A couple of weeks ago I listed my 10 favourite bands. I said at the time, I wasn’t going to include any groups that were primarily known for their singing, but that I would include them at a later date. This is the later date, so here goes. The caveats I gave in the last post about current listening habits apply here as well.
1.) The Soul Stirrers A quartet that changed the face of gospel music. Most notably so when they replaced their lead singer with a young Sam Cooke and made him the face and voice of the group. In later years their recordings were all re-released with added backing instrumentals, but this group was at their finest when they were acapella, as witnessed here.
2.) The Mills Brothers If you’re only familiar with the Mills Brothers from their popular songs such as Glow Worm and Paper Doll, you’ve just scratched the surface of their vocal talents. A brother group that was actually composed of brothers, along with their father, the Mills brothers displayed a remarkable degree of vocal versatility as evidenced in this clip. The clip also gives an idea of the institutionalized racism in Hollywood’s depiction of Black culture.
3.) The King’s Singers If you were to cross the style of the Mills Brothers with an English Cathedral choir you would end up with something approximating The King’s Singers. Throughout it’s various iterations this group has been around for close to 45 years now. Great singing, marked by close harmony, invention and a sense of humour, this group is proof that serious music and fun go well together. I’ve chosen the close harmony aspect with the clip of You are the New Day.
4.) The Statesmen While Black Gospel and Southern Gospel share many common roots, their styles diverged over time, and so while many people would like to compare performances of one style directly against another, any group should be compared against others in their direct field before being compared to any group in the other. In Southern Gospel, The Statesmen were the bench mark for the genre, most remarkably for being able to reinvent themselves and reemerge as the best in the category throughout significant personnel changes. While my favourite of the group is Jim “Big Chief” Wetherington, I also think Doy Ott was likely the best baritone in the business. Here is a link to them doing Count Your Blessings.
5.) Chanticleer This may choir from San Francisco possess an amazing range both in voice and in style. In many way’s they are like a larger version of the King’s Singers doing everything from Baroque to contemporary pop. This is a link to them performing an American folk classic, Shenandoah
6.) Manhattan Transfer This jazz vocal ensemble attained a measure of crossover popularity in the 1980’s and are still going strong today. Here they are doing my favourite of their songs, A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square.
7.) Morriston Orpheus Choir I have some Welsh blood in me, and this Welsh male voice choir is one of my favourites. Here they are doing a rather over performed song, You Raise Me Up.
8.) Prairie Voices This is a local Winnipeg choir that was formed several years ago by Elroy Friesen who is now a doctor and director of choral activities. The choir was formed with a mandate to perform 20th century and Canadian choral music, a mandate it still holds to today. Here they are performing Rejoice!