Saturday, July 16, 2011

The #25 Album of All-Time in the Rock Era--"Shepherd Moons" by Enya

Whereas you would expect all Top Songs of the Rock Era* to be highly successful on the singles chart, the same isn't necessarily true for The Top Albums of the Rock Era*.

Case in point this album at #25.  It is an example of why you don't want to factor in chart success too much and you don't want to factor in sales records too much.  And ultimately, it is the quality of the album that matters the most, both to the album-consuming public and to this countdown.  Shepherd Moons by Enya reached a peak of #17.  That certainly isn't going to get it into the Top Albums*.  But then you see that the album remained on the album chart for 238 weeks (over 4 1/2 years), meaning that the album outsold nearly all of the albums which supposedly were ahead of it at the time.  To remain on the best-seller list for that length of time means the album has a lot going for it; it's not just a flash in the pan but actually better than the albums most people were aware of at the time.  The album did reach #1 in the U.K. (hats off to my friends across the Atlantic.)

One need look no further than the Track Rating* (9.29) for this album to understand its quality and significance.  It is the only New Age album in the Top 100, out-performing every other release in its genre.  Radio station disc jockeys and music and program directors are still scratching their heads trying to figure out how it could possibly be so popular since they didn't play it.  The reality is that the album was popular because of today's radio stations, which are so formulated and restricted in what they play (and the public knows it) that the music public doesn't trust the radio stations anymore to tell them what is good--they have plenty of other sources (like this blog!) that give them more reliable information.

Nope, popular radio did not play one song from this album, and yet it sold five million copies and is today the #25 Album of the Rock Era*.  "Caribbean Blue" was the one single in the United States; it was a fairly big hit on the more reliable Adult Contemporary stations but Top 40 radio essentially ignored it.  But this album, like the others in the Top 100, can be tracked through and contains a bunch of songs better than the single.  Millions of people have bought the album because it is inspiration--very tough to stay in a bad mood after listening to this album.  

The Title track is excellent and sets the mood.  "Angeles" is beautiful and pure as the driven snow.  "Book of Days" is another excellent track.  "How Can I Keep from Singing?" sounds like a voice from heaven and the final five tracks have you wondering if maybe you are in heaven.  Listening heaven anyway.  "Marble Halls", in fact, sounds as if it were sung by an angel and "Smaointe" in the perfect ending for the album with a particularly haunting oboe at the end. Since radio refused to play this album, most of the songs on it are thus among The Top Unknown/Underrated Songs of the Rock Era* and I will be featuring them in future weeks and months Inside the Rock Era.

Shepherd Moons won a Grammy for Best New Age Album.

Shepherd Moons:

1.    "Shepherd Moons" --3:42
2.    "Caribbean Blue" --3:58
3.    "How Can I Keep from Singing?" --4:23
4.    "Ebudae" --1:54
5.    "Angeles" --3:57
6.    "No Holly for Miss Quinn" --2:40
7.    "Book of Days" --2:32
8.    "Evacuee" --3:50
9.    "Lothlorien" --2:08
10.  "After Ventus" --4:05
11.  "Smaointe..." --6:07

Enya played percussion, keyboards and piano in addition to singing.  Roy Jewitt played clarinet on the album, Andy Duncan and Nicky Ryan handled percussion, Liam O'Flynn played uillean pipes, and Steve Sidwell played cornet.

Shepherd Moons was recorded between 1989 and 1991.  Ryan produced the album while Gregg Jackman and Ryan engineered and mixed it.  Ryan and Enya were the arrangers; David Scheinmann provided photography.  The album was released November 4, 1991 on Reprise Records, a division of Warner Brothers.

The hauntingly beautiful Shepherd Moons lands at #25 All-Time, from Enya.

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