Total time: 43:52, 10 songs
I'll skip to the chase: Are you a Take 6 fan? Do you like pop music? If so, why don't you own this album yet? Buy it now. Read no further. Just go to the Primarily A Cappella site and order a copy.
M-Pact makes heavy use of Take 6-esque harmonies but they're singing pop music instead of gospel. They're not ripping them off, it's just a strong influence. (They frequently proclaim their deep admiration for Take 6 in the liner notes.) And they take the sound and do their own thing with it. I actually like them better than Take 6 because I'm not a big gospel fan for religious reasons and I find Take 6's sound kinda creepy. I respect the hell out of them, but there's something about the chords they use, their distinct brand of tight harmony, that quickly wears thin and weirds me out. But those chords aren't so constant with M-Pact.
The covers on this disc are mostly enjoyable. While
Higher and Higher is unlikely to lift
you anywhere, they do a lively Love the One You're
With and a very catchy Still the
One. The original tunes show potential despite the trite
lyrics of Why Can't We All.
Rating: 7 (7.1)
Lest anyone tell you otherwise, M-Pact! is a tight group. For a group who'd only been around a year when this CD came out, this is a remarkable project. Their harmonies are great for such a young group, and there are some great solo voices in this male quintet. The CD itself is very well produced; very slick — it has a nice, clear, full sound with groovy percussion and a super booming bass. I think my individual track ratings were pushed up a notch because of this — even the songs I didn't care for sounded really good. I often found myself wishing the bass singer would take a few more risks and get into more interesting lines; he's got a great big voice but not too many neat sounds. In the five originals presented here, the group has mixed the tight jazz chords of Take 6 with the mindless pop drivel lyrics of the Blenders. It's a nice sound they've decided on, but I could've used a bit more variety from track to track. Then again, it's a reliable sound, and one that sells. Fans of the Blenders and groups like Five O'Clock Shadow will probably really enjoy this CD.
Liner note nits to pick: 1) Maybe I'm too tragically unhip, but I
hate it when people use "2U" instead of "to you". 2) How many
nicknames do each of you guys have? I found some of the tracks to be
a bit long for my tastes (average length is over 4 minutes), but it's
an upbeat poppy (as in "of or relating to pop music", not opiate)
album all in all and well worth a listen, if only to hear one of
today's hardest-working groups.
Rating: 7 (6.4)
Well, the title ain't lying here. Harmony Sweepstakes champs with a
CD of one-half classics, and one-half originals, definitely play to a
forte of tight vocals. This was difficult to listen to not because I
didn't like it, but because to critique it on the standard dynamics,
tempo, tuning, was impossible...there were little to no flaws. It
definitely got me out of my desire for Icelandic folk music, that's
for sure. Not every song is an outright winner, but none are
throwaways. There was thought put into this every step of the way and
the result was a tightly focused CD. Buy the CD? Heck, if I had the
money I'd start giving them away.
Rating: 9 (8.0)
M-PACT! is the group that won the 1996 Harmony Sweepstakes. After hearing this album, it is no wonder! This is a group of men that really know how to sing and exude energy. This album is a great example of the depth of their talent, moving from tender ballads to rockin' covers with finesse — or pure energy when necessary. The sound that these 5 guys put out is tight... there is not a bad voice in the bunch.
The song selection on the album is a good mix of original music and good cover music. When I first saw that Love The One You're With was on the list, I cringed. If there is a song I don't like to hear a cappella anymore, that's it. But their rendition gave some much needed life to a tired hippie song. As a general rule, their covers are well done, with interesting arrangements and a nice sound (except for Change In My Life, which I did not like).
This album is just a joy to listen to. I find myself humming or singing
one of the tunes constantly. Put this album in your collection, and you
will feel the M-PACT! (sorry, I couldn't help myself!)
Rating: 9 (9.0)
Very solid debut album from the much-hyped M-PACT, a Seattle-based male quintet who seem bent on proving they are the a cappella stars their reputation implies. Before I really listened to this album, they had always struck me as lots of energy, but without the precision and creativity I expect from my favorite groups. (This was based on one show and the Harmony Sweeps CD, so I can't claim too much substantiation.) The disc had some nice surprises on it, and showed that they had used the studio to their advantage when it came to polishing up their sound and reaching a little. These guys are not the House Jacks, but neither are they Boyz Nite Out, much to their credit.
