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Acoustix

The New Science of Sound (1991)

4.6

November 22, 1998

Tuning / Blend 4.6
Energy / Intensity 4.8
Innovation / Creativity 4.0
Soloists 4.8
Sound / Production 4.6
Repeat Listenability 4.2
Tracks
1 When It Comes To Lovin' The Girls / Sweeties Medley 4.2
2 So Long Mother 4.4
3 World War I Medley 4.4
4 River Of No Return 4.4
5 I'm Looking Over A Four Leaf Clover 5.0
6 That's An Irish Lullaby 4.8
7 Tonight, Tonight 4.6
8 If I Loved You 4.8
9 After Today 4.4
10 Irish Blessing 5.0
11 I'm Afraid The Masquerade Is Over 4.6

Recorded 1990 – 1991
Total time: 31:00, 11 songs


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 3
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 When It Comes To Lovin' The Girls / Sweeties Medley 4
2 So Long Mother 4
3 World War I Medley 4
4 River Of No Return 4
5 I'm Looking Over A Four Leaf Clover 5
6 That's An Irish Lullaby 5
7 Tonight, Tonight 4
8 If I Loved You 5
9 After Today 4
10 Irish Blessing 5
11 I'm Afraid The Masquerade Is Over 5

These guys are so damn good, I want to shake them. I swoon over their singing, but songs about war and pretty girls leave me cold. Why aren't there any barbershop songs about women instead of always girls? Why does everything sound like it needs to be introduced with a "gee, shucks"?

I realize that this goes part and parcel with a true love of barbershop singing. Tradition is big, and soldiering and wooing pretty girls are big in white-bread American culture. But dammit, I really like barbershop. I listen to my barbershop albums regularly, and I have quite a few. And I do not want to listen to one more song about or called When it comes to Lovin' the Girls.

Sorry, but I had to get that out of my system. My problems with the genre aside, this is a great album, just like the other Acoustix albums I've heard. These guys have a fabulous ring, nice voices and impeccable control. Their arrangements always have nice little musical subtleties hiding out among the standard shtick, and if you listen to it for too long, you lose your tolerance for mere mortal quartets. Which is not such an onerous burden.

I'm a sucker for the ballads — That's an Irish Lullaby is melting, with lovely bass and lead moments and a rich overall sound. Irish Blessing always gets a smile and a sigh from me. Especially when it's performed by a group like this. And at least all the songs I want to listen to are clustered together in the second half of the disk.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 5
Tracks
1 When It Comes To Lovin' The Girls / Sweeties Medley 5
2 So Long Mother 5
3 World War I Medley 5
4 River Of No Return 5
5 I'm Looking Over A Four Leaf Clover 5
6 That's An Irish Lullaby 5
7 Tonight, Tonight 5
8 If I Loved You 5
9 After Today 5
10 Irish Blessing 5
11 I'm Afraid The Masquerade Is Over 5

Acoustix is a reviewer's conundrum. After writing two more-than-glowing reviews of this pinnacle group, I am fast running out of superlatives. If you like barbershop, buy this album. If you don't like barbershop, but think there is even the slightest chance that you might, or wish something could change your mind, buy this album. If you want to know what barbershop groups aspire to, buy this album. If you want a study perfect blend and intonation, buy this album. Am I being clear about this?

Now despite paragraph one, I am no fan of barbershop. I grow quickly unforgiving of any musical flaws; I find the music generally too sickly sweet and overly sentimental to support my continued interest. Without a doubt, Acoustix sings cheesy music. Look at the song list. But listen to their phenomenal vocal control, powerful phrasing and stunningly perfect intonation and everything else falls by the wayside. Acoustix are masters of the genre. Hence my conclusion, buy this album.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 3
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 5
Tracks
1 When It Comes To Lovin' The Girls / Sweeties Medley 5
2 So Long Mother 5
3 World War I Medley 5
4 River Of No Return 5
5 I'm Looking Over A Four Leaf Clover 5
6 That's An Irish Lullaby 5
7 Tonight, Tonight 5
8 If I Loved You 5
9 After Today 5
10 Irish Blessing 5
11 I'm Afraid The Masquerade Is Over 5

This is the first album recorded by Acoustix, a barbershop quartet that won the SPEBSQSA International Quartet Championship...in their very first try. When you listen to this album, you'll see why.

