Loreena McKennitt,
Live in Paris and Toronto
(Quinlan Road, 1999)

The latest offering from Loreena McKennitt gives her fans the chance to experience her music as it sounds live with no enhancements and no special effects. The sound is pure McKennitt (along with her group of incredibly talented musicians, fondly known as the Idling Porches). For those who haven't had the opportunity to see her live, this album will show you is what it's like.

The first CD in this two-CD set is a live rendition of the entire The Book of Secrets album, McKennitt's most recent studio release. The transition between songs is perfect. "The Mummer's Dance" (probably the best-known single from this album) is sheer energy, and the band's obvious love of music and their affection with each other shines. The ballad of "The Highwayman" is performed beautifully, while "Night Ride Across the Caucasus" brings a tear to the eye.

The second CD is pure decadence. McKennitt goes back to her earlier albums and performs favorites like "The Mystic's Dream," "Bonny Portmore" and the haunting "The Lady of Shalott." An already energetic performance is taken to new levels with "Santiago," and the musical duel between guitarist Brian Hughes and violinist Hugh Marsh is incredible to hear. Both artists are true virtuosos; they have mastered not only the technical side of playing, but are masters at performance as well.

Besides Hughes (guitar, oud, bouzouki) and Marsh (violin), McKennitt's Idling Porches on this album are Nigel Eaton (hurdy-gurdy), Caroline Lavelle (cello), Rick Lazar (percussion), Rob Piltch (guitars, keyboards), Donald Quan (keyboards) and Danny Thompson (acoustic bass).

McKennitt wraps up with a set of music from The Visit: "The Old Ways," "All Souls Night" and "Cymbeline" are like old friends, and the gentle instrumental reprise of "The Old Ways" is a perfect ending to a magical night.

Initially available only through McKennitt's own Quinlan Road, Live in Paris and Toronto has recently been released for a broader distribution to appease her clamoring fans. Proceeds from the sale of this live CD go to the Cook-Rees Memorial Fund for Water Search and Safety.

[ by Crystal Kocher ]

Buy Live in Paris & Toronto from Amazon.com.