Your browser does not support our new site design, so some things might not display or function properly.
We suggest upgrading to Google Chrome, Firefox, or Internet Explorer 9+ for the optimal experience.

The Boston Common

The Boston Common Collective Works (1999)

4.6

March 21, 2000

Tuning / Blend 5.0
Energy / Intensity 4.2
Innovation / Creativity 3.8
Soloists 4.2
Sound / Production 4.6
Repeat Listenability 3.2
Tracks
1 It's a Good Day 4.2
2 If All My Dreams Were Made of Gold 4.2
3 Dancing at the Movie Picture Ball 4.0
4 Little Girl 4.6
5 Imagination 4.2
6 Don't Tell Me the Same Things Over Again 4.2
7 Lida Rose/Till There Was You 4.2
8 Ten Feet Off the Ground 4.0
9 Sentimental Journey 4.8
10 In the Heart of the City 4.4
11 There's Something I Like About Broadway 4.0
12 I Wonder What's Become of Sally 4.4
13 Old Songs Medley 4.4
14 Caroline 4.2
15 There'll Be No New Tunes On This Old Piano 4.6
16 I'm Alone Because I Love You 4.2
17 From the First Hello 4.2
18 We Kinda Miss Those Good Old Songs 4.6
19 What'll I Do 4.4
20 Many Happy Returns of the Day 3.8
21 So Long Dearie 4.2
22 Am I Wasting My Time 4.2
23 I Don't Know Why 4.2
24 Barbershop Strut 4.6
25 My Melancholy Baby 4.6
26 Good Old Days 4.4
27 Who Told You 4.2
28 We Three 4.0
29 Everybody Wants To Go To heaven 4.0
30 Back in Dad and Mother's Day 4.2
31 If There'd Never Been an Ireland 3.8
32 Chattanooga Shoe Shine Boy 4.4
33 Smilin' Through 3.6
34 Every Christmas Morning 4.0
35 Happy Birthday Uncle Sam 4.0
36 Dear Hearts and Gentle People 4.2
37 Roses of Picardy 4.2
38 Sweet Adeline 4.6
39 I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter 4.4
40 Walkin' My Baby Back Home 4.2
41 Anytime 4.6
42 Don't Blame Me 4.2
43 I'll Be a Song and Dance Man Again 4.0
44 You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby 4.2
45 That Old Quartet of Mine 4.8

Recorded 1999
Total time: 122:18, 45 songs


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 3
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 It's a Good Day 4
2 If All My Dreams Were Made of Gold 4
3 Dancing at the Movie Picture Ball 4
4 Little Girl 4
5 Imagination 4
6 Don't Tell Me the Same Things Over Again 4
7 Lida Rose/Till There Was You 4
8 Ten Feet Off the Ground 4
9 Sentimental Journey 4
10 In the Heart of the City 4
11 There's Something I Like About Broadway 4
12 I Wonder What's Become of Sally 4
13 Old Songs Medley 4
14 Caroline 4
15 There'll Be No New Tunes On This Old Piano 4
16 I'm Alone Because I Love You 4
17 From the First Hello 4
18 We Kinda Miss Those Good Old Songs 4
19 What'll I Do 4
20 Many Happy Returns of the Day 4
21 So Long Dearie 4
22 Am I Wasting My Time 4
23 I Don't Know Why 4
24 Barbershop Strut 4
25 My Melancholy Baby 4
26 Good Old Days 4
27 Who Told You 4
28 We Three 4
29 Everybody Wants To Go To heaven 4
30 Back in Dad and Mother's Day 4
31 If There'd Never Been an Ireland 4
32 Chattanooga Shoe Shine Boy 4
33 Smilin' Through 4
34 Every Christmas Morning 4
35 Happy Birthday Uncle Sam 4
36 Dear Hearts and Gentle People 4
37 Roses of Picardy 4
38 Sweet Adeline 5
39 I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter 4
40 Walkin' My Baby Back Home 4
41 Anytime 4
42 Don't Blame Me 4
43 I'll Be a Song and Dance Man Again 4
44 You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby 4
45 That Old Quartet of Mine 5

Barbershop fans rejoice! The album I have just been listening to (The Boston Common Collective Works) is a bag filled with gold nuggets of barbershop goodness. It is a two-disc collection of the recordings of The BC that is worth every penny. This album is a retrospective that includes not just the songs and sounds that made The BC famous, but it has a booklet that tells the history of the quartet as well.

