The Wild Mountain Thyme

The Revels

(Revels CD1094)

Revels Records
One Kendall Sq. Bldg 600
Cambridge, MA 02139

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Marji Hazen

Today John Langstaff's original concept for Revels would guarantee an immediate hit show. He described the first Revels concert (New York, 1957) as incorporating "traditional and medieval music, dance and drama into a theatrical performance in which the audience was involved, singing and dancing with the cast."

And that, I suppose, is one reason that Revels, finally born in Boston (well, actually, Cambridge) Massachusetts in 1971 has produced a whole list of CDs from their annual, then semi-annual, now quarterly shows at the Harvard Theater. And one reason why, today, there are Revels performing groups (all volunteers) presenting programs in ten (maybe more by now) other major cities in the U.S.

You can read all about Revels and their dozen or more other albums on line at their web site:

The Stan Freburgish image of a family of acrobats doing their tumbling act on radio comes to mind when I think about putting a Revels show on a CD. But, folks, it works. The music is sufficient unto itself. And judging from the variety of material on the album, I'm sure a full performance would be well worth the trip to your nearest Revels city (see web site for list of cities and performance schedules).

The Wild Mountain Thyme is a good example of the kind of award-winning CDs Revels produces. This one received a Parents' Choice Award from the Parents' Foundation which I assume means it's OK for kids to listen to. I think it's more than OK. As choral music goes, it's excellent. But to appreciate it, you really need to listen with earphones. It just doesn't work on your average home stereo. With earphones or a good car stereo you can hear every word of every song clearly and all the instrumentations as well. On average speakers, it's pretty much just nice melodic noise.

Production values are creative and precise at the same time. The ambience of the space where the music was recorded is captured along with the varied combinations of choristers, soloists, and instruments that make every cut different from every other. And that's not easy to do when you put thirty-four cuts on a single CD. Sure, there's room for seventy-plus minutes of music on your standard CD, but most producers don't fill the space. Revels gives you full measure for your money, 75 minutes, and leaves you feeling as if they could probably have sung for another 75 minutes if there'd been room for it on the album.

The voices usually reveal whether the disc is just a job or whether they're enjoying the music. There's such delight among the singers on this recording, You just know they were sorry when the session(s) was(ere) over. The Wild Mountain Thyme is a rollicking collection of songs for Spring, Summer, and Autumn and includes the following:

  • The Helston Ferry
  • Summer is i-cumen in
  • Country Life
  • One Man Shall Mow My Meadow
  • Dance Medley: Jack's Maggott, Gathering Peascods
  • Oats and Beans and Barley Grow
  • Charlie's Neat, Charlie's Sweet
  • The Lark in the Morn
  • Hey Ho! To the Greenwood
  • The Merry Horn
  • Sheep-Shearing Song
  • Pace-egging
  • The Barley Mow
  • John Barleycorn is a Hero Bold
  • Let Union Be In All Our Hearts
  • The May Day Carol
  • O Spirit Sweet of Summertime
  • Staines Morris
  • Symondbury Travelers' Tune
  • Bartholomew Fair
  • John Barleycorn
  • Old Roger is Dead
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Jolly is the Miller Boy
  • Captain Kidd
  • Where the Soul of Man Never Dies
  • Doodle Dandy
  • Dance tunes medley: Petrouella, The Girl With the Blue Dress On
  • Harvest Hymn
  • Going Down the Valley
  • The Medicine Wheel
  • Calon Lan
  • The Wild Mountain Thyme
  • Hi Ho! The Rattlin' Bog

If you like choral music and have a good playback system, you'll enjoy this album. Personally, I'm very glad to have it in my collection.

Edited by David N. Pyles

Copyright 1997, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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