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Why I love this album:
One of my favourite things to do is light candles around my home, put this album on and be transported into a world of magic.
I have it on my ipod and is great for accompanying me on my dark October walks home from work.
It's perfect for walking through moonlit streets and stepping on orange leaves with the smell of bonfires all around.
It makes you feel full of energy and magic.
...so it's great for when you're feeling exactly the opposite, it soon changes your mood :)
It helps you look at life a little differently.
My Favourite track, if I had to pick just one:
Marrakesh Night Market - I simply LOVE the drums used in this, this track makes me feel like I can create anything because I'm so full of energy!
Loreena Mckennitt's style:
Lorenna Mckennit has a haunting voice and in this album, she really delves into world cultures, bringing ethnic drum beats and a whole new feel from her previous albums. I like this more than the usual celtic 'clannad/enya' type, whilst that has it's place of course, this album is a bit different and brings more of a richer, spiritual depth, lyrically and instrumentally.
The Mask and Mirror is something of a turning point in the musical output of Loreena McKennitt. Her previous four albums had all been heavily rooted in Celtic folk music, a genre to which she very effectively brought her own style. The Mask and Mirror takes her beyond the Celtic realm of Britain and Ireland and into the Mediterranean and North Africa, adopting the musical flavours of the region seamlessly into her blend of 'eclectic Celtic' and essentially forging the sound for which we know her today. She has also gradually increased the size of her sound and the precision and polish of the production. Each of her albums is very much a musical travelogue, both of her own travels around the globe and also those of the ancient Celts. The album opens with The Mystics Dream, and right on this very first track the synthesis of Celtic and Middle Eastern styles is very much in evidence with uilleann pipes and Eastern strings and percussion. The Bonny Swans is quite simply one of her finest achievements, a tale of sibling jealousy clothed in a beautiful musical tapestry. The electric guitar and violin duet beautifully over the rhythmic piano chords. It goes on for quite a while but never gets boring. Dark Night of the Soul is a musical setting of a poem by St John of the Cross. It exhibits her exquisite vocals as well as her talent for setting an existing literary form to music. Marrakesh Night Market is a glorious evocation of a nocturnal bazaar in Marrakesh, featuring accordion, violin and percussion. This song is a great example of Loreena's ability to really transport you to a different location. When listening to this song you can almost smell the spices in the market. Full Circle is the only song on the album that doesn't really do very much for me. It's still beautiful, I just do't feel it as much as I do the other tracks. Santiago is an instrumental piece inspired by the Spanish town of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia. It is a dense musical structure with exquisite violin work. Ce He Mise Le Ulaingt is an uillean pipe melody and functions as an introduction to The Two Tress, a musical setting of the W B Yeats poem. The imagery contained within the lyrics is stunning and the musical accompaniment is no less impressive. The vocal melody here is sublime as is the relatively simple combination of piano and strings. As with The Bonny Swans, this is one of her finest achievements. he album closes with Prospero's Speech, a song based on an extract from Shakespeare's The Tempest and features an emphasis on the organ.
This is an excellent introduction to the music of Loreena McKennitt and if you are already a fan it is essential.
If you are a fan of everything remotly sounding Celtic, like me, this album will be pure joy. Celtic legends enveloped into trubadour tunes and passionate spanish melodies, all combined, will transfer you to the 15. century world, where the elements of mystical Celtic and colorfull Spanish cultures mesh into a delightfull blend.
Loreena Mckennitt: "The mask and the mirror" (1994.); three times platinum album in Canada
1. Mystic's dream
2. The bonny swans
3. The dark night of the soul
4. Marrakesh night market
5. Full circle
7. The Two Trees
8. Prospero's Speech
"The Mystic's dream" is an aery introduction into the compilation. With a gregorian chorus and the sounds of horn and drums it slowly leads your imagination into the world of Merlin and the druids. The song was used as a part of soundtrack to the movie The Mists of Avalon and it fit great as a sound coulisse to that Arthurian movie.
"A clouded dream on an earthly night
Hangs upon the crescent moon
A voiceless song in an ageless light
Sings at the coming dawn"
"The bonny swans", a version of the murder balad from the 17. century, is a drum-violin duel song that tells a sad story of one sister drowning the other in order to get a lover. Even though the story is sad the violin like sections lift it to another level and the song dares you to hum it days later.
"Oh sister, oh sister, pray lend me your hand
a hey ho and me bonny o, and I will give you house and land
the swans swim so bonny o, I'll give you neither hand nor glove
a hey ho and me bonny o, unless you give me your own true love
the swans swim so bonny o".
"The dark night of the soul" is a shakespearian style song about the lovers hidden by night. Calm and guitared, it lulls into the oh so familiar memory of the stories of maidens and their knights falling into love forbidden either by their families or the society.
