I bought this CD largely on the basis of recommendations on Amazon.com, but after a few listens I'm sorry I did. The impression I received of it from its fans was that of an evocative and moody collection of word paintings, in understated arrangements, and delivered with a smoky, jazz-inflected baritone. To a large extent this general impression of the work IS accurate, and there's no question it's a very well-made album, sensitively produced.
My main problem with SECRETS OF THE BEEHIVE, however, is that the majority of the songs aren't very good. They're melodically weak, harmonically unadventurous, and tend not to stick in the mind after they've been heard. For me they come across as half-baked and monotonous. They're also not helped by Sylvian's singing, which is narrow in range and lacking in dramatic coloring. Granted, some of this is deliberate, but in my opinion Sylvian takes it all too far -- all the way to the "insubstantial" side of "understatement."
Far as I can hear, there are three satisfying songs on the album: "The Boy With the Gun," "Orpheus," and "Let the Happiness In." If the other songs were on this level, then sure -- maybe then we'd have had something here. Unfortunately, the other tunes are just too slight for their own good. They come across as pieces of songs that were simply never completed.
That some reviewers think this is one of the greatest recordings of all-time boggles my imagination. Off-hand I can think of numerous moody conceptual vocal collections, most of them from the jazz side of the musical spectrum, that are far greater than this one.
Don't get me wrong: this is a quality collection, but after hearing it, the praise it's received on Amazon, though honest, strikes me as a lot of hot air.
Now let the negative votes in. . .