The Imagined Village

Empire & Love

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The first Imagined Village release was an attempt to reinterpret English music in a multicultural context. But the host of big names and the arrangements made the English element appear bolted on. Fast forward to this album, and a real band that's spent time gigging and coalescing. There are fewer major names and the arrangements come together much better, such as the version of "Scarborough Fair." It's deliciously performed, with a magical vocal from Chris Wood, East and West working well behind him in a swell of strings (especially on the reprise that closes the disc). Much of the material is made up of well-known folk songs, but the way they're done, including the subtle electronics, has a very organic feel that was missing from the debut. The track that's going to raise eyebrows is Martin Carthy's interpretation of Slade's "Cum on Feel the Noize." An unlikely choice, yes, but he opens it up and adds a darkness to it that was never evident in the original. Maybe it's still not a folk song, but it's become part of the fabric of English music, which makes this perfectly valid. The musicians here do reflect the makeup of the country and bring their pasts to this musical blender. This one works, and works quite beautifully.

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