Link to Living Tradition Homepage





MidWinter - ‘Revival Masters' Box Set

'Revival Masters' Box Set
Free Reed FRQCD-30

Billed as 'a celebration of the folk music and traditions of Christmas and the turning of the year' this is the latest box set in Free Reed's 'revival masters' series. The set comprises four CDs and book. The CDs are themed as 'Past & Presents', 'Comfort & Joy', 'Peace & Goodwill' and 'The Old & The New'.

Faced with over five hours of music to review, my initial plan was to skip through the CDs quickly to get an overview of the content. So much for plans! I put on one of the CDs - New & Old - and listened to it from start to finish. Given as a present, I would guarantee that it would keep anybody busy for hours on end.

The variety makes it hard to describe the recordings in a relatively short review. Research for the project has been masterminded by Nigel Schofield and, as expected, he has come up with lots of interesting recordings. Among the 'source singers' we hear the recording of the Mabe choir from Cornwall which The Watersons used for their version of 'Sound, Sound Your Instruments of Joy' on their LP of that name. The list of revivalists is extensive and there are over twenty folk groups plus some new recordings. Nigel has introduced an American flavour to this project - possibly as a result of his trips over to America to promote earlier revival masters projects; possibly because religious songs have more of a foothold in the tradition over there and have been sources for many UK artists.

The book runs to 138 pages and if, like me, you miss the pleasure of reading sleeve notes on LPs whilst you are listening to the recording, there is plenty here to refer to. I guarantee that you will want to know more about many of the tracks and the book is a mine of relevant information.

This set is different from the other Free Reed boxes in that it is a theme centred rather than a performer centred project. This may turn out to be a strength. It would be a mistake to regard this as a Christmas set - its theme is Winter and its approach is broad ranging.

Like me, you may be surprised by the variety of material on offer, and by the number of folk related Christmas shows that have been created, many of them being performed over a long number of years, creating in pockets their own Christmas traditions and offering an alternative to the traditional pantomime. I suspect that this set may provide both inspiration and material for yet more shows and will reward you with repeated listening.

Pete Heywood

Secure On-line mailorder service
Buy this CD online from The Listening Post
The Listening Post is the CD mailorder service of The Living Tradition magazine.
This album was reviewed in Issue 71 of The Living Tradition magazine.