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Bawdy Ballads of Old England: The Mufitians of Grope Lane
The City Waites singers and musicians: Lucie Skeaping, soprano; baroque violin; Douglas Wooton, tenor; lute, bandora, cittern, tabor; Roddy Skeaping; baroque violin, bass viol, voice; Michael Brain; baroque bassoon, recorders, voice; Robin Jeffrey; baroque guitar, cittern; Mike Sargeant; Northumbrian bagpipes, Flemish bagpipes; David Chatterley; hurdy-gurdy
Recorded at The Premises, London, Spring 1995
REGIS RRC 1175 [74:25]

Diddle Diddle, or the Kind Country Lovers; The Fair Maid of Islington; Green Stockings; The Jovial Lass, or Dol and Roger; Mundanga Was; Lady of Pleasure; The Old Wife; The Beehive; Blue Petticoats, or Green Garters; The Gelding of the Devil; The Maid's Complaint For Want of a Dil Doul; Oyster Nan; The Frolic; The Husband Who Met His Match; The Jovial Broom Man; The Disappointment; The Lusty Young Smith; Greensleeves and Yellow Lace; The Jolly Brown Turd; Two Rounds: Tom Making a Manteau; When Celia Was Learning; Lady Lie Near Me; Oh How You Protest; A Delightful Ditty of Mother Watkin's Ale; Miss Nelly

With a cover depicting an olde English feast entitled 'Before the Orgy' one quickly realises that this is a disc containing something out of the ordinary. It was originally issued under the Musica Oscura label in which form it gained three stars in the Penguin Guide.

The City Waites are gifted musicians who competently perform on a myriad of authentic 17th century instruments. This provides a wide variety of timbre and thus prevents monotony to help us enjoy these lively songs that might once have reflected the spirit of England in their accustomed setting.

The songs come from many sources, Samuel Pepys left a collection of 1700 broadside ballads, and Robert Harley another, which was later enlarged by John Kerr. Thomas Durfey, favourite of Charles II, published six volumes of such scurrilous songs so there is no shortage of material. Where the traditional accompaniment does not survive, the group have imaginatively found highly appropriate music to fit the pieces. Some of the songs portray a light-hearted mockery of uneducated country folk, their naivety and innocence:-

Sissy had got a cold I suppose,
And 'twixt her fingers was blowing her nose;
Harry, that linnen too wanted I doubt,
Lent her his glove to serve as a clout;
Scraping low,
Manner to show,
And tell her how much he was her adorer;
Pray mark the lobe,
Leather thong broke,
And breeches fell down to his ankles before her.

The good diction of the City Waites allows us, with particular clarity, to soak up the amusing lyrics inferring mucky thoughts in the most elegant of settings. Following the lyrics in the CD booklet helps concentration yet is not mandatory since the dialect styles are readily understood. The portrayal of the early singers, whose occupation was to entertain in the prostitute-ridden theatres and grimy streets of Indigo Jones's England, certainly colours our imagination. Some of the songs are sung without accompaniment and this nicely provides contrast.

Detailed notes give us interesting background to the genre. This could provide an unusual present for collectors with broad and unusual tastes.

Raymond Walker

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