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African Sanctus

Notes & Reviews:

As a composer, ethnic sound recordist, guest speaker, record producer, photographer, film and TV personality, David Fanshawe has covered a wide spectrum of music. This collection brings together his very best recordings, underlining the diversity of his music from a celebration of the Bicentenary of The Battle of Trafalgar to the Latin Mass harmonized with traditional African music and the theme from the popular 1970s television costume drama Flambards.

Notes & Reviews:

Personnel: David Fanshawe (piano); John Williams , James Ward , Robert Colquhoun, Oliver Bayston, John Williams (vocals); Chris Ward, Nicola Beckley, Sue Jones, Sally Woodgate, De Ashton, Matthew Burt, Ruth Freeman, Carolyn Wood, Julie Wrenn, Karen Evans (alto); Alan Parker , Andrew Pask (guitar); Skaila Kanga (harp); Colin Bacchus, Phillip Galloway, John Bawden, Sean Sweeney, Lindsay Wood, John Allen, Jim Green, Paul Price, Justin Hobart Brown, Jeremy Benham, John Best , Michael Brown (tenor saxophone); Jonathan Williams (piano); Harold Fisher (drums); Terry Emery, Eric Allen, Gary Kettel (percussion).

Recording information: Abbey Road Mobile Unit; Wessex Hall, Poole Arts Centre, Dorset, England.

Something of a jumble, this album was recorded in 1973 in Britain. It is the product of David Fanshawe, known mainly for his work in recording various ethnic groups around the world for the Explorer series. Here, he adapts a basic Catholic mass for an ensemble of "African tapes, choir, operatic soprano, light soprano, shouter, African drummer, rock drummer, two percussion, electric guitar, bass guitar, piano, and Hammond M-100 organ" (from the liner notes). If ever there was a recipe for chaotic music, this is it. The music is jumbled noise, with only a vague concept of melody hiding within the cacophony. For the second portion, the guitars are taken out, and Fanshawe himself solos as a lead cantor, for what will now become something of a vocal chaos instead of the instrumental one presented in the first half. There is rhythm to be found here, though less melody presents itself for quite some time. This album is something of an anomaly in all respects. Much later, the Missa Luba was presented with vaguely the same concept (an African version of the Catholic mass) and with much greater musicality. This album would appear to be an experiment in combining styles, and met with or without great success, depending on the view of the listener. It's definitely interesting, but it can also become quite grating as well. The final decision must be left up to the individual listener, though it's certainly recommended that it at least be heard once, for the experience if nothing else. ~ Adam Greenberg


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