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Lo Mejor del Mejor Canto Gregoriano

Notes & Reviews:

In 1994, who would have thought that a collection of traditional Gregorian chants by Catholic monks from a monastery in northwestern Spain would have become an international pop hit? Who would have thought that the Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos would have been sharing the American pop charts with the likes of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, the Notorious B.I.G., Metallica, and Dr. Dre during the Bill Clinton years? But in fact, that's exactly what happened in 1994, when the Benedictine Monks' Chant soared to the Top Ten on Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart and went triple platinum (three million units sold) in the United States -- and that is in addition to millions of copies sold in Western Europe. The Vatican must have been elated! In 2004, Angel/EMI celebrated Chant's tenth anniversary with Chant: The Anniversary Edition, a two-CD set that contains both Chant and its sequel, Chant II. However, this double CD is really marking a 31st anniversary instead of a tenth. The a cappella performances on Chant were originally released on LP in Spain in 1973; 1994's Chant CD was actually a reissue. So why were so many '90s listeners drawn to -- of all things -- medieval-style Gregorian chants? Aggressive marketing on Angel/EMI's part was no doubt a major factor, and perhaps some listeners saw these serene, hauntingly tranquil performances as an alternative to all the angst music they were being bombarded with in 1994 -- a medieval refuge from the turbulent, fast-paced '90s and the tortured, in-your-face anger of 2Pac, Slayer, Courtney Love, and Ice Cube. Of course, it's easy to romanticize medieval life when you're enjoying the comforts and conveniences of modern technology; by today's standards, medieval life was, for most Europeans, amazingly harsh (politically, socially, technologically, and otherwise). But that doesn't make the performances on Chant: The Anniversary Edition any less beautiful; this double CD is enthusiastically recommended to anyone who missed Chant or Chant II the first time around. ~ Alex Henderson


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