Loreena McKennitt – The Book Of Secrets (1997)

FrontCover1Loreena Isabel Irene McKennitt, CM OM (born February 17, 1957) is a Canadian musician, composer, harpist, accordionist, and pianist who writes, records and performs world music with Celtic and Middle Eastern themes. McKennitt is known for her refined and clear dramatic soprano vocals. She has sold more than 14 million records worldwide

The Book of Secrets is the sixth studio album by Loreena McKennitt, released in 1997. It reached #17 on the Billboard 200. Its single “The Mummers’ Dance,” remixed by DNA, was released during the winter of 1997–98, and peaked at #18 on the Billboard Hot 100, and #17 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart. The album is certified double-platinum in the United States. It has now sold more than four million copies worldwide.

The DNA remix of “The Mummers’ Dance” was made into a music video.
“Skellig” relates the dying words of a monk from a monastery that existed during the 6th–12th centuries on the island Skellig Michael (Great Skellig), 11.6 km west of Ireland.
“The Highwayman” is an adaptation of the poem “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes.
“Night Ride Across the Caucasus” was featured in the 1998 film Soldier.
The music from “Night Ride Across the Caucasus” was featured in the song Kokli by Ulytau.
“Dante’s Prayer” is a reference to Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy. (by wikipedia)

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Some artists or albums can hit you so hard on a personal level that you can’t help but fall for them at first listen. Such is my liaison with Loreena McKennitt. Even though the level of my knowledge is nonexistent when it comes to new age/world/celtic music, McKennitt’s voice is such that blends perfectly with the instrumentation of her compositions. She sounds sincere in a manner that travels the listener right into the scene of the tale she narrates. Her music can transport you to the Mediterranean, North Africa, the Middle East, Ireland, all over the world. Most of all though, her work is introspective; by listening to her albums, one can view life from a different perspective.


The Book of Secrets is McKennitt’s sixth release and her most successful album in terms of sales, having reached double platinum status in the US. The nature of music on this release is mostly soothing with only a few faster and lively moments. Nevertheless, the majority of the album consists of mid tempo songs centered around McKennitt’s expressive voice. However, that doesn’t mean that the instrumentation is second rate or cannot stand by itself without the vocals. With string instruments ranging from acoustic guitars to violin, hurdy gurdy and cello to table, drone and bodhran used for percussion, the arrangements are lush and immaculate.


Another important aspect of the album is the lyrics. Often, Loreena McKennitt does extensive research on the subjects that her albums deal with to the point where she visits places that her music draws influences from. Therefore, those of you who like to read lyrics will definitely feel more engaged while listening to The Book of Secrets. Moreover, a flaw that one might find at albums consisting of mid tempo songs is that they tend to sound a bit samey and linear. For most part, that’s not the case with this album as it contains a variety of melodies coming from different cultures. Therefore, even though the tempo is almost constant throughout The Book of Secrets, one can hear influences from the Middle East or the Mediterranean accompanied by the relevant instruments; an element that helps diversify the songs.

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Overall, regardless of one’s taste, this is an album that people who seek for emotional music should give a chance. It’s a pity that Loreena McKennitt seems to be enjoyed mostly by older audiences because her work can appeal equally to younger folks so give this album a spin and you won’t regret it. (by manosg)


Anne Bourne (cello on 06.)
Aidan Brennan (guitar on 03.,  mandola 0n 04. + 07.)
Martin Brown (guitar, mandolin, mandola on 05.)
Stuart Bruce (assembled drone on 01., vocal drone on 04.)
Paul Clarvis (snare drum on 05.)
Nigel Eaton (hurdy-gurdy on 02. + 04.)
Steáfán Hannigan (bodhrán on 05.)
Nick Hayley (serang, rebec, lira da braccio on 07.)
Brian Hughes (oud on 02., 04., 07. , guitar on 01., 04., 06., 07.,  irish bouzouki on 04., 05., 07.,  guitar synthesizer on 04., vocal drone on 04.)
Robin Jeffrey (guitar on 06.)
Martin Jenkins (mandocello on 03., 04., 05. + 07.)
Manu Katché (drums on 01., 02., 04. + 07.)
Caroline Lavelle (cello on 02., 05. + 08.)
Rick Lazar (percussion on 01., 02., 04., 05. + 07.)
Joanna Levine (viola da gamba on 03. + 06.)
Hugh Marsh (violin on 02. – 08.)
Loreena McKennitt (vocals, piano on 08., keyboards, harp on 06., kanun on 01.,  accordion on 04. + 05.)
Osama (violin on 04.)
Steve Pigott (keyboards on 03. + 08.)
Donald Quan (tabla on 02., 04., 07., timba, esraj on 01., viola on 02., 04., 05., 06., 08.,  keyboards on 03., 04., vocal drone on 04.)
Hossam Ramzy (percussion on 02., 04., 05. + 07.)
David Rhodes (guitar on 02.)
Danny Thompson (bass)
Bob White (tin whistle on 03., shawm on 04.)
String Quartet (on 03. + 07.):
Andy Brown (viola)
Chris van Kampen (cello)
Iain King (2nd violin)
Jonathan Rees (1st violin)

01. Prologue 4.20
02. The Mummers’ Dance 6.04
03. Skellig 6.07
04. Marco Polo 5.11
05. The Highwayman 10.22
06. Night Ride Across The Caucasus 8.27
07. Dante’s Prayer 7.10

All music written by Loreena McKennitt. All lyrics written by Loreena McKennitt except 05, which was writen by Alfred Noyes)



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