Reviewed by Tony Cummings
In the years ahead this box set will be the benchmark against which all other Christian music reissues and returns-to-the-archives will be measured. For here is a package assembled with such tender loving care and attention to detail and encapsulating such glorious and timeless music tht one is left boldly asserting that this 4 CD set succeeds on every level - as a musical exploration of the Celtic roots of Christian spirituality; as a record collectors delight where old classics are re-mastered and in many cases re-mixed and delightful new-to-CD items are rescued from the vaults; and as a beautiful artifact where the strikingly illustrated and designed book, incorporated into the packaging, brings its own aesthetic pleasure. If you didn't know already, let me spell out what you get here. Disc One is a re-visit to the 'Iona' debut of 1990 where Fitzgerald and Bainbridge's vision of Celtic saints and holistic faith first found expression in a breathtaking soundscape of flute, transcendent sax and eerily emotive synth washes and where Joanne Hogg's angel-like voice first soared to the heavens. The new version here is, if anything, even more spine-tingling with re-mixes on most tracks bringing in additional guests like Troy Donockley (later of course to become a member of the band). 'The Book Of Kells' from 1992 is equally breathtaking (no re-mixes here though the re-mastering brings out the full dynamics), where Nick Beggs' Chapman stick interweaves sinuously around Fitzgerald and Bainbridge's improvisations and where Joanne Hogg sings with even more assurance. Disc Three offers a re-mastered 'Beyond These Shores' (1994) though it's the fourth disc, 'Dunes', which presents some stunning new material. The first suite of songs, "Snowdonia - Realm Of The Ravens", is haunting, mainly instrumental, music originally written for a BBC natural history series and is as emotive as music gets. All in all, this package is an essential item both for long term Iona devotees and new to the group music lovers wanting to discover a rich musical history.
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