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on November 20, 2006
After nearly 10 years since her last release, The Book of Secrets, I'm glad to say that this Canadian songstress still has it--and in spades!

Infused with the very soul of mysticism, the music is a journey to times long past but certainly not forgotten, thanks in part to McKennitt's rich, celebratory blend of cultures in each tune. Gone (I believe) is the harp, but yet, there is still an unmistakeable Celtic essence, the basis of her work.

Opening in much the same way that The Mask and Mirror and The Book of Secrets did--with evocative, wordless intonations that really set the mood, it moves on to the exotic and alluring "Gates of Istanbul"--here is a slow but infectious rhythm that lingers long after the last note.

"Caravanserai" is beautiful, soaring into a more subdued but sensitive treatment of the poem "The English Ladye and the Knight," before launching back into high gear into my personal favourite--"Kecharitomene," an adventurous, passionate song that swells blissfully, layer upon rich layer in a lovely aural landscape.

"Penelope's Song" sets us back on earth before the up-tempo "Sacred Shabbat," an excellent instrumental arrangement, but to me, sounding curiously contained or flat where other tracks possess great depth and clarity. "Beaneath a Phyrigian Sky" makes up for this small hiccup, a song I think of as the siblng of her wonderful "Bonny Portmore."

Concluding this sublime release is "Never-ending Road" (may it be indicative of her career, and further albums!), an emotive, haunting end comparable to what "Dante's Prayer" or "Prospero's Speech" did for Secrets and Mask, respectively.

This is a CD that radiates inspiration, care, and sensitivity, a culmination of Loreena McKennitt's skill and talent as a musician in what is likely her best release yet!
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on September 21, 2007
I'd been looking and hoping for a new Loreena McKennitt CD for years. I'd given up hope. Stopped looking...

Then -- there in The Lyric (the Baltimore opera house) -- Loreena McKennitt on tour! First I bought the tickets. Then I bought AN ANCIENT MUSE.

Having moved on from my "new age" phase of some years back my head's been in different musical spaces: serious/wondrous jazz, guitar virtuosos, classical music... So when MUSE arrived... I was in the wrong "gear"...

But with a concert fast approaching I had to find the set list, compile my own iTunes version of the concert, "get ready." And what a world Loreena McKennitt weaves! Ahh... I'd forgotten...

MUSE has been on repeat all afternoon as I worked and thought about what to say. (Ahh... I'd forgotten...)

Once you're in the right musical head space -- world music not jazz, poems set to music not motif development upon development, etc. -- Loreena McKennitt stirs the heart like few others. For me it's her voice, the courage to set long poems to music, the richness of the instrumental sounds... and did I mention her voice?

Having devoured her earlier CDs -- I've got them all! -- I feel confident when I say AN ANCIENT MUSE is right up there with the best of them!

Enjoy... and feast your ears!

Dr. Kirtland C Peterson
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on June 14, 2010
Years ago I fell in love with the "the book of secrets" and "An Ancient Muse" begins where "the book of secrets" left off. Rediscovering those themes of Middle Eastern Origins, from North Africa to Afganistan. "An Ancient Muse" may not be quite as good as "the book of secrets", however it is a close 2nd. Loreena McKennitt delivers a perfect album with haunting themes that will transform you. You will not be disappointed.
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After the death of her fiance, Loreena McKennitt went into retirement for several years. But when she returned, she came back in a big way -- "An Ancient Muse," a haunting little album filled with Middle-Eastern grandeur and Celtic bittersweet beauty. In other words, McKennitt picked up where she left off, and the years have not dulled the richness of her music.

In a way, the album feels like it follows a day all across Europe and the Middle East. It begins with "Incantation," a slow sunrise of a song filled with murmuring vocals and dark sweeps of strings, before segueing into the lazy half-lit twangs and angles of "The Gates of Istanbul" and the peppy sand-swept ballad of "Caravanserai."

