> Wordless Meanings - Performed by Raga Dolls [GH]: Classical CD Reviews- Oct 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Wordless Meanings
Performed by Raga Dolls

Fourteen Salon pieces composed and/or arranged by
David OSBORNE (violin and steel string guitar)
Gary Norman (banjo)
Shannon Birchall (double bass)
George Butrumills (piano accordion)
Caroline Craig (vocals)
James Sherlock (nylon string guitar)
Recorded at Studio 301 at Move Records (no date given)
MOVE MD 3249 [56.43]


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The instrumental layout of this CD is the clue as to what to expect. The rather slight CD booklet says the rest. David Osborne writes "Raga Dolls is one of a number of groups currently helping to revive the forgotten tradition (of salon ensembles) but in two important ways we have more in common with modern day rock bands, we include a high percentage of original material in our repertoire, and secondly, our name has absolutely nothing to do with the music we play" (i.e. Indian Ragas!}

So to name the music on this CD in the usual manner would entail titles like Tango; ‘Still Life’, Tango (again), ‘Left at Carlisle’, oh and another Tango.

In his very brief notes on each composition Osborne has given us the background to each piece, although for the opening Tango he rather unhelpfully points out that "the name says it all". Of the second track ‘At the Nest’ he says, "Sounds like traditional Irish but it’s actually contemporary American Folk" (I’m glad he thinks so. It didn’t come across to me like that). For Track 4 ‘Still Life" he writes "Initially this was the middle section of a pop song I was writing. I wonder if this sounds like classical music?" Late on track 10 for an arrangement of Schubert’s song ‘Ständchen’ he chirps, "People tend to get carried away when describing this most inspired music…" Finally for track 11 Hungarian Dance No. 5 he comments, "I think Johannes Brahms had something to do with this one". Needless to say his commentary is aimed at people who don’t like reading programme notes. They are mostly slightly irreverent, tongue in cheek and I suppose typical of this sort of ‘crossover’ album. Other classical pieces used are Massenet’s ‘Meditation’, very beautifully done and ‘Du Bist die Ruh’ which sounds here like a country and western number and is sung by a voice which sounds totally uninterested in what it is doing. I can only say that I am relieved that Caroline Craig makes no other appearances on the recording. There is also an attractive arrangement of the Intermezzo from ‘Cavalleria Rusticana’ and the Intermezzo from ‘The Gadfly’ by Shostakovich. Let me briefly describe the sound of one of the tracks ‘Destiny’ a Waltz by Sydney Baines: melody in the accordion moving between various octaves, doubled by the violin or accompanied by broken chords. This is repeated with parts reversed. There are accompanying harmonies on banjo and/or guitar. The bottom part is on bass, very simple and delightful. The middle section melody is high on the guitar with light accompanimental figures on the accordion and tremolando violin. Incidentally, this track, like a couple of others is too long for the material. Everyone is suitably occupied in a role; all of which suits the salon set-up.

You will have gathered from the above that we have here a very wide range of styles that will have an appeal to a wide variety of listeners. For myself I have to say that sometimes I felt that I had inadvertently stumbled into BBC Radio 2’s Sunday evening edition of ‘Sing Something Simple’ without the Mike Sammes Singers. At other times I was charmed by the arrangements and the effortlessly beautiful ensemble and tone quality. I am secure in the knowledge that my mother would really enjoy this CD. There is a place for this music but definitely not on my shelves.

Gary Higginson

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