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Nights From The Alhambra [2 CD/1 DVD Combo]…

Nights From The Alhambra [2 CD/1 DVD Combo]

by Loreena McKennitt

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After nearly a decade off the scene, Loreena McKennitt returned to the performance and recording stage in 2006 and 2007. The Canadian singer picked up exactly where she left off, traveling through the Celtic-Middle Eastern fusions she explored on The Book of Secrets with her latest studio album, An Ancient Muse. Now, with momentum behind her, she's released a DVD document of her performance at Alhambra palace in Granada, Spain. This is the same performance that has been running on PBS station pledge drives for the last year, but with a double CD included. McKennitt's renditions of songs from An Ancient Muse and her earlier albums are impeccable. As she is something of a perfectionist, there isn't much deviation from the original studio versions, but McKennitt is in fine voice and the band gets to rave it up a few times on tracks like "The Bonny Swans," where violinist Hugh Marsh and guitarist Brian Hughes trade increasingly frantic leads. This is an expanded group for McKennitt, with players from England, Greece, and the Middle East playing oud, dumbek, kanoun, hurdy-gurdy, duduk, and other ancient sounds from the British Isles to Turkey. The advantage of this edition of the Alhambra performance over that seen on PBS is that we're spared McKennitt's earnest and precious interstitials, talking about the location and her inspirations while slowly running her hands over Celtic carvings. But if you want it, that version of the performance is also on the DVD, as the commentary track. The CDs wisely drop even the between-song patter, which is fine, but not something to sit through on repeated listenings. Although the performance is beautifully, if conventionally filmed, and it's great to see this virtuoso band playing in communion, it's ultimately McKennitt's songs themselves that brim with visual imagery as she creates her ancient evocations as effectively on the concert stage as she does in the studio. --John Diliberto
  papacromer | Nov 15, 2009 |
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