Fiona Mackenzie - Elevate - Audiophile Audition
Fiona Mackenzie has been gaining a huge reputation over the last few years in folk music circles in the UK and Europe for her remarkably clear voice and her heavily Gaelic-influenced offerings. As part of the group Mackenzie, which is comprised of Fiona and her two sisters, Eilidh and Gillian, she first started singing in their native Isle of Lewis, which is part of Scotland's Outer Hebrides. Needless to say, I was expecting a mostly folk-oriented album, and while "Elevate" is that and more, it really stretches Fiona Mackenzie's boundaries significantly, both musically and stylistically. In terms of performance, recorded sound and sheer enjoyment, this surprising record is definitely in my top five for 2008!
The disc starts off with Fiona strumming her acoustic guitar and singing When The Sunny Sky Has Gone, a heartwarming little tune about her willingness to be there when skies turn grey. The track highlights her crystalline voice, and presents the song in a simple and uncluttered fashion - setting for me what I thought would be the tone of the entire album. So when the second song, In Between, powered through with a driving electric bass line and pulsating electric guitars, I was quite taken aback. The remainder of the album is no less surprising, combining elements of folk, Gaelic, pop/rock, jazz, techno and electronica! For an album comprised entirely of originals, this is without a doubt one of the most entertaining and eclectic mixtures of diverse sources I think I've ever heard.
The sound quality of this multichannel SACD disc is nothing short of amazing - Linn Records have truly outdone themselves with this excellent disc. The multichannel layer occupied the vast majority of my listening time, and it offers a wide and deep soundstage that places the players in a very real representation of the recording space, and mainly uses the surrounds to add to the overall ambience. Fiona Mackenzie's voice is rock-solid, front and center, for the most part, with the exception of the track Hi O He, where her voice comes at you from all channels to a hauntingly good effect!
The only quibble I'd have with this otherwise superb offering is its relatively brief 37 minute run time, and that alone holds it to four and a half stars. But Fiona Mackenzie's magnificent and often hauntingly evocative voice and the incredibly entertaining qualities of this disc more than outweigh that complaint. Very highly recommended!