various artists,
Circle of Women
(Earth Beat, 1997)

Circle of Women combines the talents of six female singers and musicians in a collection of seventeen songs intended for group singing. Although the singing and arrangements are lovely, it is intended as a resource for those active in women's spirituality more than as a CD designed for attentive listening. The songs cover a wide range, from South African call-and-response, through Shaker hymns, and into several chants from goddess and pagan circles, including the invocation to the elements and the circle opening song which begin and end the CD, respectively.

All six women have beautiful voices, and the harmonies are wonderful. Many of the songs are sung a capella, and the rest have very simple instrumental accompaniment.

One particularly nice track is "O' She Will Bring/Musical Priestess (medley)," which combines an invocation to the Goddess throughout the seasons with an excellent instrumental duet between a Celtic fiddler and a harper. The medley of "Mother of Darkness/We All Come from the Goddess" blends these two chants with the first changing into the second.

I enjoyed the inclusion of both gospel songs like "Down By the Riverside" and the Shaker "Oh Ho the Pretty Chain" and one verse of "Simple Gifts." Several songs were written by participants in this project, and they would be wonderful additions to many gatherings; I particularly enjoyed the gospel-influenced "Celebrate the Rain," appropriately followed by "Spirit of the Plants."

Since this is a collection of songs for group singing, it was considerate to include the lyrics to all the songs in the liner notes. I appreciated the information about how this album came to be.

This is an album that fills a specific but real need. It would be an excellent addition to the libraries of people (not exclusively women!) who participate in spiritually oriented gatherings and would like to bring some new music to them.

[ by Amanda Fisher ]

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