Perfect Time

Maire Brennan

Word / Epic Records, 1998



I saw clips of some videos by Maire Brennan (on CNN's "World Beat", an excellent world music show), got hooked and looked for her in Tower Records. She wasn't in the Pop/Rock section. She wasn't in the World Music section. Bizarrely enough, she was in the New Age racks.

New Age is the fashionably hateful genre defined by its heavy use of synthesizer music. Record stores throw into "New Age" what wouldn't fit anywhere else. It's too bad because most of New Age my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 is cheesy half-produced stuff. But when it transcends to make its own sound (Enya is basically her own genre), it works. Enter Brennan.

Even if you've never heard any of the songs of the Celtic-infusion band Clannad, in which she sang lead, her voice will seem familiar. She happens to be Enya's sister; Enya, in fact, had joined Clannad as a keyboardist for sometime before breaking away to develop her own sound. But their techniques are distinct. Perfect Time uses less vocal texturing, more live instruments (YAY!), and the songs have more traditional structures. Nothing otherworldly or transcendant, just good 5 a.m.-radio music.

The title track is a beautifully crafted love song with alternating solo and textured vocals, unlike any kind of ballad on the radio. "Our World" is a similar song but slightly more generic. There is a LOT of Christian influences in the lyrics but nothing controversial or put-offish; "Song Of David", a psalm, is sung entirely in gaelic.

The instrumental track "Doon Well" doesn't quite bring out the band's best; it's a little too polished, structured and repetitive. The instrumental version of "The Big Rock" sounds positively Enya, but without the stamp of otherworldliness. Another noteable song is "The Light On The Hill", with its ballad-like lyrics and refreshing arrangements should establish the Brennan sound (that unfortunately isn't found in most of the album).

I apologize for all the Enya comparisons but she is a handy reference point. "Perfect Time" is a good album in its own right, but being more of a World Music album, it doesn't quite have the universality of a solid New Age album. It should be interesting to see which direction Brennan would take after her success with Perfect Time.

Rating: B-

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© 1999 JB and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Word / Epic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.