Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos
Gregorian Chants
(Music Club 50008)

Gregorian chant has become so throughly mainstream that anyone who "was there" before it became trendy can't help but feel like something special got ruined. The haunting and ruminitive tones are especially soothing, and were some kind of magic when they were still private. Once Joe and Jane Yuppie Jackass got a hold of it, though, I was out of the scene.

Although come to think of it, I'm not sure exactly what kind of "scene" I belonged to listening to Gregorian chant as a mid-80s teen. Sigh, I'm always so painfully ahead of the curve. Or maybe I was just trying to outsmart my high school aptitude tests, which pegged me squarely as "most likely to listen to Winger."

The sudden emergence of Gregorian chant as a huge musical trend was one of the weirder phenomenons of the 90s – centuries-old music preserved by a group of singers isolated from the rest of the world suddenly became all the rage, briefly displacing flagpole-sitting and the Charleston as the national mania.

It became really trendy as the result of Enigma's "Sadeness Part 1," and the subsequent Chant CDs soured me on the whole thing … I still enjoyed the music, but couldn't stand to be around it anymore. It's like when my first girlfriend posed for Playboy's "Women of Taco Bell" pictorial … I mean, she was still super hot, but she may as well have had come all over her face, all the time.

Having sold back my VoxBox chant disc ages ago, I recently decided to get a new one, the statute of limitations having expired now that the trend is officially several years past dead. (Hopefully I will not, according to this same logic, start buying "new swing" CDs in 2007.)

So now I was faced with the interesting task of selecting which one to get … I mean, the purist in me wouldn't allow me to get a Chant CD, but the aesthete in me would not allow me to get a boring, stodgy old Deutsche Grammophone issue. Clearly some middle ground could be had.

So, for anyone seeking "the" chant CD to buy, but for whom Chant is not acceptable, I highly recommend this one on the Music Club label. I've slowly been developing trust for that label, which I initially found to be quite dubious especially given the Music Club moniker (seemed too cheesy to be good) and the low prices (certainly must denote substandard product, right?).

But honestly, when they've got a compilation out in a given genre, it's usually the one to have, especially if your interest in the style is cursory. They've even done several collections that cover areas I haven't seen other labels tackle (particularly the South African jazz compilations they've put out … highly recommended).

For chant, you're as well off with this disc as with any other – it features the Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos (the same chorus featured in the Chant series) with recordings culled from their releases on Angel Records. The pleasing cover seals the deal.

I listen to a lot of chant-type music, and there is a great deal of variety to it, but as far as the specific style of Gregorian chant, there's really no need to have more than one disc. Soothing, gorgeous unison voices set in cloistered echo … once again, essential listening, now that pop culture has moved on.

And while there is an undeniable comic element in listening to this stuff in the wake of its huge popularity (it's a genuine music retail cliché at this point), the sneering disappears after like ten seconds.

It's great for contemplation, meditation, reading, studying, masturbating, fornicating, postulating, cross-dressing, pick-pocketing, and shitting your pants.

Yikes, maybe I should take a break, the quality control seems to be going way down.

Review by Lou Borstal