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Clearly Vocal

Mary, Did You Know? - Single (2015)

3.0

December 23, 2015

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Every a cappella group needs a few holiday chestnuts in its rotation, and Mary, Did You Know? certainly complements the jazz stylings of Clearly Vocal.

A quintet from the Lone Star State that features two marriages within the group, these five are tight knit and well-rehearsed, with the soprano and alto blending together with a particular ease. They’ve created something quite beautiful, because these are five very lovely voices, but the arrangement isn’t noteworthy enough and the production isn’t beneficial enough to make an a cappella fan say, “Have you heard Clearly Vocal sing Mary, Did You Know?" (Not helping their cause is a rather well-known a cappella quintet singing this song to the tune of 54 million+ views on YouTube.)

In our genre, we crave rhythmic elements from each vocal line, not just the bass, achieved through varied syllables, firmer accents marks and overall diction, explored silences, and more compositional levels of pop and punch, from whispers to rip-it-open wails. The largely legato framework here is smooth and warm and probably works well in a church, but the lyrics of this song simply require way more of an attention-grabbing approach for the recorded medium, and it’s the arrangement that’ll take Clearly Vocal there.  

The production attempts to add some atmospheric depth through reverb; a drop of reverb is good, but we get an echo-y soaking here. I’d have preferred a crisper soundscape that lets us clearly hear the cutting locked chords for a more powerful effect that showcases the musicianship. 

I’d love to hear an EP from Clearly Vocal, and I’ll hope it happens.

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