Friday, April 26, 2013

W: Walt's Top 5 A Cappella Recordings of All Time

Why make a list of my favorite a cappella recordings?

Why not?

I made some guidelines for my list before starting:
  • Only one song per group. (Someday I'll do a list of just my top twenty Take 6 songs.)
  • Don't limit myself to the best known songs. (These are my favs, not the top downloads.)
  • No SNC songs. (Nothing worse than someone listing one of their own as the greatest, you know?)

Here they are, feel free to play along at home. I highly recommend downloading these immediately and listening to them until they play themselves...

1) "Get Away Jordan," Take 6 This song is the beginning and the end of what I know in a cappella. Literally it was the beginning, as it was the first song I was introduced to by Take 6 way back in high school. I learned to sing screaming falsetto by playing this song to and from school, blasting in my car, trying to be Claude McKnight and wailing the top part. Heck, Boyz II Men even quote the chorus on their debut album, Cooleyhighharmony, a true tip of the hat from the top selling vocal group of all time to their lesser acclaimed, but worshiply adored, counterparts.

2) "I Found a New Baby," The Real Group Could have gone with any of a dozen recordings by The Real Group, but this one's special. Randy Stine first introduced all of the original SNC guys to their sound, and we even got to meet them at Butler University back in the late 90s. "Perfection" is the word to describe them and this track is the pinnacle of that. Anders counter-tenor lead is not only pitch perfect, but his feel for the melody and the jazz in his Swedish style is unreal.

3) "I Walk With You," Rockapella There are many more popular Rockapella tunes than this single, but to me this is the Rockapella I love. Some of their tracks are too percussion based, some are too corny for my palate. When Rockapella is at its best in my mind is when they just SING. "Don't Tell Me You Do" is a close 2nd, but this song brings the house down for me. The gospel bridge. The inverted last chorus. This song was on Sean Altman's last album with the group, and I equate this track as his "Let It Be" before leaving. Loved it so much, I had SNC and Ladies First sing it together at my wedding.

4) "Mother Nature's Son," The King's Singers I borrowed a lot of CDs from Don Nottingham in college, usually without returning them for a long time, if ever at all. The King's Singers' Beatles album was a staple in Don's car for a stretch of a month or so, and he could never drop me off from a Delusions of Grandeur rehearsal without him playing me this track. It's everything an a cappella arrangement should be: Sung effortlessly, arranged without awkward syllables, and powerful without forcing the issue. Play and repeat, play and repeat.

5) "Gone," The House Jacks A game changer for me. This wasn't choir boys singing, this was a legit rock ballad with heart and power. I first met Deke Sharon and the guys backstage at the National Collegiate A Cappella Invitational (now ICCA) at Carnegie Hall in 1998. Straight No Chaser was competing in the finals, and the Jacks were the host group that would sing while the judges tallied scores. Hearing them perform this song live at Carnegie Hall was mind-bending. Again, Don introduced me to this song about a year prior to that meeting. IUSNC would record it in 2000, with Ryan Ahlwardt and Don (of course) wailing away on the solos.

Five songs that shaped my life and love for a cappella.

-Walter Chase

In the studio for Under The Influence
Photo credit: SNCmusic

So... do YOU have a Top 5? Let us know in the comments!

ICYMI: Check out Walt's article in our second issue, "So, You Wanna Be in an A Cappella Group..." 


Penelope Crowe said...

I am not quite sure if the entire song is a cappella, but the one that pops in my head is Billy Joel's For the Longest Time. I always thought it was neat that a song like that was on the radio. Thanks for this cool post.
Visiting from A to Z:

Amy said...

Boyz to Men turned me onto a capella
Straight no Chaser made me love it!

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