The Four Freshmen

Blue World

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Unlike some other Four Freshmen compilations, this one exclusively covers the earliest part of their career, with 20 tracks drawn from 1950-1955 recordings. It does a good job of documenting that period, including the early hits "It's a Blue World," "Mood Indigo," and "Day by Day," though (as is customary for the El label) the annotation is on the sparse side. The packaging makes a big deal out of the group's influence on the Beach Boys, with a small print line on the bottom of the front cover billing the Four Freshmen as a "majestic vocal harmony group who influenced Brian Wilson and revolutionized pop." As far as the Brian Wilson/Beach Boys influence, however, that's no idle boasting. Particularly on some of the ballads, the high, tender yearning vocal parts are extremely similar to the approach used by the Beach Boys in many of their vocal harmony arrangements, though the Four Freshmen's material is too jazz/'50s adult pop-oriented to be of obvious appeal to the average rock or Beach Boys fan. Occasional tracks spotlighting solo vocals as opposed to harmonies reveal a surprisingly earthier side of the group, with "Stormy Weather" and "Baltimore Oriole" especially betraying an almost African-American flavor. For all the quality of the music on this specific anthology, however, there have been better compilations of the group that cover a wider chronological spectrum, with the absence of their most well-known hit (1956's "Graduation Day," covered by the Beach Boys) being a particular drawback.

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