If I had only
one word to describe "Avalon-A Celtic Legend,"
it would be "soothing." If I had only two
words to describe it, they would be "most soothing."
When I first glanced at the CD, the first thought to cross my mind
was, "oh no, not another slick repackaging of worn and weary
Celtic music." Dropping the CD into the player and
launching the opening track, "Road to Camelot"
did little to dissuade me. But when the second track, "Enchantment"
began, my impression rapidly changed, and I most certainly became
enchanted. Small wonder, too. Composed and produced by David
and Diane Arkenstone, "Avalon" is a
musical rendering of the ages-old tale of King Arthur, the castle
Camelot, the magician Merlin, and the land of Avalon. The track
listing alone reveals this, with titles such as "The
Spirit of Excalibur," "Merlin's Secret,"
"Lady of the Lake," "The Round Table,"
"Guinevere's Tears," and "Arthur's
Farewell." But one doesn't listen to titles, one
listens to music. And that's where this album shines. I
confess to listening to this album in its entirety twice before ever
looking at the liner notes and jacket.
Good thing, too, because I might
have developed biases prior to the hearing, based on my own
understanding of Arthurian legend. Despite the overwhelmingly "Irish-standard"
sounding opening track, the remainder of the CD is a sheer delight
for fans of melodic, mellow, and -- dare I say it -- soothing
music. The Irish influence is present in virtually every
tune: Irish fiddle, penny whistle, flute, and so on. The
fiddle is by far the dominant instrument. However, none of the
pieces is "in your face," and the tunes are so easy
to listen to, that the instruments blend so well, the music flows so
easily from one cut to another, that it's almost impossible to
consider the album except in its entirety. And while I'm not
fond of the introductory "Road to Camelot," I
think its inclusion is necessary, as it establishes the
instrumentation -- but not the mood -- for the album.
Fans of either Arkenstone
will find their imprint on this album, but not the sometimes sweeping
and dramatic flourishes. This is a quiet, contemplative work,
one that produces a feeling of peacefulness and ease. I had the
occasion to listen to it one time during a stop-and-go traffic jam
over the Sunshine Skyway bridge in Florida, and it most definitely
made the experience tolerable, if not even somewhat enjoyable.
It will find its way onto my CD player often in days to come. Links:
Reviewed by Fred Puhan for