The original vinyl release of Love, Death & the Lady was one of the best received of Shirley and Dolly Collins' albums -- featuring an achingly poignant and even pain-wracked performance by Shirley Collins (who was going through a bitter marital breakup at the time), it was (to her amazement) picked as Folk Album of the Month by Melody Maker in 1970 (a time when any month might easily see something out by Bert Jansch, Martin Carthy, Fairport Convention, Ewan MacColl, or even the early Steeleye Span). The selection of songs and the arrangements by Dolly Collins reflected an extraordinary degree of depth and seriousness, an impression only enhanced by the presence of members of David Munrow's Musica Reservata and Early Music Consort of London, in addition to Terry Cox of Pentangle -- it was all a long way in mood and feel from the work of Fairport Convention. The 2003 Fledg'ling reissue, a re-release of EMI's 1995 expanded edition, offers extraordinary sound, imparting a startling intimacy to Collins' voice and capturing the timbre of the various sackbuts, harpsichords, recorders, and so on, played by Christopher Hogwood, Alan Lumsden, Alan Skeaping, Roderick Skeaping, Eleanor Sloan, Terry Cox, and others. Additionally, four bonus tracks retrieved from the original 1970 sessions -- but left off due to the limited running time of the original LP -- have been added -- drawing from a multitude of sources. If anything, the four additions have melodies even more beautiful and haunting than the original 13 songs, among them the epical "Young John," set to a tune of Shirley Collins' own devising, and "Sailor From Dover," completed by the participants from a fragment provided by Mrs. Ollie Gilbert, a folk song collector from Timbo, AR (evidently Jimmy Driftwood wasn't the only serious folk song enthusiast from that neck of the woods), and the gorgeous sea shanty-like "Short Jacket and White Trousers," retrieved from the repertory of A.L. Lloyd. The sound is exceptionally good, the annotation highly detailed, and the music beyond reproach, and the price is amazingly reasonable.
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Review by Bruce Eder