Although one song on this album reeks of House Jack-ism (the two groups share promoter Ken Malucelli and other characteristics), M-PACT has turned their talents toward R&B instead of rock. You can snap to every song on this album, and that's not such a bad thing. These guys have the gift of interpretation, which livens up the four covers interspersed. None of the arrangements get too complex, but instead of taking the familiar route, they run everything through the M-PACT R&B filter and add their own rhythm and style. This is the same skill you see in good country artists or the acoustic talents of Everything But the Girl — they don't do anything drastic to the song, bit it becomes something different. Which is great.
I think M-PACT really does feel the soul, which is no small achievement
for a mostly white group. White people can sing soul, but they have to
work harder at it to avoid falling into the Tenille/Michael Bolton trap.
In Marco Cassone and Carl Connor-Kelley they have two top-notch soloists,
and the rest of the group does well on the backgrounds and generally
respectably on the leads. Matthew Selby does a nice turn on "She Won't
Believe in Me," one of the album's gems. Unfortunately, Connor-Kelley has
since left the group, and I've yet to hear them with new tenor Britt
Gilbert/Quentin; they have a task ahead of them to work around the
absence of their most dynamic vocal presence. His voice is felt
throughout the album, and the studio version of Change in My Life is a
stunner. I like it better than the live version that seems to have found
its way on to so many samplers; people who buy this album to check it out
will be pleased.
Rating: 8 (7.4)
"If you ain't got a friend, you ain't got nothing." If you don't get caught
up in the energy of this briskly sung number, I'll eat my hat. A great
opening track. It's an original. It ain't deep, but it's a fun listen.
Nice choice for an opener for da boyz of M-Pact!, this one. It's got
a nice groove to it, and is pretty representative of the album to
come: solid soloist, big bass (mixed way in front), nice Take
6-like chords, and pretty darn good vocal percussion, and cheeseball
lyrics that will drive you mad. Here's some trivia for you: this song
uses the phrase "got a friend" 15-20 times (depending on how you
count). When in doubt, one more chorus!
An original written and sung by Trist Curless...very polished
production, no awkward silences for such a small group. Great initial
groove. The phrases seem a little simplified, but it's more than made
up for by the musical arrangement. Seems like a great crowd pleaser
(seem to remember it on the Harmony Sweepstakes CD, and that it went
over very well).
A high-powered opener that grabs you and puts you in a groove in about
3 seconds flat. A soulful soloist and a tight background get
you boppin' no matter where you are. Fun, fun, fun! And meaningful
lyrics to boot? Can't lose.
Poppy, catchy, innocuous — just what you'd want to lead off an album you
want to be a big hit. Fair enough, but there were songs I liked better.
The song doesn't feel "locked in" to me — could be because the background
is singing the one riff over and over and over again on basically the
same notes. Solo doesn't do it for me — it's a little smarmy, maybe. The
breakdown in nice, if processed, and there's no denying that some energy
kicks in toward the end of the song — maybe they are getting excited
about the interesting bits.
Another original. The writing on this and the first track reminds me of what
the Blenders might have written (from their serious-but-uptempo mode) before
they got guitars and forgot how to write. It's well sung, but it doesn't have
a real hook and fails to stick in your head like a good song should.
Two originals as the first two tracks on the CD — a nice touch. This
one screams "Blenders!" to me, but thankfully it's screaming "early
Blenders" — it's fast and rockin', with bright solo voices, nice
background chords, and close tight harmonies over a souped-up bass. I
really liked the percussion on this one — it sounds natural, and it
rocks. More mindless lyrics, but it speeds by before you notice.
Probably my favorite track on the CD.
Starts off with a House Jacks feel...this is good. Another original.
Found it slightly difficult to move with a changing beat. Very upbeat.
Again, slick production. There was obviously time to fix any slight
intonation problems, none to be found here. Musical arrangement
outshines phrases...another fun toe-tapper though.
Thinking that following a song like Got A
Friend?, and with a title like that, this one would be a
bit of a letdown. Then I was blindsided by the pure energy of this
really upbeat, energetic song that may even top the first song! It
just flew by like a train and dragged me along. Totally rocked.
