Album Review by Mark Bayross
Hmm. The selling point of the Mediaeval Baebes, alluded to in no small fashion by their name, is the fact that they all look like buxom wenches, and have stunning voices to boot. A kind of 13th century Corrs for thirtysomething bank managers who live in Crawley and want to listen to new age hippy crap to help them relax after a hard day’s work.
This album is a BEST OF, which when you think about it is rather an odd idea: “Now That’s What I Call Mediaeval Chamber Music Volume One – All The Hits On One CD!”. There’s no Fatboy Slim or Oasis here; just twenty beautifully rendered choral works, ranging from an interpretation of O COME O COME EMMANUEL to traditional folk songs such as THE COVENTRY CAROL.
Most of the singing here is unaccompanied: the odd wind or string instrument crops up, and the Baebes occasionally have drums and tambourines to march them along. The songs are sung in a variety of languages – Latin, Old English, Old French – and everything is rendered accurately: the instrumentation is traditional, the words are properly enunciated.
All in all, a difficult album to judge. While the songs here are beautifully sung, they are merely well-produced renditions of traditional music. Besides the kind of people I mentioned at the beginning of this review, I can’t imagine who would really get into this music: it’s hardly Dead Can Dance for the goths, nor is it Tallis for the classicists. It sounds a bit like a pre-Raphaelite painting – beautiful but empty. I’ll probably end up giving my copy to my bank manager.