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Five Live

Take Two (2000)

4.3

September 28, 2001

Tuning / Blend 5.0
Energy / Intensity 4.0
Innovation / Creativity 4.0
Soloists 4.0
Sound / Production 4.3
Repeat Listenability 3.7
Tracks
1 Boy From New York City 5.0
2 Besame Mucho 3.7
3 Overture from "The Marriage of Figaro" 4.7
4 Don't Worry, Be Happy 3.3
5 Uptown Girl 4.0
6 Piaf Medley 4.3
7 Volare 4.3
8 Baby You Can Drive My Car 4.0
9 Yesterday 3.3
10 Sir Duke 3.7
11 Send in the Clowns 4.3
12 The Winner Takes It All 3.3
13 Vem Kan Segla 3.7
14 Bambaleo 4.3

Recorded 2000
Total time: 42:21, 14 songs


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 3
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 3
Tracks
1 Boy From New York City 5
2 Besame Mucho 4
3 Overture from "The Marriage of Figaro" 5
4 Don't Worry, Be Happy 3
5 Uptown Girl 4
6 Piaf Medley 5
7 Volare 5
8 Baby You Can Drive My Car 3
9 Yesterday 4
10 Sir Duke 4
11 Send in the Clowns 5
12 The Winner Takes It All 4
13 Vem Kan Segla 4
14 Bambaleo 5

The tuning on this album is so disgustingly good I couldn't believe it. The pitches are blended so nauseatingly well together that you think it's one person instead of five. This album is gross...in a good way. Honestly, you could give me five instruments, a keyboard, and an hour, and I couldn't tune them together as well as these singers do it on the fly. The words "seamless blend" were created for this group, and they do the words proud.

I began wondering, how could this be? Then I checked out their website and realized that they're all alumni of the Swingle Singers. I get it now. Enough said.

This is a first class project with quality singing and moving moments. Most of the tracks that I liked the best were the ones where I had no clue what they were saying (Piaf Medley, Volare, and Besame Mucho). The standard pop/rock tracks that they tried, with Boy from New York City the exception, came across as square and almost comical. Maybe it's just my point of view, as a 23-year-old bachelor living in a big metropolitan area, but I felt like I was listening to my parents trying to be cool singing the songs that I know. We've all seen our parents do it. They're hip...they're jiggy...riiiiiight.

Because of my aforementioned problem with the "cool parents syndrome" in the pop/rock songs, and the fact that the songs that I did like were very intelligent musical pieces compared to the usual stuff I'll throw in, I was torn between giving this album a 5 and a 1 for repeat listenability. So I compromised to a 3, but don't let the number fool you. For some of you, this is an easy 5, but for others it's a definite 1. For those of you who, like me, sit on both sides of the musical fence, it's a solid 3.

Five Live is a terrific group. They've studied their craft and presented it to the world in a masterful disc titled Take Two. They've given the a cappella world a present; now go get your greedy little hands on it.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 3
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 3
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 Boy From New York City 5
2 Besame Mucho 3
3 Overture from "The Marriage of Figaro" 4
4 Don't Worry, Be Happy 3
5 Uptown Girl 4
6 Piaf Medley 3
7 Volare 4
8 Baby You Can Drive My Car 5
9 Yesterday 2
10 Sir Duke 3
11 Send in the Clowns 3
12 The Winner Takes It All 3
13 Vem Kan Segla 3
14 Bambaleo 4

Five Live's Take Two impresses right off the bat, with a tight, ringing rendition of Boy From New York City. But while this track and a few others lift Five Live above the hordes of semi-pro party singers, a handful of less imaginative clunkers pull them right back to earth.

The group's impeccable tuning cannot be denied. I've never heard Uptown Girl with an almost barbershop-like ring, and Baby You Can Drive My Car matches the opener for energy and creativity.

Carol Canning and Ben Parry challenge their group with exceptional arrangements, including Parry's hilarious Marriage of Figaro, and Canning demonstrates impressive flexibility by moving from the freneticism of Bambaleo to the more subdued Piaf Medley. Unfortunately, "doo-doo" backgrounds prevail on Send in the Clowns, Yesterday, and Winner Takes It All, sounding a little too bland and college-like for a group this talented.

I wish they had left those last three in the request section of their show, and leaned a little more on the imaginative choices that make up the rest of the album — I was half-expecting The Rose or Java Jive to pop up. Five Live has the singing part covered. If they can keep matching good songs to the good arrangements, they'll make the album they deserve.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 Boy From New York City 5
2 Besame Mucho 4
3 Overture from "The Marriage of Figaro" 5
4 Don't Worry, Be Happy 4
5 Uptown Girl 4
6 Piaf Medley 5
7 Volare 4
8 Baby You Can Drive My Car 4
9 Yesterday 4
10 Sir Duke 4
11 Send in the Clowns 5
12 The Winner Takes It All 3
13 Vem Kan Segla 4
14 Bambaleo 4

Wanna hear five people singing great a cappella in five languages? Then get hold of a copy of Five Live's newest CD, Take Two.

This is a really polished album with a wide variety of music from around the world. The voices blend beautifully, but have sufficient variety of tone and texture to avoid that sense of sameness that plagues many a cappella albums.

My very favorite track was Overture from "The Marriage of Figaro". Five Live takes a well known piece of classical music, reproduce it masterfully with their voices, and give it a whole new spin with quirky lyrics about the composer (Mozart, of course), his composition techniques, and argue about who gets to sing "the best bit". Kudos to Ben Parry on this great arrangement.

All of the voices are very accomplished. Send in the Clowns demonstrates the true beauty of soprano Sarah Eyden. Alto Carol Canning has the most unusual full quality to her voice, which is very appealing. In Besame Mucho, she sounds very much like a male falsetto in tone — had me fooled until I read the CD liner. She also arranged nine of the fourteen songs on the album. Ben Parry and Andy Busher demonstrate great vocal dexterity with several terrific solos.

Bass David Porter Thomas is possibly the most talented singer — basses are the unsung heros of the a cappella world. You never find him standing out of the mix. His solid, smooth sound totally supports the upper voices without ever intruding on the overall sound, yet you never wish for more bass — this is the sign of a master.

The only real disappointment for me was in ABBA's The Winner Takes It All. Essentially, there is very little to the original song — three identically structured verses with a little bridge, which Agnetha and Annafrid sold entirely on vocal power and raw emotion. Unfortunately, I didn't feel that Sarah and Carol were able to match it. The song was as well executed as any other on the disc, but unlike the others, it came up a bit second best.

Hmmm, I am a fanatical ABBA fan, so maybe I'm biased. For the rest of the CD, I was forced to give out some 4s only because if I give them all 5s, where will they go next? Look out for this group, they are moving on up!

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