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Loreena McKennitt


Country of origin:

Canada

Type of music generally:

Enchanting, evocative/eclectic ethereal traditional and Celtic-influenced folk with an increasingly world flavour

Status:

Most recent release, The Journey So Far: The Best Of Loreena McKennitt (2-CD compilation, 2014); most recent release of all-new material, The Wind That Shakes The Barley (2010)

See also:

Quinlan Road, Loreena McKennitt's official site

Comparisons:

Enya, Clannad. (nightwol@dircon.co.uk)

Comparable to Enya, but better (in my opinion). (uli@zoodle.robin.de)

Clannad at their best. (jbr@casetech.dk)

Covers/own material:

A mixture of own material, own arrangements of traditional songs, and own settings of poetry.

General comments:

From straightforward folk ballads accompanied by solo harp, via dreamy keyboard-dominated ethereal invocations, evocative interpretations of great literature, to driving rock-'n'-world mixtures that would grace a Peter Gabriel record, Loreena's music never fails to sound distinctively hers. A truly unique artist who has developed considerably over the years. (nightwol@dircon.co.uk)

The music is quite calming, Loreena has a very nice voice and plays a cool harp. (uli@zoodle.robin.de)

I still love Loreena's early albums, but her later albums, especially The Mask and Mirror and The Book of Secrets blur for me. Loreena has a stunning voice and a great sense of arranging her music so it doesn't lose its edge or sound sentimental, especially in her earlier recordings. (Neile)

In my honest opinion, this woman is a genius. Her musical tapestry is so involved, and so unique. I honestly can't see any similarities between her and Enya (for what it's worth, I can't stand Enya). (Matt.Bittner)

I've tried many times to make myself like Loreena's music because she's such a fave on this list and I do go above and beyond the usual benefit of the doubt when it comes to an ectoconcensus, BUT...she bores me to tears. It sounds like Eastern/Celtic elevator music to me. The lyrics leave me wishing she was strictly instrumental, too. There...I've said it. Of course, I could be politically correct and take the blame by saying that her subtlety is beyond my meager appreciation, but NAHHHH...she just bores me. (JavaHo@aol.com)

A weaver of mystery and magick. (fleur)

There's definitely a progression from each album to the next. They become richer and more layered as they get newer. Also, she seems to stray further away from "just a singing, Celtic harpist" as the years go on. It's not unlike the maturing of Happy Rhodes' music over the years. I'd recommend all of her albums (especially The Visit, which was the first I heard from her). (joc@netaxs.com)

Here's my 2-cents worth. If you like Elemental, then you'll like Parallel Dreams and To Drive the Cold Winter Away. All three of those CDs are very minimalistic production-wise, with an emphasis on traditional Celtic songs and arrangements, and all three were obviously recorded on a shoestring budget. I'm a big fan of The Book of Secrets and The Mask and Mirror as well as The Visit, but still found things to enjoy about the first three releases as well (especially Parallel Dreams) even though they *are* markedly different from her more recent work.
     As for A Winter Garden I'd *definitely* recommend it as it boasts a similar sound to her recent albums (as it should, since it came out after The Mask and Mirror), provided you have no qualms with traditional Christmas music. Pass it up, and you'll never hear one of Loreena's best songs, "Snow." (Even though it's also on To Drive the Cold Winter Away, the version on A Winter Garden is much better, in my opinion.)
     Bottom line, any true Loreena McKennitt fan will find much to like about any of her albums. Fans of only her more recent sound should stick to The Visit and everything released since. (Patrick)

Comments about live performance:

Live, Loreena simply blew me away—her voice is actually more pure and beautiful live than it is on CD...a frightening concept, but I'd say the same is true of a few other Ecto faves. (burka@jeffrey.net)

There was such energy on that stage when I saw her. Her voice was so strong and clean, and the band with all their wonderful instruments really enchanted me. I would strongly recommend seeing her live if you can! (chip@acronet.net)

Seeing her perform the whole The Mask and Mirror live in Utrecht was an amazing experience. (awphili@hacktic.nl)

Best concert of 1998: Loreena McKennitt in Amsterdam and Utrecht, by far. A wonderful experience to see her live, her voice is even better live than on the cd and she has a group of truly magical musicians around her. (Marion)

Recommended first album:

The Mask and Mirror shows Loreena's art at its most fully developed (to date). (nightwol@dircon.co.uk)

The Visit. (uli@zoodle.robin.de) (Neile)

If you already have The Mask and Mirror and The Book of Secrets, and if you don't have The Visit, I would unquestionably buy that first. Then Parallel Dreams, then the Live in San Francisco (EP), and then To Drive the Cold Winter Away and A Winter Garden (EP). (bvmi@odin.cc.pdx.edu)

Recordings:


Elemental

Release info:

1985—Quinlan Road—QRCD101

Availability:

Generally available

Ecto priority:

High

Group members:

Loreena McKennitt—vocals, troubador harp, accordion, guitar, synthesizer

Guest artists:

Douglas Campbell—recitation
George Greer—acoustic bass
Pat Mullin—'cello
Cedric Smith—guitar and vocals

Produced by:

Bill Mather

Comments:

Loreena at her most straightforwardly Celtic. Probably the Loreena album most accessible to fans of Clannad. A nice sound, this could be nobody else, and her voice delights but there are only hints here of the wonderful things to come on her later albums. Well worth having for all that. (nightwol@dircon.co.uk)