Then McKennitt moves into colder climates with the wistful, string-soaked ballad "The English Ladye and The Knight" (all about a lady in love with a Scottish knight -- cue tragedy), the swirling "Kecharitomene" and the painfully lovely "Penelope's Song." With the final leg of the album, she drifts into the twangy Eastern European flavors of "Sacred Shabbat," the lush twilight tones of "Beneath a Phrygian Sky," and finishing with the soft lulling beauty of "Never-Ending Road (Amhrán Duit)."

"An Ancient Muse" is only nine songs long, but it's one of those albums that feels like a full meal once you've finished it. There are a couple songs that aren't quite brilliant all the time ("Sacred Shabbat" just didn't grab me), but overall McKennit picks up where she left off in the late nineties -- lush multi-instrumental music laced with angelic vocals, flavored with the mystical.

Her music brims over with silky strings, piano, guitar, keyboards, harp, angular accordion and earthy drums, as well as more exotic instruments like the bouzouki, the oud, the Turkish clarinet, the tabla and the lyra. And she evokes some truly spellbinding music with those instruments -- she can bring to life misty forests, Turkish marketplaces, colorful nighttime dances, and stately medieval processions. Although, I heard hints of "The Mummer's Dance" in a couple of the melodies.

Her voice is also incredibly lovely, rich and angelic in all the songs she sings in. Her lyrics are similarly rich -- she seems to make nature itself into a light-filled temple ("The sand was shimmering in the morning light/And dancing off the dunes so far away"), even as she often sings of yearning and lost love ("And in the night when our dreams are still/Or when the wind calls free/I'll keep your heart with mine/Till you come to me").

It took many years for Loreena McKennitt to make a full return to musicmaking, and "The Ancient Muse" is a short but good reminder of why she was worth waiting for. Not quite perfect, but close enough.
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on November 28, 2006
Once again, Miss McKennitt has capture the true essence of ancient music for today's standards. She is one of those artists who is able to keep her sense of style in every album without being too repetitive. Her lovely incantations as an opening to her albums is appreciated and prepares the listener for a mysterious and mystical journey.

I have been a fan of Loreena's music ever since i was 13 years old. Bought her albums with enthusiasm and impatience. And once again, she has not failed! For all fans alike or if you are curious to give this Canadian artist a try, i can tell you that you shall not be disappointed. If you just want to relax during a bubble bath, or have soft music while reading a book, or just have it in the background during a dinner party, this is an album you will surely not regret buying!

Congradulations Loreena! Keep up the good work!
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on November 19, 2006
Even though I do not have the cd at the time of this writing, I have been waiting for some new music from Loreena Mckennitt for 8 years. I have heard only one song from an ancient muse and I already know this album is going to be huge.. Her development as an international artist is solidified with each piece she creates. An ancient muse will remove interst in anything else out there for a while to come. If you have never seen her live. I recommend you do yourself a favour and go. Her performance outdoes most any other act out there. Mysticism is intact with every note. I not only recommend this cd, I also recommend anything she has ever made or will ever make.
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on December 15, 2006
Have to agree with the Amazon reviewer - I have nearly all her albums and although it holds some of the mystery and exoticism of her previous album - this one is indeed dirge-like and that has put me off a bit. Not one I'm going to be playing much. I'd like to hear it in a live concert to see if that might change my mind. I must admit I miss the harp, but I know artists must move on.
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on December 20, 2006
I was a little disappointed with this CD. Such a long wait for songs that sound so much like previous recordings in The Books Of Secrets and The Mask And Mirror. I was hoping for newer sounds. Loreena is an outstanding artist nonetheless. It won't stop me from buying her next CD whenever that may be.
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on April 14, 2013
Lorena McKennitt is a very goods musical artist. Sometimes I find her work can be drawn out and the tunes seen to blend into one another. This album seemed dreary to me gave me a pensive mood. Not one of my favourite albums from her!
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on November 4, 2007
I have been waiting for another CD from Loreena McKennitt. And it was well worth the wait.

This CD is just as beautiful and wonderful as all the rest of her CD's have been. She creates moments of bliss and wonderment.

Thanks, Loreena, for another wonderful CD.
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