The BC recordings really show off the silky blend and the strength they were so well known for. It is hard to pick out songs that stand out to talk about, because they are all just wonderful examples of their style and ability. The group has a unique sound and style that is reminiscent of the classic turn-of-the-century recordings, but with a silky and polished feeling that is not just differences in recording technology. They did not sing with the same sort of zippy, powerly dynamic style of a quartet such as The Gas House Gang or the humor and pizzazz of Fred, but that is not a detriment, believe me! They stand on their own with a sound that I would call classically swank.

It is hard to lose with an album such as this if you like or love barbershop. It may hit you in the wallet a bit, but who cares? What were you planning on buying, some college album? Nyah, get the real stuff.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 2
Tracks
1 It's a Good Day 4
2 If All My Dreams Were Made of Gold 4
3 Dancing at the Movie Picture Ball 4
4 Little Girl 5
5 Imagination 4
6 Don't Tell Me the Same Things Over Again 3
7 Lida Rose/Till There Was You 4
8 Ten Feet Off the Ground 3
9 Sentimental Journey 5
10 In the Heart of the City 4
11 There's Something I Like About Broadway 3
12 I Wonder What's Become of Sally 3
13 Old Songs Medley 5
14 Caroline 4
15 There'll Be No New Tunes On This Old Piano 4
16 I'm Alone Because I Love You 5
17 From the First Hello 4
18 We Kinda Miss Those Good Old Songs 5
19 What'll I Do 4
20 Many Happy Returns of the Day 3
21 So Long Dearie 4
22 Am I Wasting My Time 4
23 I Don't Know Why 4
24 Barbershop Strut 5
25 My Melancholy Baby 5
26 Good Old Days 5
27 Who Told You 4
28 We Three 3
29 Everybody Wants To Go To heaven 4
30 Back in Dad and Mother's Day 4
31 If There'd Never Been an Ireland 3
32 Chattanooga Shoe Shine Boy 4
33 Smilin' Through 3
34 Every Christmas Morning 4
35 Happy Birthday Uncle Sam 3
36 Dear Hearts and Gentle People 3
37 Roses of Picardy 4
38 Sweet Adeline 5
39 I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter 4
40 Walkin' My Baby Back Home 4
41 Anytime 4
42 Don't Blame Me 4
43 I'll Be a Song and Dance Man Again 4
44 You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby 4
45 That Old Quartet of Mine 5

I am not a big barbershop fan, but I am certainly impressed by those who can pull it off. For Boston Common, "pull it off" doesn't even begin to cut it. With some groups, discussion of tuning is required; with this long-associating foursome, I feel hesitant even to comment — the tuning is dead on. Despite the group's stance against SPEBSQSA coaching/judging (outlined in the very interesting notes), "that ring" is certainly present on chord after chord. Perhaps because of their somewhat political position, to my ear the group manages to avoid some of the schmaltz endemic to barbershop and settles in for solid harmony.

They turn as well to a rather wide range of interpretation, from "aw shucks" nostalgia to a more touching and heartfelt regret at songs and times past. As a listener I feel almost privileged to have been let in on this retrospective, and certainly delighted to hear songs approached with such aplomb, a measure of humor and the aforementioned frequent musing over the past.

What knocks this album down a notch in a couple of categories for me is its barbershop nature: although there is variation there is only so much; since I am somewhat unfamiliar with the idiom, what claims the group might make to innovation unfortunately pass me by; and similarly the energy only ever reaches a moderate pitch (as is appropriate). Probably fantastic in its field, this album receives a low repeat listenability because I simply can't listen to barbershop for more than a little while, once in a long while.

For fans of the field, this must be a great album. For those who are unfamiliar with barbershop, it's still a great album, and seemingly a good introduction to some of that style of singing's rich history.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 3
Tracks
1 It's a Good Day 5
2 If All My Dreams Were Made of Gold 5
3 Dancing at the Movie Picture Ball 4
4 Little Girl 5
5 Imagination 4
6 Don't Tell Me the Same Things Over Again 5
7 Lida Rose/Till There Was You 5
8 Ten Feet Off the Ground 5
9 Sentimental Journey 5
10 In the Heart of the City 5
11 There's Something I Like About Broadway 4
12 I Wonder What's Become of Sally 5
13 Old Songs Medley 5
14 Caroline 5
15 There'll Be No New Tunes On This Old Piano 5
16 I'm Alone Because I Love You 4
17 From the First Hello 5
18 We Kinda Miss Those Good Old Songs 5
19 What'll I Do 4
20 Many Happy Returns of the Day 4
21 So Long Dearie 5
22 Am I Wasting My Time 5
23 I Don't Know Why 5
24 Barbershop Strut 4
25 My Melancholy Baby 5
26 Good Old Days 5
27 Who Told You 5
28 We Three 5
29 Everybody Wants To Go To heaven 4
30 Back in Dad and Mother's Day 5
31 If There'd Never Been an Ireland 5
32 Chattanooga Shoe Shine Boy 5
33 Smilin' Through 4
34 Every Christmas Morning 5
35 Happy Birthday Uncle Sam 4
36 Dear Hearts and Gentle People 5
37 Roses of Picardy 5
38 Sweet Adeline 5
39 I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter 5
40 Walkin' My Baby Back Home 4
41 Anytime 5
42 Don't Blame Me 5
43 I'll Be a Song and Dance Man Again 4
44 You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby 5
45 That Old Quartet of Mine 5

