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4.8 out of 5 stars406
4.8 out of 5 stars
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on June 30, 2009
Over 400 reviews on this cd and the average is 5 stars out of 5? Does that tell you how good a cd this is? You bet. I like all of Loreena's work and this one is a favourite. Especially "Dante's Prayer" which uses the St. Petersburg Chamber Choir singing the beautiful and haunting "Alleluia Behold The Bridegroom" as an intro and ending, with Loreena's wonderful music and lyrics in between. She does not churn out cd's like some artists do and it shows in the quality of work she does. Each song is well thought out, arranged and produced, like she is writing a novel and condensing it into five to ten minute short stories. Correct me if I am wrong, but her next album took almost ten years to come out. (With a live album in between.) Which was highly anticipated and did not disappoint. Her ideas come from her experiences and not from some label rep demanding a top ten single. Keep it real Loreena.
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on March 8, 2004
The Book of Secrets was the first Loreena McKennitt CD I ever purchased, and it remains my favorite of those I own. Her music combines elements of Celtic folk tradition with other cultural influences (Middle Eastern, etc.) as well as her own original innovations. McKennitt is also blessed with one of the most beautiful, rich singing voices I have ever heard. Her vocals vary from haunting to lulling, and she can convey an amazing depth of emotion. It is plain that the songs are all very meaningful to her, which makes them even more wonderful to listen to. She truly pours her heart and soul into her music.
The songs themselves are both touching an inspirational. The CD insert gives some information on the background for the pieces (lyrics are also included), but this album has heightened my interest in learning more of the historical context. The songs are arranged nicely, mellow tracks alternating with more lively ones. 'Prologue,' 'Skellig,' 'La Serenissima' (instrumental) and 'Dante's Prayer' are very smooth and soothing, while 'The Mummer's Dance,' 'Marco Polo' and 'Night Ride Across the Caucasus' are more up-beat and energetic.
My favorite track is 'The Highwayman,' based on a poem by Alfred Noyes (it is also the longest track on the CD, clocking in at 10:16 minutes). It is the tragic story of the romance between a highwayman (outlaw) and the daughter of an inn-keeper. Bess, 'the landlord's black-eyed daughter,' is expecting a rendezvous with her sweetheart. But when the King's troops show up at the inn and take her hostage, she knows she must find a way to warn her lover to turn back, that it is not safe. They have tied her with 'a musket beneath her breast,' and her only hope for the highwayman is to warn him with a gunshot - one that will kill her. Thus the highwayman escapes, but when he learns that Bess is dead, he rides back in a fury to avenge her, only to be shot down and killed himself. The story is incredibly sad and poignant, and McKennitt's haunting tones send tingles up my spine. I also recommend looking up the original poem, as a few verses have been left out of the song.
This is an beautiful album, and is among my favorites out of my entire collection. I listen to it all the time, and the songs linger in my head long after. Whether you are already a Loreena McKennitt fan, or simply enjoy Celtic / folk type music and are looking for something new (though you may have heard 'The Mummer's Dance' on the radio - it was rather widely played for a while), 'The Book of Secrets' is a sure winner. It is also a great gift idea. I recommend it most highly.
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on November 30, 2003
There was one track of hers on a Celtic Chillout collection. It was The Mummers' Dance, an extraordinary track, and on the strength of that, I bought The Book Of Secrets. What a find - the whole album is extraordinary.
There is so much to write about this album that if I tried to express everything I wanted to say, I would lose myself in an ever-decreasing spiral. Let's just say that Ms McKennitt has a very beautiful and original voice, the subjects of her compositions are varied to say the least - you seem to be taken on a mystical journey, a bit like reading Lord Of The Rings in a day. However, there are lots of influences which show themselves in the lyrics and the melodies; the musicianship is truly masterful and she has produced a near-perfect album.
One reviewer of her music suggested that it should be experienced whilst having sex. I think I would rather pay attention to her first and keep my partner waiting .....!
This is an exemplary album and a good way to get into Ms McKennitts brand of Celtic music - as I have. One can only wonder why it has taken me so long to find out about her.
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on November 28, 2003
Wow! Blown away by this recording, a technological masterpiece, in that the music presented sounds like it is being performed (mind you a virtuoso performance) on simple ancient Celtic instruments. In fact a couple of the tracks sound very Middle Eastern inspired or Indian in origin; such as the "Prologue," and "Marco Polo." Yet some of my favorite tracks, "The Mummers' Dance," sound very Celtic in their rhythm and vocalizations. This song was originally inspired by a Mummers' troupe who went aboard a stranded ship in Newfoundland to entertain the crew. This song has it's roots in ancient Celtic rites of Spring coinciding with traditional folk celebrations of May Day in Southern England. The track, "Skellig," for instance, although written in Tuscanny, was inspired by the Irish monks who were credited with the "saving of civilization," in the Dark Ages. Sequestered on the Skellig Islands off the coast of western Ireland these monks kept alive some of the finast examples of sacred literature while making real world comments in the margins of many of these texts. "The Highwayman" is a piece bourne out of Elizabethan legend and one fully expects to have that happy Hollywood ending if following along with the lyrics. Be prepared for several twists and turns! Many more intriguing liner notes explain the songs and lyrical development further. My favorite piece on the recording is, "Dante's Prayer," almost an ancient Celtic lamentation which features lyrics that cry out to an unseen force/lover, to please, "Remember me." What makes this recording so incredible is that Loreena McKennitt has composed all the music and written 98% of all the lyrics! From a different time and age, a view to a rich tapestry of imagery! This is a must have recording for fans of Celtic inspired and World music genre's.
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on June 29, 2004
Every song here is unique, and a very nice addition to the great Celtic tradition. The linear notes are very informative too, in showing the many potential links between Celtic and other cultures, even Greek and Siberian. But the last song "Dante's Prayer" is among the finest I've ever heard anywhere. I was knocked out the first time I heard it, and still play it several times a week! Thankfully the lyrics are printed in the notes, since Loreena does have an accent that can be tough to follow for a state -sider. An album for the ages, with the grand finale (Dante's Prayer) that you'll replay for many years to come!
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on July 6, 2004
Hi guys and girls, i just want to say a big 'thanks!' to Amazon for showing me the wonderful talented Loreena, i have always liked this kind of stuff, and my favourite has to be Enya, but she hasn't released anything new for a while, and i have all of her CD's. Anyway, Loreena is a wonderful singer and her songs are just magical. I say that if your into Enya or anything like that - give Loreena a go - she will surprise you:)
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on February 23, 2004
I have never heard of Loreena Mckennitt in my whole life. I hardly even listened to newage music before. However, I listened to the preview of the songs to this CD and it opened a door for me. I bought this CD and "the vist". "The Book of Secrets" is definitely the better of the two in my opinion. The instruments were great. Very powerful when played in conjunction with Loreena's voice.
1. Prologue
Not bad, but it didn't really hit me like the other songs.

