It was another rather sad and embarrassing instance of accountant's logic that led me to buy this CD. There are 20 volumes in Topic's Voice of the People series. Just about all of them are available on eMusic, and, here in the UK, we can listen to 441 songs from the series for free on We7. So what's the point of getting this single-volume introduction to the series? I'm sure I saw it on eMusic once (though I can't find it now). But remember I pay £0.21 per track on eMusic. This CD, 20 tracks at £3.99 on Amazon, works out at just under £0.20. So better to get the physical version. Terrible, I know — though as it happens, the Amazon customer review is a good'un:
Editor Reg Hall is to be commended for avoiding the old academic preconceptions and trying to reflect the full range of styles within the genre.
Personally I would have preferred more dance music, but the balance reflects that of the full series. If you never listen to any of those, with this CD in your collection you will have some idea of what real British traditional music was about.
The great majority of the songs in this series, and about 80% of this album, are true to the title: they're sung unaccompanied. Details of the recording venues and dates are not provided in this compilation — and recording quality is variable — but in one of the songs (I think it was Walter Pardon's) I thought I heard a carriage clock striking the hour in the next room.
It can sometimes be a challenge embracing these performances of the tradition when you've grown up on Rush and Tangerine Dream. But it's a seam I've been exploring these past two or three years, and the Voice of the People, along with other series like The Bothy Songs and Ballads of North East Scotland are a great way in.
Meanwhile Wikipedia currently claims that, "This collection is the UK equivalent of Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music". This surely is a misrepresentation. For one thing, I don't think these recordings are bootlegs, such as Harry Smith's collection was.
Topic Records entry for this album
Wikipedia entry for this album
Rate Your Music entry for this album
Some metadata about this album at Last.fm
Listen to 21 hours and 55 minutes of the Voice of the People series in full at We7