Highly reminiscent of the House Jacks' "Tear Down the Walls" in
structure and hyperactive percussion, but less attack to it — the verses
sound a lot like "Up the Ladder to the Roof." The result is a perfectly
listenable generic pop song that fails to get under my skin. Rather
repetitive, credibly sung, not finely polished.
A fresh spin on a classic song. They change "she's a girl/ and you're a boy"
to "You're a girl/I'm a boy". The lead throws in a suggestive little laugh
right before the "I'm a boy". A very nice touch.
Seeing this song on the track list frightened me, I admit. A nice
opening of their own device, but then it kicks into the old standard
arrangement that we've all heard every collegiate a cappella group do
too many times. Nice Fly Like an Eagle and pseudo-McFerrin
references toward the end, though. This song is where it hits me that
their bass has a nice big sound and a good range, but he's not coming
up with too much original stuff note-wise. Maybe it's just the song...
First cover...starts slowly with Marco Cassone bringing in a soulful
opening. Love the understated arrangement. Percussion here, as well as
the two previous, is excellent. Someone once mentioned a "Less is More"
school of thought in arrangement...it works here. Nice inclusion of
Fly Like an Eagle. Seemed to be a little long with an
extraneous key change. Would've been happier without, but this is
Already said it: I am sooooo tired of this song. But this attempt really
woke me up. It is fun to hear again! These guys infused it with some
much needed energy and vitality. They even tease you with a tiny snippet
of Fly Like an Eagle that feels like it has always been
there. One bit that bugged me was the lecherous laugh thrown in after
the line "...'cause your a girl, and I'm a boy". One other bad thing:
they spoiled the song. I won't be able to listen to any other version
because they just don't have 'it' anymore.
Marco Cassone does a great job on the lead of this, a breathy, soulful
and respectably edged routine that helps their interpretation of this
song get off the ground. He gets unbearably cheesy at the beginning
of the third verse for the "you're a girl, you're a boy" lines but
goes back to normal. The soul angle takes the song in some neat
directions, though the background seems kinda sugary at times.
Falsetto bit toward the end a bit puzzling — theme to Lost in
Space, maybe? Not bad, just puzzling.
A slow ballad that reminds me of the lame a cappella songs by the likes of
All-for-One that somehow manage to become radio hits. Well, the general feel
of the song is like that, but it's performed better than the afore-mentioned
junk. The lyrics are uninspired (but not bad) but the music does build
nicely. It's like the
Wow — Jonathan Dax (singing lead here) bears an uncanny resemblance to
Tim Kaspar of the Blenders. A sweet, clear, bright tenor. Pretty,
except for the times here where he doesn't tune with the rest of the
group. I certainly respect the group for including so many originals
on their first album, but this one (like most of the others) seems to
be yet another cheese pop song.
First real ballad. Great production (AGAIN). Arranged nicely, but it
just doesn't hold up AS WELL as the three previous
tracks. Might've been too long to wait to put a ballad on the CD.
Hard to come down so much from track 3. Has an
Earth Angel feel...would be great as a prom song (just a random
comment, feel free to point and laugh hysterically at me). When the
percussion settled in, I started to feel at ease with the track. That
may be the key...MORE PERCUSSION.
A sappy original a la Boys II Men. (It's hard not to make such a
comparison.) A slow melodic R&B tune about true love and what would
happen if it weren't true. Well sung and true to the genre, with nice
embellishments by the soloists (esp. C$). I just don't like this kind of
music much, so I was not totally thrilled.
When Carl comes in, the song picks up. This tends to be a truism
throughout M-PACT's album, and we'll have to see how they sound now that
he's retired from a cappella. Connor-Kelley is one of three to have leads
on this original ballad, which has a lockstep background, boring chords
and a general lack of verve. The "till the end of time" line really
sounds like I've heard it somewhere else — in a gospel song in my DMBMC
days, I think — but that's not what bugs me about this song. It's the
pure genericness, offset a little by Connor-Kelley's stylings.
