Review Summary: A product of its time with past materials.
"The creative side is the least of my worries; It's more, 'Is there going to be a proper return for the time and money invested in this. Will people actually BUY something when it's put out"' So there's much to study and learn and evaluate."
The above response from a recent interview by Loreena McKennitt not only describes one of the biggest concerns in the music industry today, but also a factor that directly or maybe subconsciously influences a number of recordings including the subject of this review. The reason is that Lost Souls
consists entirely of songs that the legendary Canadian songstress has written in the past – but performed specifically for this album – since the very beginning of her career. Whenever an artist decides to release an album that includes material composed in the past, it is cause for concern; in my mind, the cause is lack of inspiration, contractual obligations or some other reason that is bound to affect negatively the end product. In McKennitt’s case, I’m not so sure that she falls under the aforementioned two categories, rather than it’s more of a “you won’t buy it anyway so as to recognize the effort I’ve put into it, so why give it my all"”
The above doesn’t mean that Lost Souls
is a half-assed, poor effort just for the sake of remaining relevant; I’m not so sure that Loreena McKennitt has the actual ability to release poor material, she certainly doesn’t need to do anything to remain relevant, and I am as confident as I can be for a perfect stranger that she is quite the perfectionist. However, that doesn’t take away the fact that her latest offering consists of songs that didn’t make it – for one way or another – to be included in her previous albums, which is one of the issues with Lost Souls
. For example, “Sun, Moon and Stars” the instrumental track with the strongest Mediterranean flavour on here would be very fitting on An Ancient Muse
and “Manx Ayre” on one of her early albums but both didn’t make it and for good reason; they weren’t good enough. Same goes for “A Hundred Wishes” and “Spanish Guitars and Night Plazas” which were written in 1991, the time she recorded The Visit
. Nevertheless, that doesn’t take away the fact that the latter is one of the strongest songs of the album which includes a typical Flamenco break with Spanish guitar, palmas (i.e. hand claps) and castanets.
Maybe a song that could have been included in one of her previous LPs, “Ages Past, Ages Hence”, borrows a melody from The Book of Secrets’
“La Serenissima”, features a great violin melody by Hugh Marsh and is the most adventurous and arguably strongest track on here. Which brings us to the next flaw of the record, the sheer number of piano ballads makes it a somewhat linear listen. One or two more lush or uptempo compositions like “Ages Past, Ages Hence” would certainly help. On the other hand, Loreena’s voice is still in great condition which makes her piano ballads very effective such as the introspective, touching title track which serves perfectly as a closer not only to this album but her discography, if this is her swan song.
Overall, Lost Souls
was an acquired taste for me, more so than any other long player of hers. Maybe it was due to the high standards that 2006’s An Ancient Muse
had set, the last album featuring original material before this one, or maybe the comparison with the rest of her discography. But give it the time it deserves, and like any other installment in Loreena McKennitt’s career Lost Souls
will certainly reward you.