2. Mummers' Dance
This song has a great melody playing throughout. Vocals were also good.
3. Skellig
Very very soothing string work in this song. Top knotch.
4. Marco Polo
This song is a nice change. It's more suited for the percussion fan, but still enjoyable.
5. Highwayman
Again, awesome string work at the start. This was the highlight of the song for me.
6. Serenissima
What can I say? The strings are again a hit. A very soothing instrumental.

7. Night Ride Across the Caucasus
Like most of the songs on this CD, this song has a great intro and the vocals fit in quite nicely. The song has good percussion work here, but it's not as heavy as Marco Polo. The strings too, do a great job.

8. Dante's Prayer
No better song could have been used to conclude this CD. The way that Loreena sung this song was by far the best in this piece, especially when the piano and the strings come in. Very moving stuff. Great lyrics.
This CD had a very good mix between the vocal and instrumental elements, which is why I thought that it was better than "The Visit" which is more vocal orientated. There is nothing wrong with this ofcourse, as it depends on the taste of the person.
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on February 8, 2004
I came to Amazon this evening to replace my version of this CD. I have had this CD for about 5 years, and it would be suffice to say, I have worn it out. This is not the first or last time I will wear out a favorite CD out.
This is a lasting favorite.
I want to bring up something, I find particularily unique about Loreena McKennitt music. It is the story of her journey that led to the actual song which make her CDs a bit different. The stories behind some of her music have insprired me to research historical events, look into different areas of religion, or culture. I attribute Loreena to my initial interest in John Ruskin and architecture. I have also read "How the Irish Saved Civilzation" by Thomas Cahill because of the CD liner notes.
The stories that go with the music are as fun as the final "product". I love the journey.
I very recently became aware of a composer named Lisa Gerrard (Dead Can Dance)-- Whale Rider songtrack and The Mirror Pool from which the song "Savean" was featured on a recent West Wing episode. Excellent music. Lots of eastern musical influences, similar to Loreena, on The Mirror Pool CD. The song "Savean" is classic.
BUT my first reaction to the CD itself was-- "Jeez, I wish I knew more about the inspiration behind these compositions." I was disappointed there were no stories to go with the songs.
As far as I know, Loreena is not scheduled to put out another CD before next year--2005. In the mean time I am exploring Dead Can Dance and Lisa Gerrard even if the stories and lyrics are lacking.
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on January 8, 2004
There are not words to describe the beauty of Loreena McKennitt's voice, nor the lyrics to her songs--all are simply profound, beautiful, and left me with tears in my eyes on more than one occasion.
I can't say I've got an average 14-year-old's taste in music, for my likings run in that of Enya and and more "soulful" music, for lack of a better word.
Thus, this album clearly suited my love for those shivers that go up your spine when you listen to something with such meaning, power, and amazing beauty.
My favorite tracks would have to be "The Mummer's Dance", naturally, because it is also what prompted me and many others to buy the album in the first place. Fun and catchy with beautiful music, I never get tired of this song.
"Santiago" satisfies my uncontrollable desire to hear the beyond gorgeous sounds of Arabic music. Similar sounding to "Santiago" and the Arabic-sounding tracks of "The Mask and the Mirror", this song makes me feel like running through the desert sands of Egypt... a strange personal fantasy of mine. =D
And then there is the notorious "The Highwayman", which left me breathless, in tears, and nearly trembling. I can't describe this poem-based song in words. For one, it is written to an old poem, which in itself is amazing--but put to music, the result is stunning. Beautiful vocals, haunting tune, powerful music, period. All I can say is "Wow" with a giant capital W.
Actually, that's really all I can say for the entire album.
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on December 6, 2003
About 5 years ago I also heard the song "The Mummer's Dance," play on a local radio station. After that I began a pursuit to find out who the artist was, and when I was 16 I finally bought this album (I am now 21). Even after listening to it over and over countless times throughout the years I've had it, I still love it, and listen to it often still, along with many of Loreena's other albums and various selections I enjoy. In this album you'll find an excellent blend of the Celtic and Middle Eastern cultures, as the artist loves to travel and write her songs from her inspirations influenced by what she sees and hears on her journey. Other albums from her such as "The Mask and Mirror," feature more of the Middle East and Spain, while "Elemental," among others carry sounds from Ireland, Scotland, and England. In one of her Christmas albums "To Drive the Cold Winter Away," the recording of the album was actually done in a monastery (I forget the location.) But no matter the album, or the locale, Loreena Mckennitt brings with her sounds of the world traveled over....
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