I know there have been a couple of references to this recording in another thread but having picked up a copy at the weekend I think it merits one of its own. Featuring Black Dyke in performances of five major works of particular significance in the past year, it is in my view an absolutely stunning achievement. I was able to follow "Journey to the Centre of the Earth" with the score for the first time, and so to spot all sorts of subtleties that are easily missed when hearing it - or even watching it on the DVD from Groningen. Peter Roberts is thrilling throughout, and it leaves me itching to see what the Sop players will make of it at Stevenage!
"Extreme Makeover" also seems to have more of an edge to it in this studio recording, with the section with the bottles being extremely effective. All of the band seem ready to give it all they've got, and it has the feel and excitement of a live recording, without the inevitable splits that the contest stage throws up. The climaxes are vigorous and exhilerating, contrasting well with the more delicate sections.
I was unsure about "Northern Lights" when it was featured in the post-contest concert, but hearing it over and over I've come to like it more and more. The band shows tremendous precision in fast-moving unison passages, and the moment where the 1938 band emerges with "Deep harmony" is quite magical.
The one live performance is their winning version of "The night to sing" from the British Open, picking up on all the various changes of mood very effectively, and even if it was not a vintage day for David Thornton the overall excitement of the occasion soon makes up for the odd dodgy note. They seem to catch the spirit of the dance music particularly well, and it comes over even better than I remember it on the day, where I just had BAYV ahead. The two main climaxes - one about two minutes from the end, that swells up suddenly and back down again, and the other right at the end - are managed beautifully: exciting but not over-exaggerated.
John Pickard's "Eden" is also given a thrilling reading, with Brett Baker on top form in the tricky role of the serpent. In fact all the soloists play brilliantly throughout, including some excellent work from the percussion, and it is difficult to single out any particular individual or section.
I know it is very early in the year, but I'd be very surprised if this does not feature strongly in the voting for 2006 CD of the year. If you like hearing major works for band, and even if you've already got some of these duplicated elsewhere, I'd urge you to check this one out, and dig deep in your pocket - it's certainly well worth it!