Loreena's first album, the 'least excellent', but still VERY GOOD. It's clear that it's her first one, since she develops during her albums. This is a must have if you like the Irish style of ethereal music. (uli@zoodle.robin.de)

This is a collection of mostly traditional songs, with wonderful versions of "Blacksmith" (a song also done by Steeleye Span), "She Moved Through the Fair" (which almost everyone has done), and others. (Neile)

Generally, the further back you go with Loreena, the more "traditional" her music becomes. For instance, most of the songs on this album are "traditional arranged by Loreena McKennitt" :) She's always put poems to her own music though, too, which I think is lovely. (damon)

I can understand why some people like her older stuff better. This is "true" celtic music, very "simple" (but not too simple) and very likable. However, for me, I like all the "earthy tones" on her later albums. Just my opinion. (Matt.Bittner)


To Drive the Cold Winter Away

Release info:

1987—Quinlan Road—QRCD102

Availability:

Generally available

Ecto priority:

Medium

Group members:

Loreena McKennitt—vocals, troubador harp, celtic harp, accordion, tambourine, finger cymbals, tin whistle

Guest artists:

Shannon Purves-Smith—viols
Cedric Smith—vocals

Produced by:

Loreena McKennitt

Comments:

My least favourite Loreena album by a long way. Too tied into its seasonal theme to be played at other times of the year, and when it comes to Christmas there's other music I'd rather hear. Still, you can't entirely dismiss any album that has Loreena's voice all over it! (nightwol@dircon.co.uk)

As said before this is a collection of traditional Christmas Carols. I personally have absolutely no problems with that, perhaps because German Christmas Carols are something that's absolutely different. Perhaps her most difficult to approach, but as always excellent. (uli@zoodle.robin.de)

A collection of Christmas/Yuletide music. Simple arrangements, some recorded in churches in the U.K. and Canada. (Neile)

The winter album has several Christmas-y/Christian stuff, as opposed to the more eclectic stuff in much of her releases. (rholmes@cs.stanford.edu)

If you have Loreena's earlier albums, To Drive the Cold Winter Away is in a similar tone to Elemental, somewhat sparse, but beautiful in simplicity...none of the lush arrangements you find on The Mask and Mirror. The songs were recorded on location in monasteries & churches & such, and I think the whole thing is just the most marvelous Christmas album ever. Loreena was very smart about not picking those songs that you hear over and over again to death in the malls and wherever, traditional (somewhat obscure sometimes) English/Scottish carols and some original compositions. Definitely worth buying, especially as it's actually decent Christmas album (who would've thought? a Christmas album not full of schlock, that you can actually play the rest of the year? I know, I know, there are other good seasonal albums, but they're few and far between in the wilds of winter muzak) :) (contzen@sfu.ca)

To Drive the Cold Winter Away is a lovely album. Very sparse and echo-ey. The whole thing was recorded in various churches and other large buildings, which I think produces a nice effect. It certainly brings Loreena's voice into the forefront, which is a very worthy thing to have done! :) I don't really think of it as Christmas music myself, although the songs are all definitely seasonal winter music (and none of the stuff that assails your ears in department stores or on the radio at Christmas, praise be! 8/ ). I just think of it as a beautiful album to listen to at any time of year. Quite different from all of her other albums in my opinion, but probably closest to Elemental in arrangement, style, sparsity, etc. (damon)

I really like the way the "recording in a church" came out. It gives it a different air. (Matt.Bittner)

I think To Drive the Cold Winter Away is her weakest album, on the whole. (bvmi@odin.cc.pdx.edu)

To Drive the Cold Winter Away focuses mainly on little-known traditional holiday or seasonal songs. (Patrick)

Traditional and original xmas tunage, mostly recorded in big old reverby churches in the UK. Probably the only really xmas-y album I can deal with. (burka@jeffrey.net)


Parallel Dreams

Release info:

1989—Quinlan Road—QRCD103

Availability:

Generally available

Ecto priority:

Very high

Group members:

Loreena McKennitt—vocals, harp, keyboards, synthetic textures, ukelin, bodhran
Brian Hughes—guitar, electric bass, synthetic textures
Oliver Schroer—violin, fiddle
George Koller—'cello, bass, tamboura

Guest artists:

David Woodhead—mandolin, accordion
Rick Lazar—udu drum, congas
Shelly Berger—bass, pzud
Patrick Hutchinson—uillean pipes
Ratash Dasj—tablas
Al Cross—percussion

Produced by:

Loreena McKennitt & Brian Hughes

Comments:

Loreena begins to move away from the confines of her Celtic roots with this album, and the expansion of the musical horizons really shows! Songs like "Samian Night", "Huron 'Beltane' Fire Dance", and "Breaking the Silence" remain favourites, and Loreena's singing throughout delights as ever. (nightwol@dircon.co.uk)

A steady improvement of the almost perfect. This is a must have, as always if you do like something that sounds a bit Irish. (uli@zoodle.robin.de)

A strong collection. A mix of traditional and her own compositions. This has a wonderful version of the traditional song, "Annachie Gordon", and "Standing Stones" is a great example of her own songwriting. (Neile)

All I can say is that it's Loreena, and she is one of my musical goddesses. (Matt.Bittner)


The Visit

Release info:

1991—Quinlan Road (distributed by Warner Bros./WEA)—9031-75151-2

Availability:

