Three Score and Ten

Last updated

Three Score & Ten: A Voice to the People
Three Score and Ten Album Image.jpg
Box set by
Various Artists
Released14 September 2009 (2009-09-14) [1]
Recorded1939 - 2009
Label Topic
Producer David Suff

Three Score and Ten: A Voice to the People is a multi-CD box set album issued by Topic Records in 2009 to celebrate 70 years as an independent British record label.


The album consists of a hardback book containing the seven CDs and a paper insert detailing the Topic release list, complemented by a card insert to balance the release list.

The boxed set provides examples of recordings from the beginning of the label in 1939. Topic Records headlines their web site as Traditional and Contemporary Folk from the British Isles [2] but in its history many other genres have appeared on the label. The album provides many examples including tracks from British Music Hall, blues, roots and World Music amongst others.

The album was curated, researched and produced by David Suff [3] :108 of Fledg'ling Records.


David Suff gave an interview to Simon Holland for Properganda on 27 July which included details of the research and length of time involved in compiling the boxed set. [4] Simon then interviewed Tony Engle on 7 August about the album and the work of Topic records. [5] This interview included a track from each of the CDs in the boxed set.

Mike Harding interviewed Tony Engle about the album and anniversary on 2 September 2009 on his BBC Radio 2 folk music show.

Topic Records co-hosted three concerts at London's South Bank to celebrate the 70 year anniversary and promote the boxed set. [6] These were held on Friday 11 September 2009 at the Royal Festival Hall featuring The Waterson Family and the Eliza Carthy Band, [7] Thursday 17 September 2009 at the Queen Elizabeth Hall featuring the Martin Simpson Big Band and Friday 18 September 2009 at the Queen Elizabeth Hall featuring June Tabor.

There were 2 additional concerts as part of this celebration. Saturday 19 September 2009 at the Purcell Rooms featuring Folklahoma and the Magpies Nest. Friday 25 September 2009 at the Kalamazoo Klub at the Union Chapel, London featuring Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick.

Critical reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
Songlines Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svg
The Guardian Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svg [8]
The Telegraph Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svg [9]
Observer Music Monthly Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svg [9]
Allmusic Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar half.svg [10]

The box set was received with a lot of very positive comment by the general and specialist press


Songlines review by Tim Cumming said "its one of the finest boxed sets I have ever seen". [11]

Robin Denselow in the Guardian said "the oldest truly independent record label in the world, and the most important company in the story of British folk music, celebrates its 70th birthday this summer, and this fascinating, thoughtfully produced seven-CD set and 108-page hardback book marks the anniversary in style". [8]

The Doug Spencer on Australian ABC Radio National's Weekend Planet said "This is one of the more remarkable boxed compilations, ever. It has many English gems, but not only English ones". [12]

Redlick said "This is obviously a huge labour of love and a wonderful tribute to a record label respected the world over". [13]

Charles de Lint in the Green Man review said "This is timeless music that will undoubtedly sound just as good and relevant in another seventy years". [14]


The album won fRoots Reissues and Compilations of the Year and Best Packaged Album of the Year in 2009. [15]


The package consists of a 108-page hard-backed book with 4 CDs in the front cover and 3 CDs in the back cover together with a booklet cataloguing all the recordings issued by Topic up to the publication in 2009 and a card insert to balance the recordings list.

The dust jacket shows a photograph of Louis Killen and Frankie Armstrong and the book cover shows Reg Hall and Scan Tester.

The book details the history of Topic records with a number of spotlight studies of key albums, and brief biographies relating to Topic of artists and other personnel involved in the record label from the start up to the date of issue of the album. [16]

Hardback book


The hardback book provides a history of Topic Records from its start as a subscription label run by the Workers Music Association issuing 78rpm shellac records, through the introduction of vinyl and its associated formats to CDs and subsequent to the boxed set the release of some of the older albums as downloads. The book contains pictures of album covers and artists that recorded them for Topic with a chronological history of the label up to 2009.

As part of this history there are spotlight studies of classic records and short biographies of key personnel and performers.

