Floating Down the River is a disc devoted to the entire recorded output of the Heidelberg Quintet. This group was formed in 1912 by Thomas Edison as a direct response to requests from his customers for a vocal group using a high countertenor. Edison achieved this end by merely adding Will Oakland to the lineup of the established group the American Quartet. The Heidelberg Quintet took its name from a fictional vocal group devised for an Edison-recorded skit that was never issued. In two years, the group made 25 recordings for both Edison and Victor, and this disc includes them all, with the addition of a 1910 Victor recording in which Oakland recorded with the American Quartet as a backing group. The songs included range from sentimental ballads to barbershop standards to peppy ragtime numbers. The Heidelberg Quintet is decidedly an acquired taste. Oakland's high, girlish singing may be too much for many poor souls to take. In addition to this, the recordings are of uneven quality, as if you are going to assemble the entire output of any artist who produced a sizable number of recordings in a period such as 1912-1914, you can count that you are not going to find every record in pristine condition. Listeners who are nuts about barbershop quartet music, however, are liable to go head over heels upon hearing this disc, as it preserves a style of male harmony singing all too rarely heard. The guys in the Heidelberg Quintet were real pros, and sing like it -- you'll hardly find their caliber in very many vocal groups working today.
AllMusic Review by Uncle Dave Lewis
feat: Will Oakland