Reviewed by Margaret Moser, Fri., Dec. 6, 2002
EnyaOnly Time: The Collection (Rhino/Reprise) Eithne Ní Bhraonáin, better known as Enya, is the unchallenged New Age crossover queen. Of course, "New Age" is often a convenient slot for artists too pop to be classical, and Enya is too eclectic to be either. The regal presentation of this 4-CD box set -- a deep purple suede-cloth embossed with leaf prints and gold foil lettering -- beautifully heralds the music within. Enya maintains a majestic command of her work as she sings, writes, and performs all the music, collaborating since 1986 with husband-and-wife team of producer-engineer-co-arranger Nicky Ryan and lyricist Roma Ryan. Sixty million records and three Grammys later, Only Time: The Collection brings together 51 tracks, including the unheard "Isobella." Disc one opens with the instrumental "Watermark" and music from The Celts, and like an Irish waterway, it wends its way through the Donegal native's career, sometimes swift and rushing, other times, languorous and dreamy. Disc two is the casual fan's delight, with "Orinoco Flow," "Shepherd Moons," and "Caribbean Blue," songs that made Enya Ireland's leading musical export and another achievement for her already distinguished family of musicians that produced Clannad. Discs three and four include her massive Nineties hits "The Memory of Trees" and "Only Time," plus lesser beauties such as "Pax Deorum" and "Fallen Embers." The collection's sole disappointment is the abbreviated version of the Oscar-nominated "May It Be" and the exclusion of achingly lovely "The Council of Elrond," both from The Fellowship of the Ring. That's OK; we love Enya for her elegant, ethereal vocals, the sound of tender dreams, misty moors, and velvet nights. Only Time: The Collection closes on a grace note, "Oíche Chiúin (Silent Night)", and a video of the same song from a 1996 BBC production, an exquisitely rendered version and vision that retains the standard's solemn beauty. Sung in Irish, it transcends religious sentiment and wafts angelically into the atmosphere, a still song of reverence and the perfect hymn in this season of joy.