Five centuries, seven languages, and six singers with 35 years of remarkable experience inform this rare collection of choral music. In the world-renowned King's Singers resplendent voices, ancient and modern choral music comes to life with all the blazing immediacy and timeliness of the gospel of the nativity. With 25 pieces of music–ranging from familiar works such as "Coventry Carol" to the obscure Tchaikovsky piece "The Crown of Roses"–the King's Singers move through this hallowed and festive set with the vocal mastery that only three-and-a-half decades of accomplished work together is capable of creating. A number of contemporary carols written in the last century by composers such as John McCabe, Philip Lawson, John Rutter, and others are balanced by pieces by Bach and a host of traditional works. Lawson's "You Are the New Day," performed with a string quartet, stands out as one of the more notable performances. Like most of their music throughout Christmas, it reminds listeners that the art of music often interprets divine aspects gladly realized here on Earth.
Royal Rhymes and Rounds is the King's Singers' contribution to the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II's accession to the throne in 2012. There are ballads, part songs, madrigals, rounds, and anthems written during the reigns of (and some also in honor of) Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, Victoria, and Elizabeth II. The music from the times of Henry and Elizabeth I is especially strong since it was the era of a flowering of English song, which then lay relatively dormant for several centuries. The composers include such luminaries as William Cornysh, Orlando Gibbons, John Dowland, and Thomas Weelkes, as well as Henry himself, whose rousing ballad Pastime with good companie opens the album. It's in this transparent repertoire that the group sounds its absolute best. The singers' immaculate intonation, focused tone quality, and sensitive musicianship are remarkable.
There's very little doubt that the Gipsy Kings are good at what they do–they've become the brand name in Sevillana, the pop-oriented flamenco style. Since 1989, when the single "Bamboleo" and their Gipsy Kings album broke through and went gold in the United States, they've found a willing audience in America for their style, which, while flashy, doesn't demand a great deal of the listener, unlike more hardcore versions of flamenco. This double set collects 38 of their biggest tracks, including a version of the Eagles' "Hotel California," into one package guaranteed to satisfy fans of their precise, jubilant playing. And there's no denying they have the power to move people with their singing and fretwork, making this a must for those who want to experience all the familiar material in one sitting. Like the band themselves, the record is an unqualified success as a greatest hits package.