King's Singers

The King's Singers Collection

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The quintessentially English King's Singers have recorded prolifically and are approaching a catalog landmark of 100 album releases. Three box sets of five albums apiece are on the market, all with titles suggesting they represent best-of selections from among the group's repertoire. In no case is this so; all the boxes are simply repackagings of extant releases, each representing the group's work on a different label. Signum's The King's Singers Collection, representing music recorded between 2004 and 2006, is the best introduction to this a cappella group's activities. All five CDs come with their original booklet notes, which have always been a strong point with this group, and in general the set reveals an ensemble that continues across consistent personnel changes to bring new perspectives to familiar music, both classical and pop. The buyer expecting five full-length CDs should be apprised that one disc, a multi-tracked rendition of Thomas Tallis' 40-part motet Spem in alium, is a CD single; another, Six, is an EP containing five famous pop songs and one original composition. The three full-length discs reveal the group's strengths as programmers, which include timeliness: the 1605 Treason & Dischord disc appeared close to the release of the hit film V for Vendetta and a book by highly readable British pop historian Antonia Fraser about the Gunpowder Plot, setting the extremely relevant music of William Byrd against that background. The Landscape & Time disc offers contemporary pieces, several newly commissioned, that take physical landscape as a theme, and the group's essentially sensuous sound dovetails beautifully with this concept. Of the various labels that have recorded the King's Singers, the sharp brilliance imparted to their singing by Signum seems most in accord with their aims. The general listener in search of a basic King's Singers box may prefer EMI's The King's Singers Collection, but fans of the group who have missed their current releases will be satisfied by this survey of them.

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