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THIS IS FOLK - Various Artists

THIS IS FOLK - Various Artists
Union Square Music METRTCD820

An office wag at TLT has scribbled, "Oh no it isn't!!" on the press release for this frankly ridiculously-titled 3-CD compilation, and whilst I agree that they have a point, I must call them a teensy bit harsh. OK, so there's no Harry Cox, but there is Walter Pardon, and while there's no A. L.Lloyd, there is McColl (twice). Bizarrely, the only artists on the whole 52 tracks who weren't around for The End of Rationing are Eliza Carthy and her friends, though many of the recordings here were made long before she was born. It's as though someone has made a blindfold trolley-dash through an English Folk Revival supermarket - there is an abundance of quality, but very little evidence of control!

Whilst most of the tracks are pearls beyond price, there are a few paste imitations, and the unenviable task of stringing them together falls to Colin Irwin. The press release promises "in-depth sleeve notes", a blatant lie as the insert for CD1 unfolds (not so much as a staple) to reveal about two-and-a-half thousand words where Colin valiantly tries to include all the singers and players involved. Because he's such a great writer, he makes a fair fist of it, but I suspect he is as surprised as me at some of the selections. I would also take issue with calling this a "box set". The box set standard has been well and truly defined by Free Reed, so it's a bit rich to stick three CDs of haphazardly selected and barely credited "Folk Music" into a cardboard slipcase and call it a "box set".

However, despite all this whingeing, I am very glad to have this, because it contains so many utterly must-have tracks. If you go to Union Square's website, you'll find the listings along with Colin's insert notes. You will also have the chance to purchase companion compilations such as "The Very Best Of Easy Listening". It's a funny old world we live in! (Oh, no, it isn't!!)

Alan Rose

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This album was reviewed in Issue 71 of The Living Tradition magazine.