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Current concise reviews of the albums by adult alternative, contemporary, and crossover artists. Images of album artwork and links to both internet-based resources are always included. Click on the title to view the article.

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An Anciend Muse CD Cover
Image © Quinlan Road 2006

Loreena McKennitt Image © Quinlan Road 2006

Loreena McKennitt Image © Quinlan Road 2006


(14 January 2007) The Canadian singer-songwriter Loreena McKennitt has been making great music for quite a long time, and she is also very well-known for her ambitious and fearless explorations of the various cultures, histories and people's everyday life across the world, mainly in Europe and Asia. These explorations have then been a main stem for the music she has made, helping the various cultures to be more known in other parts of the world in a very enchanting and interesting way.

Loreena's method of exploring the world before telling about it musically, is not very common thing to see in the music business these days, so many enthusiasts admire Loreena's way of working. And consequently there have been high hopes for Loreena's new album, An Ancient Muse (Quinlan Road Music (Canada) and Verve (USA) B0007920-02, 2006). Loreena has, once again, created a tremendous project with all the travelling, talking to various people, reading things and finishing the creative process for her music and lyrics with other musicians around her.

Although Loreena earns full marks for the tremendous effort in gathering the various ideas and stories for the new album, those less familiar with her work may find it difficult to reach the core of the music despite of all that hard work and the very detailed backgrounds that Loreena has written about each of the album's tracks. Of course it is great to have diverse influences on the album like Loreena does, but, somehow the great ideas that lie behind of each piece of music have been transferred to the music with great complexity. In other words, although the lyrics on this album are quite cohesive, the music is significantly more diverse. It is therefore a timeless album and one that will reveal and evoke new personal experiences on each subsequent listen.

On the album Loreena journeys through the ancient worlds of Byzantine, Greece, Turkey and other more or less oriental areas, which once were said to have been places where some of Celts have been living some centuries BC. The mystic feeling has successfully spread itself to the entire album as quite many different scales have been used as well as a lot of ethnic musical instruments, colours and rhythms, but, at the same time the pop-ish drumbeats and especially the usage of the electric guitar(s) are giving the music a more modern touch. In terms of melodies, there is much more repetitition on this album when compared to Loreena's earlier music, which may place the album furtherinto the pop world than the artist intended. Having the ethnic percussion and other ethnic instruments is a richness here, but the standard pop drums and electric guitars may not belong in this kind of music unless of course Loreena was planning to make her material more accedssible.

Loreena is very well-known from her trademark of making long and progressively styled music, and this album makes no exception of that. But, with the repetition and the melodies, the increased run time of the pieces does not help the inexperienced listener digest the material any easier. Did Loreena run out of ideas during the creative process, extending length with repetition within the same piece of music? There are segments that rescue the album from becoming neither too self-repetitive nor too experimental. While it is great to have diversity and development from the ideas of the previous albums, somehow the pieces on this album that represent the good old Loreena McKennitt style are the ones that really stand out, especially for experienced listeners.

For example, we particularly enjoyed the great chorus on "The English Ladye And The Knight", the lilting beats of "Kecharitomene", the introduction of the Swedish key harp called "nyckelharpa" instrument as well as the melodic, soaring vocals on "Penelope's Song" (in my opinion especially the Swedish key harp should deserve a more permanent place in Loreena's music!), and the great, touching melody of the album-concluding "Never-Ending Road/Amhrán Duit", as these all represent Loreena McKennitt and her music at its very best.

Loreena will be featured in a PBS special with material from this album during the spring of 2007 and a DVD will likely follow. While the first listen the album may leave some listeners with mixed feelings, the album reveals more of itself with further plays as listeners discover the diamonds that make the listening experience a true exploration of Loreena McKennitt's latest travels!--Suvi Kaikkonen in Oulu Finland and Russ Elliot in New York

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