It was with is third album that Breton musician Alan Simon really made a huge impact, 1999’s ‘Excalibur, La Légende des Celtes’. As with the further albums in the series, he used a combination of well-known musicians and singers (in that instance it included the likes Roger Hodgson, Fairport Convention, Dan Ar Braz, Tri Yann, Angelo Branduardi, Didier Lockwood and Gabriel Yacoub). There have been three further albums in the series, and now we are treated with a compilation which takes songs from all of the ‘Excalibur’ studio albums plus ‘Tristan & Yseult’. The theme which ties all these together is in the title, in that every song features a female lead vocalist.
It is hard to imagine another collection which features singers of this calibre, as here are treated to performances by Moya Brennan, Maddy Prior, Karan Casey, Kohann, Siobhan Owen, Jacqui McShee, Nikki Matheson, Sonja Kristina and Maite Itoiz. I must confess to not knowing a couple of the names prior to playing this, but they certainly stand up within the august company. Musically this of course is full of the classical/folk/progressive elements we have all become used to with the ‘Excalibur’ series with rock guitars happily alongside trippy keyboards or flute, bagpipes, acoustic guitar, violin etc. Some songs are almost pop rock in their approach, while others are traditional with a capital “T” (suddenly I feel inspired to go and dig out some Horslips). All of them are joined together with stunning vocals, and with all the lyrics contained within the booklet, plus details of who sang on which song, it seems somewhat churlish to say I wish I also knew which musicians who had been involved as well. Putting that to one side, this really is a superb album, with vocals to die for. 8/10