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Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Len Mullenger:


23 Bach tracks each arranged by Ward Swingle.
Rec 1963 and 1968 AAD PHILIPS 824 703-2 [65.33]

The sound of 'Swingled' Bach is as much a byword and artefact of the 1960s as The Beatles, Mods and Rockers, goatee beards and Beatnik Jazz. These arrangements, heavy on descant, are light on the palate, and the Swingles' approach is flighty, serene, jazzy, surface skimming and soft-focus romantic. The simple accompaniment used is Double Bass and percussion. This is typical of a jazz combo. The Swingle style bred shoals of imitators and UK readers may well recall the Mike Sammes Singers and 'Sing Something Simple' of Sunday Evening Light Programme fame.

The Swingles were: Jean Cussac, Claudine Meunier, Anne Germain, Christiane Legrand, Ward Swingle, Claude Germain, Jean-Claude Briodin, Jeannette Baucomont. This group disbanded in 1973 and Ward went to England forming Swingle II from classically trained British singers and recording some extremely impressive albums with RCA. I especially recall their LP of Britten's Hymn to St Cecilia, a superbly azure Blue Bird and some deliciously sung settings of French chansons including Debussy, Ravel and Poulenc.

Some of the tracks on the present CD no longer ring true, seeming gauche and unsophisticated. If the Swingles avoid the wince-making forward lean and rhythmic finger-clicking you could easily imagine the effect being added. Have we suffered too much parody and replication, I wonder? Many however still strike home in an undemanding way like the Fugue in C minor from vol. 1 of the Well Tempered Clavier. In fact 10 of the 23 tracks are from the Well Tempered Clavier. Try sampling tracks 6, 7 and 9 for the best of the crop. If you like one track then you will probably like all the rest.

Decent notes. In-style design. Sweet technical sound. Perfection at this level.

Bach enthusiasts will want this as another manifestation of Bach updated and will view it in the same light as the albums of Bach on the Moog Synthesiser.

I would recommend this album to retro fans and nostalgiacs.

Rob Barnett

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