Loreena McKennitt: Live in Paris and Toronto
Live in Paris and Toronto (Quinlan Road/Warner Bros.)
Reviewed by Margaret Moser, Fri., Sept. 10, 1999
Live in Paris and Toronto (Quinlan Road/Warner Bros.)After her single "The Mummers' Dance" went gold last year, and the album that spawned it, Book of Secrets, sold over 3 million copies, Canadian chanteuse Loreena McKennitt ever so quietly became one of the most independently powerful women in the music business. Having completed the terms of her Warner Bros. contract with Book of Secrets, the self-produced, self-managed singer struck a deal with the major label to distribute her latest album, the 2-CD Live in Paris and Toronto. Available exclusively through her Quinlan Road label this summer, Live in Paris and Toronto, the singer's first full-length live recording, was originally planned as an Internet/fan club-only release, a tribute to Ronald Rees, McKennitt's fiance who was drowned in a boating accident during the mixing of the album (proceeds from the LP's sale go to the Cook Rees Memorial Fund for Water Search and Safety, which she helped establish). With the album due for a full commercial release later this month, longtime fans will find no surprises upon hearing Live in Paris and Toronto; it's as lovely and aurally pristine as anything she's ever recorded, an album of rare quality and uncommon perfection -- a quality McKennitt has been able to match and surpass with each new recording. Like an early Christmas present, Live is joyous and unexpected, exquisite in packaging (particularly the Quinlan Road version), and a pure pleasure. Crossover hit "The Mummers' Dance" is the second of 17 well-loved cuts, and only barely touches McKennitt's pantheistic embrace of the beauty and mystery of her domain. Legend and lore, highwaymen and mystics, Marco Polo and Dante and other such exotic figures inhabit that world, which comes alive with pulsing drums, alluring cello, poignant hurdy-gurdy, elegant harp, and as always, her voice casting its crystalline spell. Books of Secrets is performed in its beguiling entirety on the first disc, while the second is a rich sample of her repertoire. "Santiago," "Bonny Portmore," "The Mystic's Dream," and "All Souls Night" fit easily with "Between the Shadows," "The Lady of Shalott," "The Bonny Swans," and "Cymbeline." McKennitt rarely tours, a situation unlikely to change, so take Live in Paris and Toronto at face value. It's a body of work that transcends time and trend.