If I could only have one Christmas recording then this would be it and Maddy Prior's voice is so well suited. The carols are mostly well known but are given 'the treatment' which can only enhance them. 'Angels From The Realms Of Glory',for instance, gets you moving and your feet tapping - a contrast to the very often 'dirgy' redition we hear so often. The medieval sound provided by The Carnival Band really do give the songs an authentic feel which I think is how they should sound and not the sterile renditions which you often get from choirs.
Tapestry of Carols is one of the best folk Christmas albums. After a lot of success as a solo artist and as a member of Folk Rock group Steeleye Span, Maddy Prior teemed up with the Carnival Band for a BBC Radio folk on 2 Christmas special. The Carnival Band had not long been formed and they were to perform popular medieval, renaissance and traditional music. They cover folk, early music, classical and contempory music. This was so successful they got together to produce an album of Christmas music called "Tapestry of carols". Tapestry of carols is a digital recording by Saydisc Records. And it was recorded at the Quaker Meeting House near Bristol. This is an 18th Century building, Maddy Prior is at her best on this recording with her wonderful vocals. She sings with passion and serenity, her vocals are harmonious and enthusiastic. It is a perfect performance from someone who is a champion of traditional music. In their performance The Carnival Band give us lots of energy and fun.
In the spirit of folk music, this album blends traditional elements with other elements. Since folk music is a living tradition it is always changing and bringing in new interpretation and influences. This album offers a wide mix of influences but always in a traditional and tasteful way. The album has a medieval feel to it. The use of instruments such as gitten, mandochello, double bass, tabors, basel trammel, glockenspiel, cowbell, triangle, cymbals, tambourine, violin, bassoon, clarinet, Shawms, curtal, recorders, bagpipes, fiddle, tin whistle, lute, mandolin, banjo, bells and vocals help to give us that flavour. It is a rich sound. The vocals give a sometimes sacred feel and sometimes a rousing uplifting sense of joy. There are English and European influences. And also there are American influences in the interpretation such as the New Orleans Cajun fiddle on "Angels from the realms" The album has an interpretations of a traditional nature. With some clever marriage of styles that range from the medieval to 20th Century. There are some unique twists of interpretation and they are all done perfectly. It is a joyous album that will be always be a favourite.
I've been listening to this every Christmas for the last eighteen years and haven't got tired of it yet. The bouncy, folky style of performing carols is much more to my taste than the more solemn choral recording of carols that you generally get.
This album has a nice mixture of carols, some well-known, some less well-known, some merry and some quiet, but all beautifully performed. I have yet to find another christmas collection that I like better than this one. If this doesn't put you in the mood for Christmas, nothing will.
Whether Steeleye Span,Hart & Prior,the Carnival Band or Maddy Prior solo the same level of brilliance can be found especially her interpretations of English folk songs or Christmas ones which in her case means the traditional or medieval carol Using rock music as a background to 13 albums from 1969 was done tastefully and in spite of only 2 hit singles and a low profile American career you could say Maddy Prior is one of the big guns of this area of music. English folk music began with Shirley Collins who was paired with folk song collector Alan Lomax at one time when they visited the States but it was a specialist area until the end of the 60s. America's folk music scene went back to Woody Guthrie and had a huge revival both in the mid 50s via the Weavers and again in the 60s with Dylan and his contemporaries finally phasing out into folk rock. Which is the road that both Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span travelled with the former beginning as a rock band a la the Jefferson Airplane. There's now a lot of Steeleye Span associated collectables including 2 albums of Nursery Rhymes by Tim Hart & Friends where Maddy Prior is a backup singer. This though as a collection of Christmas songs is the real deal and a World away from all the mass market stuff heard in supermarkets at this time of the year
I am never disappointed by Maddy Prior and Carnival Band. I love the sound of traditional instruments and this album is a refreshing change from the usual carol singing you hear during the season. The carols are foot tapping and good fun to sing to. If you like their sound try their West Gallery album.
This is the first album Maddy Prior, until recently the main vocalist for the folk-rock band Steeleye Span, recorded with The Carnival Band, in an old country church. Her voice is clear, like a boy treble, and simply amazing, and must be heard to be believed. She tours England with the band during the Christmas season each year. Maddy has several other albums with The Carnival Band listed in the Popular Music listings.
Still one of the best Christmas carol collections: Maddy's clear vocals alongside the Carnivals' inventive and varied arrangements with a mediaeval flavour. My favourite is the Cajun "angels from the realms of glory".
Other Christmas Carol CDs come and go, but this CD gets played every Christmas without fail. Indeed, the album is now celebrating its 25th year and Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band are on tour to celebrate this fact at the time of writing this review (December 2012).
Why is it have such longevity? Firstly, the selection of carols on the CD is spot on with a range of tempos from slow and moving (with a perfectly-realised Coventry Carol) up to the superb reworking of Angels from the Realms of Glory, which has a superb "hoe down" feel with wild fiddles and a rhythm that will have you dancing round the kitchen as you prepare your Christmas dinner. A personal favourite is God Rest you Merry Gentlemen, which features the lively tones of a c. 1815 bassoon.
Maddy Prior's voice has been captured perfectly on this CD, and the range of traditional folk instruments and early classical instruments evoke the feeling of a traditional Christmas like no other Christmas carol CD I have heard.
Added 25 Dec 2012: ...and the concert was wonderful - the perfect pre-Christmas festive treat. Look out for them in concert in future - they are guaranteed to warm the heart and get you in the mood for celebrating Christmas!