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Various Artists - "The Folk Collection" - Topic TSCD7078

Released by Topic as part of their "Sixtieth Birthday" celebration year, this double CD is packed with material from the early sixties to the late nineties. The artists are more a product of the "revival" than heroes, accidental or otherwise, of early recordings or collectors so this is Folk music and song aimed at a "folk" audience. The appetites and expectations of this "folk" audience have changed and are still changing for better or worse, or otherwise. In many ways this CD reflects the nature of a few of those changes.

The main courses in this collection, Dick Gaughan, Martin Carthy MBE, June Tabor and Norma Waterson, are all long established and rightly respected "headliner" performers. Up-and-coming-thunder-stealers Eliza Carthy and Tarras also make their welcome presence felt. Eliza Carthy is really long past the "up-and-coming" section and has made a great job of setting out her stall but somehow is still hampered by those, "next new thing", "new kid on the block", "safe hands", " daughter of.", tags. Similar pressures have surrounded Tarras. This band records well and they show a fair measure of pep when playing live. I have to admit that I warmed much more to some of the older tracks in this collection. Less polished perhaps, from an engineering and production point of view, but somehow with far more sparkle. Aly Bain and Tom Anderson from 1976; The High Level Ranters from 1975; Anne Briggs with "The Snow it Melts the Soonest"; the combination of Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick and the equally rejoiceable duo of Ray and Archie Fisher.

Most of these performers are still to be heard and enjoyed to-day so go and spoil yourself with this and others from amongst the recording companies' catalogues or, far better still, check out those festival and club guides.

Peter Fairbairn

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This album was reviewed in Issue 37 of The Living Tradition magazine.