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Celtic Treasure

Album Review by Oksana



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Hi everyone!

Here is my (very lengthy) review of Celtic Treasure:

Celtic Treasure opens with ‘Let Me Lie,’ a beautiful, slow piece that shows off Hayley’s vocal timbre and her ability to express emotion in her singing. The peaceful sounds of the harp and flute take you away to a grassy field, and you can almost see the clouds passing overhead as you lie on the ground. The song gradually builds up into a beautiful, dramatic chorus -- “heal me through as I lay here with you.” This says so much about how Hayley values the earth -- her involvement with the Women’s Environmental Network, her belief in natural remedies and alternative medicine, and her unabated love for her mother-land of New Zealand. What a promising way to open an album! (And the rest of it does not disappoint!).

The second song, ‘Scarborough Fair,’ is beautifully arranged and orchestrated. Hayley’s stunning vocal performance brings out all of the emotion and Celtic flavour that made this piece so timeless in the first place. ‘Shenandoah’ follows, a wistful song about a man taking his love with him across the Missouri River. There are many things people have compared Hayley’s voice to -- a songbird, an angel, a violin -- but I think her voice is most like water: it flows fluidly and effortlessly into every soaring note, and fills every little nuance in the song, giving it a fullness and sparkle that belongs to Hayley alone.

Summer Fly’ starts off quite misleadingly, with a flute that makes you expect another slow, Celtic song like the previous two; instead, it turns into a delightfully upbeat piece that takes you right into a summer night somewhere along the coasts of Cape Breton (the fiddler in this track is Cape Bretonian Natalie MacMaster) where the people are all dancing and socializing, hiding the burdens and sadness in their hearts. Hayley skilfully balances the cheerful melody with the sad lyrics; it is a bittersweet song that brings back a lot of memories for me.

‘Summer Fly’ is followed by ‘Whispering Hope,’ a brief hymn with a comforting message and a very satisfying fullness in its sound. I love the simplicity in this piece, and the inclusion of the choir produces a really warm, earthy effect. ‘Danny Boy’ steers the album back into a Celtic direction. This is a standout track which features Hayley’s voice at its best; the minimal backing allows the listener to truly appreciate the beauty of her soaring high notes. I’m struggling to find words to describe it, but, as this review has nearly reached a page in length (and I’m not even halfway done!), I think it is sufficient to say that this song is pure magic!

Summer Rain’ begins with a pulsating rhythm of pizzicato strings that is maintained throughout the song. Hayley gets the message of the song across crystal-clearly; her diction has improved a lot since Pure (and her Kiwi accent lends an extra-special touch to the songs without being obtrusive in the least). This piece paints a bright and vivid picture of life and love; while it is relaxing, it is not “background music,” which is a real plus for the whole album.

The next song on the list is ‘The Last Rose of Summer,’ which she sang in the CD ‘Celtic Woman: A New Journey,’ with Meav. While I really like this song as a song, I find this particular version lacks the depth found in the vocals and arrangement elsewhere on this album. Don’t get me wrong -- anything Hayley does is miles away from being “bad” (I’m not being biased -- it’s true!) but this is a bit of a lowlight for me. I do, however, like the idea of it being done as a duet; it gives the song a bit of a new spin, and Meav’s voice is lovely!

When I first heard Hayley would be singing ‘One Fine Day,’ I was surprised because this is a very operatic song. However, Hayley makes it her own by having it arranged with guitar and soft orchestral backing, which gives it a bit of an ‘easy listening’ tone. This does not make the song any less dramatic; only more ‘approachable’ for its listeners. The Italian lines give it a nice touch, and the long, high note at the end is breathtaking!

The next song, ‘Sonny,’ is one of my favourites on this album. Its lyrics are very simple but they just break your heart when you listen to them. Hayley sings this song in a soft voice; almost a half-whisper that speaks straight to the listener’s soul. A real gem! ‘The Water is Wide,’ follows. This song seems a natural choice for any classical crossover artist, but as usual, Hayley’s version is delightfully unique; with lush orchestration and flawless vocals. As a side note, it is worth mentioning that Hayley plays the piano in both of these songs.

Melancholy Interlude’ is a beautiful but brief piano-piece-turned-song, featuring lyrics written by Hayley. While the melody is lovely, it’s really the lyrics that make this piece for me as they fit the song perfectly. Songs like this are always in danger of becoming “dark” if overdone, but Hayley lends just the right amount of... well... melancholy, to make it hauntingly beautiful without being depressing!

The album closes with ‘Abide With Me,’ a beautiful hymn full of hope; which can draw its listeners out of despair and sorrow by its sheer beauty and comforting lyrics. The album, at times sombre, at times lively, at times wistful, at times earthy -- ends on a most heavenly note!

The iTunes bonus track edition of CT also includes the track 'E Pari Ra', where Hayley goes back to her Kiwi roots to sing a beautiful traditional Maori melody. There’s something magical about this song; it makes me think of nature; of things living, blooming, of tears and of laughter. There is so much captured in that song -- a most beautiful ode to Hayley’s beloved homeland!

source : © 2007 Oksana
credits : Review by Oksana
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