My version of these CDs comes without Sea Drift, and I've not yet been thrilled by Holst's Hymn of Jesus, so this review is of Gerontius. I don't know exactly when it was recorded, but would guess at around 1970, in Decca's glory days - as far as sound quality goes, you don't need to worry.
It was surprising on the face of it that a composer interested in Gamelan and Shostakovich should record something by Elgar, but that was before I understood the work. "This is the best of me; for the rest, I ate, and drank, and slept, loved and hated, like another: my life was as the vapour and is not; but this I saw and knew; this, if anything of mine, is worth your memory." So wrote (or rather quoted) Elgar at the end of the manuscript, and with plenty of reason - this work takes the Elgar compositional style we all think of as a signature tune for the British Empire, and uses it to create a magical work. But you probably like the piece already, so on to the performance.
Any of the major British choruses and and international-class orchestra could probably have done about as good a job as the LSO and their Chorus, so I think we have to concentrate on the conductor and soloists. The distinctive sound of Peter Pears suits the role of Gerontius well for me, though there are probably some moments when others make a more beautiful sound. Yvonne Minton and John Shirley-Quirk were top-class singers of the day and both are well-suited here - in particular, I'm not left wondering whether Janet Baker does it better - maybe she does, but Minton does it plenty well enough. Britten's interpretation seems close to perfect - it must be very tempting to just wallow in moments like "softly and gently", but these are done without excessive sentimentality, letting the music speak for itself. And the Demon's Chorus is performed with plenty of swagger and volume.