Long before he established the Christmas Revels (an annual winter solstice celebration that has become one of the most beloved annual musical events in the Boston area), baritone John Langstaff spent just over a decade living in England, where he performed both classical and folk songs in concert and in recordings for various record labels. The HMV label asked him to come to its Abbey Road Studios to make a series of records of traditional English songs between 1949 and 1956, and those recordings are collected here. Originally recorded on 78-rpm wax records, they have been digitally remastered and sound remarkably clear and fresh on this CD collection. To modern listeners, Langstaff's style may sound a bit stylized -- his style of singing is more classically refined than unpretentiously folky in tone. But his voice is so rich and his love of the material so infectious that it's easy to forget about the 50 years that have passed since these recordings were made and simply to give in to the sumptuous loveliness of the songs. The first half of the program consists of traditional songs with British roots, though some were collected in the United States; these include such familiar fare as "Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair" and "Lark in the Morn," as well as many that will be brand-new to most listeners. The second half consists largely of children's songs, many of which are actually of Dutch origin. This album concludes a four-disc series that brings back to market all of the folk recordings Langstaff made during the middle decades of the 20th century.
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AllMusic Review by Rick Anderson