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Music Review: The Mighty Echoes – a cappella Cool

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I recently reviewed the latest album by the power pop group, The Rubinoos. I mentioned that I had enjoyed the a cappella sound of one of the tracks. So what should appear at my door but a copy of The Mighty Echoes latest CD. It seems as if Rubinoos member Jon Rubin was one of the founders of this a cappella group and another Rubinoos stalwart, Tommy Dunbar, produced and mixed the album.

The Mighty Echoes were formed in 1986 and a cappella Cool is their fifth album release in 23 years. The group consists of tenor Jon Rubin, second tenor John Lathan, baritone Harvey Shield, and bass Charlie Davis. They are one of those groups that have carved out a nice niche for themselves. They have toured consistently for the last two plus decades and appeared on such television shows as Murphy Brown, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, and The Suite Life Of Zack and Cody.

They are a classic Doo Wop group. The all possess superior voices which fit together well into a choir like whole. Singing without instruments is tremendously difficult and after 23 years The Mighty Echoes have it down to a science. Their pitch and tone remain perfect throughout the album.

They tend to focus on older songs, which probably was a wise decision given their approach. The best tracks are traditionally presented and true to the originals. The old Dell-Vikings hit, “Whispering Bells,” is a perfect vehicle for the ebb and flow of their voices. Rubin’s tenor floats above a solid foundation of sound. John Lathan’s tenor assumes the lead on the old Five Satins classic, “In The Still Of The Night.” The track is highlighted by the perfect melding of all four voices into one sound and then they split apart and go their separate ways. “Return To Sender,” featuring the baritone of Harvey Shield, is a little more up-tempo and provides a nice change of pace. “Up On The Roof” is sung in the style of the Drifters and is a nice smooth listen.

The most creative track may well be the Eric Clapton tune, “Wonderful Tonight,”  It may appear to be an odd choice but they slow it down and put the accent directly on the words which takes the song in an entirely new direction.

You cannot have a Doo Wop album without the bass singing lead on at least one track. Charlie Davis does just that with “Daddy Cool.” A good bass can send shivers down one’s spine and Davis accomplishes that with ease.

The album contains 14 tracks and only two did not really appeal to me. There is nothing wrong with “Chapel Of Love” except it was difficult for me to accept the song sung by males as The Dixie Cups hit version is so well known. “Good Vibrations” just never gets off the ground. Singing a well known Beach Boys song can be a daunting task and the vocals here pale next to the original.

The Mighty Echoes have honed their craft to a point where they are able to produce a rich and textured sound. If you are a fan of the a cappella or doo wop sound then a cappella Cool is a must. 

 

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