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Topic Records TTSCD002 

Not surprisingly, Topic has chosen to instigate a most welcome re-release of some of its landmark and hugely influential recordings to celebrate this, its 80th birthday. It’s also no surprise that high on the list was this eponymous recording.

Anne Briggs has, in many ways, moved out of the real world and entered folk mythology and this does tend to colour the listening experience. But strip away the picture and you find a voice so pure, so unaffected or embellished, that the singer becomes the stories behind the songs. Her singing, always unerringly instinctive and deceptively simple-seeming, can be heard here at its peak.

There are a dozen tracks, including two of her own compositions, one track having sensitive accompaniment from Johnny Moynihan of Sweeney’s Men. Virtually every track could be described as a ‘folk standard’, and in many cases that is down to this very recording.

My old vinyl copy’s gone beyond being listenable, and this cleaned-up offering is therefore most welcome. In addition, it’s augmented by a short intro from Anne herself, as well as by a substantial amount of extra information not in the original notes. Listening to it, I’m once again reminded of what a huge talent she has, and how few others over the intervening years have managed to ascend the heights her singing reached. The only regret has to be that it so rarely seemed possible to entice her into the studio, and that so much of her repertoire remained unrecorded. Does the LP whose release she apparently blocked still exist anywhere?

John Waltham

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This album was reviewed in Issue 128 of The Living Tradition magazine.