I first learned of Loreena McKennitt when my high school English teacher played 'The Highwayman' and 'The Lady of Shallott' to us in class as part of a poetry thing. I was blown away, and afterwards, I sought out as many of her albums as I could find.
Loreena quickly became my new favorite singer. I didn't know about Brightman yet, so this was it. Her combination of crystal clear voice with traditional Irish folk tunes was and is nigh unstoppable. Anything she touches turns to gold. Nor did she just randomly fall upon Irish folk music as her path to celebrity, she's properly Irish herself and clearly grew up with this as her way of life and love of her life. The British Isles continue to just utterly dominate. Even Iceland is just a more remote British Isle, a bit further north and west than Ireland, so even Bjork could fall under this rubric.
Even though Loreena McKennitt only has 83 songs, a full 50 of them are masterpieces. 50 3-star class songs, out of 83. That blows the next highest ranking Garbage's 42 out of the water, and per capita the lead is even higher. To make matters even more ridiculous, Loreena's songs are longer than average, so she also has much more time being excellent than any other singer. 4 hours and 45 minutes of excellence, vs. Garbage's 2 hours and 58 minutes.
Realistically speaking, only Sarah Brightman now has a chance of overtaking Loreena. When I discovered Brightman I preferred her over Loreena ten years ago, and that will likely be the case this time as well. But that's still a long ways down the alphabet so who can say.
Loreena McKennitt has the same problem as every other singer, though, in that her latest album was nowhere near her average quality. It doesn't really matter. Her Mummer's Dance will remain famous for eternity, she doesn't need anything more to burnish her stats.
Going through her albums one by one, which takes the cake?:
To Drive the Cold Winter Away: 1 Listenable, 8 Actual Music,
Parallel Dreams: 1 Listenable, 1 Actual Music, 6 Masterpiece.
A Midwinter Night's Dream: 1 Listenable, 4 Actual Music, 7 Masterpiece.
Elemental: 2 Listenable, 1 Actual Music, 6 Masterpiece.
An Ancient Muse: 2 Actual Music, 7 Masterpiece.
The Book of Secrets: 1 Actual Music, 7 Masterpiece.
Nights from the Alhambra: 1 Actual Music
Songs for Winter Gardens: 1 Actual Music
The Visit: 2 Actual Music, 7 Masterpiece.
The Wind That Shakes The Barley: 7 Actual Music, 2 Masterpiece.
The Mask and the Mirror: 8 Masterpiece.
The Mask and the Mirror edges out the competition with a perfect 100% masterpiece rate, but four other albums scored just beneath with 7 hits, so basically her entire corpus is 'the best.'
Disturbed by how many McKennitt songs were being upranked as I listened to her songs one by one, I actually tried to be a harsher critic and tone down the level of praise, and this was still the result. If anything McKennitt is even better than what this chart describes. Is she the best ever? Let's reserve judgement till the end.