Pete Seeger / Pete Seeger & the Song Swappers / The Song Swappers

Folk Songs of Four Continents

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After spending time with the Almanac Singers and the Weavers, Pete Seeger, despite having launched a solo career, still seems to like singing with a group, which may explain a series of releases on Folkways Records pairing him with a small chorus called the Song Swappers (a children's album, Camp Songs; a collection of South African music, Bantu Choral & Folk Songs; an expanded reissue of the Almanac Singers' Talking Union & Other Union Songs; and this one). "The Song Swappers is purposely composed of ‘average' voices, of limited range and training," say the liner notes, the point apparently being that these are in effect demonstration recordings so that listeners can take up singing them themselves. In practice, the Song Swappers are actually a bit above average, and they spend much of the disc accompanying Seeger, with only occasional spots for unnamed soloists. More than four continents have been drawn upon for the selections, with islands and even a subcontinent added to the music from North and South America, Europe, and Africa, as is apparent from titles like "Bimini Gal" and "The Greenland Whalers," with "Ragaputi Ragava Rajah Ram" hailing from India. Although Seeger and the group tackle several languages, they are always presenting the songs in their own voices rather than trying to give the impression of authenticity, making this an album of tributes. Folkways releases many albums actually drawn from the kinds of locales that produced these songs, but here Seeger, as usual, is trying to act as a bridge from other cultures to his American audience.

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