Lisa Gerrard could easily, and perhaps lazily, be pigeonholed as being somewhere between the music and work of Sarah Brightman and that of fellow British chanteuse Kate Bush. And it seems that Gerrard’s touring regimen is similarly in-between that of those two artists. While she’s not the recluse that Bush is famously known to be when it comes to the road, she is not quite as proficient touring compared to Brightman. Nonetheless, each has made quality contributions to music. This collection of Gerrard’s solo work, film score pieces and music from her group Dead Can Dance showcases her talents well. It is a perfect primer for those new to her music.
Fortunately for listeners who are often enticed to purchase compilations which are haphazardly thrown together with no real flow or cohesion, Gerrard personally selected and sequenced this album to give it a much more personal, whole feeling. The album begins with the haunting, mysterious and terribly short piece “The Wheat”, perhaps best recognized from the motion picture Gladiator. The minute-long track serves as a perfect appetizer for the fuller, more rounded “Elysium”, which is vast, expansive and topped off by some gorgeous, hair-raising vocals from Gerrard. As powerful as it is emotionally, the simplicity and tranquil nature of the song is what seems to make it soar.
Although a number of efforts are culled from her Dead Can Dance period, Gerrard also offers up other gems, such as “Sacrifice”, which was found in another Russell Crowe film, The Insider. The operatic tone is quite attractive and memorable, as Gerrard’s soothing vocals work off the subtle but lush string arrangements. And while she is quite adept at the opera-tinged side, her exploration of various genres might only be matched by that of Enya. Such is the case when listening to the warm, hypnotic “Sanvean”, culled from a live performance. Yet as strong as that song is, it pales completely to the slow, plodding and still uplifting, ethereal, angelic “The Host of Seraphim” from her Dead Can Dance years. Think of Enigma outdoing itself in its heyday and it might compare.
Even the wide range of Dead Can Dance seems to reach its boundaries when the Middle Eastern-ish, dramatic “Cantara” rears its adventurous head. But Gerrard perhaps saves her very best for the exquisite “Yulunga (Spirit Dance)”, which is part opera, part classical, part baroque and entirely alluring. The nearly seven-minute epic twists and turns in its initial moments, prior to some otherworldly vocals that enter the fray. The subsequent “Indus”, with its plodding but pleasurable groove, takes the record to another level entirely, although some might not enjoy the overtly deliberate manner Gerrard takes to get from Point A to Point B. This song also contains some of the best melodies, though, making the duration seem much quicker than it is.
The album hits a bit of a rut with the meandering and rather directionless “Persephone (The Gathering Of Flowers)”. While it’s considered a favorite among many, it sounds like a mash-up of Enya with Ute Lemper, with a world-meets-German cabaret feel that loses steam. Of all the material here, this might be the the most unfulfilled track, despite an epic, grandiose closing which could bring some men to tears.
Gerrard has no signs of slowing down, with an album of new material out last year and a European tour in late 2007. What one can expect from her in the future is anyone’s guess. Perhaps a good bet is more gorgeous, thought-provoking music that touches the senses effortlessly. For now though, be content with a track like “Go Forward”, a number from the Whale Rider motion picture that once again takes us on a delectable sonic adventure.
It’s easy for some artists to put together a hits package, but when the quality is this high throughout, whether in groups, collaboration or solo, it’s a tough job. Fortunately Gerrard delivered this album with the same deft and delicate touch her vocals have had for two decades and counting.