Generally available

Ecto priority:

Must have

Group members:

Loreena McKennitt—vocals, keyboards, accordion, harp, whistle, bodhran
Brian Hughes—balalaika, guitar, electric guitar
George Koller—bass, 'cello, mad fiddle, tamboura, sitar
Hugh Marsh—fiddle

Guest artists:

Al Cross—drums
Anne Bourne—'cello
Tom Hazlett—bass
Patrick Hutchinson—uilean pipes
Rick Lazar—drums, percussion, udu drum

Produced by:

Loreena McKennitt & Brian Hughes

Comments:

A truly wonderful album! Loreena really hits her stride with this one, by far her most powerful work to date. Almost every track is a classic. Still lots of Celtic influences around here, but this album sounds 100% Loreena McKennitt and what a magical experience that is! Being her first album to get overseas distribution, this is where I started with Loreena and I never looked back. Should be in every Ectophile's collection! (nightwol@dircon.co.uk)

If you want to test Loreena's music, buy this one. If you want to hear 'The Lady of Shallott' set to music, buy this one. If you want to hear fantastic music, buy this one. (uli@zoodle.robin.de)

Very atmospheric album, a very good compilation of traditionals, instrumentals and own compositions, very good combination of harp and keyboards. My friend bought all of Loreena's albums after he heard The Visit and now he regrets it, because they are "all the same". The Visit is still great. (Dirk.Kastens@rz.Uni-Osnabrueck.DE)

Great album, very pure Celtic folk with some Eastern influences. (jbr@casetech.dk)

This is a stunning collection. There's nothing like it. Her voice is amazing here, as are her songs. I never would have thought I would like someone putting "The Lady of Shalott" to music, but it's lovely. This is consistently powerful & beautiful. (Neile)

Just picked up The Visit, and WOW! How else to explain it? It makes me think of all the wonderful things I'm missing in my life. I'm so glad I have finally "discovered" her. For those recommending this in light of The Mask and Mirror, way to go! The two discs go hand in hand. (Matt.Bittner)

Definitely get The Visit when you can. That's still my favourite, though it's hard for me to pick favourites among Loreena's albums.(damon)


The Mask and Mirror

Release info:

1994—Quinlan Road (distributed by Warner Bros./WEA)—4509-95296-2

Availability:

Generally available

Ecto priority:

Essential

Group members:

Loreena McKennitt—voice, dumbeg, keyboards, accordion, synthesizer, organ pipes
Brian Hughes—electric guitar, oud, guitar, balalaika, electric sitar
Rick Lazar—drums, percussion, dumbeg, udu drum
George Koller—bass, tamboura, 'cello, esraj
Hugh Marsh—fiddle

Guest artists:

Ravi Naimpally—tabla
Abrahm Tawfik—nai, oud
Anne Bourne—'cello, backing vocals
Patrick Hutchinson—uilleann pipes
Donnal Lunny—bouzouki, bodhran
Al Cross—drums
Nigel Eaton—hurdy-gurdy
Ofra Harno—'cello
Victoria Scholars choir—voices

Produced by:

Loreena McKennitt

Comments:

Loreena just keeps on getting better with every release! With a more up tempo and electric feel to several of the tracks on the disc she is moving more and more into her own sound world. The interplay between guitar and violin is especially notable (sometimes it's hard to tell which plays what) and Loreena's exquisite voice floats above with that welcome hint of steel that prevents her from slipping into the "ethereal" mire. There is less harp playing on this album than previously, not a problem for me but that may disappoint some. (nightwol@dircon.co.uk)

Though I love her approach to music and her voice, of course, this album sounded to me like The Visit all over again. And I think she did it better the first time. I usually listen to one of my other discs of hers than this one. Still a good album, though. Something about it just doesn't click as well with me than the others. (Neile)

Loreena McKennitt's albums are not all the same, not by a long shot. Listening to them, you can hear a definite progression in the range and complexity of music presented. I've heard a lot of comments/complaints about The Mask and Mirror being 'The Visit part 2', and disagree; there's a lot wider expanse of base material to The Mask and Mirror. (cinnamon@one.net)

It is more sparsely arranged than others of hers. The Visit and The Mask and Mirror are both a bit different than her earlier (Elemental, Parallel Dreams) stuff, in that it is, for lack of a better description, more "new age/modern" than the "traditional" stuff. (rholmes@cs.stanford.edu)

I would consider The Mask and Mirror more layered, more textured, some might say more "produced" than The Visit, but I think it goes beyond that. It's great. After listening to mostly "popular-type" music, it's great getting some of this. Celtic, ethereal, etc. A great disc to listen to when wanting to "calm down", or just mellow out. (Matt.Bittner)

Me, I'd just say The Mask and Mirror simply isn't nearly as good. In fact, it was the first Loreena album which didn't grab me and beat me over the head for a while. I should note that by the time it came out, I already had all 4 of her other albums.... (burka@jeffrey.net)

This was my first Loreena CD, and now I must have them all. (stuart@sph.emory.edu)

More complex. Where The Visit draws on the Celtic traditions, The Mask and Mirror draws on Celtic, Spanish, Moorish and Arabic traditions. The merry mix-up leads to a more complex, and in my opinion interesting, sound. (woj@smoe.org)

Clannad for the foreground. (gmcdonald@furia.com)

