Topic Records is truly one of the world's musical treasures -- a company that has, for 70 years now, gathered, organized, described, and distributed recordings of folk singers, instrumentalists, ensembles, and songwriters from across the British Isles and beyond into Europe. If you've heard the music of the Watersons, Ewan MacColl, Martin Simpson, June Tabor, Eliza Carthy, Dick Gaughan, the Battlefield Band, or Shirley Collins, it's in large part due to the efforts of Topic's small but dedicated staff. Three Score & Ten compiles seven discs of material taken almost (but, weirdly, not entirely) from the Topic catalog and sticks them into the inside front and back covers of a handsome coffee-table book filled with priceless photos and a comprehensive label history. To listen through the whole set is to be both entranced and surprised: those who know the label mainly as a source of traditional English, Irish, and Scottish folk tunes may be a bit startled by the material from its earlier, radical period, and perhaps discomforted by some of that material as well. You don't have to be a card-carrying socialist to sympathize with Pete Seeger's call to union solidarity against fiendish bosses, but given what we know about the realities of the Soviet system it's a bit harder to sit through lusty renditions of "The Internationale" and "The Red Flag" without squirming. Also surprising to some listeners may be the occasional incursions of Eastern European folk melodies into what is largely a program of traditional fiddle tunes, ballads, and music hall fare. But that's a more salutary kind of surprise, and those whose tastes don't run to such foreign exotica will still find an almost overwhelming wealth of what they came to hear: Ewan MacColl making "Sixteen Tons" sound like it was written in Wales during the Thatcher administration (though he recorded it in 1956); piper Seamus Ennis keening his way thrillingly through "The Blackbird"; Brass Monkey reclaiming the village brass band tradition on "The Maid and the Palmer"; and, of course, the Watersons' heartbreaking rendition of the maritime tragedy "Three Score & Ten." Read along in the book while you listen and you'll come away, nearly eight hours later, with both a deeper understanding of the rich and varied folk traditions that Topic is dedicated to preserving and an almost awestruck appreciation for both the breadth and the quality of the label's work over the past seven decades.