Rating: **** (4 out of 4)
Availability: Independent release
Wendy Pini's popular ElfQuest series has quite a following in comic and fantasy fans. People around the world read the adventures of elf chieftain Cutter and his band of Wolfriders as they struggle to survive on the world of Abode. The Library of Congress has called ElfQuest one of the most important works of American fantasy, while many people list the comics as being some of the first literature in the medium.
One of the results of Wendy Pini's series is the creation of this album. A Wolfrider's Reflections features songs by Mercedes Lackey, Leslie Fish, Julia Ecklar, and other popular writers of fiction and "filk" music. The CD stands as a high quality, decent album, avoiding obvious pitfalls in favor of providing good, solid music that is pleasing to the ear and to the mind.
The music of ElfQuest spans different classical and folk styles, from the chant of Timmain's "The Calling" to the bold, powerful declaration of Winnowill's "Shades of Shadow" to the longing ballad of Skywise's "A Wolfrider's Reflections" and the hilarious bluegrass of Door's "Catatonia County Rag." Every song sounds like it is straight off of NPR, and that's a very good thing.
The temptation to do an album filled with wolf howls and various sound effects is great, so it is fantastic that the album manages to avoid such tricks. Instead, the music's lyrics work over folk accompaniments to build the characters and display their internal workings. Highlights of the story are spotlighted by specific songs, Cutter's "Tam's Song," Lord Voll's "Marking Time," and the circle dance of Kahvi's "Marching Orders," to name a few.
With such good work, it's difficult to find anything wrong with such a wonderful album. Julia Ecklar's vocals are excellent, leading the Wolf Pack with force, the Go-Backs with a mixture of sarcasm and anger, and representing the demented Two-Edge with a chilling performance. The accompaniment is fantastic and the lyrics are well crafted. If there's anything wrong with the album, it's that it may be a little bit confusing for people who are not familiar with the ElfQuest mythos. The music is an excellent companion to the books and is very fitting, but it does not make a good jumping-on point for those unfamiliar with the characters.
Regardless of whether you are familiar with ElfQuest or not, though, these songs are too well-crafted and well-performed not to land on your CD rack. This CD is highly recommended.
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