British folksinger Frankie Armstrong and American folksinger Dave Van Ronk, recording in Vancouver, Canada, sing songs with lyrics by Bertolt Brecht in English over acoustic guitar and piano accompaniments on this collection. Van Ronk's voice, which annotator Roy Bailey says has been described as a "blend of rasp-wheeze-growl-slide-and-shout," is a good vehicle for these sometimes harsh statements, starting with his version of "Mack the Knife." Armstrong is less abrasive, but equally versatile, turning in an arch and threatening version of "Pirate Jenny," for instance, but a gentler one of "The Love Market." The two singers perform separately, alternating tracks until the end when they sing a duet on "Tango Ballad" from The Threepenny Opera, which was written for male and female voices. These are songs that have been translated from the original German many times, and listeners familiar with them will recognize minor variations from, for example, Marc Blitzstein's English adaptations for The Threepenny Opera. It's actually some of the more obscure songs with music by Hanns Eisler (who worked more extensively with Brecht than did Kurt Weill, who composed The Threepenny Opera) that are more interesting, since, while often recorded, they are rarely performed in English. This is also true of the recitations of Brecht's poetry, such as "Lullabies I, II, III."
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann