The Memory of Trees

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The Memory of Trees
Enya5.jpg
Studio album by Enya
Released 5 December 1995 (1995-12-05)
Recorded Aigle Studios, Killiney, County Dublin, Ireland
Genre
Length 43:24
Label Warner Music
Producer
Enya chronology
The Celts
(1992)
The Memory of Trees
(1995)
Paint the Sky with Stars
(1997)
Singles from The Memory of Trees
  1. "Anywhere Is/"Boadicea"
    Released: 20 November 1995
  2. "On My Way Home/"I May Not Awaken"
    Released: 22 November 1996

The Memory of Trees is the fourth studio album from the Irish singer-songwriter and musician Enya, released on 5 December 1995 by Warner Music in the UK and Reprise Records in the US. Following her promotional tour for her previous album, Shepherd Moons (1991), Enya took a break from writing and recording music. She resumed in 1993 to make a new album with her usual recording partners, lyricist Roma Ryan and arranger and producer Nicky Ryan. The Memory of Trees sees Enya continue with her sound of multi-tracked vocals and keyboards with elements of classical and Irish music, and songs sung in English, Gaelic, Latin and Spanish.

The Memory of Trees received mostly positive critical reviews and was a commercial success, reaching No. 5 on the UK Albums Chart and No. 9 on the US Billboard 200, where the album went on to sell over 3 million copies. "Anywhere Is" was released as the lead single in November 1995; the second single, "On My Way Home", followed in November 1996. The Memory of Trees achieved a Grammy Award for Best New Age Album.[1][2] In 2009, a limited remastered edition was released in Japan on Super High Material CD with bonus tracks.[3]

Production[edit]

Background[edit]

In 1992, following her worldwide media tour to promote her previous album, Shepherd Moons (1991), Enya took a break from writing and recording music. She resumed work in 1993 to record a new album, which took roughly two years to complete, with her usual recording partners: lyricist Roma Ryan and arranger and producer Nicky Ryan.[4] Following the release of Shepherd Moons, the Ryans relocated Aigle Studios, their home studio in Artane, a northern suburb of Dublin, to their new home in Killiney, County Dublin. Enya's previous albums obliged the three to record in Artane and finish them in London as they lacked the right equipment, leaving them to work among "so many distractions" and high studio rental costs, until the Aigle studio was upgraded upon its relocation.[5] As well as the piano and synthesizer, Enya plays the violin, cello, and percussion instruments on the album.[4] The front cover is based on a painting by Maxfield Parrish.[6] Within the last eight months of recording, Enya's routine consisted of waking "at seven or eight o'clock and working late", in order to "give as much as I could" as she "gave 100 per cent" on the album.[7]

Songs[edit]

"The Memory of Trees" originated from Roma after she read about Irish mythology and the Druids, who placed a great importance on trees and believed they were sacred and possessed wisdom. Roma suggested to have the album named after the track and Enya agreed, thinking the title is "very strong" and can conjure up different images and ideas in people's minds.[4] The ambiguity of the title, she said, is what made her like it so much.[8]

"Hope Has a Place" was developed lyrically at first, after Roma visited the Silent Valley Reservoir in the Mourne Mountains in Ireland. Enya subsequently made a visit to the reservoir with Nicky, who wished to record the lead vocal there.[5]

Around a year-and-a-half into the recording stage, Rob Dickins, chairman of WEA, who Enya was signed to, was invited to listen to the album at a time when Enya and Nicky felt it needed further development. Dickens liked the material already recorded, but felt "Anywhere Is", a track that was close to being rejected, needed more work as it "had the makings of an obvious single". The track was changed accordingly, and was the final track to be worked on.[5] Dickins is credited on the album's sleeve in Gaelic.[9] The song is about, as Billboard put it, "the search for the temporal heaven all cultures call 'home'", a subject that Enya felt was important as she needs to be at home when she writes and records her albums.[8]