What a great idea for a cover. Mostly great singing to the beat of clapping
hands. Then, out of nowhere (although it isn't at all jarring) they throw in
a vocal percussion at the end. It's kind of odd, but exciting, to have all
these very showy drum fills in a song that previously didn't have any
percussion beyond the hand claps. And it's truly great percussion. Instead of
aiming for a realistic drum sound, the percussionist pronounces all of the
syllables: "Thwack-um-bap-bap-bwap!" It's kinda the difference between a
standard stage fight and the fights on the old Batman TV show with all the
Zaps, Bangs, and Pows!
Nice feeling from the soloist (Dax again); he does a good job of
carrying the song; another relatively boring (albeit beefy) bass line
here. Did I mention that Dax does a really fine job here? I'd like
to see him do it live. Percussion ending by Trist is powerful (i.e.
loud) yet seems misplaced, under big flowing chords (and right before
a big flange ending). It seems that Matthew Selby on percussion is
their strong suit; they should think about keeping it that way.
Dax keeps the rating up.
I LOVE THE ORIGINAL (Just had to say that)...Bass arranged
high in the opening, doesn't seemed anchored. Anchors itself by
second verse. Arrangement is somewhat repetitious, but the solo sells
the song (Jonathan Dax). First one that seems to be lacking in
background arrangement in some spots. Production and overall mix is
fine...just seems to be lacking in minor spots. Ending is
VERY powerful climax to the song (for me).
At first I did not recognize this cover, but when things clicked, I
smiled and kept right on swingin'. A groovin' and fun tune sung with
panache by Jonathan Dax. The arrangement was a check in the ol' plus
In a lot of ways the ending is the most musically interesting
part of the song, which has a very straight doo-wop background that is
fine if not exemplary. But after it's over, one thing stays with me:
Frap-doom. No, no, no. This is not an acceptable way to design a vocal
percussion highlight. Because the original is not exactly cheese-free,
the Velveeta levels throughout were able to stay barely behind the dam of
acceptability; this drum bit goes over the top. But that's at the end.
Soloist Jonathan Dax has two vocal timbres on this song: pushed and clear
and loud, or soft, breathy and very unsupported. I really get the feeling
he's attacking this and praying the notes will all come out — it sounds
above his comfort level for most of the song, although when he lets it go
for broke (and through the ceiling) before the ending it sounds better
and no longer flattens on the accents.
"Why can't we all/live together/love one another/everyone under the sun?" I
don't know why not. But why can't a cappella groups stop writing trite,
Carl Connor-Kelley is a great lead voice here; I also really like the
low D from the bass at the beginning. Woof! The sentiment of this
song ("Why can't we all live together, love one another," etc.) is
nice — was it written in response to a specific event? Do they
mention this in the live shows? If so, a nice tribute. If not, I
find myself wanting to file this under "dated contrived message
songs". Maybe I'm just too cynical. The chords are nice, and Dax and
Carl do great jobs with the lead, but it's all the same... and I
could've used a couple fewer choruses at the end.
Another original. Here there's no percussion, but deep bass makes up
for that. Production...nuff said. I'm seeing lighters in the crowd
swaying back and forth. Tugs at the heart (whether or not you like that
sort of thing, seems to cater to that). Here, the key change works for
the song. Hard to critique tuning, dynamics, and tempo, on a track, or
a CD, that has very few flaws...which leaves production value, music,
lyrics, and general feeling.
An a cappella call for global peace, with a sensitive yet earnest voice
in a R&B groove. What did I just say? May not make much sense to me, but
it's true. Tight choruses and a flighty soloist really help you forget
the pessimist in you. I mean flighty in a good way — the best possible
way. Carl (C$) takes his voice careening all over the place like a
sparrow in flight: totally under control. I liked it all.
My favorite ballad. Pretty, reasonably original, great solo from Carl
Connor-Kelley, and an interesting background. There's even a jazzy
bridge. It's still not the most complex thing in the world — all the
background parts are often one rhythm — but it works for me. Lyrics are
sincere, and the bass sounds great throughout. Connor-Kelley makes the
song, with a silky R&B solo that takes a nice foundation and makes it
something memorable. Our Still the One
soloist (Jonathan Dax) is back on the chorus, and is either too loud
or unsupported. If he'd been mixed down or sung a little softer
without losing tone it would have fit better.
