With the incredible popularity and success of Bryn Terfel and Charlotte Church, it may be difficult to imagine a time when Welsh singers had a rather hard row to hoe in establishing professional singing careers. Although hailing from the "The Land of Song" and Bardic poetry, the Welsh have long contended against prevailing English attitudes in regard to their "useless" language, apparent ready acceptance of poverty, tendency toward complex legal briefs, and an unwillingness to establish a "civilized" society. It's a two-way street -- Wales has its own axe to grind in terms of England's ruthless land grabbing, love of money, colonizing culture and penchant for telling them what to do. As a result, most of the finest voices from Wales merely stay in Wales, with only limited opportunities for recording and concert work, which can only truly be had through England. One of the very first male Welsh singers in modern times to try and make it on the English concert circuit was tenor David Lloyd, who was renowned in opera, oratorio, and in recital before a 1954 back injury drastically curtailed, and nearly ended, his singing career.
Welsh label Sain compiled this survey of Lloyd's early EMI recordings, David Lloyd: Y Caneuon Cynnar, Vol. 1, in 1994 as an observance of the 25th anniversary of Lloyd's death at age 56 in 1969. Although Lloyd is known to have made test recordings as early as 1937, this begins with three selections dating from September 1940 featuring Lloyd as accompanied by Gerald Moore and the Sadler's Wells Orchestra, respectively. These are uncertain and nervous performances, with Lloyd sounding ill at ease. The butterflies are gone by the time he first records with the backing of the Band of the Welsh Guards in November, and although the band sounds sour and ill rehearsed, Lloyd delivers six glorious selections on this occasion, including the Welsh standards Ar hyd y nos (All Through the Night) and Hen Wlad fy Nhadau (Land of My Fathers). By the time he rejoins Gerald Moore in January 1941, Lloyd is a seasoned recording artist.
The disc includes more with the Guards Band, Moore, some additional traditional Welsh fare, and a fabulous duet with Joan Hammond on an English-language extract from Puccini's La bohème, whose release was prohibited in the 78 era due to wartime strictures. The digital transfer is decent, but not quite up to the restoration standard of 2006; some pops and occasional hissiness of certain tracks remain apparent. Nonetheless, there is some very strong material here, and Sain's David Lloyd: Y Caneuon Cynnar, Vol. 1, is a valuable historical tribute to a Welsh singer who had the persistance to hang in there and keep singing in a time long before the political autonomy granted in 1999 began to open the world up to Wales, and vice versa. And could that guy sing!