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He Said, She Said

He Said, She Said (2011)

4.3

May 1, 2012

Tuning / Blend 4.7
Energy / Intensity 4.7
Innovation / Creativity 5.0
Soloists 5.0
Sound / Production 3.7
Repeat Listenability 4.3
Tracks
1 Honeysuckle Rose 4.7
2 One Note Samba 4.3
3 Brandenburg Gate 3.7
4 I Know That You Know 5.0
5 Tanguedia 4.7
6 In the Heart of the Dark 4.7
7 Another One Bites the Dust 3.3
8 Temptation 4.7
9 Let's Go Wild 4.0
10 All the Things You Are 4.3
11 Breaking Us In Two 4.7
12 Milonga del Angel (trio) 5.0

Recorded 2010
Total time: 30:13, 12 songs


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 3
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 Honeysuckle Rose 4
2 One Note Samba 4
3 Brandenburg Gate 3
4 I Know That You Know 5
5 Tanguedia 5
6 In the Heart of the Dark 5
7 Another One Bites the Dust 3
8 Temptation 4
9 Let's Go Wild 4
10 All the Things You Are 4
11 Breaking Us In Two 5
12 Milonga del Angel (trio) 5

Is there a more apt title for an engaging duet album than He Said, She Said? While I have reviewed other tiny "ensembles", other duos have taken advantage of studio tools to double or triple their sound. This is, straight-up, just two voices — singing on words, performing classic jazz scatting, throwing in a touch of vp, pulling apart for wide harmonies, sliding back for the narrowest of harmonies, bumping up against one other in dissonance — but always just the two of them in the purest form: just two voices singing stories and making music. Jazz musicians will appreciate this album, music theorists will want to analyze the structures, but the casual and even more vested a cappella fan may be turned off by the starkness of it all. That'd be a shame, though, since arranger Richard Bob Greene not only has his powerful creativity on full display (just what can you do with only two voices?), the vocal partnership of Angie Doctor and Dan Schumacher is a joy to hear.

I'm sure any a cappella listener will agree on at least these two points: Angie and Dan are wildly skilled to hold their own in the barest of soundscapes with the most challenging of Greene arrangements, and they both sound totally gorgeous yet distinctly unique. I love the steady calmness of Angie's voice, and I'm very impressed with the many tones and approaches Dan can produce: fat, thin, nasally, silky, distant, close (hear all this and more on I Know That You Know). If you want to listen to a professor of his instrument, Dan is a fine example.

Greene arranged the works on He Said, She Said, and while they are extraordinarily impressive pieces that are almost beyond critique, at times I feel like Dan and Angie are singing entrance exams for a master chorale; that is, each "song" could be considered a vocal exercise to test intonation, range, rhythm, and judge style. The challenging jumps in Tanguedia, while cool, particularly remind one of a sight-singing test to weed out good-sounding singers from true musicians. Other songs are more of a snappy ditty than a complete work — I just start settling into Brandenburg Gate when it ends. My only complaint about He Said, She Said is right beside its highest praise: it's difficult to see this album as a complete thematic arc when the arrangements have such strong individuality on their own. It's hard to string these pieces back to back. One example: following the gentle stunner In the Heart of the Dark with a cheeky version of Another One Bites the Dust.

But at the end of the day, albums like He Said, She Said are rare and beautiful. I hope Angie, Dan, and Richard deeply enjoy this success.


Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 5
Tracks
1 Honeysuckle Rose 5
2 One Note Samba 4
3 Brandenburg Gate 4
4 I Know That You Know 5
5 Tanguedia 5
6 In the Heart of the Dark 5
7 Another One Bites the Dust 4
8 Temptation 5
9 Let's Go Wild 4
10 All the Things You Are 4
11 Breaking Us In Two 5
12 Milonga del Angel (trio) 5

The title He Said, She Said gives it all away: this album is a series of male/female duets between Angie Doctor and Dan Schumacher. It feels and sounds very Bobs-like, with good reason: Schumacher is in the quartet, and bass Richard Bob Greene produced and arranged the collection (and adds some low end to Milonga del Angel).

