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Spirit

The Gift of...Lullabyes, Lollipops & Love (1999)

3.2

January 8, 2000

Tuning / Blend 4.4
Energy / Intensity 2.8
Innovation / Creativity 2.8
Soloists 3.4
Sound / Production 3.8
Repeat Listenability 2.4
Tracks
1 When You Wish Upon A Star 3.8
2 The Teddy Bears' Picnic 3.4
3 Rhythm of The Rain 3.4
4 Lollipop 2.6
5 In My Room 3.2
6 Lullabye (Goodnight My Angel) 3.2
7 Sisters 2.6
8 The Longest Time 2.6
9 Smile 3.4
10 Bridge Over Troubled Water 2.8
11 Goodnight 3.2
12 The Gift 3.6

Recorded 1998 – 1999
Total time: 33:23, 12 songs


Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 3
Innovation / Creativity 3
Soloists 3
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 2
Tracks
1 When You Wish Upon A Star 4
2 The Teddy Bears' Picnic 3
3 Rhythm of The Rain 4
4 Lollipop 2
5 In My Room 3
6 Lullabye (Goodnight My Angel) 4
7 Sisters 3
8 The Longest Time 3
9 Smile 4
10 Bridge Over Troubled Water 3
11 Goodnight 3
12 The Gift 3

Lullabyes, Lollipops & Love is apparently a children's album, though Spirit doesn't explicitly state that anywhere on the CD packaging. I think Spirit is wise in that regard, because even though there are some obviously child-oriented songs (Teddy Bears' Picnic especially), like their holiday album for children, this CD comes off as more appealing to parents or grandparents than to children.

Of the three categories of songs hinted at in the album's title, Spirit is most successful with the lullabyes. For very young children, I can imagine songs like When You Wish Upon a Star, Lullabye (Goodnight My Angel), and Smile being soothing for parent and child alike. I mean this in the best possible way — these songs certainly fit the lullabye mode, but they've got varied dynamics, nice phrasing, and a warm blend.

As with the last Spirit album I reviewed (Un-plugged Holiday Music), quite a few tracks on this album are not a cappella. This time, half of the tracks are accompanied, but unlike last time, when the accompanied tracks were largely contemporary solo/duet pieces, my problem with these tracks is that most of them could easily be made a cappella and would sound better if they were! Both Lollipop and In My Room are accompanied by what sounds like a decade-old Casiotone keyboard. Lollipop, especially, could have been made a cappella, since the accompaniment consists of a bassline and percussion that the men of the group could have undertaken instead of sitting out. Bridge Over Troubled Water begins promisingly, with an unexpected Lean On Me-esque a cappella opening, but then the accompaniment joins in, and it goes on to sound just like you'd expect a choral arrangement of Bridge Over Troubled Water to sound.

Lullabyes, Lollipops, & Love has a few nice moments, but I'm not quite sure who to recommend it to. The album does function pretty well as a children's album, but I'm guessing it would be less appealing to older kids, meaning any who have discovered the Spice Girls, B*witched, or whatever the current flavor of the moment is. As with most of Spirit's other albums, this would make pretty good background music for grandparents babysitting their grandchildren.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 3
Innovation / Creativity 3
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 2
Tracks
1 When You Wish Upon A Star 4
2 The Teddy Bears' Picnic 4
3 Rhythm of The Rain 3
4 Lollipop 3
5 In My Room 3
6 Lullabye (Goodnight My Angel) 3
7 Sisters 3
8 The Longest Time 3
9 Smile 3
10 Bridge Over Troubled Water 3
11 Goodnight 3
12 The Gift 4

Stand Back! Here comes Spirit again! This time, it is a supposed collection of Lullabyes, Lollipops & Love. And, in a way that is exactly what it is... sort of. What we've got here is the professional group taking lots of popular doo-wop and other pop songs and arranging them as lullabyes. So you know what that means, don't you? There must be a Billy Joel song on here somewhere... now, where is it? Ah! Here it is, or rather here THEY are! Spirit sings the song Lullabye (Goodnight My Angel), as well as (the favorite of most high school and college groups) The Longest Time. They are good, but not some of the best performances I have heard of the songs.

If you have ever heard Spirit, you know that the group is a tight sounding mixed group from Kansas that has the propensity to perform schmaltzy music. Not everybody is going to go for the kind of music Spirit performs, but there are plenty of people who might. And they certainly do it well, and the production is spotless. It just is not always the sort of stuff that young people nowadays like to hear. For me, this is the kind of music that I think my mother would really enjoy listening to, but it doesn't do a lot for me. It would be background music at a holiday party for me. Its pretty, and it is technically wonderful, but it does not move me. Maybe when I am older or when I feel nostalgic (whichever comes first).

Along with the Billy Joel songs, there is a Beatles tune, something from Irving Berlin (a Kirby Shaw arrangement), Simon & Garfunkel, and even a Beach Boys number. They are all lovely in their own way, but none of them really grab your attention. I guess if this is the kind of stuff you want out of your a cappella (and not all of the songs are even a cappella on this album) then get it, and other Spirit albums. If not... I think you get the gist of it.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 3
Innovation / Creativity 3
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 3
Repeat Listenability 3
Tracks
1 When You Wish Upon A Star 4
2 The Teddy Bears' Picnic 3
3 Rhythm of The Rain 5
4 Lollipop 3
5 In My Room 4
6 Lullabye (Goodnight My Angel) 3
7 Sisters 3
8 The Longest Time 3
9 Smile 4
10 Bridge Over Troubled Water 3
11 Goodnight 3
12 The Gift 4

If the title doesn't tell you, this CD by Spirit is full of saccharin-filled music, canned keyboards, and schmoozy singing. However, when you're looking for sweet sounds to lull a child to sleep, this CD would be a brilliant addition to a collection.

