Mediaeval Baebes new album – Illumination

Back in June, I saw on the Mediaeval Baebes website that they had a new album coming out in October. I know it was announced back in March, but they don’t have a RSS feed on their site, so I only check for updates when I remember. The first 1000 pre-ordered copies of the album would get a numbered limited edition with two bonus tracks. Knowing that I would buy it anyway, I placed my order, not expecting to be in time for the limited edition. When I got confirmation of my order, there was no indication that it was the limited edition, so I resigned myself to the fact that I was too late and cursing their lack of RSS feed yet again.
At the beginning of September there was an official announcement that the release date had been pushed back to Spring 2009, but those who had pre-ordered would receive theirs ahead of official release, hopefully mid to late October.
Wind forward a few weeks to last Tuesday. I got home from work to find a packet for me. I had bought a few things recently on Ebay, but wasn’t outstanding anything. The only thing I could think of ordering recently was an aikido book from Aikido Journal, but it wasn’t big enough for that. It was a pleasant surprise to open it and realise what had arrived. Not only that, but it was the limited edition with bonus tracks.
I listened to the first couple of tracks that evening, but didn’t have the opportunity to hear all of the album. On Wednesday, it was our children’s Harvest Festival at the school and I had the morning off as holiday so that I could go. Once Jo and the kids had gone out, I put the album on and got to really appreciate it.
Although it is distinctively Mediaeval Baebes, it also has a different sound from any of their previous albums. That said, each of their albums has a different feel, so that in itself isn’t new.
The lyrics are from a variety of sources, from mediaeval manuscripts to William Blake and Robert Burns. Each of the baebes sings lead on at least one of the tracks, so this allows them to make a song their own.

  • The album opens with Desert Rose, which has a middle-eastern feel about it and is sung by Emily Ovenden.
  • The next track, Suscipe Flos Florem, is a more usual slow tune with harmonised vocals, with Katharine Blake leading the vocals.
  • The third track, The Blacksmiths, stopped me in my tracks. It was so unlike anything I had heard them do before. That said it was quirky and had me smiling from the off. It was almost a pop track in its production, but with the backing acoustic guitars and clapping and then violin. This was lead by Bev Lee Harling.
  • The next track, To the One, lead by Katharine Blake again, is another change of pace. This is a much more peaceful song with harps and voices.
  • Miracle starts slows and then builds to a full chorus of all the baebes supporting Melpomeni Kermanidou’s lead vocals.
  • I Sing of a Maiden, what can I say. It has a mediaeval feel throughout. You can’t help tapping along to the beat, even if you don’t know what the words are. Beautifully sung by Claire Rabbitt.
  • The next track, The Undivided, lead by Bev Lee Harling, has to be one of my favourites. It has minimal accompaniment. It is one of those songs that you listen to half knowing the words even though you’ve never heard it before.
  • Katharine returns to the lead with Ecce Chorus Virginum. This is sung in Latin, with a bright lively chorus.
  • Esther Dee is the lead vocal on Mad Song. This has a eastern feel with clear lightly accompanied vocals.
  • Recorders introduce and accompany My Lady Sleeps. This is a group song and is most similar to previous songs of theirs.
  • Yonder Lee is a lively song with Claire Rabbitt leading. I can imagine this one going down a treat live. You find yourself tapping and joining in quite quickly.
  • Till A’ The Seas Gang Dry is the second using Robert Burns’ words (Yonder Lee was was the other). It is a slow song with Katharine singing the verses and the others joining in on the chorus.
  • Sunrise is another upbeat tune by Emily Ovenden.
  • Esther sings La Belle Dame Sans Merci which slows the pace down again with a much more restrained guitar accompanyment and harmonised vocals.
  • The first bonus track is Swete Jhesu, King of Blisse. This is classic baebes with unaccompanied vocals that build and build through the track.
  • The final track is Myrie Songen. This has the recorders and hurdy gurdy sound that gives the mediaeval feel.

I have lost track of the number of times that I have listened to this album over the last few days. It has definitely become a favourite.
I think at the moment my 3 favourite tracks are The Undivided, Yonder Lee and I Sing of a Maiden. This is bound to change as The Blacksmiths is great, as is Mad Song.

By the way, the Harvest Festival went really well. My daughter was the Little Red Hen in her class production. She had been practicing her lines all week and got them right without any problems.

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