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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Don Mather, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf, Glyn Pursglove



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TAKE 6

The Standard

Heads Up HUCD 3142

 

 



1. Sweet Georgia Brown
2. Straighten Up and Fly Right
3. Seven Steps to Heaven
4. Windmills of Your Mind
5. Someone to Watch Over Me
6. Grace (pre-prise)
7. Back to You
8. A-Tisket A-Tasket
9. Bein' Green
10. Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?
11. What's Going On
12. Shall We Gather at the River
13. Grace

 

Take 6: Claude McKnight, Mark Kibble, David Thomas, Joey Kibble, Cedric Dent, Alvin Chea - Vocals
George Benson - Vocals, guitar (track 2)
Jon Hendricks, Al Jarreau - Vocals (track 3)
Till Bronner - Flugelhorn (track 3)
Shelea Frazier - Vocals (track 5)
Roy Hargrove - Trumpet (track 5)
Miles Robertson - Keyboards (track 5)
Mark Bowers - Guitar (track 5)
Mark Kelley - Bass (track 5)
Butter - Drums (track 5)
Jamaal Andrews - Bass (track 7)
Khristian Dentley - Instruments (track 7)
Ella Fitzgerald - Vocals (track 8)
Cedric Dent - Piano. keyboards (tracks 9, 13)
Aaron Neville - Vocals (track 10)
Brian McKnight - Vocals (track 11)
Jimmie "JJ"Hodges Jr. - Drums (track 13)

 

 

In the current karaoke world, most people seem to think they can sing. But if you want to hear real singing, get this new album from one of the finest a cappella groups. Take 6 is a sextet which was formed in the 1980s by Claude McKnight and, despite personnel changes, they have maintained a strong reputation for vocal excellence. On this new CD they mainly tackle jazz standards (hence the title) and show that they can not only sing in perfect harmony but that they can breathe new life into the oldest material.

Sweet Georgia Brown, for starters, is so familiar as to be hackneyed but it comes up fresh and sparkling, thanks to the imaginative arrangement which includes whistling by Mark Kibble. Guests add variety to the album, with George Benson donating his skills as guitarist and vocalist to Straighten Up and Fly Right.

Seven Steps to Heaven is one of the CD's highest highlights, a catchy tune by Victor Feldman and Miles Davis to which Jon Hendricks has added lyrics. Hendricks perceptively noticed that the tune's basic melody consists of seven notes, which allows the singers to count the seven steps up to heaven and back again. Al Jarreau gabbles some incomprehensible words faster than a Gilbert & Sullivan patter song but Take 6's harmonies raise this section from mystifying to heavenly.

Windmills of Your Mind leaves the six vocalists to make their own music, staying perfectly in tune on the difficult changes, mixing together a varied palette of solo and choral voices. Shelea Frazier is the excellent lead vocalist in Someone to Watch Over Me, with high-flying trumpeter Roy Hargrove and a rhythm section augmenting Take 6's warm backing.

Track 6 is a brief preview of track 13, Grace - a Quincy Jones composition which is treated to some sublime harmonies. Back to You was written by the group's Claude McKnight and he is probably the one who contributes the moving near-falsetto singing. A-Tisket A-Tasket skilfully adds Ella Fitzgerald's original hit vocals to Take 6's harmonising. Bein' Green is the well-known Muppets song about the joys of being verdant. Cedric Dent supplies the froggy voice and a topical reference unexpectedly appears at the end with the words: "Wouldn't it be something if one day the country had a green president - hmmm, a president of colour!"

Guest singer Aaron Neville - the best-known of the Neville Brothers - makes Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans? another highspot. The New Orleans-born singer tremulously and poignantly expresses his sadness at the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina (in which Aaron's own house was destroyed). Take 6 use their voices to imitate a New Orleans street band as appropriate accompaniment.

Brian McKnight (Claude's brother) pays homage to Marvin Gaye by interpreting Marvin's song What's Going On in a style that evokes its originator. Shall We Gather at the River brings Take 6 back to their gospel roots and is sung in memory of the late Gene Puerling, leader and arranger for two other notable vocal groups: the Hi-Los and Singers Unlimited. Here and throughout the album, Take 6's vocalising is so impeccable and brilliantly harmonised that it takes one's breath away. These guys really can sing - and you should listen!

Tony Augarde

 

 

 



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