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- The Compleat Dancing Master
Originally issued on LP in 1974 and then reissued on CD in 2002, this quirkily wonderful collection of traditional British dance tunes and prose recitations came back into print for the third time in early 2010. It followed on the heels of Morris On, an even better (because more focused and, frankly, more rocking) collection of traditional tunes for Morris dancing, played by a band that was, in all but name, Fairport Convention (including the brilliant guitarist Richard Thompson).
This album also includes wonderful tunes ("Nonesuch," "Haste to the Wedding," "Barley Break," etc.), this time played on a wider variety of instruments including rebec, hurdy-gurdy, and even the notoriously ugly serpent alongside the usual electric guitars, accordions, and drums. Interspersed among the instrumental tracks are readings from Chaucer, Shakespeare, Thomas Hardy and, most amusingly, the Puritan preacher William Pryme (who inveighs against the manifold evils of dancing). These help create an overall impression of an England nearly vanished from current experience, but they also tend to stop the album's musical momentum and work more as curiosity pieces than anything else. For an ideal listening experience, strip out the readings and tag the instrumentals onto the end of a playlist that includes the entirety of Morris On, then hoist a tankard of something or other and stomp gleefully around the room with your good spouse.
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