The Right Honourable 2018
Out of Arthurian lore, mythical heroines come to the fore of French artist’s series of rock arias.
It’s a dangerous business in today’s politically correct climate to be singling out female participants of a particular project yet, fortunately, Alan Simon lives by the rules of yore in terms of courtesy, and has always been prone to risk-taking. With “Excalibur” as the most extravagant of his endeavors, it’s easy to walk away from vocal variety, though, and concentrate on certain sort of voices – very different, but mining the same Celtic seam – that have a lot of commercial potential outside of the titular rock opera’s context. Which is why the composer created a new flow for these songs, making up for the meagerness of suitable tracks on his saga’s first installment with no less than four pieces from its latest chapter as well as a few cuts from “Tristan & Yseult” to extend the scope and geography of what lies beyond the pale of balladry anyway.
Still, for all the resulting integrity, there are performances that stand out – such as “The Passion” whose fire is stoked by Sonja Kristina’s romantic if non-rustic tone, while more traditional enchantresses Jacqui McShee and Maddy Prior spin magic yarns on, respectively, supremely rocking “Sacrifice” and “Secret Garden” where sensual strings complement simple acoustic strum in the sincerest way possible. There’s also immensely sweet pain to Siobhan Owen’s crystalline weaving of “The Last Lament Of A Fairy” and the piano-led “Dreaming Again” and an arresting pop layer to the electrically charged likes of Moya Brennan-delivered “Calling For You” which adds beats and riffs to folk palette and orchestral sweep. Maite Itoiz’s operatic flight on “Dun Aengus” might be the ultimate expression of Simon’s lyrical vision, yet together these songs run the gamut of rare emotional richness; so it was worth entering the lake waters again.