On hearing the Queen's Six, a group of young male choristers based at Windsor Castle, you'll surely be reminded of the King's Singers, the venerable a cappella vocal group known for its intricate arrangements. You can't blame the present ensemble for offering something new; truth to tell, there is room for competition. The Queen's Six do not attempt to outdo the King's Singers' famously intricate arrangements, preferring to steer things back a bit toward the middle of the road. Your reactions to this may depend on your larger ones toward the idea itself, but the execution is solid. The program consists of folk songs of the British Isles, and as the album title suggests, the Queen's Six make sure to put a generous helping of the repertory's greatest hits on the program. You get not only the evergreen title track but versions of Scarborough Fair, O waly waly (known more often in the U.S. as The Water is Wide), "Danny Boy," and more. However, there are also some less familiar numbers, including a slam-bang finale in Welsh that doesn't entirely fit with the rest of the program but can't be called conventional. Other attractions include the large variety of arrangers, with just a few names repeated; the arrangements are well-chosen such that each one shows distinctive traits, but all fit together generally well. The extreme chromatic harmonies of the King's Singers are used only sparingly; one place they do appear is in the highly familiar Scarborough Fair, which needs something to set it apart. The sound engineering, at Ascot Priory, is top-notch, and the notes by Andrew Plant give a reasonable introduction to the mixed beast of folk music. Recommended, although if you compare it straight up to the King's Singers, you may not find what you're looking for.
© James Manheim /TiVo