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.

m-pact

2 (1998)

4.4

April 27, 1999

Tuning / Blend 5.0
Energy / Intensity 4.6
Innovation / Creativity 4.2
Soloists 4.6
Sound / Production 5.0
Repeat Listenability 4.2
Tracks
1 If We Try 4.8
2 Without Your Love 5.0
3 Hold On My Heart 4.0
4 Fantasy 4.4
5 First Steps 4.6
6 My Way 4.6
7 2 4.2
8 Under The Sun 4.4
9 A Mile In My Shoes 4.6
10 Rain 4.2

Recorded 1998
Total time: 42:56, 10 songs


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 If We Try 5
2 Without Your Love 5
3 Hold On My Heart 5
4 Fantasy 5
5 First Steps 5
6 My Way 5
7 2 5
8 Under The Sun 5
9 A Mile In My Shoes 5
10 Rain 5

It's strange, isn't it, that a group you really like can come back with better voices, superior polish and a better album that you don't like as much as their first.

That's me with M-PACT's 2. This is unquestionably a great album. I have no faults with tuning or production. Voices are good, and the two new guys have fabulous solo ability that also is felt throughout the backgrounds. There's not a single song I don't like.

And there's not a single song I love, which is the rub. Not a single one of these laudable, commendable tunes sticks in my head or screams at me as being anything other than a nice enough song with, say, a screaming solo by Greg Whipple or unearthly tenor bits by Britt Quentin and the supporting cast.

Flashback to the first album: It's All About Harmony, an inconsistent, high energy R&B collection of half promising originals and half hit-or-miss covers. But the hits swung for the fences. The studio version of Change in My Life will always be one to remember, and the original Got a Friend was a lot catchier than anything on 2.

Clearly style choices are at work. The group chose to go for a jazzy, light pop style with tons of neat little touches. They chose this material, they wrote it and they put it together very, very well. I like it all, but I miss the gut energy.

If It's All About Harmony is a slugger batting .250, 2 is the utility player who makes all the clutch singles and clears the bases as rarely as he misses a grounder in the field. Much better player, but will the fans remember his name?


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 3
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 3
Tracks
1 If We Try 4
2 Without Your Love 5
3 Hold On My Heart 3
4 Fantasy 3
5 First Steps 4
6 My Way 3
7 2 3
8 Under The Sun 3
9 A Mile In My Shoes 3
10 Rain 5

Here's a new way to arrange your CDs. Instead of alphabetizing them, try grouping them in pairs. Bobby McFerrin's Circle Songs goes next to Miles Davis' Kind of Blue. The Bobs' My, I'm Large goes next to that Phish bootleg. The House Jacks' Funkwich goes next to Stevie Wonders' Songs in the Key of Life. See how it works?

There's one small problem. Say you just got 2, the new M-PACT CD. Where do you file it? Well, it goes next to either Mariah Carey or 'N Sync. That's the problem — you probably don't own any of that top 40 junk. You haven't listened to that stuff since you were twelve. So why did you buy 2? Perhaps you heard about the super tight harmonies (and you happen to be a sucker for that stuff). You got the CD because you liked the style, not the substance. If you happen to like top 40 pop music, then the "substance" side of 2 is just what you're looking for. If not, well, you're out of luck.

A few songs thankfully stray from the top 40 song writing. Without Your Love is pop, but it's got a fresh viewpoint (I dumped you, but now I'm regretting it) and it builds to a triumphant closing. The staccato rhythms of exciting Rain seem like they come from another album (probably one by Vox One). First Steps ought to come off as really trite pop, but it doesn't. (Instead the lyrics seem sweet and the free-flowing melody is oddly catchy.)

Most of the other songs are by-the-numbers pop. Speaking of numbers, the title track tries to use the word "two" (or "to" or "too") at least once per line (or better yet, twice)! They were hoping to sound clever. Instead, they sound like they're trying to sound clever. The lyrics aren't overly forced (like Ball in the House's Overman) but they're still pretty vacant. A Mile in My Shoes (as in "walk a mile in") is every bit as sappy as Why Can't We All was on their first CD. The songs on 2 are, in the end, not worthy of the effort M-PACT puts into producing and performing them.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 5
Tracks
1 If We Try 5
2 Without Your Love 5
3 Hold On My Heart 5
4 Fantasy 5
5 First Steps 5
6 My Way 5
7 2 5
8 Under The Sun 5
9 A Mile In My Shoes 5
10 Rain 5

Buy this album. There's nothing else to say.

I'm kidding. There is PLENTY to say about this album. So many artists have thrilled audiences with their debut albums, only to really disappoint them with the second. They then usually drop off the face of the earth and go nowhere. This is known as the sophomore slump. (Remember Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians? Nuff said.) With M-PACT, there is no such thing as a sophomore slump. Their first album It's All About Harmony was an album that made me go "Wow!" They were coming off of their win at the Harmony Sweepstakes National Championships and recorded an album that really impressed people. 2, the second album from M-PACT, does not fall short of the first. It surpasses. It blows away. It redefines what I thought was great in the world of a cappella. If the first album made me go "Wow!", this album made me cry. It's too damn good.

M-PACT's lineup has changed somewhat since last time. They lost a couple of people with remarkable voices: Jonathan Dax and Carl Connor-Kelley. But the found some replacements that are just as amazing if not more so: Britt Quentin and Greg Whipple. These guys are keepers, no doubt.

