The Swingle Singers

The Swingle Singers

  • AllMusic Rating
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

AllMusic Review by

The Swingle Singers heard here are not the original French group that were an essential part of any cocktail-party-ready LP shelf in the late '60s, but the group's second (and still viable) incarnation, founded in London in the 1970s. There is no indication of when and where the music was recorded, or of the original recordings from which it was taken -- features that are always desirable in a compilation disc, even if the print be small. That complaint aside, The Swingle Singers is a wonderful collection, and one of the rare ones that may actually be a better representation of the performers' talents than any of the original recordings of the London group (the French recordings, on Philips, are best of all). This is because the Swingle Singers devoted some of their recordings to a single composer (Bach, most famously) or genre, while the pieces presented here rotate among three different sources: Bach, Mozart, and a group of recordings of diverse traditional materials. This is sufficient to display many of the startlingly evocative effects this famed group of unaccompanied singers could achieve -- the calm "string" sound of the female singers in the slower Bach works, the uncanny South American "percussion" in Cachapaya (track 5), the impressive synthetic intelligence of Ward Swingle's arrangements of full-scale works such as the first movement of Mozart's Symphony No. 40 in G minor. As so often with groups that seem at first like trivial passing novelties but then turn out to still be interesting after four decades, the listener will realize that there is often something else going on besides the basic trick of performing instrumental pieces with all vocals. There is the jazzing-up of Bach and Mozart, which was not common when the Swingle Singers came into existence. There is the sheer extremity of the vocal styles, which would now go by the name of extended technique. And there is always a fascinating dimension of parody of the 1960s cocktail aesthetic -- or of self-parody, for the Swingle Singers were part of that aesthetic. This nicely remastered collection may inspire many listeners to hunt up some of the older Swingle Singers albums, but those listeners may find that this disc remains a favorite as well.

blue highlight denotes track pick