Spotlight Studies of Classic Records

Her Mantle So Green Margaret Barry and Michael Gorman 12T1231965
The Iron Muse (A Panorama of Industrial Folk Song)Various Artists12T861963
Frost and Fire: A Calendar of Ceremonial Folk Songs The Watersons 12T1631965
Paddy in the Smoke Irish Music from a London PubVarious Artists12T1761968
For Pence and Spicy AleThe Watersons12T2651975
Penguin Eggs Nic Jones 12TS4111980
Handful of Earth Dick Gaughan 12TS4191981
Aqaba June Tabor 12TS4491988
Waterson:Carthy Waterson–Carthy (Martin Carthy, Norma Waterson and Eliza Carthy)TSCD4751994
Unity John Tams TSCD5082000
The Voice of the People Various ArtistsTSCD651 – 6701998
Anglicana Eliza CarthyTSCD5392002
Prodigal Son Martin Simpson TSCD5672007


NameReason for Inclusion
Alan Bush Helped found the WMA in 1936 and was elected the first president of the association in 1941
A L Lloyd Was appointed artistic director of Topic records which was officially only for one year but was a powerful influence over many years with Ewan MacColl.
Ewan MacColl With Bert Lloyd was a driving force behind the folk revival after the second world war.
Bill Leader Recording engineer and producer who recorded a lot for Topic records and other companies before setting up his own record company with 2 labels, Leader and Trailer.
Dick SwettenhamElectronics engineer who worked with Bill Leader and developed the first transistorised control desk in the world
Gerry SharpAccountant and business manager who kept the business on a financial even keel in its early days
Reg Hall [17] Musician associated with Topic records since 1963 as an accompanist, compiler and annotator of many recordings.
Tony EngleJoined Topic in 1963 and took over the label in 1973 following Gerry Sharp’s death

Catalogue of releases

The catalogue details all the releases from the first record through to 2009. Each record is assigned a number starting from 1 with a prefix that denotes the format of issue.

PrefixFormatFirst IssueLast IssueComments
TRC (Topic Record Club78rpm record19391958
TRL12 Inch Long Playing Record19561956
12T12 Inch Long Playing Record19581990an S after the T signifies a stereo recording
10T10 Inch Long Playing Record19571960
T10 Inch Long Playing Record19561956
8T8 Inch Long Playing Record19571957
7T7 Inch microgroove LP (playing at 33 1/3rpm)19571958Only 3 records issued
TOP7 Inch microgroove EP19581958S prefix indicates a stereo record. This prefix was used in 2014 for a special issue. Some of the titles appear to be single records.
TPSSampler19641973Length and size not specified
12TFRSFree Reed label recordings19751977
SPDSpecial Delivery19871995
TSCDCompact disk1990present dayIf the album was originally issued as a record then the number is re-used

The catalogue details The Voice of the People series separately.

Ewan MacColl’s Radio Ballads which were originally issued by Argos are listed as they are available though Topic.

A separate section details the Topic World Series CDs. A section details the only recording issued under the WMA heading.

Three further sections detail the Impact and String labels.

Track listing

The seven CDs are themed covering different aspects of the Topic catalogue with a title appropriate to the content. The composer of the track will be displayed under the track name with Traditional when appropriate. A reference to external numbering systems for songs will be used where identified for traditional songs. The references are from the three major numbering schemes for folk songs, the Roud Folk Song Index, Child Ballad Numbers originating from Francis James Child and the Laws Numbers from the George Malcolm Laws numbering system. The original recordings are detailed in the listings. Many of these were not available at the time of issue but are now available as downloads from the usual sources with the original sleeve notes being made available by Topic from their web site.

Disk one – . . . a selection of treasures from the Topic catalogue

The disk contains a range of the music from various parts of the English speaking world that Topic Records has issued over its 70-year history. These include English folk songs, instrumentals including dance music, American blues, music hall and a recent composition that is regularly played by Irish folk groups. Track 2 is an instrumental issued as part of a joint album with Alexis Korner. This track and track 4 are now available as digital downloads of either the track or the full recording. Track 3 is a dance tune played on the Jew's Harp. Track 10 is from an album in the series "The Voice of the People" and is from a traditional English singer as is track 13. Track 12 was originally issued by Fontana in 1969 and is licensed to Topic by Polygram through Gama Records. The tracks are mainly from recordings issued in a variety for formats by Topic with track 15 from a Special Delivery album.

Disc two - England Arise!

The second disk contains English folk music and includes a number of traditional singers providing a link to the time when this music was the popular music of the country. The disk has the first of two tracks from "The Sweet Primeroses". Track 1 features an excerpt from the music used for an English folk custom dance performed each Easter in Bacup. All the recordings were originally issued on Topic albums either vinyl or as a CD.

Disk three - Ireland Boys, Hurrah

The third disk concentrates on the Folk music of Ireland, including traditional musicians from all the provinces. The disk features more instrumental tracks that the other national disks. A number of the tracks were recorded outside Ireland from members of the Irish diaspora. Track 8 features an unnamed slow air before the Blackbird. Track 23 features the unusual folk music instrument the hammer dulcimer. All the recordings were originally issued on Topic 12 inch vinyl albums except track 9 which was issued on a 10-inch vinyl record.

