Monday, June 24, 2013

Music Review: The Sing-Off - Songs of the Season

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Many fun arrangements and a few outstanding ones
Cons: A couple of the tracks are horrid
The Bottom Line
These songs mostly work
But a few are just plan bad
Several outstanding

Mixed Styles.  Still Mostly Good

Season 3 of NBC’s singing competition The Sing-Off featured their largest collection of all vocal groups with a very wide collection of styles.  Frankly, that wide selection of styles hurt my enjoyment of the season, and it also hurts this year’s Christmas CD – Songs of The Season.

The disc features 13 tracks, one each by the top twelve contestant’s from the season plus a bonus track by Committed – season two’s winners.  The songs cover a wide range from “Santa Baby” to “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly” or “I Saw Three Ships.”  There is something for everyone.

But there is something that will bother just about everyone.  For example, I was never a fan of the more experimental groups of the season like Urban Method that included rap with their a cappella music.  I am not a fan of rap, as my pop/soft rock reviews should have proved by now.  So their strange take on “I Saw Three Ships” drives me up a wall.  If you are at all familiar with this Christmas song, you will not recognize it.  In my opinion it is a disaster.

Fairly only slightly better is Sonos’ take on “Coventry Carol.”  Again, a group that tries to mix in an urban flavor to their music, and it just leaves the song a mess.

So it might surprise you to find that I don’t mind Pentatonik’s take on “We Three Kings.”  As with all the songs the season 3 winners did on the show, they have put a very unique spin on it.  I won’t say it’s my favorite version of the song, but it works.  It’s upbeat and right at that cross between hip hop and pop, which is probably why I don’t mind it.

But the songs by the groups I loved?  They are great.  I was actually rooting for Vocal Point, the male group from Brigham Young.  They chose the under recorded “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly,” a song I’ve loved sing I sang it as part of a school Christmas program.  They keep it slow and reverent with incredible harmonies.  It’s great.

I also love Afro Blue’s take on “Christmas Time is Here.”  Granted, nothing will ever top the version from A Charlie Brown Christmas, but this jazz/pop group is perfectly suited to take it on with a slightly increased tempo that serves the song well.

Another favorite group from the season was the Doo Wop groupNorthShore, and their “Winter Wonderland” doesn’t disappoint with the smooth rhythm they give this chestnut.

Looking for more collegiate male groups?  We’ve got two fun tracks with theUniversityofRochester YellowJacketssinging “Carol of the Bells” and runners up Dartmouth Aires singing “Up on the Housetop.”  While the YellowJackets don’t use the words in their song, the harmonies and changing dynamics are great.  Meanwhile, “Up on the Housetop” is very upbeat and vocal percussion heavy for a arrangement you won’t forget.

All female group Delilah actually opens the disc with a pop version of “All I Want for Chirstmas is You.”  The vocals are stunning, and you’ll forget you are missing instruments as you listen.

I’m only a marginal fan of “Santa Baby,” the choice of The Collective, but Ruby’s solo here is not to be missed.  It’s so sultry I can almost picture her slinking across a stage with a microphone in hand.

There are enough good tracks to recommend this disc for fans of a cappella music and especially season 3 of The Sing-Off.  But when a track goes wrong, it really misses.  I’ll definitely be skipping some tracks on Songs of The Season every year.

CD Length: 41:36
1. All I Want for Christmas is You – Delilah
2. Santa Baby – The Collective
3. We Three Kings – Pentatonik
4. Infant Holy, Infant Lowly – Vocal Point
5. Christmas Time is Here – Afro Blue
6.CoventryCarol – Sonos
7. Carol of the Bells –UniversityofRochesterYellowJackets
8. Up on the Housetop –DartmouthAires
9. Winter Wonderland – Northshore
10. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear –UniversityofDelawareDeltones
11. In the Bleak Midwinter – Kinfolk 9
12. I Saw Three Ships – Urban Method
13. Jingle Bells - Committed

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