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While this website has become known for its in-depth album and concert reviews, the digest contains concise comments on new music our audience has either recommended or might enjoy. Click on album covers or label names for links to further information. Click on the title to view the article.

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The Rose CD Cover
Image Nettwerk Productions 2002

Mediaeval Baebes
Image Nettwerk Productions 2002

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(09 August 2002) The latest release by the Mediaeval Baebes is a seventeen-track collection entitled The Rose (Nettwerk Productions (USA) 0 7700 30256 2 1, 2002). It is the third album by the group but the first on Nettwerk. While the album itself is incredibly superb, no expense was spared on the booklet which contains stunning full-page photos of each of the nine vocalists that comprise the group today. The Baebes, led by musical director Katherine Blake, are also Teresa Casella, Audrey Evans, Marie Findley, Ruth Galloway, Claire Ravel, Cylindra Sapphire, Carmen Schneider and Rachel Van Asch.

From the press release, once apon a time, not so long ago, a group of girls--friends and acquaintances--bound by a common taste for drinking and pleasure-seeking, decided to focus their fun by gathering regularly to sing songs from a time long gone. They playfully called themselves the Mediaeval Baebes. If asked why they began to make music they tell us, "It was a social thing, we did it to entertain each other," but there is a bigger story ... Visit the group's website for the details.

All nine Mediaeval Baebes, as opposed to the original twelve, have become more focused and stronger than ever. Katherine Blake, founder of the Baebes and musical director, is still the principal composer. Dorothy Carter, instrumentalist and Ruth Galloway, another founding member, act as the chief adaptors of traditional Mediaeval music. But the rest of the Baebes are currently adding to the diversity of the sound by continuing to create, or creating for the first time, their own material.

The Baebes have allowed themselves to explore their individual identities within the composite whole and you can actually hear the confidence in the ability of the individual. Despite their accomplishments, the girls are amazingly humble. Perhaps their songs that warn against vanity and taking pride in one's achievements--for they are usely in the grave--have some pertinent meaning for them.

The Rose is an incredible album clearly rated above their earlier releases. The artists sing in Latin, Middle English, Mediaeval French, German and Italian. They also sing in Mediaeval Welsh and Russian. The singers span eight different nationalities between them--this is particularly useful for them having toured Britain, Europe, Canada and the USA with at least one member being able to speak fluenty in almost every country they have been to.

Arrangements are instrumentally sparse--although stronger than former albums--and the material is delicately sung with layer upon layer of vocal harmony supporting the lead part. The upbeat "I am Eve" opens the album and introduces the listener to the lovely vocals of the Baebes. Percussion underscores the rhythm in the tune. The lush soprano harmonies in "Glass Window" are perfectly complimented by flutes whilst "Stay Me Suddenly" is performed a capella.

The Renaissance-era style "The Snake" is a lovely vocal number rhythmically supported by traditional percussion. Adiemus fans will be enticed by "The Circle of the Lustful." "Lick The Maypole" is a mediaeval-style instrumental with percussion, acoustic guitar and flute perfectly characterising the period. The album develops reusing these styles in a series of primarily short tracks. A gap following the main song in the closing number is puzzling.

Further standouts from The Rose include the lush and harmonious "Razreesh" and the everso gentle "Blow Northern Wind" which is built upon the musical foundation as Delerium's "Aria"--also sung by the Mediaeval Baebes--and it is anyone's guess which came first.

The Rose is a staggering piece of work. A Mediaeval symbol of love, the rose is an enduring image that has been carried through to the present day. Within The Rose the Mediaeval Baebes have blossomed. Vocals are more sophisticated and the instrumentation is more assertive but the sound is still escapist fantasy. Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. Clearly worth a trans-Atlantic journey, this album is a must listen!

 
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