The Swingle Singers


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The Swingle Singers' Christmas album, ...Unwrapped, is a pure delight. First of all, the group's eight members have fresh, youthful, unmannered voices and absolutely pure intonation. They sing with infectious pleasure and it's obvious they are having a blast with this repertoire. The variety of selections, which include pop and rock songs, folk songs, Baroque instrumental music, classical anthems, and even a few traditional carols, makes the collection very attractive. On the count of the quality of the arrangements, a crucial element for Christmas albums, this CD is practically off the charts. The arrangements are always tasteful, an accomplishment in itself given the overexposure and kitsch-potential of so much of the Christmas repertoire. The arrangements all have a light touch and are consistently appropriate to the material, whether celebratory, meditative, or goofy. The excerpt from Corelli's Christmas Concerto, a vocal transcription of an instrumental piece with a swung beat and percussive accents, is most like the work for which the Swingle Singers are known and is a reminder of the dazzling virtuosity of the performers, both those singing and those providing the very realistic percussion effects. Most of the pieces are originally vocal, so many arrangements feature a soloist, with the remaining voices supplying the accompaniment. Howard Blake's moving ballad "Walking in the air," is sung in an ethereal, ecstatic arrangement. The versions of pop classics like "Rocking Around the Christmas Tree" and "Santa Baby," are stylish, witty, and devoid of clichés. Joni Mitchell's "River" is a model of chaste wistfulness. Even a piece as dangerously hackneyed a piece as "Carol of the Drum," (Little drummer boy), comes across as genuinely charming in this modally inflected arrangement. The sound is clean, resonant, and warm. Recommended without reservation.

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