SONGS OF CRICKET • London Qrt; Jonathan L’Estrange (pn); et al. • SIGNUM 0217 (69:00)
Selections by L’ESRANGE, WARLOCK, LLOYD WEBBER, STILGOE, THE YETTIES, WALSH, M. HOLST, KELLY, LUMLEY, CHAMPION, SCHWARZ, DELIBES, PARRY, HARPER, BREMNER
This is, to put it mildly, a class product. A King’s Singers for the world today, the London Quartet is a group of chaps who clearly have a great, undergradguate-ish sense of humor. If you’re looking for an explanation ofRead more the Englishman’s obsession with cricket (no, I don’t understand it either, and I’m English), then this disc probably won’t help much.But it just might make you guffaw with laughter. On top of this, performances are near-perfect. Arrangements are expert, out of the very top drawer. And what ensemble singing.
Some of the references might not tranlate to an American audience, it is true. In the very first track, after an announcer (in best cricket commentator voice) introduces the unlikely scenario that England is actually about to win a cricket match, we hear four numbers (of varied international provenance) associated with cricket. A Yorkshire accent creeps into the commentary as the unthinkable happens and England wins. Fantasy at its finest.
The link to cricket as a school game is felt in the school songs medley, a presentation of Merrie England if ever there was one. The excellence of the London Quartet’s chordal balance is heard in the Lloyd Webber offering.
I wonder, too, whether the entertainer Richard Stilgoe has made it across the Pond? I remember him singing and playing his ditties to lighten the news in a Manchester-based early evening television program titled Look North. Well, here he is in Lillian Thomson, still with his vamp-’til-ready accompaniments, a male Victoria Wood who easily out-Woods Wood. The lyrics are simply hilarious. You can get an inkling of Stigloeness (although he doesn’t play the piano here) as he cogitates on yet another strange institution, the Eurovision Song Contest, on YouTube.
To identify the positives of each of these items would be onerous reading and would spoil the fun. Gems to listen out for include Psalm Chant, straight out of church (except for the lyrics). Eliza Lumley is a fantastic addition to the lineup, her You’ve Got To Be a Cricket Hero is a delight, as are the narrowly missed swear words of That’s Not Cricket. Greg Champion’s I Made a Hundred in the Backyard at Mum’s hits home (who didn’t play this at one point in their lives? I won the Wimbledon Male Tennis Championships in 1974, in my back yard). The impressionist Rory Bremner gets the final words with his rather strange Stop It, Aggers. But then cricket is strange, isn’t it?