"Upon a darkened night
The flame of love was burning in my breast
And by a lantern bright
I fled my house while all in quiet rest"
The twist in the album is "Marrakesh night market", a fusion of belly dance and passionate spanish tune that by lyrics tells a story of a world similar to the one of Alladin - a seductive world of magic, opium and the wonders of the Nile.
"The stories are woven
And fortunes are told
The truth is measured by the weight of your gold
The magic lies scattered
On rugs on the ground
Faith is conjured in the night market's sound"
"Full circle" brings you slowly to the Celtic ground, warming your heart with that kind of "organ duels violin sound" that takes you to magical places like the Cliffs of Moher (that was my first thought, anyway).
"Stars were falling deep in the darkness
as prayers rose softly, petals at dawn
And as I listened, your voice seemed so clear
so calmly you were calling your god"
To keep you aware of the fusion of two melos on this album there is "Santiago", an instrumental trubadouric spanish tune that reminds you of stories such as Don Quijote, played with balalaika and drums which makes it a very dance provoking song.
The pipes lead you to a musical and somewhat changed performance of Yates' poem "Two trees" in which the piano perfectly matches Loreena's vibrant voice and the violins give the gracious fullness to the song. This is maybe the best song of the album and it fully represents Loreena's rich vocal abilities.
"The surety of its hidden root
Has planted quiet in the night;
The shaking of its leafy head
Has given the waves their melody,
And made my lips and music wed,
Murmuring a wizard song for thee."
The album ends with another poem interpretation, this time Shakespeare's "Prospero's speech" from "The Tempest", organ played and sung gregorian style since it's talks of redemption and resolution.
"But release me from my bands
With the help of your good hands:
Gentle breath of yours my sails
Must fill, or else my project fails,
Which was to please"
This album is a short, but rich guide to the Celtic and Spanish melos' that dares you to research McKennitt's music in search of more songs depicting her amazing playing and singing skills.
I don't have many regrets in life but one of them is not discovering the music of Loreena McKennitt earlier in life! Sadly, she is not that well known in the UK and I only came across her music when it was featured in quirky TV drama 'Strange Luck'.
Mckennitt is often compared to artists like Enya and Sarah Mclachlan. She has a ghostly operatic style voice with a Celtic accent - her parents were Irish and Scottish and she grew up in Canada.
This album is perhaps the best so far in Mckennitts career. Each song is brilliantly written and performed.
The Mystic's Dream is a classic Loreena track - she has performed this live many times since this recording. The lyrics are pure poetry and evoke such strong images. The rhythm is almost hypnotic and you stuggle to wake up - it is very much like a dream.
The Bonny Swans is one of the most disturbing songs I've ever heard. The lyrics are adapted from an old story in which a woman drowns her sister to steal her lover. The drowned sister is found in the river, turned into a harp and taken to her father's home where the harp begins to play and tell her family how she was killed. The piano provides a lot of drama.
Full Circle is a very spiritual song and moves me to tears every time I hear it. The sense of inner self and of our struggles to keep faith with our Gods is really apparant in the lyrics. Loreena's voice is stunningly pure and as she sings, in places not words but just sounds, there is so much spiritual intelligence translated to us.
The instrumental highlights are Santiago and The Two Trees - which really envelop you in their different energies.
Prospero's Speech is taken from Shakespeare's 'The Tempest' and I have always felt that it feels more like the character or magical force of Ariel is singing this as an echo of Prospero. It is like the sound that echoes in the wind around the enchanted island.
This album enchants me and makes me feel as though music is a channel to heaven.
Like most of Loreena McKennitt's work, this album takes the form of a musical journey, a journey across not only physical landscapes, but also through time. Often seen as a competitor to Enya's place as queen of this almost cross-genre new age chilled music, the two ladies do have a lot in common both musically and personally. However to merely label her work as an Enya copyist is doing a major disservice as for as much as they have in common with each other, there is as much that separates them. Whilst Enya seems content to reference fantasy realms and dreamscapes, McKennitt's interest seems to lie in real places, historical settings and foreign cultures, enabling her to build the same sort of inspirational musical structures but ones grounded in reality. In musical terms also there is a difference, Enya's gradual move from the early pop inspired songs into more classical realms has opened many doors for her, McKennitt, on the other hand has always drawn on a wide range of world music to create her wonderful soundscapes. Here there is a very Spanish undercurrent to her work, but the threads that connect with this central idea lead in all sorts of direction. It's a journey that takes you from 15th century Spain with its mix of religions, Islam, Judaism and Christianity and outwards into a wider web of pathways. From the more familiar turf of the west coast of Ireland, through the troubadours of France, crossing over the Pyrenees and then to the west through Galicia, down through Andalusia and past Gibraltar to Morocco. It dwells on specific events and peoples, The Crusades, the pilgrimage to Santiago, Cathars, the Knights Templar, the Sufis from Egypt, One Thousand and One Nights in Arabia, the Celtic sacred imagery of trees, the Gnostic Gospels and even poses some of the biggest of questions such as who is God? and what is religion, what is spirituality? What was revealed and what was concealed...and what was the mask and what the mirror?
