... So when MUSE arrived... I was in the wrong "gear"...
But with a concert fast approaching I had to find the set list, compile my own iTunes version of the concert, "get ready." And what a world Loreena McKennitt weaves! Ahh... I'd forgotten...
MUSE has been on repeat all afternoon as I worked and thought about what to say. (Ahh... I'd forgotten...)
Once you're in the right musical head space -- world music not jazz, poems set to music not motif development upon development, etc. -- Loreena McKennitt stirs the heart like few others. For me it's her voice, the courage to set long poems to music, the richness of the instrumental sounds... and did I mention her voice?
Having devoured her earlier CDs -- I've got them all! -- I feel confident when I say AN ANCIENT MUSE is right up there with the best of them!
Enjoy... and feast your ears!
Dr. Kirtland C Peterson