OK, lets cut to the chase. The musicality and craftsmanship that this group of guys have on this album is prodigious. The style that they present in this album however is hard for me to define. I call it a neo-disco/pop-rock amalgamation from another planet. But don't let that scare you... they ooze with talent and style and grace. The soloists are amazing. Greg is the lead on probably my favorite song of the album, Without Your Love. He really shows off some amazing control, soul, and lung power. (At the same time, you can hear some amazing bass notes from the percussionist Matthew Selby, and he's not even the bass! ) It is an incredible song. The other new person, Britt, will make you wonder where they found the soprano. Britt has a voice that is truly in the stratosphere. It is beautiful, and it is full of soul and style. He shines on the first song If We Try as well as every other song on the album in one way or another.

The songs themselves are really well crafted. The arrangements take advantage of the singers strengths like few other groups ever seem to manage quite as well as M-PACT has. There is one song in particular that I think has real potential to get some selected radio airplay, and that is the title track, 2. It is a dance track. It is impressive and sophisticated and I dance to it all the time. I must admit that I don't know if I have ever heard one done a cappella before, but it's great.

Nearly all of the songs are originals, though the one cover they do of Earth Wind and Fire's Fantasy is amazing. The first time you hear Britt in the backgrounds you will blink in disbelief. I have played this track for people just to see the startled expression on their face when he hits that one note... Then again, I did the very same thing with Without Your Love when Matthew hits his low notes straight from the depths of Hell. But it has none of the chaos of Hell — more like the precision, power, and grace of a prize fighter who is dancing circles around his opponent just before knocking him to the canvas with one blow. A crazy analogy I know, but you've just got to hear it to believe it. I think you might understand once you do. And it is NOT a studio effect.

This album is impressive from beginning to end. From the sonic power house Without Your Love to the exotic and atmospheric Under The Sun; from the fantastic cover Fantasy to the thought-provoking and soulful A Mile in My Shoes, there is nothing that disappoints. Of all the albums I have listened to in the past few years, I think it is one of the very best, if not the best. I can tell you this: there is not another album that I have EVER recommended to more people more often than this one.

Like I said at the beginning: Buy this album. Heck, buy two copies of 2. Give it as a gift, or keep the second copy as insurance for when your poor a cappella friends steal the first.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 If We Try 5
2 Without Your Love 5
3 Hold On My Heart 2
4 Fantasy 4
5 First Steps 5
6 My Way 5
7 2 5
8 Under The Sun 4
9 A Mile In My Shoes 5
10 Rain 3

It happens to me all the time — I can't imagine how some groups ever survived before they got the current lineup together, simply because the new members add so much to the group. How did the Bobs do it before Joe? How did Rockapella do it before Scott? And how on earth did M-PACT survive before they found Britt Quentin?!? This album is leaps and bounds more impressive than All About Harmony, and mainly because of two things: 1) strong, interesting original tunes and 2) Britt. Greg also is a strong new addition to the group, but he's rarely given the chance to shine on the album (which is a shame).

Kudos to the M-PACT boys for recording an album of almost all originals. How refreshing! Most of them are great, and most of them have been arranged in some degree by Matthew Selby. Britt, Greg, and Matthew's tunes are all strong both in lyrics and soloist treatment (standout gems are Without Your Love, Mile in My Shoes, and My Way. M-PACT does a great job throughout the album of making interesting vocal sounds without either being too ethereal or hitting the listener over the head with "Look, we're being ground-breaking!"... A nice approach, and a unified sound track to track.

Sorry, though, they're not perfect. The weakest moment for me was the Backstreet Boys-esque lyrics of Marco's Hold On My Heart, where we're subjected to: "Can I kiss you right here/Can I touch you right there / Let me hold you tonight / I wanna show you I care". (Maybe I'm just too old and jaded.) The other major disappointment to me was Trist's Rain, which both suffers lyrically and is just too bluesy for Trist to handle well on lead. His bass work is nice, though — as is vocal percussion by Matthew.

The album is a great showcase for Britt, especially My Way (nominated for a '98 CARA) — what a voice! He's just as impressive in concert (heck, his sound checks are fantastic!) — go see them. And buy this album. This says good things for the "sound" of contemporary a cappella in general.

The album cover actually sums up the album nicely: Front and prominent is Britt, featured most notably. Center and left are Marco and Trist, reliable yet posing as way more hip than they should. Greg is in the corner, a strong supportive member who can really wail but doesn't get enough chances. And behind it all is Matthew, not the glory man but the driving musical genius behind it all... You go, boys.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 5
Tracks
1 If We Try 5
2 Without Your Love 5
3 Hold On My Heart 5
4 Fantasy 5
5 First Steps 4
6 My Way 5
7 2 3
8 Under The Sun 5
9 A Mile In My Shoes 5
10 Rain 3

M-PACT jumps back into the RARB jungle with their second album, appropriately titled 2. Given the success of the first album, and the fact that two members have left to be replaced by two others, can this album be just as good as the first one?

My answer is a slightly qualified "yes". There is no doubt in my mind that M-PACT deserve every success that their efforts can afford. Several of the tracks are, in my opinion, quite radio-friendly, and deserve to be played as such right next to Rockapella.

Britt Quentin adds a dynamic to the group that adds to an already amazing sound. Showcased on no less than four outstanding solos, he has a heart-stopping tenor that could leave some Toast-reviewing, all-male a cappella group-doubting listeners quivering in their boots.

So where does the slight qualification come in? In three tracks (note the ones not marked "5"), it's a case of not understanding the lyrics (First Steps), finding that M-PACT were trying to get too cute musically (Rain), or in the case of the title track, both. Otherwise, I found that all the other tracks to be gems, with a message or story set to a great arrangement.

Most definitely, BUY THIS ALBUM...it's a must have.


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

Ordering information can be found on the m-pact web site.

×