I've heard it twice now, and I think I like it best of all. My favorite songs are still on other albums but, as a whole, this works for me better than the others. (vickie@enteract.com)

I'd say that The Mask and Mirror is her most "produced" album...sort of a natural progression. (damon)

I didn't buy this one because I already have The Visit. The Mask and Mirror doesn't seem to be very different from it. (Dirk.Kastens@rz.Uni-Osnabrueck.DE)

A marvelous album that I highly recommend. (mcurry@io.com)

All it took was hearing one exquisite song ("The Mystic's Dream") to hook me. Once I found out who it was, I had to have it. "The Mystic's Dream" is indeed a great song, and the rest of the album is great too. (stevev@hexadecimal.uoregon.edu)

I love it!!!!!!!!!!!!!! She is the only one who is able to make proper music to stuff by Shakespeare. (onealien@mo.himolde.no)

This was a difficult one. I loved it on first listen, but then it kind of started to sound boring, but I kept listening to it, and now I think it's my favourite Loreena album. I like it so much that her other discs kind of faded in comparison, but I hope this situation will stabilise over time. Seeing her perform the whole album live in Utrecht was an amazing experience. (awphili@hacktic.nl)

Lately I've been bringing The Mask and Mirror to listen to at work so I can identify why I haven't been so enthusiastic about it. And for my part I really don't think it has to do with her leaving behind the "Celtic thing"—though I'm not enough of a musician to be able to define exactly what constitutes the "Celtic thing." Here are my impressions going through the tracks:
     1. "The Mystic's Dream"—this track perhaps most captures for me the ambivalence I feel about the album. On the one hand, I really like this song. On the other, there's something missing—there's this faint organ or keyboard part that comes in underneath toward the end of the last two verses, and I'm always listening for it from the beginning, and when I get to it it's not enough. It's something I'm wanting in the bass that gets into your hips and makes the music feel really sexy, something that would add a real yearning stab when she sings "call me home." Without it the music feels a bit ascetic. Loreena's a good enough musician where I'm sure this is intentional, and it is the mystic's dream, after all. But I get frustrated every time I hear it by the promise of a fulfillment that it doesn't deliver.
     2. "The Bonny Swans"—Love it. But then, you'll say that that's because it's leftover "Celtic thing." :-)
     3. "The Dark Night of the Soul"—Now the album gets more introspective. But after a few listens I've come to really like this song too.
     4. "Marrakesh Night Market"—Here's where the album starts going downhill for me. It's not so much that the music has set off for southern ports—rather, it's that it's missing something hot and driving underneath that would make it really rock. The music is upbeat, after all, but it doesn't catch me up in it. And the track is six and a half minutes long. This song reminds me of the way I reacted to that Gerard Depardieu movie 1492 about Columbus: here are a bunch of northern Europeans from the winter lands trying to play fiery-blooded southern Europeans, and they just don't get it.
     5. "Full Circle"—This is actually quite a beautiful song. Unfortunately, for me it's similar to the beautiful slow songs Enya does: for some reason they all tend to run together in my mind. Perhaps it's because by this point in the album I'm frustrated about not getting caught up in the upbeat stuff, so getting a slow, quiet song here just makes me more impatient.
     6. "Santiago"—This one's closer to scratching the itch, but I can't help wanting even it to be more furiously intense. There's a little transitional bit after about the first third that sounds like it's going to lead somewhere interesting, but instead it disappoints me by going right back to the top.
     7. "The Two Trees"—Every time I hear this, I think, "Wow! That's fantastic! How come I didn't remember that this was on the album?" This is as Loreena as Loreena comes.
     8. "Prospero's Speech"—This is a real letdown after "The Two Trees," which would have made an excellent album-ending track. Bleak. Unfortunate, because then you're not left with as good a memory of the album as you might have had.
     Here's what it all adds up to for me: there are some real gems on this album, but I tend to lose them unless I'm paying real close attention to what's going on. As the album progresses I get disappointed by the upbeat tracks, which waters down my appreciation of the stunning slow, introspective tracks. Then finishing off with the last track's bleakness undermines my recollection of the other slow tracks. It was surprising to me how much the order of the tracks had to do with my original lack of enthusiasm for this album. (psfblair@ix.netcom.com)


Live in San Francisco (EP)

Release info:

1994—Quinlan Road—QRCD105SF

Availability:

Available through Quinlan Road only, address below

Ecto priority:

Low (nightwol@dircon.co.uk)

Comments:

Quinlan Road has indeed released the Australian live CD separately. It can only be ordered direct from QR. This CD has 6 tracks. There was also a U.S. promo-only live CD with 10 tracks. The 6 tracks on the Australian CD were taken from the U.S. promo version. There are no plans to release the U.S. CD more widely, so I would recommend ordering the Australian live CD. This is an excellent disc and is highly recommended. (bvmi@odin.cc.pdx.edu)

This is first time I've heard Loreena McKennitt live at all—and she's awesome! Anyone got the full 9-track promo CD for sale for a decent price? ;-) (uli@zoodle.robin.de)


A Winter Garden—Five Songs for the Season (EP)

Release info:

1995—Quinlan Road/Warner Bros.—9 46096-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Low (nightwol@dircon.co.uk)

Comments:

It's an EP of Christmas songs. It includes: "Coventry Carol", "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen", "Good King Wenceslas", "Snow" and one other. It was recorded in a few days at Realworld Studio. It's quite good, of course. (bvmi@odin.cc.pdx.edu)