A cappella duets are a bold move: on this album, one voice handles the lead while the other adds a backing melody, leaving both voices sounding quite naked. But it's a testament to Doctor's and Schumacher's voices that they can handle such exposure without seeming thin. Schumacher's lead on Breaking Us In Two is captivating, while Doctor's voice dances behind him with a fast-moving melody. Partway through the song, they switch places, with her lead sounding more plaintive and his backing more grounded.

This approach is common on the album, with Schumacher and Doctor switching leads regularly. There are some wonderful moments here — the jazzy I Know That You Know, with Schumacher's lengthy scat; Doctor's tenderness on the lullaby In the Heart of the Dark; their close harmonies in the intro to All the Things You Are (and, heck, throughout the rest of the album too).

Perhaps the most striking thing about He Said, She Said is that it's just fun to listen to — and it's obvious that Doctor and Schumacher are having fun, too. There's a moment in the last five seconds of Another One Bites the Dust where Doctor giggles in the middle of the song's closing riff, and that imperfection totally makes the song: you can hear the two of them smiling throughout the whole piece, but it all bubbles over in that one moment. Groups striving for a "perfect" recording would've re-recorded that riff, but I'm glad that Doctor and Schumacher didn't: listeners can just tell how much fun these two are having, on this song and throughout the album, and that goes miles towards making this an enjoyable album to listen to.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 Honeysuckle Rose 5
2 One Note Samba 5
3 Brandenburg Gate 4
4 I Know That You Know 5
5 Tanguedia 4
6 In the Heart of the Dark 4
7 Another One Bites the Dust 3
8 Temptation 5
9 Let's Go Wild 4
10 All the Things You Are 5
11 Breaking Us In Two 4
12 Milonga del Angel (trio) 5

What does one write about for a concept album, by members of The Bobs and Clockwork Singers, arranged almost entirely for two unaccompanied voices? It's quite a concept, and I'd trust very few people to pull it off. I'm not going to mince words here — I love this album.

If you've ever heard The Bobs, you know from the first note of He Said, She Said that you're going to hear the same kind of singing - always well blended, expertly tuned, often whimsical, and so precise you sometimes wonder how they do it. This unmistakeable attitude pervades the entire album, and that alone is enough to make the album sound cohesive. Even on incredibly different song styles, you know you're listening to the same two performers. Most of the songs are perfect in length — just long enough for Angie and Dan (and arranger Richard Bob Greene) to sketch out their ideas, and not long enough to bore the listener or lose steam.

Speaking of the album as a whole — if Angie and Dan intended to arrange the album in such a way that it tells a story of some sort, I can't find it. That isn't a terrible thing though; the arc of the album works well enough on its own. Had there also been a story to follow, I might have felt as if I were being beaten over the head with "concept". There's already enough to listen to and listen for when every song only has only two voices on it.

And those two voices! If you want to hear some of the most expressive singing on any a cappella record, vocal jazz or otherwise, listen immediately to Temptation and All the Things You Are. Something about each lead and how the duets gel together is perfect in its simplicity. Then there's the beautiful closing track Milonga Del Angel, a trio with producer Greene on bass.

I'm a little disappointed with the execution of the concept in a few places. Another One Bites the Dust is clearly not only two voices with "no multi-tracking and no overdubbing". A constant (and strangely non-vocal-sounding) 808 kick drum and a stomp-clap backing track accompany Angie and Dan on this track, and while some of the singing is impressive, it doesn't carry the same weight as the rest of the album because of the accompaniment. Similarly less than great are I Know That You Know and Tanguedia, the former because it seems like nothing but a vehicle for (admittedly fantastic) scatting, and the latter because the groove of the song seems stilted and falters in comparison to every other track. These less-than-stellar moments are eclipsed by the other wonderful songs on the album and are really only low points by comparison.

If you want to see what you can do with just two voices and a whole lot of talent, buy this album. If you're looking for really good, interesting music, buy this album.

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