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4.2 out of 5 stars30
4.2 out of 5 stars
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There are a couple of things about this rather odd little compilation that ranker - and more to the point - need explanation.

First up - it uses the "Old Grey Whistle Test" name (the famous BBC Rock Program aired in the early to mid 1970s) - so people may presume that these are live-in-the-BBC-studio recordings from the shows long and illustrious history - they're not. Without saying so anywhere on the packaging - every track is an album cut by US and UK artists from 1964 through to 1976 - none are previously unreleased or exclusive in other words. More to the point - none of it is new - and most of these artists have 'never' appeared on the show.

Second - the booklet (as you can imagine for a comp pitched at a fiver) is a crappy 8-page affair that spends much of its time advertising the other discs in this series. The tiny liner notes by the much admired Bob Harris (the show's first and most famous presenter) are merely adequate, but are also staggeringly misleading in that they mention Nick Drake, Fairport Convention, Sandy Denny, Roy Harper and Richard Thompson - when none of these Folk-Rock giants feature on the compilation itself - a sloppy and lazy approach to say the least.

Third - the 20 tracks are listed in the centre spread - but that's it. There are barely any other details given. There's a clue in the copyright date - "Hard Times For Old England" by Steeleye Span is 1975 so it's from their "All Around My Hat" LP on Chrysalis, "No Regrets" by Tom Rush is 1968 so it's from his "Circle Game" album on Elektra (which I've reviewed), "Fly High" by Bridget St. John from 1972 is from her 3rd album on John Peel's Dandelion Records "Thank You For..." What would it have taken to supply simple details like that? There's no history of FOLK music - no pictures - no interviews - zip. And this BBC set also carries the RHINO logo - a label once synonymous with quality and great liner notes by enthusiasts keeping the flame alive - not anymore.

Fourth - is the sound - it's all over the place. It's good in places, great in others - but mostly it's dull - and awful on some (huge hiss levels on the lovely "Gaye" by Clifford T. Ward). There's not a mention of who mastered it or where?

Having said all of that - there are some very clever song choices here; one of them is the gorgeous "Love Song" by Lesley Duncan - it's off her 1971 CBS Records album "Sing Children Sing" and has graced loads of my 70's Fest CDs in the shop shuffle as a criminally forgotten gem (lyrics above). It was pre-covered by Elton John on his 1970 album "Tumbleweed Connection" with Lesley on Guitar and Backing Vocals and there's a trippy instrumental of it on Johnny Harris' 1973 Warner Brothers album "All To Bring You Morning" with guests Steve Howe and Alan White of Yes. The CD reissue of her rare and obscure album is in itself deleted many years now - so it has acquired an extortionate price tag online. This is therefore a very cheap way of getting that great track without being creamed.

The beautiful "May You Never" by John Martyn sounds alright, but the 'Deluxe Edition' version is a proper remaster (see review also) and it's infinitely better. Al Stewart's "Year Of The Cat" from 1976 is wildly out of place and "Can I Have My Money Back" by Gerry Rafferty is a terrible track choice for an artist who produced so much better.

Speaking of which - I can think of 2 compilations which would serve your ears and your exploratory curiosity better - the 2006 "Garden Of Delights" CD compilation (track list by UK Folk Radio program experts) and best of all - the Island 3CD Folk/Rock Box "Meet On The Ledge" from 2009 is stunning and has properly great Denis Blackham remastering. It actually features Fairport Convention, Nick Drake, Sandy Denny and Richard Thompson etc and has a booklet to die for (see detailed review).

To sum up - yes its cheap - and there's good tracks and bad. But you can't help but feel that this is a wasted opportunity and a naff cash-in on a name remembered with real affection. And as I say - there's so much better to be had elsewhere - and for not too much more wonga either...
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on 27 September 2011
At first glance a casual viewer may think that this is taken from recordings made for the show. A glance at the tack listing shows that they are not.
Next and equally damming the cover lists Roy Harper, Sandy Denny, Nick Drake and Joan Baez. The track listing on all the websites I could find, have no mention of them!!!!
What do Rhino, the BBC and Amazon think they are playing at!

