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Ophelia

Ophelia

18 May 1998
4.8 out of 5 stars 49 customer reviews

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Ophelia
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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Throughout the years Natalie Merchant has been many women, a barefoot folkie helicopter dancing around a stage, a PSA doyen preaching to the converted, and a musical earth mother. She grew up in 10,000 Maniacs, and its not surprising that when she produced Tigerlily it was as un-Maniacal is you could imagine..... or so I thought at the time. Then she gave birth to Ophelia, her latest baby, and boy does she not sound like her sisters.
Ophelia is a lush, orchestral monument to Merchants own feminine vanity, but while it could have been a true folly it stands as her greatest triumph to date. From the opening intonation of Ophelia (wherein Merchant play acts herself as all the things she's not been yet), to the closing intonation of, well, Ophelia Reprised, this is Merchant throwing her heart and soul into a musical project in a way she hasn't seemed to since In My Tribe. Only "Kind and Generous" and "Effigy" grate, the former because of the Hallmark sentimentality and the latter because even on an album this good there is limits to the acceptibility of pretension which are reached at Tibetan translations. The earnest beauty of tracks like "My Skin" and the fierce passion of "Thick As Thieves" stand out, and Merchant and Karen Peris certainly give it their all on "When They Ring The Golden Bells".
Peris is also present for one of Ophelia's (and possibly mErchant's career's) finest moments. "Frozen Charlotte" is a love song of astonishing beauty. The tenderness of both women's voices is touching, while the gentle patience that Merchant's character displays to the hurt Peris is almost heart-breaking, it is worth the cost of the album alone.
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Format: Audio CD
I don't know where to start, I have hundreds of albums but this is in my top 5. Yes I know everything is personal to everyone and it is all relative, but I defy anyone not to be washed out to sea with the powerful tones of the opener Ophelia, and what follows.
I am loathed to mention every song because people should find out for themselves but I have to mention Frozen Charlotte as one other reviewer has done. The two most beautiful voices you will ever hear will simultaneously set your soul free and chain your heart to the ground. If you didn't have a broken heart you do now.
I wish everyone could listen to this album, not only to demonstrate how good music can be but to make a corner of your life, maybe a little darker but also a lot more beautiful. Worth so much more than the purchase price, I wish all music was this intelligent, heartbreaking and beautifully rendered.
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Format: Audio CD
This is a gorgeous album, packed with stunningly good melodies and arrangements. It is lush, epic, and beautifully written and performed. Natalie Merchant's voice is a thing of startling loveliness, delicacy and emotional depth. Piano, cello, violin and delicate guitar contribute enormously on every track. Peter Yanowitz' trumpet on Break Your Heart is divine. Although the album demands some emotional maturity in the listener, as evidenced by some of the negative reviews here, many of the songs can only be described as uplifting.
Outstanding, classic tracks include 'Ophelia', 'Life is Sweet', 'Frozen Charlotte' and 'The Living'. Only two tracks tend to disappoint - 'Kind and Generous', with its simplistic happy-clappy lyrics, and 'When They Ring the Golden Bells', on which the initial section is marred by Karen Perlis' rather saccharine guest vocals.
Listening to this album, the most depressing thought that comes to my mind is that someone who would appreciate and enjoy it might be put off by the unhelpful, aggressive Amazon review. Complaints about emotional tone are completely inappropriate - what next, reviews of Gregorian chants saying "this is a bit of a downer, lighten up lads!" Grow up Michael, this is Amazon, not NME - you're here to sell albums, not rip them to shreds. The only pretension here is your own.
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Format: Audio CD
From the opening cord to the last whisper of the dying note, this album is perfection in every musical sense. The notes float together to reinforce and become the words that form the images of feelings that you could never vocalise. Every song shines from the unsupassable "Life is Sweet" to "Effigy". The point is I could write forever on what the songs mean to me, but its YOU that they are written for, that bunch of notes and words may take me somewhere very different to where you are going to be taken. We all have lost and hidden memories, this album expresses them all perfectly in ways we can never truely can.
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Format: Audio CD
Stunning, simply stunning. It's dark, deep, sad, depressing, emotive, atmospheric, emotional and one hell of a journey from start to finish. If you want 'pop' don't buy this! If you like expressive lyrics sung by a haunting voice then this is the best you can do.

"My Skin" is as dark and depressing as you can get. Yet, by the time the full instrumental ending kicks in, it becomes one of the most uplifting pieces of music you can listen to.

Natalie Merchant IS acquired taste. But without sampling, your life will be poorer for it!
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