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Belshazzar's Feast - "John Playford's Secret Ball" - WGS304CD

"It's jolly good, even if we say so ourselves." No false modesty on the Belshazzar's Feast website, which also tells us that Paul Sartin is a chorister with the Cathedral Choir of Christ Church, Oxford, a composer, arranger, director and session musician, a member of ceilidh band Dr Faustus and traditional group The Seven Dials Band, and that Paul Hutchinson, when he's not smallholding (at least that explains the lamb he's clutching a shade too intimately for my taste), is a virtuoso accordion player and a member of ceilidh band Hoover The Dog and country rock outfit Ida Red. The two Pauls formed BF in 1995 after meeting in the now defunct Life Of Reilly. There have been three previous CDs, the most recent of which, "Mr Kynaston's Famous Dance", I had the pleasure to review for LT not so long ago.

The new CD celebrates the 350th anniversary of the publication of "The English Dancing Master", John Playford's little joke at the expense of the French who had traditionally provided the best dancing masters, but the joke proved a success, with successive editions (dropping the 'English', presumably on the basis that one should only push a xenophobic jest so far) being published until 1728. Sartin and Hutchinson have selected fourteen of their favourite listening tunes, substantially taken from that original slim volume but with one or two from later editions. Whether you can actually dance to them, the all-too-brief inlay notes observe, is quite another matter; one suspects that they'd have been taken at a pace somewhat more sedate than that adopted by the Pauls, helped out by Robert Harbron (who also co-produces with Sartin) and William Balkwill.

So - is "John Playford's Secret Ball", in fact, "jolly good"? Indubitably, Carruthers.

Dave Tuxford

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This album was reviewed in Issue 46 of The Living Tradition magazine.