As always, the singers in Spirit have well crafted voices that carry the music accurately and in tune, but there is a missing passion or underlying driving force that is missing from this music. It's as if the group needs to close their eyes and let the music carry them as opposed to the other way around. There's no excitement, no oomph in any of these songs. There is real beauty, especially in songs like Smile. Bridge Over Troubled Water could easily have been done a cappella, because it's a funkier, gospel-like arrangement of the song. (Side note: I was in a group that did this version completely a cappella...so Spirit, don't sell yourselves short!)

All of the songs are either completely a cappella or with piano, so the group is featuring their voices much more than on other of their albums. However, with so much chordal singing (oohs/aahs under a solo) the group really needs to expand their creativity, such as on the song Rhythm Of The Rain. Once they accept the fact that they are capable singers who can do more than a few syllables and rhythms, their music will take off.


Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 3
Innovation / Creativity 3
Soloists 3
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 3
Tracks
1 When You Wish Upon A Star 3
2 The Teddy Bears' Picnic 4
3 Rhythm of The Rain 3
4 Lollipop 4
5 In My Room 3
6 Lullabye (Goodnight My Angel) 2
7 Sisters 3
8 The Longest Time 2
9 Smile 3
10 Bridge Over Troubled Water 3
11 Goodnight 3
12 The Gift 3

An album of music made with children in mind, Lullabyes is very whimsical but always solidly musical. Thanks to Spirit's tried and tender approach, there is only a hint of cute and hardly any kitsch, both dangers where children's music is concerned. As much as possibly on an album of this kind, Spirit sings with aplomb and, appropriately, with what sounds like a smile.

As on the group's other albums, the harmony is quite tight. As usual as well, interpretation is fairly understated, tending towards muted and, unfortunately, sometimes bland. This is particularly true on the covers of pop songs (Lullabye, Bridge over Troubled Water) which suffer somewhat from the child-minded approach. This is in fact my biggest problem with the album: it is boring.

Of course persons such as myself are not the intended audience of this sort of music, this sort of approach to particular songs and (at least not usually) whimsy of any kind. Lullabyes probably would find much favor among the smaller crowd, and could be a gentle way of introducing them to the wider world of a cappella. That said, however, I would also stress that Spirit is remarkably retrograde in the context of contemporary a cappella, maintaining old-school standards and sounds while many other groups embrace often frantically new styles. Again, then, this album could do quite well by children, and as an album of children's music it is recommendable. As an a cappella album in general, it is mostly uninteresting.


Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 2
Innovation / Creativity 2
Soloists 3
Sound / Production 3
Repeat Listenability 2
Tracks
1 When You Wish Upon A Star 4
2 The Teddy Bears' Picnic 3
3 Rhythm of The Rain 2
4 Lollipop 1
5 In My Room 3
6 Lullabye (Goodnight My Angel) 4
7 Sisters 1
8 The Longest Time 2
9 Smile 3
10 Bridge Over Troubled Water 2
11 Goodnight 4
12 The Gift 4

The Gift of Lullabyes, Lollipops & Love is, after all, a fund-raising effort by Spirit. So keep in mind, if you do buy this album, it will benefit children's charities, as is the case with all Spirit recordings. So, high marks from me for the obvious effort of love and generosity that goes into this and each Spirit album.

Overall, low marks from me for the music, though. First of all, note well that six of the twelve songs on this album include accompaniment, ranging from some very nice oboe and harp work on The Gift, to what I can only describe as hideous-canned-70's-organ-music on Lollipop.

Spirit sings very well at times, showing excellent blend, balance, tuning and phrasing on the choral jazz arrangements, particularly When You Wish Upon a Star and Smile. They are clearly at their best when performing well-arranged, traditional choral stuff. Billy Joel's Lullabye (Goodnight My Angel) and a sweet Goodnight both benefit from the smooth Spirit sound, at times a little reminiscent of Singers Unlimited, with lots of overdubbing to make nine performers sound like 24. This is particularly the case with the Beach Boys cover, In My Room.

And then there are tracks on this album that make me cringe. Kind of like when you are at church and the adult choir tries to do something gospel-like. If you've ever been there, you know what I mean. You kind of feel awkward for them, because they clearly don't get it, they're just not in the groove. (Well, at least, that was the way it was at my church.) Bridge Over Troubled Water is a glaring example of this, and the same can be said for another Billy Joel cover, The Longest Time. Square. I highly recommend they look into some workshops on relaxing their diction, and rhythm, when performing tunes from the pop repertoire.

This album is a hit or miss affair. The Gift, a very nice husband/wife duet buried at the end of the album, is offset by Sisters. Sisters, the all-female track, includes many missed notes, poor unisons and missed cut-offs. I would like to see Spirit play more to their strengths, singing lush choral pieces, and less to their weaknesses.


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Ordering Information

You can reach the group any of several ways:

email
Carnakks@aol.com
web
http://www.fundraisingspirit.com/
phone
800-222-0400 or 316-686-1537 ext 3208
mail
Spirit Inc
8629 Shannon Way
Wichita, Kansas 67206

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