The Hyannis Sound - On The Clock
I’ve been a big fan of The Hyannis Sound since 1999, when the first Chip joined the group. Some friends and I camped out in the backyard of their (then) Orleans house in the summer of 2003 because… well, just because. It seemed like a good idea at the time, (though incidentally that was the same weekend my Jetta’s engine decided to explode, so maybe I should have stayed home?) I digress…
On the Clock is THS’ third 100% studio album, their 16th overall, (though wikipedia would have you believe it was 14). It’s an excellent work overall, and most definitely re-playable. I have the slightly annoying habit of listening to new music on repeat ad nauseum, and there are absolutely tracks on this disc that will make my recurring playlists. Without further ado:
Biggest Surprise: Track 7 - Falling Slowly (Holy Crap!)
Biggest Disappointment: Track 10 - Something Happened on the Way To Heaven
Overall Rating: The mathematical average of my ratings is right around 75%, but since I’m rating on a scale of 1 to 10, I’ll happily give it an 8/10.
01 - Foreplay / Longtime (Boston)
The first 1:55 of this track, which is almost six and a half minutes in total, absolutely kicks your ass. I can’t imagine it sounds this good live, so I’m going to chalk up some of its mastery to the recording studio, pun completely intended. Even so, I love it. It’s a Boyer arrangement, and has all of the hallmarks of the awesomeness that is Ed Boyer.
Let me tell you, that’s a lot of awesome. My favorite moment is around 2:30 when the guitar solo kicks in. It’s a very, very well engineered solo — not too vocal, and not so produced that I’m annoyed. This was the best possible way to start this cd.
02 - Unchain My Heart (Ray Charles)
Whose idea was it to put two Boyer’s back to back?
I normally love any decent Ray Charles arrangements.1 Unchain My Heart is well-arranged and well-recorded, but it’s not that special. It sounds like Ray Charles, so that’s nice. Eric tells me that if I would take the three hours to watch Ray, I’d appreciate it.
Ok, I can believe that, because all in all, it’s probably a very good song. To me though, this song is kinda meh. Fredo2 pulls off a good Ray, though, so that’s cool, but I’m going to have to accept that it’s a matter of taste and move on.
03 - Everything (Michael Bublé)
Having just listened to Firedrill!’s latest disc on repeat for two weeks, I don’t have nearly the appreciation for another Bublé tune that I should. “Everything” is better than Firedrill!’s “Comin’ Home”, but here’s another matter of taste. It’s just not that special. Andy’s good. There’s nothing wrong with it, and I won’t skip it in a playlist, but I probably won’t seek it out, much unlike the next track…
04 - Feels Like Today (Rascal Flatts)
First of all, Gary LeVox has one of the most distinctive voices in country music, so trying to do anything he sings is a challenge. Second, Rascal Flatts has had this knack over the last half-decade of putting out a track or two per album that seamlessly crosses over between country and pop. This was a great selection by the group, and Jeff’s arrangement is spot freaking on. I appreciate that Patrick doesn’t try to imitate LeVox, and he nails the part in doing so. I could easily listen to this and the original in the same ten minutes and enjoy both.
/me adds this to the repeat list
05 - Your Love (The Outfield)
I nearly stopped my car to listen to this song. I love the original, and this is a picture-perfect arrangement of it. I’ve never given Cooper nearly enough musical credit, and this is an excellent work. Nate nails it, and I’m going to forget that he’s a really short asian kid, because he might as well be Tony Lewis without a British accent.
This track gets a 9 only because, while it’s not quite as awesome as “Feels Like Today” or “Falling Slowly”, it is still quite kick ass.
06 - Still The One (Orleans)
Classic, very classic. I bet this track sounds awesome live. I actually don’t think the recording does too much for it, and I’m kicking myself for not picking up Bootleg #5 which has a live version. I’ll have to remedy that at some point. That’s all I have to say, there’s nothing bad about it.