The beauty of doing a job like this is when I am forced to sit and listen to genres of music that I would not normally choose on my own, and then finding that the recordings have such an inherent beauty that I am grateful for the opportunity. Such is the case of the recent release of collected works from the SPEBSQSA 1980 National Champions, Boston Common.

Not for the faint of heart, this 2-CD collection contains 45 tracks. However, each and every track adds to the mystique that these four men put forth for over 20 years. The phrasing alone is enough to appreciate the music, as the quartet never followed a cookie cutter path in delivering a line. And as for my little quirks of tuning, blend, and beat...forget about it! There's a reason why a collection like THIS was put together by a group with a long and distinguished history, so beautifully detailed in the album package.

For those that are not barbershop fans, such as myself, get over yourself and buy this collection. It is well worth the time, even in short doses, to listen to the finished products and think "Damn!!!". Otherwise, you'll be kicking yourself, thinking "damn".

For the diehard, you should already have this package...so there is no message.

Lastly, to teachers that may be reading this...in this era where school funds are being cut for music programs while studies are coming out linking music education and performance in school, this is such an easy way to teach kids about the arts because the music is so accessible to kids. Who knows? Maybe one of your students could grow into the next era of barbershop. At the


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 3
Innovation / Creativity 3
Soloists 3
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 2
Tracks
1 It's a Good Day 3
2 If All My Dreams Were Made of Gold 3
3 Dancing at the Movie Picture Ball 3
4 Little Girl 4
5 Imagination 4
6 Don't Tell Me the Same Things Over Again 4
7 Lida Rose/Till There Was You 3
8 Ten Feet Off the Ground 3
9 Sentimental Journey 5
10 In the Heart of the City 4
11 There's Something I Like About Broadway 4
12 I Wonder What's Become of Sally 5
13 Old Songs Medley 3
14 Caroline 3
15 There'll Be No New Tunes On This Old Piano 5
16 I'm Alone Because I Love You 3
17 From the First Hello 3
18 We Kinda Miss Those Good Old Songs 4
19 What'll I Do 5
20 Many Happy Returns of the Day 3
21 So Long Dearie 3
22 Am I Wasting My Time 3
23 I Don't Know Why 3
24 Barbershop Strut 5
25 My Melancholy Baby 4
26 Good Old Days 3
27 Who Told You 3
28 We Three 3
29 Everybody Wants To Go To heaven 3
30 Back in Dad and Mother's Day 3
31 If There'd Never Been an Ireland 2
32 Chattanooga Shoe Shine Boy 4
33 Smilin' Through 2
34 Every Christmas Morning 2
35 Happy Birthday Uncle Sam 4
36 Dear Hearts and Gentle People 4
37 Roses of Picardy 3
38 Sweet Adeline 3
39 I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter 4
40 Walkin' My Baby Back Home 4
41 Anytime 5
42 Don't Blame Me 3
43 I'll Be a Song and Dance Man Again 3
44 You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby 3
45 That Old Quartet of Mine 4

While trying to review this album, I've come up against some serious road blocks. Questions that render my RARB world asunder, if you will. Do we, as RARB reviewers, give opinions on what we think is good, or do we give opinions based on what we like? The conscientious reader will note that RARB places a scoring chart at the top of every review published. 1=poor, 2=fair, 3=average, 4=good, 5=excellent. Seeing as all reviews will inevitably be personal and subjective, what determines how an album qualifies for any of the above criteria?

Take this album. Collective Works is a good, if not excellent album, in terms of musicianship and what apparently makes for championship barbershop. But did I like it? Nope. And that's my opinion, right? So who's to say how I score the album? (Barbershop enthusiasts, feel free to feel outraged at my callousness and my lack of appreciation for the musical style.) I mean, I would be the first to point out that I'm hardly a specialist in the field, but I'm sorry — was that just 45 tracks or the same song on repeat? Just like your parents may not be able to distinguish between the one zillion pop/R&B tunes out there today ("What do you mean all rap songs sound alike??!?!?"), I had a hard time telling Who Told You and We Three apart.