The Winter Garden EP is most excellent, by the way. (meth@smoe.org)

As every Loreena McKennitt release, this is music at its best. If you like Loreena's other albums and do not yet have this EP, check it out immediately! Her Irish-but-not-only-Irish style is just so much better as Enya (sorry to all Enya fans, I do like Enya as well, but not as much as Loreena), and this was also the only case of successful Ectovangelising someone: he was an Enya fan, I told him about Loreena, he bought an album (The Mask And Mirror) without having listened to it, and 4 weeks later, when I saw him again, he already had found and bought The Visit and Elemental. (uli@zoodle.robin.de)

Very very nice, though perhaps not as interesting as To Drive the Cold Winter Away. This time she's done two of the more often-heard carols, "God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen" and "Good King Wenceslas"—which, interestingly enough, are the two popular Christmas carols I actually quite like, whereas most of the other ones you hear strike me as smarmy, overdone, and...well...icky. Anyway, it's Loreena. Very nice, and Christmas-ey music actually worth listening to. :) I can definitely recommend the EP—it's a (typically) very lovely work. I can't wait for her to release a new *album*! :) (damon)

"Hey, guys, I have a great idea. Let's run To Drive the Cold Winter Away through a The Mask and Mirror filter, wring out the dull bits, and release an EP!" Nice, but I prefer the original disc more. And there were no dull bits. (burka@jeffrey.net)

Wow. I can't remember the last time I wanted to dance to a Christmas tune. Her rendition of "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" does just that. The music is "middle-eastern", and has a nice feeling to it. In my opinion, it's the best song on the disc, although the other four are nothing to scoff at either. This is a must have if you like Christmas music—especially out of the ordinary—or if you're a Loreena fan. Nothing needs to be said. She's amazing. If you need a "holiday type" CD, A Winter Garden is it. One of those artists that you tend to buy without listening to first. (Matt.Bittner)

A Winter Garden has only five songs total; three are familiar Christmas songs ("God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen," "The Coventry Carol," and "Good King Wenceslas") with the remaining two pairing existing poetry with new music written by Loreena. Again, highly recommended. I prefer it to To Drive the Cold Winter Away. Something about To Drive the Cold Winter Away is just a bit too reverby, and even a tad too bland for me. I do agree with his assessment that A Winter Garden sounds like it was run through The Mask and Mirror filter (the percussion on "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" to my ear sounds identical to the percussion on "The Mystic's Dream"), but I still really like the EP thoroughly (especially the new version of "Snow"). (Patrick)


The Book of Secrets

Release info:

1997—Quinlan Road (distributed by Warner Bros./WEA)—CD19404

Availability:

Generally available

Ecto priority:

Very high (nightwol@dircon.co.uk)

Group members:

Loreena McKennitt—vocals, piano, keyboards, harp, kanoun, accordion
Brian Hughes—oud, guitars, bouzouki, guitar synthesizer, vocal drone
Rick Lazar—percussion
Hugh Marsh—violin
Donald Quan—tabla, timba, ersaj, viola, keyboards, vocal drone
Danny Thompson—acoustic bass

Guest artists:

Anne Bourne—cello
Aidan Brennan—acoustic guitar, mandola
Andy Brown—viola
Martin Brown—acoustic guitar, mandolin, mandola
Stuart Bruce—drones
Paul Clarvis—snare drum
Nigel Eaton—hurdy gurdy
Steáfán Hannigan—bodhran
Nick Hayley—serangi, rebec, lira da braccio
Robin Jeffery—victorian guitar
Martin Jenkins—mandocello
Manu Katché—drums
Iain King—violin
Caroline Lavelle—cello
Joanna Levine—viola da gamba
Osama—violin
Steve Pigott—keyboards
Hossam Ramzy—percussion
Jonathan Rees—violin
David Rhodes—electric guitar
Chris van Kampen—cello
Bob White—tin whistle, shawm

Produced by:

Loreena McKennitt

Comments:

While closer in style to The Mask and Mirror than to any of her earlier works, I find this album lacks the excitement and momentum of its predecessor. The playing is very comfortable and this lends an air of blandness to the instrumental tracks (and most especially the opening "Prologue") in particular. That said, it ranks high above most other new releases that I heard this year (1997) and in songs like "Dante's Prayer", "The Mummer's Dance" (this one would have been right at home on The Mask and Mirror), "Night Ride Across the Caucasus", and "The Highwayman" Loreena shows herself to be one of the truly unique talents around. Wonderful stuff! (nightwol@dircon.co.uk)

Fortunately, Loreena's gifted in both the voice and harp departments. Her first handful of albums were good, but pretty much the same kind of stuff...which gets tedious after a while (this is getting into personal preference now: my biggest issue with celtic trad—which I love—is that it's really difficult for me to *listen* to it since it, all too often, sounds the same). Fortunately, again, she started drawing on other musical traditions to infuse a new sound into her music on the past couple records. The Visit was the start of it and she really reached out on The Mask and Mirror. I found this mish-mash of styles utterly fascinating and, on the strength of that alone, I really enjoy The Book of Secrets. However, I can't help but wish that she'd taken the record farther away from her roots since it is so stylistically similar to the previous offering. (woj@smoe.org)

I suppose I'll buy it anyway...it is, after all, Loreena. But I long for the days of her first 4 albums. (burka@jeffrey.net)

