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The Best Taizé Album in the World… Ever!
Artist: Unstated
Label: Kingsway
Time: 50 Tracks / 143 minutes

Taizé is a monastic community that has now become a spiritual brand. Its music is one of its most defining features, alongside its international and multi-denominational appeal, which is largely to youth.

The community’s music reflects its character well: simple, prayerful, accessible, timeless and multi-lingual, it needs to relate to pilgrims of various ages and nationalities. So the songs are usually short, with simple chant-like lyrics that visitors can use for reflection and prayer.

It would be no good to look for many of the features that I often seek in music. Distracting flair-filled flourishes and dazzling solos would be counter-productive, while clever images and word-play could exclude pilgrims of some nationalities. Some of the main solo vocals here are a little off-putting, but Taizé is for ordinary people with a range of voices, so that again fits the role.

This triple-CD (which would just fit on 2 discs) begins with “Lord, Hear my Prayer,” one of their most famous songs (the other, “Bless the Lord” appears later). While the first and third CDs are relatively mixed, the middle one is far more consistent in its quiet, choral style, which makes it very suitable for reflective, prayerful listening.

By contrast, the third disc begins with four quite different pieces, which illustrate the collection’s range. “Adoramus Te Christe” is a beautifully smooth choral piece, quietly accompanied by picked guitar and woodwind. It is what Taizé is most known and loved for. Returning to English and with organ backing, “Sing to God” brings things down to earth, sounding very much like a hymn with somewhat intrusive vocals; “Psallite Deo” feels quite medieval with a Latin refrain and just a flute and oboe taking turns to join the often-wordless backing vocals. Things change again when “Hosanna” brings in the first of several simple rounds.

The compilers had to balance the ethereal pieces that help focus the spirit in prayer, the songs that need a clear vocal lead to be understood, and livelier, celebratory ones for everyone to join in. This collection largely gets it right.

Even with 50 songs and a basic price, all words to this well-rounded collection are still included. My only complaints are the sometimes off-putting lead vocals and having only one disc with consistent style.

Derek Walker


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