Martin Carthy stands alone as one of the great figures of the English folk revival, but also can take a lot of credit for folk rock since 1970. This box is an excellent selection for Carthy enthusiasts, but is maybe not ideal for newcomers. It covers a broad sweep of his career to date, and features a lot of live performances and other 'alternate' versions of favorite songs.
I'd have given it five stars anyway, had it not been for some unfortunate choices on 'Carthy Contemporaries', where we get some hootenanny-era embarrassments that he'd probably have preferred to see buried in the vaults forever and a day-O. Better to have dumped half of this particular 'theme' CD and replaced it with more traditional material, of which there is, after all, a vast abundance. But that's just a personal take: nt everyone shares my taste for gloomy ballads and razorsharp playing, perhaps.
For beginners, you can't do better than the first two albums, both out on CD. Those, plus the third, "Byker Hill" feature the unsurpassable Dave Swarbrick on violin and mandolin, and are absolute classics, by any criteria, whatever your musical taste.
But if you want to see him in all his various incarnations: folk club strummer, then inventor of a new way of playing guitar (loosely derived from Davy Graham), followed by stints with Steeleye Span, The Watersons, Brass Monkey, and various other projects, this is a very good place to start. You can't fault him for not being musically adventurous! Some of the obscure stuff is quite astounding, but he's always at his best on 'big ballads.' Try 'Prince Heathen' or 'Famous Flower of Serving Men' for more obscure examples of this art, both with quite amazing guitar backing.