King's Singers

Collection

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AllMusic Review by

The quintessentially English a cappella group the King's Singers have recorded prolifically and are approaching a catalog landmark of 100 album releases. Three box sets of five albums apiece are on the market, all with titles suggesting that they represent best-of selections from among the group's repertoire. In no case is this so; all the boxes are simply repackagings of extant releases, each representing the group's work on a different label. That said, this one appears to have entailed greater involvement on the part of the King's Singers themselves, and it gives the best overview of their talents for the casual buyer. Drawn on discs recorded between the early '80s and early '90s for EMI, it comes complete with a short history of the ensemble, which arose in the late '60s at King's College, Cambridge, and took away something of the irreverence of that era as a founding principle. There is also an introductory note ascribed to the group itself. The set opens with the music for which the King's Singers may be best known among general audiences: exquisitely mannered arrangements of music by the Beatles, who were pretty mannered to begin with and can stand up to any number of exotic treatments. Further discs point to others among the King's Singers' strengths. Their knack for applying their sound to timely material is exemplified by their disc of material drawn from the songs of the Comedian Harmonists, the jazz-flavored vocal ensemble that stuck in the throat of the growing Nazi machine of the 1930s; the Singers caught onto this unique repertory not long after it was rediscovered. A disadvantage here is that no texts are included; other available sets, which include the original booklets, are better in this respect. The Folk Songs of the British Isles disc effectively showcases the strain of sheer whimsy in the group's work, and the Madrigal History Tour their technical expertise as performers of Renaissance music. The last disc, Believe in Music, bears on another familiar trait of the Singers' music: what one might call their fearless Britishizations of American popular songs. Whether you enjoy hearing a song like Hoyt Axton's "Della and the Dealer" sung King's Singers' style is a matter of personal preference, but it was in the music of the sort heard on this disc that their method worked best: they drew here on sentimental pieces like "You Needed Me" (originally by Anne Murray) and "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," and the net effect is that their ornate arrangements bring out the effectiveness of the original song. EMI's straightforward engineering of the group is probably preferable to the more stylized approaches of RCA and Signum. In all, this box can safely be recommended as a general King's Singers collection.

Track Listing - Disc 4

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1
0:43
2
1:37
3
2:04
4
2:20
5
3:21
6
1:16
7
1:43
8
2:27
9
1:21
10
2:16
11
3:31
12
1:18
13
1:23
14
2:25
15
6:08
16
0:45
17
1:10
18
2:31
19
1:25
20
1:07
21
2:33
22
1:59
23
1:34
24
2:09
25
0:57
26
2:27
27
0:54
28
8:56
29
1:44
30
1:29
31
2:51
32
3:04
33
1:07
34
1:36
blue highlight denotes track pick