Two Essential Lisa Gerrard CDs (+3)

Lisa Gerrard – The Sound of the Spirit: One of 20 Icons of Echoes.

Lisa Gerard was the possessed vocalist with Dead Can Dance, the enigmatic group that channeled a world of sound through their electro-ethnic arrangements and the incantatory voice of Gerrard. Gerrard sings in a hybrid supralingua that sounds like a real language, but is actually a dialect of the imagination, channeling sounds from Bulgarian throat singers, gothic hymns, Siberian screams and middle eastern ululations.

Lisa Gerrard

Although Gerrard has been recording solo since 1995 and seems to have been ubiquitous in the last 15 years, she’s actually put out only three true “solo” albums.   The rest have been collaborations, film soundtracks and Eps.    While Gerrard taps into an ecstatic and serene spirit every time she sings, her albums are often spotty or very hard work to get through.  So there are only two albums I would consider essential.  I have included, at the last minute, consideration of three albums that thus far seem to only be available in Australia and on Gerrard’s website, The Black Opal, Departum with Marcello De Francisco and Come Quietly with Klaus Schulze.  There are no Dead Can Dance albums. You can see that list here.


In this collaboration with fellow Australian, Peter Bourke, Lisa Gerrard reaches her most accessible sound on a CD full of trance melodies and church like hymns, except this church has middle eastern percussion and roiling synthesizers.  I feel the spirit! This is the only Gerrard album on which I could say every track hits the mark, from the solemn march of “Pilgrimage of Lost Children” to the askance lament of “The Human Game,” which at the time was her first song actually sung in English in over a decade.  A brilliant album.

The Mirror Pool was Lisa Gerrard’s solo debut, coming on the heals of the birth of her daughter, Lashna.     With a sound that waxes and wanes in the short space between hymns and lullabies, you can hear that influence, especially on the heart-rending sound of “Sanvean,” which was written for her daughter.  She eschews the more rhythmic side of DCD’s sound in favor of shadowy chamber orchestrations.  Out of string swells, drones and tolling bells, Gerrard’s voice arises like a dark angel.

This was her first true solo album since her debut ten years earlier.  In the interim, she came to renown for her film scores like Gladiator, Ali and The Insider.  Her soundtrack work informs much of The Silver Tree,  and in fact, many of the songs come from rejected film scores, including a demo overture she recorded in 2005 for the movie “Constantine. ”  That music turns up in the epic, cinematic sweep of “Towards the Tower.”   Echoes of her theme “Now We Are Free” from Gladiator turn up in “Serenity” and “The Sea Whisperer.” Both sound like the wind-swept ghosts of Irish laments blown over the hills of Tara.    The Silver Tree was an Echoes CD of the Month in May of 2007.

Haven’t heard of this one?  Little wonder.  It’s out on Gerrard Records and as near as I can tell, doesn’t seem to be available anywhere but her site.  It’s a collaboration with Marcello De Francisci, a Los Angeles based film composer.  Some corny spoken word segments at the head of the disc don’t bode well, but it quickly yields some of Gerrard’s most rhythmically lively and vocally enraptured music since Dead Can Dance’s Spirit Chaser.

Like most soundtracks, Gladiator has a lot of filler, but there are two reasons to get this disc co-composed with Hans Zimmer and Klaus Badelt:  “Sorrow” and “Now We Are Free.” “Sorrow” is the lament sung when Maximus returns home to see his slaughtered family.  “Now We Are Free” is the powerfully affirming anthemic closer to the film that manages to be simultaneously mournful and triumphal.

Lisa Gerrard will be featured tonight, August 4,  on Echoes with materiel drawn from nearly a dozen interviews with the artist over the last 25 years. Echoes On-Line subscribers can hear several interviews and a live performance with Lisa Gerrard.  You can try it for a week for only $2.99.

She was voted #17 among 20 Icons of Echoes and would’ve been in the top ten if she hadn’t split the vote with Dead Can Dance who came in at 10.

You can see Five Essential Dead Can Dance CDs here.

You can also see a review of Lisa Gerrard’s collaboration with Klaus Schulze.

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

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