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June Tabor
Rosa Mundi
Green Linnet (US) / Topic-UK)

cd cover The theme of this release by veteran English vocalist June Tabor is the rose, mostly as symbol of love, youth, or purity. Equally compelling are the nearly ascetic arrangements on Rosa Mundi; piano, cello, and violin scored with tasteful, evocative restraint. Tabor's low, breathy vocal, riveting in its unhurried and controlled expressiveness, is the recording's natural center. Vocal, arrangement, and lyrics collaborate to impart cumulative power to individual songs and the record as a whole.

"Belle Rose"
"Roses of Picardy" is a strong opening choice, a quiet ballad of a bygone time, the World War I era, accompanied by piano with cello accents. Tabor's simple, eloquent vocal reflects the sentimental tone of the cello, but with an equivocal distance that also echoes the Olympian aloofness of the verses, a pair of idealized vignettes framing a life-long love. "Belle Rose" is a lively Channel Islands two-step featuring multiple violins about a maiden's cheerful repudiation of seduction, the cello line adding unexpected drive. Piano and cello set an ominous tone on "Deep in Love," a tale of love betrayed expressed in terms of the flower and thorns of the rose; Tabor's vocal interpretation is a combination of flaring resentment and resigned grief. "O My Luve's Like a Red Red Rose" sets the Robert Burns song to the tune of "Major Graham;" might the intro figure be a melodic swipe at Dan Fogelberg's lyrically similar "Longer?" "Rose in June" is a happy, bouncy waltz, quietly constrained vocal, piano, cello, and violin conveying insouciance with surprising effectiveness.

Apparently the only song written specifically for Rosa Mundi, "Paint Me, Redouté" is a triumphant melding of music by Tabor and violinist Mark Emerson with lyrics by the redoubtable Les Barker, a tear-jerker that earns every drop. Tabor renders the loss and regret of the Empress Joséphine humanly compelling, as she implores the painter Redouté to immortalize her late husband and herself in an eternal dream of roses. "Barbry Ellen" familiarly demonstrates how love denied in life defines an eternity of rose and briar entwined. But, as lyricist Les Barker knows, it is a cautionary, not an exemplary, tale. Tabor closes with his "Maybe Then I'll Be A Rose," extolling love now over roses later.

The selection of songs for "Rosa Mundi" is a performance in itself; close attention to their lyrics renders this pleasant experience moving. - Jim Foley

"Belle Rose" trad, arr Tabor, Warren, Emerson, Bolton; (c)2001 Topic (p)2001 Topic/Happy Valley
Used by written permission of the label and song publishers

CD available at cdRoots

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