The Mask and Mirrorby Loreena McKennitt
Press play and enter the world of Loreena McKennitt, where walls dissolve into thick, billowing mists as the ground beneath your feet turns to compacted earth and the sky above opens up to reveal a black cloak dotted with shimmering stars draped beneath silk-like clouds. Were McKennitt's composing and songwriting abilities lacking of any luster (as they most certainly are not), her voice would still possess the strength to hold her fifth album, The Mask and Mirror, up on its own. But the combination of this talented woman's vocal prowess and songwriting ability makes her all the more similar to her work -- ethereal and almost unbelievable in its level of quality. A mythical menagerie, The Mask and Mirror contains songs that lift the veil to reveal the soul of McKennitt's work in eight dreamlike, Celtic-inspired tracks. The opening track, "The Mystic's Dream" (featured on the TNT movie The Mists of Avalon, based on the novel by Marion Zimmer Bradley), is a haunting tune that features McKennitt at her most heavenly peak as a vocalist, evoking the spirits of the instruments and Gregorian chant-like background vocals that accompany her on the track. The album excels at conjuring up mythical visions in the listener's imagination, as with the gypsy-like tune "Marrakesh Night Market," which echos of the picturesque scene the title invokes. The soul-searching "Full Circle" best exhibits McKennitt's ability to transpose the true meaning of the lyrics into her songs. Even after the song ends, the somber mood lingers softly in the air. The balalaika (a three-stringed triangular-shaped instrument), the bouzouki (an eight-stringed instrument), and the hurdy-gurdy (a stringed instrument that also has keyboard and percussion parts) are among the rare, strange instruments introduced on many of the songs, including the lighthearted, uplifting "Ce He Mise Le Ulaingt? (The Two Trees)," on which these instruments demonstrate their incredible quality and prowess. The lyrics of this track are none other than the words of the poem of the same name by William Butler Yeats. McKennitt's unique use of the lyrical words of William Shakespeare, combined with her skillful adaptation of the words to the heavenly, undulating music, make the final track, "Prospero's Speech," an inspiration in itself.
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Performance CreditsLoreena McKennitt Primary Artist,Organ,Synthesizer,Dumbek,Piano,Accordion,Harp,Keyboards,Vocals,Voices
Dónal Lunny Bouzouki,Drums,Bodhran
Brian Hughes Guitar,Balalaika,Electric Guitar,Oud,Electric Sitar
Ofra Harnoy Cello
Hugh Marsh Fiddle
Adele Armin Strings
Andy Benac Strings
Marie Berard Strings
Heinz Boshard Strings
Anne Bourne Cello,Background Vocals
Jerzy Cichocki Choir Master
Nigel Eaton Hurdy-Gurdy
David Hetherington Strings
Patrick Hutchinson Pipe,uillean pipes
Fujice Imajishi Strings
Morry Kernerman Strings
George Koller Bass,Cello,Tamboura
Sylvia Lange Strings
Rick Lazar Dumbek,Percussion,Drums,Udu
Susan Lipchak Strings
David Miller Strings
Ravi Naimpally Tabla
Douglas Perry Strings
Sharon Prater Strings
Mark Sabat Strings
Abraham Tawfik Oud,Nai
Kent Teeple Strings
Victoria Scholars Choir, Chorus
Technical CreditsRichard Evans Engineer
Jerzy Cichocki Director
Loreena McKennitt Arranger,Producer,Adaptation
John Naslen Engineer
John Welsman Arranger,String Arrangements,Cello Arrangement
Jeff Wolpert Engineer
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Loreena McKennitt sings her captivating, poetic lyrics with multilayered accompaniments of acoustic strings and winds, synthesizers and exotic percussion. As composer and arranger, she is ever pushing her boundaries, looking for inspiration from the far corners of the world and blending it into her developing style. And best of all, she doesn¿t just craft a simple theme and repeat it over and over. Her music travels, evolves and has wonderful structure, offering just enough of one interesting sound before moving on to embellish on it or contrast it with something else. It was in overhearing this CD in a music store that I first comprehended what ¿world music¿ or ¿fusion music¿ was, and more importantly, what it could be. From that moment on, I was hooked, both on McKennitt¿s work, and on the concept of artful combinations of the acoustic with the electronic, and of east with west. If you enjoy this music, other great sources are ¿Star of the Sea¿ by Stellamara, ¿The Isle of Dreaming¿ by Kate Price, and the recent work of Angels of Venice, in their self-titled Narada debut as well as ¿Awake Inside a Dream¿.
Ever since I was introducted to Loreena about 2 years ago I have been obsessed and have bought every one of her albums. I love how she mixes old songs with new tempos and rhythm. She also has a beautiful voice...anyone with a taste for good, quality music will like Loreena. p.s. If you are going to buy an album, buy The Mask and Mirror first; it is by far her best album yet.
I love music of all kinds, but there's a certain feel to this album that's different- really mystical and soothing. I first heard Loreena's music after class hanging around my Literature room. Someone put the song Bonnie Swans on, and I could barely tear myself away from that music when I had to leave. I love the way it catches your ear.
Loreena McKennitt is the best of the best. This is one of my favorite albums. Her voice is consistently energizingly, brilliantly ethereal and can never falter, and the music is always gorgeous and multi-faceted. She is one of those rare musicians with whom a person can never go wrong - she can never have a "bad" album! I encourage everyone to listen to her more than any other "world" musician I can possibly think of.
I am a writer & was in a bad place, so I could not find my muse for inspiration. Whenever you need a muse, need to contemplate, need an inspiration, or just need to relax & unwind, this CD will do it - it sends you to another world...it is quite a spiritual experience...it awakens the inner voice...
If you like music that paints a lush soundscape, you will love this CD. Unlike Enya, Loreena McKennitt is also a very good story teller. This is my favorite release of her's. The first 4 tracks are all magnificent. The last 4 aren't quite as good, however, by then it is much too late to walk away from this gem.
Few artist are able to achieve what is on this CD. These are not just songs, they are vignettes. This is a CD that you can get immersed in. The first 4 tracks are simply exquisite! They are as good as anything The Moody Blues or Pink Floyd ever did. The last 4 cuts aren't as exceptional. But, by that point it's really far too late to walk away from this gem. I jealously guard my superlatives, however, this CD really does deserve them.
What can I say about Loreena McKennit that hasn't been printed already. I loved hearing her earlier version of The Bonny Swans. Most of these songs were new to me and beautiful. I love how she goes out to different countries and does research before she writes her songs. It adds depth to her songs. These are not average songs in rhyming pentameter. They are a story and you can visit other countries and centuries by listening to all her cd's. Not only does she have a beautiful voice and can play various instruments she is so intelligent and it shows in her writing. I loved The Mask and The Mirror.