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2010 - week 24, from 12 June – Vocal Groups (rpt)

PostPosted: Sun Jun 13, 2010 9:58 am
by Alan
2010 - week 24, from 12 June – Vocal Groups (rpt)

Listen again via this link from 12 June 2010 11.30pm for 7 days

First broadcast in June 2009 Full details of playlist and Charlie's original bulletin here ... te=6June09 and viewtopic.php?f=42&t=11141
World Service page link

Charlie’s bulletin from June 2009

I love vocal groups. But only when they are the featured artist. I generally can’t stand it when they are brought in to reinforce the melody on somebody else’s record, as in too many pop records in the 1960s. But give me a record where the vocal group is the focus and I’m a happy man, wallowing in the interplay of voices.

I’m not sure if I quite realised it when O Brother Where Art Thou came out, but that film and its soundtrack were explicit celebrations of vocal groups, unusually bringing black and white music into one coherent sequence. Among the few apparent exceptions, if you simply look at the artist credits, is the name of Alison Krauss, the only name listed for ‘Down to the River to Pray’. But listen to the track, and it is a showcase of interweaving vocals, individual voices alternating with Alison’s until a whole choir takes the song away at the end. Great production by T-Bone Burnett.

There are a few genres in which vocal groups are the dominant artist type, notably black American gospel music. In his highly recommended book, The Gospel Sound, author Tony Heilbut classifies all such groups as Gospel Quartets, even though quite a few of them are actually Quintets or even larger. One of the top such groups were The Swan Silvertones, whose lead singer Claude Jeter was among the few who could match Sam Cooke for pure clarity. The trick was to convey emotion without going overboard into histrionics, and Claude was the maestro. He briefly surfaced into public visibility on Paul Simon’s album There Goes Rhymin’ Simon, but never succumbed to pressure to move across into pop music full time and remained a revered figure in gospel circles until his recent death. Just listen to how he sings the word, ‘Mary’ so many different ways.

Because the name of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan is usually mentioned on its own, it easy to forget or never know that his was just one voice in an assembly of fantastic vocalists, and although he was a matchless virtuoso, his best records always featured interplay with the rest of his group and his young singers were a joy to hear.

Cuban music is usually thought of as a vehicle for fantastic instrumentalists, particularly on trumpet, congas and piano, but there is also a great tradition of Cuban vocal groups, among whom Sexteto Bolona were the pioneers, recording as early as the 1920s.

Over the past years, it seems that Jamaican music has been reissued and repackaged into every conceivable category and genre, but there are surprisingly few compilations of vocal groups, despite this possibly being the strongest genre on the island. I would go so far as to suggest that a compilation of the best Jamaican vocal groups would be a greater pleasure than a parallel collection of American doo wop groups. It was hard to whittle them down to just one choice, but ‘Book of Rules’ by the Heptones has never let me down yet.

In South Africa, American jazz of the 1940s had a deep and lasting impact, with Louis Armstrong being the inspiration for Hugh Masekela and others, and the Mills Brothers, Ink Spots and Andrews Sisters setting off any number of vocal group imitators. The Manhattan Brothers are in danger of being remembered principally as the launching pad for their protégé Miriam Makeba, but were very popular in their own right.

We don’t play much music from the South Pacific islands in this programme, but grab the chance to feature one of the choirs featured on the album Songs from the Volcano, curated by American guitarist Bob Brozman.

1. Alison Krauss
Title: Down to the River to Pray
Album: O Brother Where Art Thou
Label: Mercury
Catalogue No: 170 0602 Country: USA

2. Swan Silvertones
Title: Oh Mary Don't You Weep
Album: Testify! The Gospel Box
Label: Rhino
Catalogue No: R2 73734 Country: USA

3. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
Title: Allah Hu, Allah Hu
Album: Ecstasy
Label: Nascente
Catalogue No: NSCD 073 Country: Pakistan

4. Sextetos Bolona
Title: A Morir, Caballeros (Until Death, Gentlemen)
Album: Sextetos Cubanos
Label: Arhoolie
Catalogue No: 7006 Country: Cuba
Website: ... tists.html

5. The Heptones
Title: Book of Rules
Album: Peace & Harmony
Label: Trojan
Catalogue No: TJDDD202 Country: Jamaica

6. The Manhattan Brothers
Title: Malayisha
Album: The Very Best
Label: Gallotone
Catalogue No: CDZAC77 Country: South Africa

7. Papua New Guinea Stringbands with Bob Brozman
Title: Watikai lau Nuk Pau Atalaigu
Album: Songs Of The Volcano
Label: Riverboat
Catalogue No: TUGCD 1040 Country: Papua New Guineau

Listen again via this link from 12 June 2010 11.30pm for 7 days