Starts off with a relaxed but phat vocal percussion beat. The beat is joined
by strait forward "mwanna-na-na-na"s from the rest of the group. A very
direct arrangement that stands out from the other versions of this song
because it's all built around the very contemporary beat.
A couple tuning issues very early on in this one, but bassman Trist
does a killer job on the solo. You go, boy! Were those low Bs and
Cs in the bass part, Matthew? Woof! This one is slow and groovy and
rocks. Fun fun fun.
Only the third cover...opens part by part...percussion, then layering of
voices; would've preferred all three sung background parts together.
Nice arrangement. So much funk/soul in this, it's starting to sound
like some of the other tracks, but it still grooves nicely on it's own.
There isn't too much of anything on this, percussion, parts, or
solo...it's all evenly balanced.
Here comes a most interesting arrangement of this old Willie Dixon
classic which most people think Mark Cohn wrote. This particular
arrangement is a bit of an acquired taste that took me a few tries to
decide I liked it. It is slow and funky, with a soloist (Trist a.k.a.
"T") that definitely picks a style and milks it for all it's worth. It
is pretty fun to hear, and towards the end: Whoa! What a bass note! I
know it has some effects on it, but it sure makes me wish I could sing
When Carl Connor-Kelley comes in on the riff over a drum bit, this song
feels like it's going to groove. The chord builds with attitude, and it's
a different sound than you're used to hearing on this Willie Dixon
(revitalized by Marc Cohn) classic. But then the solo comes in. It's so
white, and he's trying so hard to give it soul. I picture him swanking
like Steve Martin in his "wild and crazy guy" get up. Which is too bad,
cause there are some neat high chords in the background of this. The
"hey-yeahs" at the end are good, and keep tuning exactly even when they
get above the treble clef staff. The arrangement is interesting, the
tuning has a connection not felt too many other places on the album, but
I'm sure someone's gonna whine about this not being as good as
Rockapella's version. But I buy my records in NYC, not Japan, so I
don't own a recording of this by Rockapella. If you're like me,
you'll be quite happy to add this to your collection. Hats off to the
Washington State Mass Gospel Choir for their great cameo at the end of
this track. But I'd be amiss if I didn't wonder aloud why they're
covering a song that was originally made famous as an a cappella
song . . .
This song opens with the exact same chord as track
#4. Interesting. If I recall correctly, Carl Connor-Kelley was
held in high regard for his solo on this tune. Also, if I recall
correctly, he's no longer in the group... or did I make that up?
Hmm. Anyway, I guess I'd like to see it live, to see if that would
make me feel more a part of this song. Something about it just never
"hit" me. Guest vocals by the Washington State Mass Gospel Choir are
a nice addition and almost help you forget the verse chorus chorus
Softly sung in the beginning...Carl Conner-Kelly solo — pleading,
thoughtful, heartfelt. Builds slowly with snaps and dynamics in
background and solo. Question/answer might be unneeded. But it
breaks into finale with spirit (read as Washington State Mass Gospel
Choir)...I LOVE the feeling this generates. Pass the
collection plate please.
This is the group's guest vocalists track, where they borrow the
Washington State mass Gospel Choir to lend an air of energy and
sanctity to this old song. It's not bad, but there is one thing that
really grates on me: the gospel choir sounds flat in their most
triumphant moment! I thought at first that it was supposed to kinda
be that way. But the more I listened, the worse it became in my head.
The song lacks a bit of energy before the choir comes in, but the bad
chord I just talked about is what really mars the song. Otherwise it
was above average.
Deliberate, soulful, energized. This kicks ass. I actually like it
better than the doo-wopped version on the Harmony Sweeps '96 disc.
It's the same arrangement, but slower, and with a gospel tinge to it
that I find incredibly powerful. Carl Connor-Kelley is at the top of
his form, smooth, control, and all over the place. Lovin' it. The
background is too, and I can see how they could get psyched up just
backing this guy up. The album version has some neat stuff, too, with
the "can you see it" bridge — an M-PACT creation, as far as I know —
and then the gospel choir comes in. Aw, yeah. M-PACT takes back over
for a tight little end, and you have just had five and a half minutes of
inspired a cappella.