Inspired by an evening wandering around the old Moorish quarter of Granada with Idries Shahs book "the Sufis" as a guide, "The Mystics Dream" is that mix of eastern rhythms and western chant that encapsulates the history of southern Spain. Male Gregorian chant forms a body on which the song builds whilst hand drums create the songs pace and finally Loreena's well-enunciated and crystal clear voice completes the image. As the song grows Arabic pipes weave in and out and hand bells chime in the distance and images of flickering lights against warm terracotta walls and the bustle of merchants and visitors from distant lands are not hard to imagine.
The forty shades of green of Ireland are the more familiar setting for "The Bonny Swans" and musically it has a more familiar make up. Driven by the usual hand percussion rather than the full kit but formed mainly of a violin and electric guitar that spiral around each other, there is a very Celtic folk feel to this. It seems odd to many people that such glorious music inspirited by the various threads that stem from the Celtic lands, i.e. Western Europe is done so well by someone not born of the place, McKennitt is after all from rural Manitoba, Canada. But the woman in question seems to have lived a very nomadic lifestyle for the last twenty years exploring the Celtic legacy through music and should really be considered a citizen of the global village in a very real sense.
"The Dark Night of the Soul" is based on Spanish medieval poetry, specifically a work called "St John of the Cross" a work that seems inspired by Islamic ideology though firmly sitting in the Christian body of devotional work. Musically it is a haunting melody, only a minimal acoustic guitar and a violin, which really comes into its own in the spaces between the vocals arrangement, back the soft and breathy vocals. It is a soothing and relaxing work and typifies the nature of Loreena McKennitt's work. It is a non-intrusive style that washes over you and connects with the emotional parts of the mind, making it wonderful background music for those quiet times. But also once you take the time to understand what the music is about it is inspirational and breath taking in its scope. This is certainly one area that far exceeds the better-known Enya whose words can often let her music down due to their immature style and cheesy delivery. Here the lyrics add a whole dimension to the work rather than detract from it.
In terms of theme "Marrakech Night Market" returns to the same ideas as the opening song. But whereas the first number mixed eastern and western traditions, musically this is pure Arabic flavour and only the fact that it is sung in English gives away its non-authentic origins. Again hand drums do the bulk of the work but this time amongst the violins and bells is the rhythmic shuffle of a guitar creating a solid framework on which the other instruments can hang themselves. The violin in particular is impressive as its gypsy style wanders through stealing the scene. By the time the song is reaching its conclusion the inspired beats and exotic flow of the instruments conjures up the images of a north African evening under the stars. "Full Circle" explores some bigger themes, that of the journey itself. After years of travelling on a musical and spiritual pilgrimage between such wondrous and holy places, the singer is musing on the journeys of other religious pilgrims who have made the same journeys for their own, not too dissimilar reasons. Accompanied only by Middle Eastern violin type sounds of an instrument that I probably don't know the name of, there are many in her work, it is the voice that carries this song. Always a focal point of here work, here you truly get to appreciate just how amazing her voice is as it is left uninterrupted by music.
One of the obvious places that would feature on a devotional pilgrimage is Santiago de Compostella (St James in the Field of Stars) the supposed resting place of the remains of the saint. This region still retains traces of its pre-roman Celtic roots in its language and music, and here in "Santiago" the music of that tradition and the gypsy themes of Spain are entwined, violins dance above the main song and dark brooding cellos under pin it and all the time a fast percussion and hand clap mix drive the music onwards to end in a breathtaking violin solo play out. Inspired by the poetry of Yeats "The Two Trees" is quintessentially Irish in flavour, opening with the unmistakable sound of the uillean pipes which then give way to haunting violins and piano to create an image of a barren landscape, leafless trees and the calling of the rooks in their rookeries. The album closes with "Prospero's Speech" based on Shakespeare's words and signalling and end to the musical illusion that has been created, the mask comes off and the actor is revealed as a mere player, or here the analogy is that the musical artist is merely a storyteller, a conjurer of images. Again an almost totally vocal affair this song is the artist stripped bare and has never sounded better in vocal terms.
Whether you want music that helps you relax or are looking for something more in depth, its all here. It can wash all those worries of the day away, be used as a wonderful backing track to socialising or if dwelt upon has hidden depths, intriguing questions and spiritual pathways to be explored. Like all of McKennitt's work, it operates on many levels, take from it what you wish, enjoy and bathe in its exotic charm.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Mystic's Dream
2 Bonny Swans
3 Dark Night of the Soul
4 Marrakesh Night Market
5 Full Circle
7 Cé Hé Mise le Ulaingt?/The Two Trees - Patrick Hutchinson, Loreena McKennitt
8 Prospero's Speech