I had the opportunity to review their newest album,Jazz Jazz Jazz recently, and it's interesting to see the evolution of the group. In this, their first album, it's for the most part hardcore barbershop, with 7th's throughout and with the ringing end chords (called "tags" by those in the barbershop field) at the end of every song. And ring they do...when I played this album in my stereo, the end of every song caused the speakers to vibrate.

Tuning is impeccable...there may have been the occasional sloppy ending where one person hung over everyone else...but it's nitpicking, and it's the kind of nitpicking only their coach would bother dealing with. Their song choices range from sublime classics like Irish Blessing (for my money the best track on the album) to Broadway show tunes like Tonight from West Side Story to a medley of World War I songs. Acoustix is at heart very patriotic (which you will see even more strongly on their next album, Stars and Stripes), and that comes through in the WWI medley and in So Long Mother, dedicated to America's armed forces.

This album is one barbershoppers or barbershop fans can't do without. If you don't like barbershop...borrow a friend's copy and judge for yourself. I, however, like barbershop, so I thoroughly recommend this album. It's hard to critique something that reaches near perfection like this does.


Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 When It Comes To Lovin' The Girls / Sweeties Medley 4
2 So Long Mother 5
3 World War I Medley 4
4 River Of No Return 4
5 I'm Looking Over A Four Leaf Clover 5
6 That's An Irish Lullaby 4
7 Tonight, Tonight 4
8 If I Loved You 4
9 After Today 4
10 Irish Blessing 5
11 I'm Afraid The Masquerade Is Over 4

The nutshell version: "The debut CD of one of America's premier barbershop quartets". Released in '91, when I believe the group was only about a year old, it's a remarkable first album — of course, Acoustix were already international SPEBSQSA quartet champions by then...

Setting a precedent for future Acoustix recordings, tuning is quite good overall with only a few issues here and there. They have a great blend and a good feel for barbershop tempos, chords, dynamics, and of course tags. There's a mix of straight-up barbershop, plus some show tunes and such, all adeptly arranged for the group. Their touch goes from bold to tender, all the while relishing the slides and tight chord changes.

Even the international champions aren't flawless, which is encouraging no doubt to all the other quartets out there. There are a precious few tuning issues, albeit minor and quickly fixed.

If you're looking for tags and great barbershop endings, fast forward to the ends of Tonight, Tonight, So Long, Mother, and Irish Blessing. And Four Leaf Clover. Oh, and Irish Lullaby... And When It Comes/Sweeties. Take your pick; these guys'll swell an ending 'til your head pops. Fine work, gentlemen.


Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 3
Tracks
1 When It Comes To Lovin' The Girls / Sweeties Medley 3
2 So Long Mother 3
3 World War I Medley 4
4 River Of No Return 4
5 I'm Looking Over A Four Leaf Clover 5
6 That's An Irish Lullaby 5
7 Tonight, Tonight 5
8 If I Loved You 5
9 After Today 4
10 Irish Blessing 5
11 I'm Afraid The Masquerade Is Over 4

Compared to their other CDs, I felt that there was a bit more of vocal pressing on this recording. I'm not sure if that's due to the recording quality or the performances by the four men, but it made the tuning seem less solid. Tuning was slightly off on River of No Return and a few cadences of other songs, but nothing important enough to call a lot of attention to it.

I thought the song choices weren't terrific. I found myself bored in the beginning, but the pace picked up. If, after all, the purpose of this album deals with "The Science of Sound" they could have chosen a bigger range of types of music to sing, perhaps challenging the borders of barbershop music.

I'm Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover shows excellent rhythmic control and, to me, is classic, typical barbershop that could be used to teach others the style. Tonight, Tonight demonstrates Acoustix's ability to take dissonances, tougher harmonies, tight-knit chords, and transform them into one combined beautiful sound. Definitely my favorite track. Irish Blessing is very pleasant to listen to with a soothing melody, great movement from one chord to another, and swelling dynamics.

Acoustix has mastered barbershop singing, but I felt this album could have gone one step further, perhaps longer in the recording studio, to perfect their already existing talent. Then they would really demonstrate "The Science of Sound".


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Ordering Information

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