Disk four - Scotia The Brave

This disk covers Scottish folk music with both traditional and revival artists included. All the recordings are from Topic releases in a variety of formats from singles through vinyl albums to CDs.

Disk five - The Singer & The Song

This disk concentrates on compositions in a traditional style with the composer often singing the song. All the recordings were issued on either Topic or Special Delivery.

Disk six - The People’s Flag

This disk covers the music that closely reflects the origins of Topic records with the Workers Music Association. Both sides of the original record issued by Topic are featured on this disk as track 1 and track 8. Versions of track 3, Joe Hill, are the third most popular selection on the radio show Desert Island Discs for British Labour Party Politicians, with this version being selected by Ed Miliband. [18] Track 11 is the second track from the Sweet Primeroses album in the compilation. The title track of the album by the Watersons is on this CD with the original album available as a download. All the recordings were issued on either Topic or Special Delivery.

Disk seven - . . . even more treasures from the Topic catalogue

The seventh and last disk in the set contains more tracks from the Topic records catalogue and features a number from non-English speaking countries. Three of the tracks feature music from the Balkans, two of the albums collected by A. L. Lloyd and one by Wolf Dietrich. Acts from the United States are well represented. All the recordings were issued on Topic except track 18 which was issued on a Free Reed album. and include 1 of the Topic World Series Albums.

Related Research Articles

Martin Carthy English musician

Martin Carthy MBE is an English folk singer and guitarist who has remained one of the most influential figures in British traditional music, inspiring contemporaries such as Bob Dylan and Paul Simon, and later artists such as Richard Thompson, since he emerged as a young musician in the early days of the folk revival.

Sandy Denny English singer and songwriter

Alexandra Elene MacLean Denny was an English singer-songwriter who was lead singer of the British folk rock band Fairport Convention. She has been described as "the pre-eminent British folk rock singer".

Liner notes writing including with a musical release

Liner notes are the writings found on the sleeves of LP record albums and in booklets which come inserted into the compact disc jewel case or the equivalent packaging for vinyl records and cassettes.

Eliza Carthy English folk musician

Eliza Carthy, MBE is an English folk musician known for both singing and playing fiddle. She is the daughter of English folk musicians singer/guitarist Martin Carthy and singer Norma Waterson.

The Watersons English folk group from Hull, Yorkshire

The Watersons were an English folk group from Hull, Yorkshire. They performed mainly traditional songs with little or no accompaniment. Their distinctive sound came from their closely woven harmonies.

Topic Records is a British folk music label, which played a major role in the second British folk revival. It began as an offshoot of the Workers' Music Association in 1939, making it the oldest independent record label in the world.

<i>Martin Carthy</i> (album) 1965 studio album by Martin Carthy

Martin Carthy is the debut solo album by English folk musician Martin Carthy, originally released in 1965 by Fontana Records and later re-issued by Topic Records. The album features Dave Swarbrick playing fiddle or mandolin on a number of the tracks. Swarbrick was not headlined on the album for contractual reasons as he was with the Ian Campbell Folk Group at the time with permission granted by Transatlantic Records

Norma Waterson English folk musician

Norma Christine Waterson is an English musician, best known as one of the original members of The Watersons, a celebrated English traditional group. Other members of the group included her brother Mike Waterson and sister Lal Waterson, a cousin John Harrison, and in later incarnations of the group her husband Martin Carthy.

James Yorkston Scottish folk musician

James Yorkston is a Scottish folk musician, singer-songwriter and author from the village of Kingsbarns, Fife. He has been releasing music since 2001 - as a solo artist, with his backing band the Athletes, as part of the Fence Collective and as a member of the trio Yorkston/Thorne/Khan. He has also written fiction and non-fiction books.

Anne Patricia Briggs is an English folk singer. Although she travelled widely in the 1960s and early 1970s, appearing at folk clubs and venues in England and Ireland, she never aspired to commercial success or to achieve widespread public acknowledgment of her music. However, she was an influential figure in the English folk music revival, being a source of songs and musical inspiration for others such as A. L. Lloyd, Bert Jansch, Jimmy Page, The Watersons, June Tabor, Sandy Denny, Richard Thompson and Maddy Prior.

Coope Boyes and Simpson

Coope Boyes and Simpson was an English vocal folk trio, formed around 1990. Their sound was rich and often had unusual vocal harmonies.

Mike Waterson English folk singer and songwriter

Michael (Mike) Waterson was an English writer, songwriter and folk singer.

Marry Waterson British artist

Maria Gilhooley, who records under the name Marry Waterson, is a singer, songwriter and visual artist. A member of the Waterson-Knight-Carthy family musical dynasty, Waterson is described as having "thrived on communal music making while developing highly original and distinctly English performance styles of [her] own."

