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VARIOUS ARTISTS "Songs from the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs" Fellside FECD47

The book, edited by Ralph Vaughan Williams and A.L. Lloyd, is long out of print, and this album has long been unavailable, but Fellside have now rescued it from their back catalogue, reissuing it with the added benefit of three tracks not on the original. That means of the seventy songs in the book we have fifteen on the Cd, with Linda Adams, John Bowden, Martin Carthy, Roy Harris, and Jez Lowe each performing their own choice of song, and they stand the test of time remarkably well.

Many of the songs have been taken up over the years by other singers and the treatments on this CD are inevitably compared with versions that are now probably better known. Linda Adams' "All Things Are Quite Silent" takes second place to Steeleye Span's version, and Roy Harris' "Gaol Song" is overshadowed by "The Treadmill Song" from the Storm Force Ten album. However, the opening track, "The Golden Vanity", from Jez Lowe is simply superb, and together with Linda Adams he also does a fine job on "The Grey Cock". Carthy simply cannot be beaten with material like "Banks of Green Willow" and "The Whale Catchers", and "The Green Bed" ain't half bad either! Roy Harris puts life into the tale of the hapless sailor in "Ratcliffe Highway" and John Bowden is effective on "The False Bride" where his concertina is ably assisted by Carthy's guitar. John also takes the closing track, "Banks of Newfoundland", with all the other performers, plus Paul Adams, as backing band and chorus! This is an important and valuable recording, and a very welcome re-issue.

Mel Howley

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This album was reviewed in Issue 15 of The Living Tradition magazine.