The Essentials have ushered in a new decade with a new member, new sound, new CD, and renewed enthusiasm.
Called "one of the finest acappella groups in the world" by one reviewer and "musical geniuses" by their mothers, The Essentials continue to sell-out shows while reinventing themselves and are now emerging on the international stage with some new twists on some age-old ideas.
"It's been a great journey so far but that was really just a warm-up," said band member Dan Speck. "Since Janet joined the group in the last year, we've basically reinvented ourselves. But we won't ever get away from what got us here - strong vocal harmonies and performances, tied to unforgettable melodies. Maybe we should have called the CD Nothing But New instead of Nothing But Blue!"
Essentials: ...and then some
This the Essentials second album and we have considerable change to enjoy. The harmonies are as tight as ever but the doo-wop tunes take the back seat in favor of light rock. In the footsteps of the Nylons they have chosen to add a percussion track to most of the tunes. "My Girl," "Lean On Me," "If I Fell" and "Only You" are the offerings for purists. Please don't let me give the impression that the doo wop is totally gone from the repertoire, for several songs still have that element but the selection is faithful to the historical changes of the 60's popular music.
Contemporary Canadian doo-woppers the Essentials have turned out two tight and tuneful CD's so far. This third, live recording is really a tribute to classic rock and pop, what with relentlessly infectious songs such as 'Stay,' 'Brown Eyed Girl' and 'Some Kind Of Wonderful.' Keeping a constant tempo are drums on many tracks. 'December, 1963' (a big hit for Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons) works both sides of the audio spectrum, high and low; the four cut loose on 'Kiss Him Goodbye,' the lead vocal intensifying into a throaty growl, the bass punctuating the concentrated harmonies working feverishly above. 'Change In My Life' and 'Lion Sleeps Tonight' are 'essentially' a cappella.
Essentials: Nothing But Blue
Dan, Thom, Janet and Joe (he spells it Jo3) are the London, Ontario-based mixed voice Contemporary a cappella group The Essentials, contains a faux "Parental Advisory" on the back of the cardboard jewel box sleeve for "Acappella Content," warning that it contains only human voices and drums, but "it still sounds so full that you'll think there's a whole band playing." Continuing, it adds: "Lyrics are suitable for all ages"-whew! We hope no parents will be scared off from enjoying this excellent collection by the warning, and conversely, that those in search of questionable lyrics will at least enjoy some great a cappella covers! Our favorites among the 12 songs include the a laid back arrangement of the Reggae anthem "I Can See Clearly Now," the Edgar Winter Group's "Free Ride," The Doobie Brothers' "Takin' It to the Streets," Tim McGraw's poignant Country hit "Some Things Never Change," Stephen Stills' Buffalo Springfield and CSN&Y hit, "Love The One You're With," a soulful, funky cover of Dave Mason's hit for Joe Cocker, "Feelin' Alright," the Rockapella standard "Falling Over You," and a live recording of Ray Gillen's Badlands Gospel hit, "In A Dream." Lead duties are shared among the four, and each shows off their serious talents as the others provide rich, sumptuous background vocals. Add some marvelous arrangements and you have "Nothing But Blue," the debut winner from The Essentials! Extensive liner notes with all the lyrics.
Essentials: Oh What a Night
From that hotbed of a cappella music to the north, Canada, comes a young, high energy quintet who are devoting their harmonious labors on this album to the art of the doo-wop, particularly the early 60's style. 'Sixteen Candles,' 'Runaround Sue,' 'So Much In Love,' 'Come Go With Me,' and 'The Way You Do The Things You Do' are a partial list of the tunes, 14 in all. You can thoroughly enjoy a moment of nostalgia or enjoy those oldies anew as the harmonies are tight and rich, the bass is solid and the tunes are all from an era of great schmaltz and great vocalization, a virtual golden age of acappella. (For spelling information see the Belmont's review)
Essentials: Remember December
Here's a group that shows that the uniquely American style of doo wop can be sung from over the border as this Canadian group's latest Christmas CD is a gem. More like doo-wop tinged there is both great singing (what a bass!) and arrangements that are a standout from the usual Christmas fair. It has been quite awhile since their previous release and time has seasoned them well as they have been performing steadily for years. There is the occasional very light accompaniment but vocals are very much front and center on this holiday treat.
Essentials: Stocking Stuffer
A little treat from north of the border from Toronto-based The Essentials. There's only three songs but they are most enjoyable and the recording is indeed a great Stocking Stuffer.