Babaika [Release date: 02.11.18]
Girl Power: albeit nary a Spice in sight, but the whiff of joss hangs pendulously over this female vocalist-fronted compilation trawl through the four Excalibur sword-and-sorcery releases by French composer Alan Simon.
Alan explains in his notes how he feels rock music to be dominated by the guys, hence this, his tribute to the ladies that have made their mark on the genre.
Given these tracks constitute back catalogue, he has done a good job of re-presenting them with novelty: nicely-sequenced, and in a handsomely-mounted package.
It’s fun to eschew reading the track listing at the outset but just push the disc in, play, and then try to work out who’s singing what.
I got Steeleye Span’s Maddy Prior correct on ‘Secret Garden’ plus Sonja Kristina’s rendering ‘The Passion’, the former’s voice still as clear as a country church bell while the latter’s theatrical styling is just so distinct, indeed unchanged in her work with Curved Air to this day.
If you are not already familiar with Excalibur, it’s a quality international line-up on vocals with Celts in ascendancy.
Along the way, we get fine turns from Clannad’s Moya Brennan, Solas’s Karan Casey, Breton singer Kohann, soprano harpist (there’s a lot of harp on this) Siobhan Owen, Pentangle’s Jacqui McShee, Canadian Nikki Matheson and Spanish Maite Itoiz, who’s concluder ‘Dun Angus’ is appropriately climatic.
M. Simon writes a cracking tune and these benefit from translation into well-drawn and rounded productions in mountings ranging from conventional rock to sumptuous symphonic.
Ballads are to the fore and while their similar pacing inevitably lends a sameness to some of these songs, they still fall nicely together on disc into a liltingly harmonious backdrop to much mead consumed before a log fire. ***
Review by Peter Muir
Album review (Excalibur IV)
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