King's Singers

The Best of the King's Singers [Signum]

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The King's Singers were formed in 1968 at King's College, Cambridge, and a single recording capturing the best-of what they do would be a tall order. The present two-CD set covers only the years since the group signed with the Signum label, and it offers several attractive features for those wanting to sample their work. Let it be said that buying a single album is a valid alternative course; the group has survived as long as it has not simply because of its vocal style, which others have duplicated, but because their programming concepts have remained fresh and intriguing. That dimension is necessarily lost in a compilation. But this one is reasonably well put together and the performances have the virtue of having been chosen by the singers themselves. The basic division in the King's Singers repertoire between classical and popular (here, in the classic British usage, "light") music is observed in the contents of the two CDs. This is a plus, for otherwise the collection might have fallen victim to the random tendency of so many similar greatest-hits releases. The selections on the classical side skew toward the easier-listening pieces in the group's repertory; you don't get a sense for how they have commissioned works by the likes of Ligeti and Maxwell Davies. However, it's hard to complain about what is in fact included; in the likes of American composer Eric Whitacre's radiant Lux aurumque, the King's Singers are very hard to beat. The pop set does a good job of representing the group's diverse activities in the field in their recordings for Signum, whose consistent vocal approach also benefits the set. The white on pale orange text graphics are pitiful; good luck reading the notes to what you just bought. But on balance the curious will get a good sampling here.

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