Fifty years ago a group of choral scholars from King's College, Cambridge formed a six-man vocal ensemble they called The King's Singers. The rest is, as they say, history, and this three-disc set is the latest slice of it.
Gold is not a selection of archival recordings by the different King's Singers line-ups over the decades. Instead, the current group has mined repertoire from the Singers' performing history, added selections of its own (including nine new commissions), and made brand-new recordings of all 60 items.
CD1 is branded 'Close Harmony', and comprises mainly traditional songs and pop material. The famed King's Singers attention to pin-point pitching, slick ensemble, and deft balances between the voices are present in abundance.
The two Beatles arrangements are particularly successful. The harmonic underlay to And I love her burbles like a happy marimba, while in I'll follow the sun Paul McCartney's unusual chord changes have a deliciously silken quality to them. The brief, spectacular Bobby Shaftoe is a hoot, and shows that the current King's Singers have lost none of their predecessors' ability to sing at ridiculous velocities, without skittling their consonants all over the bowling alley.
Can the Singers do 'serious' repertoire too? CD2, 'Spiritual', addresses that question. The answer is clearly yes. Byrd's Sing joyfully receives a vibrantly bright-toned performance, while Palestrina's Sicut cervus is sensually shaped and expressive. On CD3 ('Secular'), John Rutter's Be not afeard stands out for the immaculate performance, and for some of its composer's most harmonically adventurous writing.
For King's Singers fans, this set is an automatic purchase. For others, its extraordinary versatility and consistent enjoyability are warmly recommended.