On a strictly technical note, the tuning is impeccable (I'd hope so, with 4-part harmony!), diction and vowel-shaping are spot on (no trouble figuring out what they were saying). From the liner notes, Boston Common are obviously hugely respected and admired for their talent — and the professionalism of their packaging very nicely compliments that reputation. As a matter of fact, there are at least a few songs that are catchy and almost fun to listen to: Anytime, Barbershop Strut, and I Wonder What's Become of Sally pop into mind, but as a whole, the mood of the two discs was almost impenetrably melancholy. And slow.

Attack me if you will, but as my friend Ethan Rikleen pointed out, if you had to review a "contemporary" album in which there were 45 tracks where nearly all of the songs were arranged in the same straight 4-part harmony style, you would find it a little grating too, wouldn't you? So why hold barbershop to a different standard? Another problem I have with the arrangement style is that too often the melody of the song is drowned out by the other harmony parts. Maybe it's a mixing issue, but only when a song like Sentimental Journey (solo takes the lead, other parts hum) plays do I finally get to relax and actually enjoy the music because I can actually hum along with a tune instead of scramble my way through a chorus of parts.

So how do I score an album that is technically strong but had me digging my nails into my flesh to stay awake? How about this. I'll give it an ambiguous score and if you really want to know, you can borrow the discs from me and decide for yourself.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 5
Tracks
1 It's a Good Day 5
2 If All My Dreams Were Made of Gold 5
3 Dancing at the Movie Picture Ball 5
4 Little Girl 5
5 Imagination 5
6 Don't Tell Me the Same Things Over Again 5
7 Lida Rose/Till There Was You 5
8 Ten Feet Off the Ground 5
9 Sentimental Journey 5
10 In the Heart of the City 5
11 There's Something I Like About Broadway 5
12 I Wonder What's Become of Sally 5
13 Old Songs Medley 5
14 Caroline 5
15 There'll Be No New Tunes On This Old Piano 5
16 I'm Alone Because I Love You 5
17 From the First Hello 5
18 We Kinda Miss Those Good Old Songs 5
19 What'll I Do 5
20 Many Happy Returns of the Day 5
21 So Long Dearie 5
22 Am I Wasting My Time 5
23 I Don't Know Why 5
24 Barbershop Strut 5
25 My Melancholy Baby 5
26 Good Old Days 5
27 Who Told You 5
28 We Three 5
29 Everybody Wants To Go To heaven 5
30 Back in Dad and Mother's Day 5
31 If There'd Never Been an Ireland 5
32 Chattanooga Shoe Shine Boy 5
33 Smilin' Through 5
34 Every Christmas Morning 5
35 Happy Birthday Uncle Sam 5
36 Dear Hearts and Gentle People 5
37 Roses of Picardy 5
38 Sweet Adeline 5
39 I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter 5
40 Walkin' My Baby Back Home 5
41 Anytime 5
42 Don't Blame Me 5
43 I'll Be a Song and Dance Man Again 5
44 You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby 5
45 That Old Quartet of Mine 5

From beginning to end, The Boston Common's Collective Works is an amazing piece of work. The Boston Common, an exquisite barbershop quartet that started in 1971 and sang into the 1990s, has put together a two-CD set of their collected works. Let me tell you that this is a lot of music to go through (45 tracks) but it definitely was a pleasure to listen to.

Their tuning is impeccable (as any International Champion quartet should be), their arrangements are all original (very uncommon at the time), and their dynamics are really breathtaking. The Boston Common sing with the most easy-going feeling I've ever encountered in any group, of any kind. If you understand the idea of "comfy music" then you'll understand these recordings. The sound is so tight yet so laid back that I could just put these CDs on, lay down on the couch with a good book and spend a nice afternoon in (something rare around my place). I'm particularly fond of In The Heart of the City (disc 1, track 10).

The production quality of these albums are the finest around. The sound is very clean and pure. The cardboard case (good for the environment, highly recommended) and booklet are very well designed in a classic style. At a price of $60 (listed on the case), not everyone is going run quickly to the phone and call SPEBSQSA to place an order. In any case, if you are seeking out the very finest in close-harmony recordings, this is the set for you.

Advertisement

How To Get Your Work Reviewed

To have your album (2 or more tracks) reviewed by RARB, please email us with your name, group name and album title. You will receive a response with information on how to register your album in our system.

To have your digital single reviewed by RARB, please fill out our online singles registration form.

×

Ordering Information

House of Commons
111 Summer Street
Hingham, Massachusetts 02043
$60 plus $2.50 SH per two CD set

×