Add me to the list of those giving a thumbs up to Loreena's new cd. In large part it's a continuation of what she was doing on The Mask and Mirror, so if you love that cd (like I do) you'll love the new one as well. It's good enough that the 56+ minute mix of songs and instrumental tracks does indeed seem to be too short. Loreena's voice is wondrously beautiful (as always), Hugh Marsh's violin playing is amazing and the vast assortment of other instruments are played well by the mob of talented musicians who contributed to this album in one way or another. My only quibble with The Book of Secrets might be the fact that we only get to hear Loreena play her harp on one track. (mcurry@io.com)

I found The Mask and Mirror boring. Not sure The Book of Secrets is going to be much better. Something about the rawness of the early stuff and the new almost-lushness of The Visit works for me whereas the last two begin to approach the New Age-y Celtic sound of Enya et al. which my ears find offensive. I'm not sure what I was hoping for with her post-Visit work, all I know is I don't find it fascinating listening like those first four. It doesn't feel like a new direction at all to me—it feels like no direction at all. That said, I do really love "The Highwayman" and "Night Ride Across The Caucasus"—I guess I'm simply more drawn to the more balladic pieces. (Neile )

It's her usual fantastic mix of Celtic and Middle Eastern music, if you liked The Mask and Mirror you won't be disappointed. I especially enjoyed "The Highwayman" and "Dante's Prayer". Oh, cool liner notes too. English and French versions for all you Canadian types out there. (sspan)

I loved The Mask and Mirror, and truly the new one takes me back there. Very calming and quite nice, but as others point out it starts to sound the same after a while. But it's a very nice same! It definitely requires a few listens to fully appreciate. Nothing great ever comes easy! (rlovejoy@comcast.net)

I rather like the last two Loreena albums; different, but excellent as well. We all change and evolve, and can't go back to what we were before. And we still have the old Loreenas to listen to.
      Regarding the remix version of Loreena's "Mummer's Dance" that is getting airplay, I myself like it—it was rather eerie hearing it on the local "alterna-pop" station. I heard a cool trippy beat, and this hauntingly familiar melody which had me thinking "I must get this!" for about two phrases of singing (I think I tuned in somewhere in the middle). Then I realized it was Loreena! No wonder it seemed so familiar! (rholmes@cs.stanford.edu)

I picked it up, despite not being a huge fan of Loreena McKennitt (probably because I haven't given her the opportunity to sink in, having only The Mask and Mirror and her Christmas cd). I think it's a wonderful CD. It's got a very nice eastern influence (à la the 2nd half of Jane Siberry's Maria). (jeffw@smoe.org)

This is a very very beautiful album, very well produced—maybe a bit too beautiful. Especially when I listen with headphones, every instrument is crystal clear and still an indivisible part of the whole, and all the tracks on the album fit together. It isn't much of a departure from The Mask and Mirror, but still a step ahead. My only concern was that at first I found the stories about the songs in the liner notes more moving than the songs themselves...until I put on my headphones and couldn't stop listening to the music. (Marion)

I love her music, and this album doesn't change that fact. I've had no problems with her slightly different styles up through the last couple of albums. Actually I've followed her travels very closely as I'm very interested in the Celts and their culture in general. I'm very curious about what she is going to do next. She has followed their tracks from Spain and far into Russia. Where next? (onealien@mo.himolde.no)

As many have said, this is a solid, beautiful album, but nothing really new. Loreena does win points though for her high-quality CD booklets and liner notes. I especially like the song "Dante's Prayer". Very beautiful and lush album, and Loreena's voice is more intelligible to me than on any of her previous albums, understandable even without lyrics, and staying more in her lower range but sounding better than ever. (jjhanson@att.net)

The Book of Secrets is indeed wonderful stuff. Vintage Loreena—my only complaint is that it's too short. Probably won't win her any new fans, but it's quite satisfying to those of us who have been in love with her work for years now. I'm completely flabbergasted that so many ectophiles don't like this album. One of the things that makes Loreena's music most appealing to me is the fact that she's not afraid to go into new directions and explore new musical ground. The amount of research she puts into each album is unprecedented (just look at the liner notes), and the result is a rich tapestry of elements from different musical traditions that you wouldn't necessarily expect to hear woven together. Her Celtic stuff was nice, but after 4 albums of that it was refreshing to hear something new and different. Granted, The Book of Secrets is quite similar musically to The Mask and Mirror, but it's *far* from "New Age". (meth@smoe.org)

The combination of Loreena's hauntingly beautiful voice and the weaving of Eastern, Indian, and Celtic musical structure make this a masterful creation. I'm particularly fond of her use of droning instruments and the repetitive bluesy phrasing of these instruments throughout a piece. Her ability to spark the connection between seemingly divergent musical forms reminds me of some Sheila Chandra experimentations into that realm. For me, this is a most enjoyable album. (jsutton@rahul.net)

I've been a fan of Loreena's for years, and I'm glad that she's finally got the recognition she deserves. This is one of the top discs of the year. Boy, I never thought I'd hear her on Top 40 radio though! (hrussell@bellsouth.net)

I find The Book of Secrets to be an incredible album, it has a really rich sound. My favorite of her albums is The Visit, but The Book of Secrets is rapidly becoming my second favorite. (bvmi@odin.cc.pdx.edu)


Live in Paris and Toronto

Release info:

1999—Quinlan Road—VE 15045

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for fans

Group members:

Loreena McKennitt—vocals, piano, keyboards, harp, accordion

Guest artists:

Nigel Eaton—hurdy-gurdy
Brian Hughes—guitars, oud, bouzouki
Caroline Lavelle—cello
Rick Lazar—percussion
Hugh Marsh—violin
Rob Piltch—guitars, keyboards
Donald Quan—keyboards
Danny Thompson—acoustic bass

Produced by:

Loreena McKennitt

Comments:

A two-CD set of live recordings from April and May of 1998—a benefit for The Cook-Rees Memorial Fund for Water Search and Safety.

