Loreena McKennitt

Parallel Dreams

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Parallel Dreams, the Canadian harpist/songwriter's quietly moving sophomore release, finds the mystical red-haired siren in true balladeer form. By far McKennitt's most romantic venture -- the liner notes describe the project's central theme as a "yearning toward love, liberty and integration" -- Dreams is more ambitious than her sparse, impeccably recorded debut, Elemental, tripling the amount of players and laying the groundwork for the immense scope she would go on to attain on future recordings. The heartbreaking trio of "Standing Stones," "Annachnie Gordon," and "Dickens' Dublin" -- the latter features an effective radio-show sample of an unnamed Irish school child detailing the birth of Christ -- stand among the artist's finest works, and the range and clarity of her voice is undeniably powerful. Parallel Dreams was an emotional and career-turning point for McKennitt, as her next recording would be the major-label spectacle The Visit.

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