Though the Turtles were rightfully known as an excellent pop/rock singles band, on this recording they let loose their humor, which was part of their act from the beginning. On the outside cover the group is dressed in conservative suits and bow ties, yet on the inside the group is clad in, shall it be tastefully said, less traditional attire. The Turtles (who wrote nine of the 12 songs on the original LP, two songs being added to the CD) basically mock the entire spectrum of music on this album, though elements of their pop/rock sound are contained even in the most country, psychedelic, and R&B elements of the music presented here. Two Top Ten hits are contained in this collection, Roger McGuinn's "You Showed Me" and the Turtles own subtly mocking "Elenore." Light psychedelia meets Booker T. & the MG's in the instrumental "Buzzsaw." The Beach Boys sound shows up in "Surfer Dan," and the original album closer "Earth Anthem" is a hippie ecology, folk-pop anthem that is both very pretty and quite satirical -- a listener could easily lose himself in the fine melody and atmospheric production, while laughing at the same time. The only potential problem with this album is that it is caught in the middle between two extremes: On the one hand, non-mainstream listeners will criticize the album for sounding too commercial, and, on the other, typical Turtles fans will find the album too sophisticated, especially if they are looking for another album like Happy Together. Between these two points of view falls an excellent album that is both commercial and comical, as if both of these elements couldn't coincide in one album.
British composer Patrick Hawes (born in 1958) seems to inhabit an aesthetic niche similar to that of John Rutter; his range encompasses both "serious" choral composition and a more pop-influenced style -- a kind of "classical lite" that seems targeted at crossover audiences -- and this album includes examples of both. At one end of the spectrum, Song of Songs, six settings from the Song of Solomon, bring Karl Jenkins to mind, facile and sentimental, but relentlessly pretty, geared to appeal to fans of pop music that has a mildly classical flavor. They are scored for chorus and soprano soloist, with occasional other soloists, accompanied by strings. The choral parts are straightforward enough to put them within the range of many church choirs, an audience for whom they seem intended, but the solo part is so outrageously high that it is unlikely it could be managed by an amateur performer. Even Elin Manahan Thomas, who has a light, pleasing voice, is sometimes reduced to squeaking, trying to negotiate Hawes' unrealistic demands. On the other hand, When Israel Was a Child and O Lord Our Governor, for chorus and organ, and the lovely a cappella Vauday Part Songs, are substantial works, disciplined and richly imagined. Overall, the performances of Manahan, the other soloists, Hawes' own choral ensemble Conventus, organist Roger Sayer, and the English Chamber Orchestra, conducted by the composer, make as strong as possible a case for the music. The sound is present and clean.