Saturday, December 01, 2007

Rediscovering Iona’s Back Catalog – The Book of Kells

I've written recently about the latest album by Iona and how much I have been enjoying it. In addition to still listening to The Circling Hour, I have been also working my way, slowly, backward in their catalog and enjoying their older albums. I must say, this is a wealth of excellent music. I have worked my way back to their second album, Book of Kells from 1992, which I remember reading a long time ago was considered the best of their first four albums. I've had it for a very long time and I remember it being a sometimes tough album to "get." Reading reviews on Amazon and on iTunes, some of the people there clearly didn't think it was their best, in fact, the reviews were often lukewarm. This puzzled me so when it came time to start listening to Book of Kells I was anxious to hear it with new ears. Having listened to it a number of times over the past week or so I am more convinced than ever that this album is a highlight of their early years.

The Book of Kells is an illuminated copy of the gospels which was made in about 800 AD and is now housed at Trinity College in Dublin. On my trip to Ireland three years ago I actually stopped at Trinity College and was in the same building as this book. I nearly stopped in to see it but time was short. The Book of Kells is the inspiration for this album which is a reflection on the gospels as well as on this particular artisitic rendition of the gospels. The lyrics reflect the ancient character of the book itself and displays a reverence for God's word and for the saints who went before us. The music is ethereal and powerful. The band plays with both force and finesse. Joanne Hogg's voice is spectacular, of course. This album has some compelling melodies although a lot of the music is evocative more than it is melodic so a cursory trip though this album will not reveals all it's treasures. My suspicion is that the people who gave it a lukewarm review did not give it sufficient time to sink in. I think it is a wonderful artistic statement and a great album.

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