First let me get the negatives off my chest: this CD is really difficult to find in any physical shop. The problem for the retailer is this: where to file it? The CD is by 'The Dowland Project', yet it contains no songs by John Dowland. The composers contributing the most songs to the album are the not-very-well-known Cipriano da Rore and Robert Johnson (not the blues guitarist!). The convention with classical CDs is to file by composer, so this CD gets lost in the enormous 'Various Artists' category. Alternatively you can file the CD by star performer, but there again, ECM has created a problem for the CD-buying public: the only performer listed on the cover of this CD is John Potter, but I suspect the contributing artist who pulls in most ECM fans is John Surman. He was certainly the reason I bought the first CD by this grouping -- the outstanding 'In Darkness Let Me Dwell', which was the record of the year for a number of critics, in the UK at least.
So there you go, ECM. If you want to know why this CD achieves only a tenth of the sales it deserves, put it down to filing problems. Let's move on to the music.
The big question in my mind when first playing this was this: had the group already taken all the best songs of the period for 'In Darkness ...'? No, I don't think so. Actually, the songs here are more uplifting than those on 'In Darkness ...', which generally had a rather melancholy, Elizabethan air to them. But somehow I feel 'In Darkness ...' is still the better album, which is why I award this one four stars. I would prefer to hear more instrumentals, and to hear more from John Surman. The stand-out track for me is #13, 'Refrain 4' by Monteverdi, where the artists improvise around a very simple guitar-driven theme.