Victoria Finlay

Loreena McKennitt

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 November, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 November, 1997, 12:00am

Loreena McKennitt: The Book Of Secrets (Quinlan Road Ltc) In the ranking of best-travelled nomadic people who would be at the top? Bedouins? Gypsies? Well, with this new disc by Loreena McKennitt, the Celts seem to have come storming up the listing.

Celts are everywhere, and she means everywhere.

McKennitt's musical travelogue - The Book Of Secrets - - takes her from Italian burial sites of mysterious Celtic chieftains; to Istanbul to read about fifth-century monks who found striking similarities between the Celtic and Byzantine illuminated books.

To celebrate her discoveries, this Canadian Celt's new album blends Middle Eastern drums with Central Asian flutes, and echoes of Indian ragas. But always that strong clear voice is sinuously weaving Celtic threads through an exotic carpet of music.

These are journeys both taken and imagined, a way of explaining wistfulness.

McKennitt is best when she is romantic and remembers Ireland - as in the lovely Highwayman, based on Alfred Noyes' poem, or the balladic Dante's Prayer - and worst when the travelogue theme becomes too dominant.

With its blending of ancient Sufi melody, Marco Polo has more than an element of Indian Restaurant: with its McKennitt adaptation it sounds less Calcutta classic than Bombay filmic.