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.

ManSound

Slavic Roots (2003)

4.7

January 7, 2004

Tuning / Blend 4.7
Energy / Intensity 4.7
Innovation / Creativity 4.3
Soloists 4.3
Sound / Production 4.3
Repeat Listenability 4.0
Tracks
1 Triptych (Medley of Ukrainian Folk Songs) 4.7
2 Polechko-Pole (Ukrainian Folk Song) 4.7
3 Under the Cloud (Ukrainian Folk Song) 4.0
4 Hey, Let’s Hoot (Russian Folk Song) 4.7
5 There You, Wide Steppe (Russian Folk Song) 4.0
6 Diptych (Medley of Ukrainian Folk Song) 4.7
7 White Swallow (by I.Poklad) 4.3

Recorded 2003
Total time: 30:01, 7 songs


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 5
Tracks
1 Triptych (Medley of Ukrainian Folk Songs) 5
2 Polechko-Pole (Ukrainian Folk Song) 5
3 Under the Cloud (Ukrainian Folk Song) 5
4 Hey, Let’s Hoot (Russian Folk Song) 5
5 There You, Wide Steppe (Russian Folk Song) 5
6 Diptych (Medley of Ukrainian Folk Song) 5
7 White Swallow (by I.Poklad) 5

Slavic Roots is the latest release from the Ukrainian men's sextet ManSound. The liner notes tell us that ManSound "gives up conventional rules" in introducing listeners to Ukrainian and Russian folk music. Whatever their process, it works. Slavic Roots is beautifully phrased, brilliantly arranged, and masterfully self-produced.

Roots begins as if channeling the spirits of Vox One or The Real Group, but quickly explores classical, folk, and pop traditions with equal mastery. And even better, each arrangement taps these elements as needed, rather than the more typical schizophrenic leapfrog of musical styles some other groups use to demonstrate misplaced notions of variety. Vladimir Mikhnovetsky's arrangements are consistently powerful, graceful, and harmonically intricate. Even better, ManSound does the arrangements justice by their stunning blend and flawless intonation.

Negatives? The sparse and artful use of guitar is unlikely to bother even purists. But the goofy CD art design is best quickly forgotten, lest the listener imagine ManSound is a collection of fruity cartoon characters. And we aren't clearly told which singer has performed a given solo. That's about it for criticism.

Given a chance, ManSound will do for Ukrainian and Russian music what Take 6 did for American gospel. They are that talented.


Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 3
Sound / Production 3
Repeat Listenability 3
Tracks
1 Triptych (Medley of Ukrainian Folk Songs) 4
2 Polechko-Pole (Ukrainian Folk Song) 4
3 Under the Cloud (Ukrainian Folk Song) 3
4 Hey, Let’s Hoot (Russian Folk Song) 4
5 There You, Wide Steppe (Russian Folk Song) 3
6 Diptych (Medley of Ukrainian Folk Song) 4
7 White Swallow (by I.Poklad) 4

The packaging of ManSound's album Slavic Roots has a certain charm, from the cartooned liner graphics (one scene depicts the group's actual photographic heads atop their animated bodies lounging around in apparent Ukrainian musical glee) to the notes describing the group as "the most interesting Ukrainian vocal ensemble around". But I have to admit I was a bit afraid that the amateurish vibe that proved rather endearing in visuals would yield more painful results in audio.

Fortunately, the charm doesn't stop with cute drawings. ManSound presents a short but sweet (seven tracks) collection of Ukrainian and Russian folk songs with reasonable technical prowess and passion. Tuning and solos are solid here, but the real star of the show is the fun energy that spills through the speakers. Certain groups sound like they really enjoy what they're doing, and ManSound is one of them.

Nothing here will knock your socks off, but there is a ton to like. What I found most appealing about ManSound was their vocal diversity, both in dynamic and stylistic variation. Hey, Let's Hoot jumps from a Gregorian-like opening to a jazzy scat-infused vocal breakdown by the end of the song. ManSound boasts a bright, brassy, jazzy sound in their louder, larger moments that surprised me; it's a bit of a different style than one might have expected to hear on an album of folk songs, but one they pull off with considerable aplomb. They then turn around and achieve tight, intimate harmonies on the heartfelt Polechko-Pole, and deliver a folky duet on Under the Cloud accompanied by acoustic guitar. It's a range of performance that I find somewhat lacking in many albums that cross my desk, and one that lifts Slavic Roots solidly above the pack.

As the liner notes advise, "Enjoy the great music that ManSound has performed for you.". Slavic Roots may not be the album that you'll keep first in your stereo's rotation, but there's something to be said for a disc that makes you remember why singing a cappella is so much fun.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 Triptych (Medley of Ukrainian Folk Songs) 5
2 Polechko-Pole (Ukrainian Folk Song) 5
3 Under the Cloud (Ukrainian Folk Song) 4
4 Hey, Let’s Hoot (Russian Folk Song) 5
5 There You, Wide Steppe (Russian Folk Song) 4
6 Diptych (Medley of Ukrainian Folk Song) 5
7 White Swallow (by I.Poklad) 4

You don't have to speak a Slavic language to appreciate this richly-textured jazz and folk album produced by Ukraine's ManSound. The musical stylings, including a clean bass, smooth rhythmic background, and fresh vocalists, are universally appealing. The songs appearing on Slavic Roots demonstrate this sextet's incredible flexibility between genres and its ability to perform each one with conviction, energy, and spirit.

Subtle nuances in the interludes between the jazz and choral sections of Triptych, for example, reveal a competence and sophisticated understanding of vocal arrangement that impressed even this reviewer, whose familiarity lies more with pop than international folk. Enunciation is crisp and precise, with minimal breath sounds and finely tuned syllables that make the background vocals feel like an active and dynamic part of each song rather than merely support for the solo.

The slower ensemble piece Polechko-Pole begins with a single baritone voice joined in the second verse by more voices that break into two-part harmony, and then into multiple voice parts with tenor and bass, peaking with a commanding climax that is both powerful and spiritual. With excellent control, the members of ManSound play the human voice as a master musician would play any other instrument. Similarly, Hey, Let's Hoot soars with a moving harmony with a seamlessly integrated counterpoint bass that later transitions into a scat that could rival any pop/jazz a cappella group's lowest member (Cadence's Kevin Fox comes to mind). For you a cappella purists, Slavic Roots does make use of a cowbell, cymbals, and other non-drum percussive instruments, but I'm not bothered by them. My favorite piece, Diptych, takes two Ukranian folk songs to the next level by modernizing them with a pop a cappella sound infused with jazz and a tight, simple vocal percussion that's not too showy.

From the first note, I was attracted to the utter cleanliness of the sound; between the walking bass and the ensemble's tight backup and vocal patter behind a sweet tenor solo, every note is executed perfectly. Granted, I can't understand a word the lead is singing, but somehow I don't need to. If music is the universal language, then ManSound is truly the Berlitz of a cappella. Pop in the CD and you experience the feelings the songs are meant to evoke. Watch for ManSound as rising stars on the international front.

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

Available from Mainely A Cappella

×