Coolest title, coolest CD art, and songs I 100% love. It also somehow feels the most Celtic, even though fully half of it is heavily Mediterranean/Middle East influenced.
* = denotes a CD highlight
* Prologue: Just a beautiful, mysterious-sounding, vocal-heavy instrumental. Impossible to describe, but impossible not to recognize once heard.
* The Mummer's Dance: Possibly the most classic and well known song of hers, and one of the two (w/ Bonny Swans) that I recognize from childhood, though it should be noted that the radio/single version is half the length of the album version and not as good. Every time the familiar music starts, it sweeps me off my feet.
* Skellig: Centering on an isolated monk who spent his life "scribing the words of God," and employing extensive use of mournful pennywhistle, the word that always comes to mind is "windswept." It holds a special place in my heart because of how strongly I connect it with being at college (where I was isolated both socially and geographically, and 'my books meant all to me'). St. John's has monks, and also created an Illuminated Bible, so it's no wonder that this song always makes me think of my time at that university. Not only the monastary, but the beautiful arboretum/lake and the quiet nights I spent in the old library.
Marco Polo: An instrumental, with some vocals, that has roughly as diverse a sound palette as you'd expect an explorer to have, but with a predominant "snake charmer music" theme.
* The Highwayman: I actually had to choose between this and Lady of Shalott for my AP Lit explication. I went with the beauty of the lady over the more violent imagery here, but I like the music of this one a lot better, from the "tot-lot" articulation of the horse hooves to the way she constantly modulates tone to capture the right emotion of each line. My favorite part is the climax of the poem -- the way she attacks "and BACK he spurred like a madman, shrieking a curse to the sky," just explodes onto the scene with uncharacteristic intensity and makes me want to stand in my non-existent stirrups and roar in frenzy to cheer his doomed self on. (and then go cry forever at Bess's horrible sacrifice in vain and "he lay like a dog in the highway, with the bunch of lace at his throat." Until I remember, you know, highwayman)
La Serenissima: A calmer instrumental featuring harp, very peaceful, as if reposing beside an Italian river. (side note: I keep trying to stubbornly sing "tango to evora" to the melody of this one even when I know it's wrong, 'cause it kind of fits.)
Night Ride Across the Caucasus: The evocative title is all you really need, right? "Mmmm...ride on, through the night, ride on." Maybe a mention of the really cool drums. I don't know what they are but they remind me of a less deep timpani.
Dante's Prayer: Another lovely piece of literature set to music, with a rare piano feature. "When the dark night seems endless / please remember me."
(and eerily enough, those would be the final lyrics on her last studio album for nearly a decade)