This collection of traditional English songs is well recorded
and generally well performed, but the information provided by
Regis in the booklet leaves a lot to be desired: 'not provided'
and 'leaflet' would be more accurate terms here. For example,
no song texts are provided: given the fact that these are all
copyright-free and easily obtainable on the internet, this must
be considered a major omission. Also, these are not all strictly
traditional or anonymously written songs - Rule, Britannia,
for example, was composed by Thomas Arne, and Gather ye Rosebuds
by William Lawes, and though this is referred to in the liner-notes,
the track-listings make no mention.
The main problem with the product, however, is that there is
no recording or even publication date anywhere in the booklet,
inlay or on the CD itself. Nor on Regis's website, if it comes
to that. No one without background knowledge, therefore, would
be aware that these are 20-year-old recordings spliced from
two different Saydisc originals released in 1993. Various bits
of data from those CDs have been dropped by Regis, perhaps in
their attempt to fit everything onto the single folded sheet
that of which the booklet consists.
The eleven songs performed by John Potter, Lucie Skeaping and
The Broadside Band come from 'English National Songs' (CD-SDL
400), originally 21 tracks strong, and re-released as is as
recently as 2009 (Portrait Classics PCL 1009). The Broadside
Band was directed by Jeremy Barlow, whose name does not appear
anywhere on this reissue. The Band play beautifully, with an
inspired array of traditional instruments. On his website tenor
John Potter looks back with mixed feelings on this recording,
but his delicate, soulful efforts are impeccable - and all too
brief. That is more than can be said of Lucie Skeaping's rather
tired-sounding voice, which at best counts as an acquired taste.
She rather gives the impression of a dilettante, straining in
higher registers, and almost running out of breath through ill-considered
phrasing. She is more suited to accompanying roles, as in The
British Grenadiers, where her voice adds a nice texture to Potter's
in the refrain, and easier, safer songs like The Roast Beef
of Old England. Even here though, her voice quality is more
one normally associated with folk singing than art, though without
the natural appeal of Jo Freya's. All the arrangements on this
CD straddle the two realms, and so to some, the rough edges
of Skeaping's contributions may be just about ignorable.
The twelve songs sung by Jo Freya, the lyrics of some of which
are by the bye quite 'Chaucerian', are a selection from a separate
disc (CD-SDL 402) released the same year and entitled 'Traditional
Songs of England'. Unlike Skeaping, Freya does not venture outside
her comfort zone (though she moves close to the edge in 'The
Unquiet Grave'), and her characterful 'Anglo-Saxon' voice ensures
that these alternately wistful and lusty songs sit squarely
in the English folk tradition - though the marvellous musicianship
of the Rose Consort, minus their viols - and shamefully uncredited
on the CD - adds a lustrous dimension that should make these
arrangements palatable to art music aficionados.
As if to disguise the fact that this is in effect a 'compilation',
Regis have divided the Potter-Skeaping-Broadside contribution
into two equal parts and inserted Freya and the Rose Consort
into the middle. This creates an interest of sorts, of course,
but overall the programming comes across as decidedly odd.
Re-mastered sound quality is very good, it must be said. This
CD can be found on the internet at truly snap-up prices, and
in spite of the poor booklet and Lucie Skeaping's voice, it
is certainly worth snapping up.
Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk