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WATERSON:CARTHY Holy Heathens and the Old Green Man

WATERSON:CARTHY Holy Heathens and the Old Green Man
Topic TSCD562

For the purposes of Holy Heathens, Norma, Martin, Eliza and Tim Van Eyken have considerably expanded their personnel. First of all, they have absorbed the highly talented vocal trio The Devil's Interval, with whom they toured last winter as an extremely effective septet with the show Frost And Fire. Added to the studio mix for 2006 we find brass, percussion and cello, so when all eleven artists let rip, there's enough enthusiasm and joy to fill any amount of Christmas stockings.

However, it's not all romping and stomping. Martin has two almost solos (Christ Made A Trance and Cherry Tree Carol), Tim makes a fine job of On Christmas Day It Happened So, and Eliza's singing of her Uncle Mike's Jack Frost is simply stunning. With seventeen tracks, there are plenty of changes to ring, and I am particularly taken by the acapella arrangements, whether a muscular, fuging version of While Shepherds or a much more considered The Falling Tear delivered as a complex round, each in their way showing the wealth of vocal texture present within the group. Special mention, too, for Jolly Old Hawk, which first mystified us back in the sixties, and forty years on with a spanking new arrangement, still raises goose bumps!

There is a great deal of talk about the true meaning of Christmas these days, largely by large retail outlets hoping to part you from your money. Personally, on behalf of Topic records, I think you should buy a copy of Holy Heathens for everyone you know!

Alan Rose

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