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Acoustics CDACS 056

Simon Mayor and the Mandolinquents (Richard Collins, Gerald Garcia, and Hilary James) are one of those groups that defy pigeonholing.  Looking at the titles and composers on this disk I was reminded of the ‘light classics’ and ‘International hits’ that my grandmother enjoyed.  She probably would have liked this one too, but don’t let that put you off, or you’ll miss a pleasurable experience.  Stylistically, it’s a real mixed bag – from the effervescent opening Pizzicato by Delibes through the ‘exotic’ Song of India from Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sadko, atmospherically sung by Hilary James; to the comically creepy bonus-track The Spider in the Shed there is not a dud melody on the CD.

Dance of the Comedians was primarily recorded live at New Greenham Arts in Newbury.  Helpfully, they’ve kept the applause to a minimum and made the intros and chatty interludes separate tracks, easily skipped once they begin to pale. I must admit, they are a funny bunch (even without the facial expressions and stage business enjoyed by the live audience).  Laughs aside, they’re all excellent musicians, and the diverse programme allows them to display their talents.  I especially enjoyed Lullaby of Birdland.  Its looping melody suits James’ voice, the classical guitar solo works surprisingly well, and Mayor’s violin has a touch of Stephan Grappelli about it.  Duke Ellington’s Caravan as rendered by Collins on the five-string banjo is pure genius. Another favourite is Summer, a delicate duet between Garcia and Mayor based on a Chinese melody. The sound is clear and lively, the instruments are well balanced, and altogether it’s just plain fun.  For a good time, give it a whirl.

E. Bradtke

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This album was reviewed in Issue 75 of The Living Tradition magazine.