Q (UK) December 1991
Ghostly voices, overdubs by the dozen, Hovis horns - Enya is back.
ENYA - Shepherd Moons - WEA WX 431
When Watermark was released in 1988, it seemed an unlikely source of income for Warners. Enya was almost unknown. Her first album, written to accompany the BBC series The Celts had been largely ignored. She'd walked out of Clannad at 19 feeling undervalued, only to ensconce herself with erstwhile Clannad producer Nicky Ryan and his wife Roma just outside Dublin. Not the previous form of a hit machine in the making.
Four million copies of Watermark later, she was firmly established - not only as a favourite with the flotation tank set, who liked her gentleness and alleged mysticism, but also with a broader group who found her songs attractive and unchallenging.
Three years and many vocal overdubs later, Enya returns with Shepherd Moons. It's again produced by Nicky Ryan with Roma Ryan providing the lyrics and, to all intents and purposes, is Watermark II. For many, that will be recommendation enough.
From the title track, the familiar trademarks are there - the careful rolling piano, the insistent plucked synth melody over the top and the thousands of ghostly voices, as if the entire Anfield Kop had suddenly grown wings. 'Caribbean Blue' is this year's 'Orinoco Flow' and if the hook isn't as instant, the melody is strong enough to carry it off. Lyrically it's about as deep as the album gets: "If every man says all he can / If every man is true / Do I believe the sky above / Is Caribbean Blue?" - but then few will call here looking for life's answers.
There's as much instrumentation elsewhere as state-of-the-art technology allows. 'Evacuee' has poignant Hovis horns, 'Book Of Days' features sawing cellos, sleigh bells and castanets, and 'Lothlórien' (dodgy doff of the cap to Tolkien) positively suffuses with odd, wobbly lead lines. More conventional balladry is represented by 'How Can I Keep From Singing?' which is the kind of tune young girls used to play on old nylon guitars in the church youth club, and 'Angeles' which has much in common with Watermark's 'On Your Shore'.
The effect of Shepherd Moons is cumulative, and by the time you reach the second side, the songs are beginning to merge into each other - as with Watermark, it's as if she were speaking the same beautiful sentence over and over again. Shepherd Moons will almost certainly go on to be Enya's next multi-million seller, but there's a limit to the number of times people are going to be prepared to buy this particular album. ***
Note: Transcribed by Peter Warburton and posted to rec.music.newage on November 25, 1991. With Notes:
Anfield: The name of the Liverpool Football (i.e. soccer) Club ground.
Kop: Liverpool FC fans.
Hovis horns: To me, Hovis is just a brand of brown bread. Presumably "Hovis horns" are some new piece of electronic music technology. Anybody?
*** -- Q uses a rating scheme of one to five stars. Three stars represents "Good. Not for everyone, but fine within its field."