The Voice of the People is an anthology of folk songs produced by Topic Records containing recordings of traditional singers and musicians from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

<i>The Beatles in Mono</i> 2009 box set by the Beatles

The Beatles in Mono is a boxed set compilation comprising the remastered monaural recordings by the Beatles. The set was released on compact disc on 9 September 2009, the same day the remastered stereo recordings and companion The Beatles were also released, along with The Beatles: Rock Band video game. The remastering project for both mono and stereo versions was led by EMI senior studio engineers Allan Rouse and Guy Massey. The release date of 09/09/09 is related to the significance to John Lennon of the number nine.

<i>The Beatles (The Original Studio Recordings)</i> 2009 box set by the Beatles

The Beatles – also known as The Beatles: Stereo Box – is a box set compilation comprising all remastered recordings by English rock band the Beatles. The set was issued on 9 September 2009, along with the remastered mono recordings and companion The Beatles in Mono and The Beatles: Rock Band video game. The remastering project for both mono and stereo versions was led by EMI senior studio engineers Allan Rouse and Guy Massey. The Stereo Box also features a DVD which contains all the short films that are on the CDs in QuickTime format.

Lucy Ward (musician) British musician

Lucy Victoria Ward is an English singer-songwriter from Derby, England. She performs, with a voice described as expressive and powerful, traditional English folk songs as well as her own material. Three of her albums, Adelphi Has to Fly, Single Flame and I Dreamt I Was a Bird, have been critically acclaimed and have each received four-starred reviews in the British national press.

<i>Adelphi Has to Fly</i> 2011 studio album by Lucy Ward

Adelphi Has to Fly, the debut album of British singer-songwriter Lucy Ward, was released in the United Kingdom by Navigator Records on 13 June 2011. It was critically acclaimed and received a four-starred review in The Guardian.

<i>Bright Phoebus</i> 1972 studio album by Lal and Mike Waterson

Bright Phoebus, fully titled Bright Phoebus: Songs by Lal & Mike Waterson, is a folk rock album by Lal and Mike Waterson. It was recorded in May 1972 with musical assistance from various well-known members of the British folk rock scene. The album failed to make an impact on its original release, but it was subsequently championed by many musicians, including Billy Bragg, Arcade Fire, Richard Hawley and Jarvis Cocker. For years the album was difficult to obtain but in 2017, a re-release of Bright Phoebus was announced.

The Rails British folk-rock band

The Rails is a folk rock band from London, England, composed of husband and wife James Walbourne and Kami Thompson. Thompson and Walbourne first met during the recording sessions for Versatile Heart by Thompson's mother Linda Thompson in 2007. The band signed to Island Records in January 2014 and released their debut album on 5 May 2014 on the label's Pink Label imprint, the first band to do so since the 1970s.


  1. "Mainly Norfolk Review" . Retrieved 4 February 2015.
  2. "Topic Records Home page" . Retrieved 23 February 2013.
  3. Three Score and Ten acknowledgements
  4. Holland, Simon (27 July 2009). "David Suff interview with Properganda magazine" . Retrieved 16 February 2015.
  5. Holland, Simon (7 August 2009). "Tony Engle interview for Properganda magazine" . Retrieved 16 February 2015.
  6. "Topic Records 70 Anniversary Concerts" . Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  7. Denselow, Robin (15 September 2009). "Guardian Review of Topic 70th Anniversary Concert with the Waterson Family" . Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  8. 1 2 Denselow, Robin (11 September 2009). "Guardian Review". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 January 2015.
  9. 1 2 "Wordpress summary of reviews" . Retrieved 31 January 2015.
  10. Anderson, Rick. Allmusic Three Score and Ten Review at AllMusic. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  11. Cumming, Tim (October 2009), "World's oldest indie gives itself a birthday present", Songlines Magazine, 63 (October 2009): 72
  12. Spencer, Doug (21 November 2009). "ABC Radio National Review Topic Records:Three Score and Ten" . Retrieved 27 January 2015.
  13. "Relick Mail-Order Site Review" . Retrieved 27 January 2015.
  14. de Lint, Charles. "Green Man Review" . Retrieved 4 February 2015.
  15. "wordpress announcement of fRoots awards to the album" . Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  16. "Topic Records Catalogue notes" . Retrieved 28 January 2015.
  17. "Reg Hall biography". Topic Records. Retrieved 10 February 2015.
  18. Kettle, Martin (21 November 2014). "Will Theresa May toe party line on Desert Island Discs?". Guardian newspaper. Retrieved 28 January 2015.