STYLE: World RATING OUR PRODUCT CODE: 136365- LABEL: Musique D'Abord HMA1987018 FORMAT: CD Album ITEMS: 1
Reviewed by Steven Whitehead
Unless you picked up this album on its first release in 1998 I am confident that you will have heard nothing quite like it before. The best comparison I can come up with is to imagine that The Fisherman's Friends had left the old Methodist chapel in Port Isaac and sailed off to take up residence in a Spanish monastery. Alia Musica have a similar full-blooded, male voice sound that enable them to grab a tune like a rugby ball and run with it. If my rather strained comparison does not help then perhaps some background will. Music D'Abord has been a series aimed at "the curious collector" for more than 30 years - the type of music you may hear at a WOMAD festival. The first releases were very simply presented: vinyl LPs in plain white cardboard sleeves with minimal information resulting in a very competitive price making it less of a risk for the curious collector to give them a try. The CD reissues are similar - even the disc itself looks like a miniature LP being black rather than the usual CD-silver. The notes are basic but can easily be supplemented from the Harmonia Mundi website and the price remains at the super-budget level. The music comes from an ancient tradition of singing through the night to welcome the dawn, later reinterpreted as the Virgin of the Dawn and associated with the Virgin Mary. The versions on this release come from the monastic tradition found in southern Spain where echoes of earlier Moorish music can still be heard. The eight vocalists sing well and other than the occasional use of bells unaccompanied. If my Fisherman's Friend analogy did not work, imagine Gregorian Chant on its summer holiday. The music is tuneful, harmonious and, even if one does not attempt to understand the lyrics, it still has something spiritual about it. If it was a full-price release I would be cautious about recommending it but at the price it is well worth investigating.
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