Enya’s Ambient Pop Masterpiece ‘Shepherd Moons’ is Turning 30

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Submitted by karajayne on Fri, 11/05/2021 - 17:18

Enya’s Ambient Pop Masterpiece ‘Shepherd Moons’ is Turning 30

Posted 5 Nov 2021
Enya 'Shepherd Moons'.

In November 1991, Enya released her first full-length album, Shepherd Moons, following the unexpected international success of her second LP, Watermark, and its breakout single, Orinoco Flow.

As with her previous two albums, Enya recorded Shepherd Moons in collaboration with producer Nicky Ryan and his wife, lyricist Roma Ryan. Their winning combination of Celtic-inspired ambient pop, Beach Boys harmonies and mystical poetry was carried through to the third album which undoubtedly came with a new set of pressures, in light of Watermark's success, but continued the exciting sonic evolution of their enchanting New Age pop. 

"Myself and Nicky will combine a lot of keyboard sounds, I then try to play it like it's an instrument, and try to incorporate as much feeling as possible," Enya explained during an interview in 1991. "With the voices, I sing it all in real-time, and emotionally this can be quite draining to feel for each vocal. Especially if you'll going to sing maybe five hundred vocals, which I've done on a track. It's a process that I enjoy, and you get very, very involved with it. And so it doesn't feel like you've sung five hundred vocals; it feels like you've become a part of a song."

Enya | ‘Caribbean Blue’

It took three years – after Watermark was released in 1988 – before Enya was finally ready to unveil Shepherd Moons. Lead single Caribbean Blue, arrived in October 1991, charming listeners with idiosyncratic melodies, waltz-like rhythms and, of course, Enya’s dreamy vocals. The single peaked inside the top ten in the UK, aided by a colourful art-house music video. Enya described creating the neo-classical clip, saying, “There were ten artists who had worked three weeks painting every second frame to give this effect of paintings coming alive.”

The album’s title track, Shepherd Moons followed, sounding like a soothing celestial chant beamed from an interstellar monastery, which is no coincidence. Roma Ryan was fascinated by the Voyager shuttles images of two moons near Saturn that she poetically interpreted as shepherds. “The world had not known, but all the time they were there, working tirelessly,” Ryan said. 

Enya | ‘How Can I Keep From Singing?’ 

Another single from the album, How Can I Keep From Singing? is lyrically in part told by a 250-year-old religious hymn that laments on the troubles of the world in sparse but powerful words. Lyricist, Roma Ryan also drew from the past for the album’s final single Book of Days, finding inspiration in ancient diary entries and all the “personal histories of great loves, of journeys exotic and wonderful, of loss, fear and tragedy, of dreams and simple wishes” within them. The blissful pop ballad was yet another top ten single for Enya. 

Enya | ‘Book Of Days’

And perhaps that’s what lies in the overwhelming success of Enya’s ethereal pop ballads, passionate, dramatic like an addictive soap opera, but mystical and mysterious enough to let your imagination run wild. 

Shepherds Moon was a hit for Enya, peaking at number one on the UK charts, and cruising into number 17 on the Billboard 200 in America.

Celebrate 30 years of the ambient pop masterpiece, give it a spin on streaming below. 


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