Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Music Review: Stars & Stripes by Acoustix

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Tight harmonies celebrate our great country
Cons: Could be longer
The Bottom Line:
Americana
In great four part harmony
I've enjoyed for years




Patriotic Barbershop

Few genres scream Americana to me like barbershop. While many genres do have their roots in America, just listening to the tight harmonies of a good quartet make me think of small town America of 100 years ago.

As a result of this, you'd probably guess that a CD of patriotic music done by a barbershop quartet would be a favorite. And you'd be right. Stars & Stripes is one of two or three CD's I regularly pull out and enjoy around the various patriotic holidays.

Now this isn't purely a traditional collection of patriotic songs. Yes, it does have some of the classics. But it is more like a good Christmas CD, just enough of the classics to put you in the mood and then some new songs to make you feel like you are getting something original for your money.

The CD starts right out with a hit. The four guys sing their way through "The Stars and Stripes Forever." Yes, that's right, there are words to this song. They have tweaked them some and include the words they sing in the booklet. And don't let the fact that they do this song completely a cappella scare you for one minute. Even if you don't know the words, you'll be able to hum the familiar melody right along with them. The harmonies are incredibly tight. Listening to it takes my breath away.

Next up is "The Star Spangled Banner." They do the first verse of our national anthem, again a cappella. It's a fairly faithful arrangement, but listening to those harmonies adds to the chill.

The CD is not 100% pure barbershop, as evidence by their version of "God Bless the USA." While their take on this modern classic starts out a cappella, it includes guest instrumentals by the American Pops Orchestra. They slowly fade in during the first chorus and completely take over for a bridge after the second chorus. Even with this break from pure barbershop tradition, you can't fault the tight harmonies.

And this is where the CD starts to get interesting. Many of the remaining songs are not truly American but barbershop in origin. For example, "A Song Like Daddy Used to Play" celebrates ragtime. "Unchained Melody" gets a fast, fun upgrade here. They use percussion instruments in the background of this one, but that is the only thing they use to compliment their voices. It's a toe tapping song that I love humming along with.

They get some help from Panache on a couple songs. This Sweet Adeline group (female barbershop) takes the lead on "And So to Sleep Again" and "If There's Anybody Here From Out of Town" with the guys of Acoustix providing additional harmonies in the background. Both songs were recorded live, and you can tell the audience loved them. The first is rather slow, but beautiful. The second is more upbeat and lots of fun as it celebrates the joys of finding someone from home in a strange place.

The CD closes with "So Many Voices Sing America's Song." This anthem celebrates the multi-cultural landscape that is America. The American Pops Orchestra helps out again, as does the choir The Vocal Majority. It's the perfect end to the CD as it reminds us what makes this country so great.

At just over 30 minutes, the CD could definitely be longer. But that's my only complaint. There is lots of variety here, but the tight harmonies of Acoustix keep everything running smoothly. Stars & Stripes is an absolute treat to listen to any time of year.

CD Length: 30:13
Tracks:
1. The Stars and Stripes Forever
2. The Star Spangled Banner
3. God Bless the USA
4. A Song Like Daddy Used to Play
5. Blackbird Medley
6. Unchained Melody
7. And so to Sleep Again
8. If There's Anybody Here From Out of Town
9. God Bless America
10. This is the Moment
11. So Many Voices Sing America's Song

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