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THE OXFORD WAITS "Switter Swatter" Beautiful Jo Records BEJOCD-44

The Oxford Waits specialize in the popular music of the 17th century (although not exclusively), often with Oxford connections, and feature several ballads from the collection in the Bodleian Library, a few numbers from the outrageous Pills To Purge Melancholy and a fair smattering of tunes, many of them from Playford's Dancing Master. All of these are dispatched briskly and with gusto - none of the 'classical' early-music group preciousness here - even The Doleful Dance and Song Of Death is executed with considerable jollity. There is some robust singing allied to a varied range of instrumental colour: smallpipes, shawm, pipe & tabor, flute, hurdy-gurdy, fiddle and lute all play their part in colouring the pieces.

Many of the songs are fairly wordy, and the singers deliver these well, but it would have been nice to have had some lyrics in the otherwise very informative booklet. There are no less than 29 tracks on this album with only two of the tracks breaking the three-minute mark (and even these are medleys). As most of the material is ephemeral one is bombarded with triviality; there are some welcome lute pieces, but a couple of meatier items might have produced a better balance - even the material by Purcell is pretty small beer. So if you're interested in the type of music that captivated Samuel Pepys and saw him regularly hurrying to by armfuls of broadside ballads, and enjoy the bawdy (choruses such as "With a rub, rub, rub, In and out, Ho!"), this album will not disappoint (unlike their advertised website!).

Paul Burgess

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This album was reviewed in Issue 55 of The Living Tradition magazine.