Just Looked at the Prog Rock cd the same thing half the acts on the cover are not in the track list
77 comments|52 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
This is an interesting album. First of all let me set the record straight. The front cover of the CD pictured on Amazon is incorrect. My copy has a front cover that is almost the same except it does have the correct artists listed. It says, John Martyn, Tim Buckley, Pentangle, Loudon Wainwright, Tom Paxton, Harry Chapin. So there is no problem really because if you get this product it will have the correct cover..
Secondly yes the tracks are the studio recordings and not original live performances from the TV show The old grey whistle Test. I cannot see any real problem with this.
The purpose of the CD series is a celebration of the diverse acts that appeared on the iconic TV programme. As with all of the albums in this series the purpose is to showcase the range of music styles from a wealth of performers. The TV show had given television exposure to many artists.
This CD features some of the acts that appeared on the show and collects together acts that either firmly or loosely could be categorised as Folk.
It maybe true that there is a lack of historical accuracy in the matter of which acts actually did or did not appear on the show and this may seem like a rip off of the iconic name of the show.
However I think we could over look something in a rush to be critical, and that is that this is a very good compilation album.
Ok so they hijacked the title "the old grey whistle test", does it really matter?
Ok so its also called "Folk" when most of the artists are not really that strongly related to the folk world. So what? The tracks are excellent and it is unusual to get such a choice of tracks on one album.
The fact is that this is a great set of tracks with a strong mixture of styles. And the programme makes a good CD album.
The CD has very basic presentation at a budget price. And there is a brief, very brief introduction by Bob Harris.
This album may be a bit basic but it boasts twenty great tracks at a cheap price and it makes for an entertaining listen.
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on 9 March 2013
The BBC is noted for releasing top quality material on CD and DVD and this album more than maintains that standard. There are a huge number of best of albums of folk music around - I own a few myself- but this is without doubt the best I have come across. Great tracks by great artists in top quality sound . I heartily recommend this album to anyone who wants to know what folk music is all about.
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on 31 October 2014
I quite liked the mix of artists and its very relaxing but to me its not what I think of as folk. It has given me ideas to explore more of the music of some of the artists though so I don't regret buying it.
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on 15 January 2014
Buying myself a few CDs as a Christmas present, this looked a nice idea: didn't realise it wasn't recordings from OGWT. Pleasant enough collection for the money, but if I'd known I'd still have the money.
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on 24 February 2013
This is an excellent collection of songs. Some of them are played live but the quality of the live recordings are very good.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 27 April 2015
The title of this twenty track compilation is very misleading, for although it clearly states in big green lettering 'The Old Grey Whistle Test', none of these tracks are live performances taken from the actual programme, they are in fact the original studio recordings, and a couple of live versions. This should have been clearly stated on the back of the album, but it isn't.

Nevertheless, as I only paid £2.99 for this compilation, and the fact that I didn't already own any of these songs on CD, I really am not complaining about this. This is an excellent package of glorious folk songs, from some first class singer/songwriters. The connection with 'The Old Grey Whistle Test', is that each of the artists on the album appeared on the television show.

If you enjoy folk music, you'll find lots to love here. It's a diverse range of material that will make you relax, tap your feet, and sing-a-long. I was delighted to hear 'Changes' (live) by Phil Ochs, a song I first heard a long time ago, fell in love, and subsequently forgot all about. The accompanying eight page booklet contains a message from the show host Bob Harris, basic information about each song, and adverts for the other titles in the series. 5 stars!
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on 30 August 2013
Brilliant choice of tracks. Brought back lots of memories. Glad I took the plunge and dived back into my youth.
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on 15 November 2014
very good
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