What a gorgeous little treat, both visually and aurally. (foghornj@earthlink.net)

Gorgeous. From the music to the artwork, this is just a beautiful project. Essential for fans. (JoAnn Whetsell)


An Ancient Muse

Release info:

2006—Quinlan Road—B0007920-02

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Loreena McKennitt—vocals (1–4, 6, 8, 9), keyboards (1–9), accordion (3), harp (4), percussion (5), piano (8)

Guest artists:

Tal Bergman—drums (2, 3), percussion (5, 8)
Stuart Bruce—vocal drone (1, 8), percussion (5)
Clive Deamer—drums (8)
Panos Dimitrakopoulos—kanoun (2, 3, 5, 7, 9)
Nigel Eaton—hurdy gurdy (3, 5)
Ben Grossman—hurdy gurdy (5)
Ed Hanley—tabla, udu drum (5)
Jason Hann—percussion (8)
Steáfán Hannigan—Turkish clarinet (1, 5, 8), vocal drone (1, 8), uilleann pipes (8, 9)
Brian Hughes—electric guitar (1–3, 5, 8, 9), guitar synthesizer (1–3, 5, 8, 9), vocal drone (1, 8), oud (2, 3, 5), Celtic bouzouki (2, 3, 5, 8), nylon string guitar (5, 8, 9)
Charlie Jones—acoustic bass (5, 6)
Manu Katché—drums (5)
Georgios Kontogiannis—Greek bouzouki (2, 3)
Tim Landers—bass (2, 3, 8)
Caroline Lavelle—cello (2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
Rick Lazar—percussion (1, 5, 8)
Annbjørg Lien—nyckelharpa (6)
Hugh Marsh—violin (3, 5, 6)
Marco Migliari—vocal drone (1, 8)
Donald Quan—viola (1–3, 5, 6, 8, 9), vocal drone (1, 8)
Hossam Ramzay—percussion (2, 5)
Sokratis Sinopoulos—lyra (2, 3, 7, 8)
Haig Yazdjian—oud (2, 3, 5–7)
John Welsman—string arrangement (1, 8)
Carol Lynn Fujino, Bridget Hunt, Annalee Patipatanakoon, Wendy Rose—violins (1, 8)
Daniel Blackman, Christopher Redfield—violas (1, 8)
Roman Borys, Carina Reeves—cellos (1, 8)
Petros Kourtis—percussion (2, 3)
Evangelos Karipis—percussion (2, 3)
Andreas Papas—percussion (2, 3)
Brian Gascoigne—choral and viol da gamba arrangements (4), string arrangement (9)
Richard Campell—treble viol da gamba
Susanna Pell—tenor viol da gamba
Asako Morikawa—tenor viol da gamba
Richard Boothby—bass viol da gamba
William Hunt—bass viol da gamba
Ensemble Plus Ultra (Warren Trevelyan-Jones, David Martin, Julian Empett, Lawrence Wallington, Charles Pott, Thomas Hobbs)—choir (4)
Choristers of Westminster Abbey (Nicholas Morris, Alexander Pott, Elliot Thompson—(4)
George Crawford—violin (9)
Louise Hogan—viola (9)
Natasha Kraemer—cello (9)
Andy Pask—acoustic bass (9)
Malgorzata Ziemkiewicz—viola (9)

Produced by:

Loreena McKennitt

Comments:

A great addition to her oeuvre. It sounds very similar to The Book of Secrets, which isn't a bad thing... but after waiting so long for a new release, I was slightly disappointed that it didn't sound more original. My favorite track is "The English Ladye and the Knight"—if I close my eyes I can almost picture light spilling through an old stained-glass window of a dusty cathedral. Not many singers can transport me to beautiful places like that, but Loreena McKennitt can. (lasherboy@gmail.com)

An Ancient Muse is closest to The Book of Secrets in sound, but no closer to that album than The Mask and Mirror is, in my opinion. The album seems to reach farther and deeper into something, well, ancient. Loreena's voice is as beautiful as ever, but the instrumentals really make this album for me. There's more rhythm and more groove. (JoAnn Whetsell)


A Midwinter Night's Dream

Release info:

2008—Quinlan Road—QRCD112

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Lorenna McKennitt—vocals (1, 3–8, 10–12); harp (3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 13); keyboards (10, 12); piano (1); accordion (2–4)

Guest artists:

