Since September 2010, this blog has recorded the journey of this middle-aged man as I attempt to listen to all the music in my CD collection. CDs revisited in their entirety from start to finish - no skipping tracks, no shuffle. CDs only - no vinyl, no tapes, no downloads. And just as CD technology (and the album format itself) becomes obsolete. I'm no music critic, just a music junkie with too much time on my hands.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Manhattan Transfer - Vocalese (1985)


Note: this release was originally purchased as an LP, later replaced by a CD.

After a few jazz-pop/adult contemporary albums, the Manhattan Transfer made an album of straight-ahead jazz/bebop pieces which were originally recorded in the '50s and '60s.  These songs were originally instrumentals, so the group had lyricist/singer Jon Hendricks (of the vocal trio Lambert, Hendricks and Ross) write lyrics for the pieces.  Hendricks is often given credit for creating "vocalese," in which lyrics are added to existing instrumental songs, including the solos.  In other words, voices take the places of other instruments.

This is one of the group's best works; it's certainly one their most focused. And there's guest artists aplenty: Philly Joe Jones, The Four Freshmen, Bobby McFerrin, Ron Carter, McCoy Tyner, and Dizzy Gillespie. At the 28th Grammy Awards, the album won the award for Best Jazz Vocal Performance, Duo Or Group while the group's work on the track Another Night In Tunisia with Bobby McFerrin won two awards: Best Arrangement For Voices and Best Jazz Vocal Performance, Male.  You don't hear many albums like this, probably because they'd be measured up against this one.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #74
Peak on Cash Box album chart: #67

Tracks:  I prefer the up-tempo pieces: That's Killer Joe, Rambo, Airegin, Ray's Rockhouse, Blee Blop Blues, Sing Joy Spring, and Move. If I skip any songs, it's usually the slower pieces, but that rarely happens.  The groupThe Count Basie Orchestra backs up the band on Rambo and Blee Blop Blues and they are cookin'.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD:  In the summer of 1985, I had my first full-time job working at a local plumbing supply and I took night classes.  I was supposed to be saving my hard-earned money for college, but I usually spent my weekends blowing it all away in Houston.  Good times.  Carefree times.  This album was originally purchased on a trip to Sound Warehouse on the Southwest Freeway.

Also, while MTV wasn't playing Manhattan Transfer videos at the time, you could catch them occassionally on HBO.  The one that I remember is the I Love Lucy homage for Blee Blop Blues:


Previously revisited for the blog:
Man-Tora! Live In Tokyo (1996)
The Christmas Album (1992)
Brasil (1987)
Bodies and Souls (1983)
Mecca For Moderns (1981)
Extensions (1979)

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