All kinds of recordings come out labeled as Gregorian chant, including some that have little or nothing to do with the tradition. To understand chant requires not just hearing it but observing how it is used as sung liturgy. This budget two-disc set doesn't promise much and includes no booklet or background material (or printed texts) whatsoever, but it doesn't distort the music that has been handed down in Catholic tradition from a millennium ago. The disc is part of a series that includes everything from bluegrass to jazz to "40 Irish Songs Everyone Ought to Know." One does not even learn where and when the music was recorded, other than it was at a St. James Monastery (there are several). The recording sounds as though it is very old; listeners in search of sonically rich chant for meditative purposes will not have their needs met here; there is a good deal of tape hiss, and the monks sound as though they were standing at some distance from the engineer. All these cautions aside, the set will give you an idea of what chant is about. The monks may or may not have been recorded live as they go about their daily musical business, but their singing is unpolished and direct. Most of the chants are responsorial, introduced by a leader who was plainly chosen for his clear voice and conviction in his words. If you are a listener who wants to hear chant as it has been practiced, as opposed to chant as it has served as a basis for certain modern spiritual ideas, this set will serve to put the sound in your head and may inspire you to learn more about why individuals devote their lives to singing of this kind.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2