The Titan: Traditional
Music from Around the World

(Dorian, 1993)

Helicon sets an ambitious goal with The Titan: Traditional Music From Around the World. In only 10 tracks, they roam from Bolivia to Wales, from Haitian carols to Scottish marches. These varied styles are linked by Helicon's amazingly united sound. Chris Norman, Ken Kolodner and Robin Bullock sound like one musician, and their family of instruments work in perfect complement.

The Helicon sound is thrown into relief by songs whose native tone is completely different. The bluegrass tune "Jerusalem Ridge" is as fast-paced as any Kentucky fiddler could want, but Helicon brings a cool clarity to the tune that makes it sound fresh from the snows of Norway. Bullock's guitar gives it a bit of its warmth back, but leaves it distinct from any other version you're likely to hear. "Traditional Bolivian/Columbito Tecumano," learned from Andean musicians visiting Vermont, honors the high, clear woodwinds sound of Andean music without masking the performers' European influences.

Each artist and each instrument is given a chance to shine. Norman's flute steals the show in the atmospheric "In The Csitari Mountain Foothills/Storm Warning," and the "Traditional Bolivian/Columbito Tecumano" simply wouldn't work without him. "The Athol Highlanders" is turned into a reel and given to Kolodner and Bullock to whirl about with twin fiddles. Kolodner uses the dulcimer's liquid sweetness to great effect in the Welsh waltzes "Over the Stone/Maid from the Parish of Penderyn" and the patient "Nova Scotia January/Waltz from Cape Breton."

As enjoyable as it is to hear each instrument take center stage, The Titan is at its best when all three musicians are driving the tune. The massive medley "French Schottische/One Summer's Morning/10th of December/Polka Suwanna from Rsezow/Dick's Magott/Denis Murphy's" ebbs and swells as the three musicians weave through the notes. The fine work of the fiddle in the middle third of the medley, the sparkling return of the flute, the blurringly fast guitar, all work together to smooth a seeming trainwreck of songs into a unified triumph.

The Titan ends with one of the medleys that define the album. "Jesu Babe Divine/Ganivelle/Jabadaw/The Titan" melds together a Haitian Christmas carol, a schottische from France, an old Breton polka and Norman's title composition into a flowing, unified work, something traditional and unique. Helicon does the same for all the musical traditions it brings onto The Titan: Traditional Music from Around the World, introducing old traditions to each other and letting them become something new and powerful.

- Rambles
written by Sarah Meador
published 26 April 2003

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