Abdelli—vocal, mandola (7)
Waiel Abo Baker Ali—violin (5, 7)
Dan Ar Braz—acoustic guitar (5)
Aidan Brennan—acoustic guitar (5, 8, 10)
Simon Edwards—acoustic and electric bass (1, 3, 9, 13); marimbula (2); sentir (4)
Ben Grossman—hurdy gurdy (1, 2, 4); percussion (2, 4, 9)
Brian Hughes—acoustic and electric guitars (1, 6–10, 13); guitar synthesizer (1, 4, 6–8, 12); Celtic bouzouki (2–4)
George Koller—acoustic bass (5, 7, 8, 10)
Caroline Lavelle—cello (1–4, 7–10, 12, 13)
Rick Lazar—percussion (2, 4, 5, 7, 8)
Hugh Marsh—violin (1–10, 12, 13)
Stratis Psaradellis—Greek lyra (4); Greek lute (3, 4)
Donald Quan—tabla (4, 7); viola (1–3, 9, 10, 12, 13); accordion (5, 8)
Hossam Ramzy—percussion (5, 7)
Robert A. White—shawm (7); uilleann pipes (5, 10); whistle (5, 8, 10)
Bob Berry, Gill Berry, Bernard Coulter, Ellen Robotham, Philippa Toulson, Eddie Upton—vocals (11)

Produced by:

Lorenna McKennitt

Comments:

Beautiful. If you like her previous seasonal work, you will enjoy this one. Indeed, it incorporates all of A Winter Garden (in slightly different order) into its middle. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Nights from the Alhambra

Release info:

2007—Perseus Productions/Quinlan Road—B0009459-00

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended for fans

Group members:

Loreena McKennitt—vocals, accordion, harp, piano

Guest artists:

Tal Bergman—drums and percussion
Panos Dimitrakopoulos—kanoun
Nigel Eaton—hurdy gurdy
Steáfán Hannigan—Uilleann pipes, bodhrán, percussion
Brad Hughes—band leader, electric and acoustic guitars, oud, Celtic bouzouki
Tim Landers—acoustic and electric bass
Caroline Lavelle—cello
Rick Lazar—percussion
Hugh Marsh—violin
Donald Quan—viola, keyboards, tabla
Sokratis Sinopoulos—lyra
Haig Yazdjian—oud

Produced by:

Loreena McKennitt

Comments:

Overall a lovely set and one that fans will probably enjoy. Still I find that the songs all kind of sound like The Mask and Mirror and The Book of Secrets, even though they're pulled pretty evenly from various albums. So I don't listen to this often. Yet sometimes when I do, I'm really moved by particular moments. (JoAnn Whetsell)

A Mediterranean Odyssey

Release info:

2009—Quinlan Road Limited—B0013498-02

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended for fans

Group members:

Loreena McKennitt—vocals, harp, accordion, keyboards, piano

Guest artists:

Clive Deamer—drums, percussion
Simon Edwards—bass
Ben Grossman—hurdy gurdy, percussion, triangle
Brian Hughes—oud, electric guitars, guitar synthesizer, nylon string guitar, Celtic bouzouki
Caroline Lavelle—cello
Hugh Marsh—violin
Stratis Psaradellis—Greek lute, Greek lyra, classical kemenche
Panos Dimitrakopoulos—kanoun on "Sacred Shabbat"
Haig Yazdjian—oud on "Sacred Shabbat"

Produced by:

Loreena McKennitt

Comments:

Overall the set is a good introduction to Loreena's recent work for newcomers. It's hardly essential for fans but nice to hear the songs presented differently. Disc one, "The Olive and the Cedar" pulls four tracks each from The Mask and Mirror and An Ancient Muse, plus two from The Book of Secrets and one from The Visit. Live versions of eight of these songs appear on disc two, "From Istanbul to Athens" alongside two more tracks (one each from The Mask and Mirror and An Ancient Muse). Most of the tracks are longer and more spacious than their studio versions, and I might actually prefer this live disc to the Nights from the Alhambra set. (JoAnn Whetsell)

The Wind That Shakes the Barley

Release info:

2010—Quinlan Road—B0015015-02

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Produced by:

Loreena McKennitt

Comments:

A beautiful return to Loreena's Celtic roots. Most of the 9 songs are traditional (she wrote music for "The Emigration Tunes," one of 2 instrumentals). "On a Bright May Morning" has so much room to breathe; it's a great example of this album's sound. "Down By the Sally Gardens," probably my favorite track, is another good starting place. "The Star of County Down" is a bit more like her 1994—2006 albums. "The Death of Queen Jane" is achingly lovely. I could go on and on writing glowing things about each song (except for the title track and "The Parting Glass," I don't care for these). It's so good to have new music from Loreena, and such gorgeous new music at that. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Further info:

Write Quinlan Road, Box 933, Stratford, Ontario, N5A 7M3, Canada.
FAX: +1 (519) 273-4553.

Loreena McKennitt released the DVD No Journey's End (also available on VHS) in 2006. Nights from the Alhambra, taped at Loreena's September 2006 concerts in Granada, Spain, was released on DVD in March 2007.

The albums Elemental, To Drive the Cold Winter Away, Parallel Dreams, The Visit, The Mask and Mirror, and The Book of Secrets have each been re-released with bonus DVDs (circa 2006). The Live in San Francisco EP is now available on iTunes.

Loreena has contributed songs to several compilations. Tracks only available on compilations include "To the Fairies They Draw Near" and "To the Fairies They Draw Near, Pt. II" on Tinker Bell - Songs From and Inspired By Disney Fairies (2008).


Thanks to Steve Fagg, Jens P. Tagore Brage, Ulrich Grepel, Dirk Kastens, and JoAnn Whetsell for work on this entry.

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