The Book Of Secrets

Loreena McKennitt

Warner Brothers Records, 1998

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


Loreena McKennitt rides the fine line between hopelessly pedantic and richly intellectual on most releases; sometimes she provides intelligent commentary and textured world music, and sometimes she gets lost in a sea of liner notes and clever quotes. Her 1998 CD, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 The Book Of Secrets, contains the closest she's had to a hit so far in the States ("The Mummer's Dance"), so often it's the first CD people know of hers. It's also by far, in this reviewer's humble opinion, her best work.

McKennitt is a musical polymath whose influences are difficult to trace. A native of Canada, she spends as much time traveling the world setting up charitable and educational efforts and studying as she does performing music; she has always produced, written and recorded her own work. She calls her own genre 'eclectic Celtic,' but in my opinion that's stretching it; she is doing whatever she likes, and whatever sings to her.

On Book of Secrets, this creates a powerful and coherent musical statement. From the opening bars of "Prologue" to the dying piano at the end of "Dante's Prayer," Book of Secrets is brilliant -- and McKennitt's comprehensive liner notes tell her inspirations for her work (including powerful snapshots of rail trips across Siberia, exploring Venice's Jewish quarter, and tracking down myth and legend in Ireland). "Skellig" is a heartbreaking tale of knowledge being kept against the darkness, and "Mummer's Dance" is a haunting weaving of legend and mystery. McKennitt calls these songs a mosaic, carefully fitted together -- and indeed, they do make a seamless whole.

The Book of Secrets is a modern classic. Don't miss it.

Rating: A

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