07 - Falling Slowly (Glen Hansard & Markéta Irglová)
This track makes me wish my star rating system were more flexible, as it goes to eleven.
Apparently, I missed Once, and didn’t note it in the Oscar results last year. Until I looked up from where this absolutely gorgeous song comes from, I had never heard of the film, which is now in my NetFlix queue, simply on this song’s merits. Arranged by Samrat, the harmonies are haunting and powerful. The backgrounds ebb and flow, crafting a passionate picture of love, loss and hope. Brian and (I think) Micah 100% nail the lead vocal on a track with zero percussion. I love that the arrangement is well-crafted enough to completely eliminate the need for VP. I have exactly one nitpick, and it’s that at 3:25, the held notes aren’t 100% in tune.
What? I was scraping for a criticism, and when the bottom line resolves the chord, it’s fine! Leave me alone!
I will listen to this song at least a hundred times before I even start to think about taking it off of repeat. It’s that good.
08 - Would You Go With Me (Josh Turner)
At this point, I’m asking myself, since when did THS do country tunes? Better yet, two on the same disc. Even better yet, one by Josh Tuner, giving a bass a real chance to shine? Since now it would seem. This track is probably just as good live, but that doesn’t give the recording much credit, I suppose. Overall, very enjoyable, but not quite one of the best. Dave impersonates a rising country star well, and that’s not normally something to be said in relation to an a cappella recording.
09 - She Talks To Angels (The Black Crowes)
Good syllables, but surprisingly average overall. I feel like I could have found this track on any college group’s album, and I expect a bit more from THS. (Sorry, it’s my review.) It’s another Boyer arrangement, and it is well-produced, so maybe only college groups that Ed likes?
10 - Something Happened on the Way to Heaven (Phil Collins)
When I read the track list before listening, I nearly skipped to this song purely out of instinct. This is my favorite Phil Collins tune, and I know that sets the bar incredibly high. Jeff’s arrangement is really, really solid. I have no complaints there. There’s something really tangible missing in the recording, though: intensity. It’s completely absent. Increasing the volume should make the song crawl up the wall and take you over, and instead it’s just louder. It’s entirely possible that whoever normalized it was way too aggressive in doing so, so I could understand it to be a mixing mistake. But. Still. There are these horn hits that smack you upside the head in the original, but do nothing to me here.
I was really looking forward to loving this track, and I couldn’t, which is why it was the biggest disappointment. It wasn’t my least favorite track, but I wanted it to be my most.
11 - I Can’t Make You Love Me (Bonnie Raitt)
There has to be at least one soft, pretty song on any album for me to not think someone’s trying too hard. This song is gorgeous. It’s almost too gorgeous, and were it not for my pure adoration of Micah’s smooth and totally effortless vocal delivery, I would complain. I won’t, however, because it’s just so pretty.
I would argue that he sings it better than Bonnie Raitt. Yep, I would. Argue with me, I dare you.
12 - Industry (Jon McLaughlin)
I have never heard of Jon McLaughlin. I’m not sure I’m all that inclined to go look him up now that I’ve heard one of his songs as an a cappella arrangement. Crap, I just did. Huh, some dude from Indiana. Ok, I’ll give some respect to those who grow corn.
It’s a pretty cool arrangement, and Tim does some neat things with the moving lines in the beginning and throughout the song. The song itself just isn’t that interesting. I don’t think I would have picked it to end the disc, but looking back at the rest of the selection, maybe it was the right choice. I think the song will grow on me, and I could see myself rating it a bit higher after a few more runs through the track list.
I haven’t written an exhaustive a cappella review since, I think, Cape Standard Time. That write-up isn’t online anywhere, but I’m certain it was less well-thought-out than this was. (In fact, remembering what I was up to in 2003, I can almost guarantee it was written at 4am.) I really enjoyed this disc, and I’ll do my best to send anyone I can to see the Cape’s Boys of Summer anytime I can. Keep on rocking, guys!