As well as English, Enya sings in three other languages. "Pax Deorum" is sung in Latin and means "Peace of the Gods", "Athair Ar Neamh" is sung in Irish and means "Heavenly Father", and "La Soñadora" is sung in Spanish and translates to "The Dreamer". The latter was written around Amergin Glúingel, a Druid of the Milesian race who recited a poem upon his arrival to Ireland, and an ancestral connection to Spain in Enya's family tree, which made her want to sing the song in Spanish.[5][10]

The Japanese edition of the album contains an extra track, "Oriel Window", a piano instrumental.[11] The 2009 Japanese remastered edition contains "I May Not Awaken", the B-side to "On My Way Home".[12]

Release[edit]

WEA organised a release party in London for journalists and broadcasters on the Silver Barracuda, a pleasure boat that travelled from Charing Cross to Greenwich, where a reception was held at Queen's House with fireworks.[7]

The Memory of Trees was released on 5 December 1995.[1][8] It was a commercial success, reaching No. 5 on the UK Albums Chart and No. 9 on the US Billboard 200, where the album went on to sell over 3 million copies.

"Anywhere Is" was released as the lead single in November 1995; the second single, "On My Way Home", followed in November 1996. The Memory of Trees achieved a Grammy Award for Best New Age Album in 1997.[1][13]

"The Memory of Trees" is used in the soundtrack to Shot Through the Heart (1998). "Once You Had Gold" was used in the score of the American romantic comedy film Knocked Up (2007); and "Pax Deorum" was used in the score of the American documentary film For the Bible Tells Me So (2007) and also as an unreleased track on the 1986 BBC documentary The Celts. On 24 July 2011, Yamagata Broadcasting Company of Japan used "China Roses" in its sign-off on the occasion of its final analogue television broadcast.[citation needed] An instrumental version of "Athair Ar Neamh" was played when Sofia Hellqvist walked down the aisle during her wedding to Sweden's Prince Carl Philip.

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 3/5 stars[1]
Entertainment Weekly B[14]
Los Angeles Times 3/4 stars[15]
Q 4/5 stars[16]
Rolling Stone 3/5 stars[17]

The Memory of Trees received mostly positive reviews from critics. The Cincinnati Post gave the album a rating of "B+", describing it as "sonorous melodies, glowing with strings, piano and crashing percussion" with "luxurious vocals". The only drawback it noted was its similarity to Shepherd Moons, particularly with "Anywhere Is". The review concluded with: "But really, who cares? In its essence, Trees" has "the myth and warmth that implies".[18] In his review for The Washington Post, Mike Joyce noted its similarity to Watermark and Shepherd Moons, "brimming with the kind of lush orchestrations, celestial harmonies and mystical imagery" and "lyrical grace and spiritual power of its own, not to mention some pop smarts", a combination that makes the majority of similar albums "utterly dull". Joyce praises her vocals and Nicky Ryan's production to create a "cascading shower of harmonies".[19]

Jim Sullivan wrote a review for The Boston Globe. He thought the album was not "quite as exotic or transcendent" as Enya's previous two albums, but she and the Ryans produce "serene ambience" and "new-age music with subtlety and smarts". He wrote "Anywhere Is" "has a frothy, trivial pop bounce", but wished for a greater amount of "movement and drama" in the tracks.[20] The Record included a review from Steven Johnson, who noted the album did not break any new musical ground, "But why change what works?" He highlighted Enya's "ethereal" vocals and "Anywhere Is", a "spirited melody" that is the furthest away from her usual "tried-and-true" musical formula. Johnson concluded: "A super collection of music that, at its best, seems to touch the stars".[21]

Track listing[edit]

All lyrics written by Roma Ryan, all music composed by Enya and all songs produced by Nicky Ryan. All instruments and vocals performed by Enya.

No. Title Length
1. "The Memory of Trees"   4:18
2. "Anywhere Is"   3:58
3. "Pax Deorum"   4:58
4. "Athair ar Neamh"   3:39
5. "From Where I Am"   2:20
6. "China Roses"   4:47
7. "Hope Has a Place"   4:44
8. "Tea-House Moon"   2:41
9. "Once You Had Gold"   3:16
10. "La Soñadora"   3:35
11. "On My Way Home"   5:08

Chart performance[edit]