An original. The verses are totally catchy, but the arrangements on the
choruses are a bit unwieldy. But the bottom line is that this is a strong
original tune with well crafted lyrics and an original point of view. The
jazzy bridge and free-styling lead vocals are icing on the cake.
Man, that bass makes the floor shake! Again, the low B's make my
floor tremble but I could use a few more interesting vocal work from
him that simply croaking out subwoofer notes. These guys are tight.
Another original, this one actually has a few clever lyrics thrown in
here and there. If you like the Blenders second album, you'll like
About a guy who is trying to get his girlfriend to realize that he's
faithful. Soloist Matthew Selby sings it like he's personally felt it.
The only thing that irks me about the arrangement is the setting of the
background so high. Bass is fine, but the tenor/bari voices seem too
disjointed from bass. It's a good song, but not up to the rest of the
tracks. Remember what I said about critiquing production, words,
music, and feeling? I have a hard time getting past feeling on this
A song with groove and a touch of funk totally laced with great bass
background sounds. That is what sticks in my head as I bop along to this
tune. Interesting sounds abound. There is not much else for me to say
about this one. It is executed in a most excellent fashion. You just got
to hear it. Oy! That Bass!
This has a nice bari-bass intro before a syncopated background
of tight chords comes in. The different rhythms are great, so nice after
the boredom at the beginning of the album. Background sounds Take 6
inspired, has nice soul, and the white-boy, half-rap solo has charm and
energy, holding my attention. You go, Matthew Selby — wish we'd heard
more of you. (The genre's totally different, but it reminds me of the
appeal of the current ska song "All Mixed Up" — it's not true reggae, but
it's got some of the feel, and the solo is white but stylin'- and it's
generally a lot of fun. But I digress.) Bridge is cool, goes places, and
the high chords are nice.
This is a simple arrangement that's confident enough to just lay down a
strong bass line and some relaxed harmonies over it. Add a lead and some
simple vocal percussion and you've pretty much got it. It works nicely until
they hit a fake ending, after which they try to show off with a double-time
coda that fails to either impress or excite.
Another classic; it starts out pretty typically. Ah, yes. Spike
Lee's "Do it A Cappella" — I liked it too. M-Pact! is tight, but
they haven't done much with this one except sing really high. But
then about 2:45 into the track they kick it in, the bass shows us he
can do interesting things, the percussion gets rolling again, and
three of them start improvising over the top. This one has got to
get the crowds up at their live shows. But then they stop all that,
end with the super-falsetto stuff, and never quite manage to lock in
the last chord. Unfortunately, it's not only the last chord in this
song that's not quite tuned right; it's also the last chord on the
A classic cover...with a difference. An original arrangement that
brings a different feel, more rhythm and blues then I remember other
versions, even more so than Mint Juleps. Definitely a worthy attempt at
putting their own spin on the standard. Breaks into jazzed up funk at
the end. Great final chord resolution. Sent shivers.
Here is another song that always went "higher and higher" on the list of
songs I didn't want to hear a cappella anymore. And once again, the boys
saved (and spoiled) this song for me. It starts out with a pretty
straight take on the old classic. But it's what they do to it after
the first half of the song that is what's worth talking about. They
break as two of them soar to a wonderful sustained high duet, that
dissolves into this super-charged, energetic break-out that just takes
the group literally to new heights of energy and groove. I can just see
these guys in front of a crowd, bustin' into this jam session and really
whipping the crowd into a frenzy. The perfect kind of closer that builds
and builds... then soars back into that beautiful duet before slowly
descending into a quiet and rich chord that lingers in the brain. Mmmm
hmmmm. That is what a cappella is all about.
Tuning is not as locked here as the last song — I don't know if
it's a note thing or a blend thing, but one of the voices sticks out and
sounds flat. Marco Cassone does a fine job on the solo — very Motown —
but this song really picks up when the background spirals up to a crystal
clear chord that tops off at a soprano b-flat. What's even nicer about
the high chords is that they are so free 'n easy, and the folks singing
them have plenty of control left for ornamenting themselves back down to
the staff. Then the improv section comes in, a nice piece of uptempo,
jammy fun, and you get another ride to the b-flat before you're finished.
Gets you leaving the album smiling.
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