HomeRecording Review: Hyannis Sound's “On The Clock”

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I will start this review by stating that if you are interested in a cappella, music, or simply joy in the slightest bit, that you need to order this album immediately.  Then when the first track picks up speed at about thirty seconds in, try not to squeal in excitement like a thirteen year old girl at a Jonas Brothers concert.  Inside of their cleverly designed album cover, you will find a plethora of some of the best arranging, intonation, and soloists that really make you stand up and take notice. Now, reviewing Hyannis Sound may sound like fun, but let me assure you that it is in no way an easy task. Imagine sitting front row at the NBA All-Star game, on a year that they all play really hard and don’t act like kids in a backyard pickup game, and try to find flaws in the best of the best. Hyannis Sound is an all-star team of collegiate a cappella. To make things more difficult, the production has a few names tacked on like Ed Boyer and John Clark. I will get to them later….. Reviewing them song by song would look something like: First track- awesome, second track- awesome, etc. I will approach it in a different way.

Song Selection
This is usually an area where I have discrepancies with even the best of albums. Hyannis Sound was very close to being one of the groups that I could walk away knowing that I would listen to every single song again and again. I do have one or two qualms, and they deal with my personal taste and I understand that they have an enormous fan base that wants to hear them do more classic numbers and not so much modern songs. I am one of six people in the world that doesn’t like Michael Buble.  His music doesn’t appeal to me, but in that light, these guys managed to make “Everything” a strong song with a solid solo from Andy DeLong.  I am sure that “Still The One” amazes some of the 30-50 year olds that attend the shows, but if you have been in a cappella for any length of time, you have heard this one over and over. Again, Hyannis Sound is giving their fans what they want, and I can’t fault them for that. Other than that, I commend them on an album full of upbeat powerful songs, and beautiful ballads that move emotions like an album should.

Arrangements
This is why music directors everywhere are envious of Hyannis Sound. Imagine being able to arrange anything and know that your group could pick it up with no problem.  To add to the talent of the guys singing, they call upon Mr. Boyer on three occasions and Mr. Clark on another for arrangements on some of the stronger songs on the album. This is no slight to the other arrangements, because there are no weak songs on this album.  Syllables abound in songs like “Foreplay/Longtime”, I am scared to even venture a guess as to what syllables are being used in parts of the verses. I would have loved to hear more of the rest of the group in the beginning of “Your Love”, but why take away from Nate’s killer solo? “She Talks To Angels” is one of the best Black Crowes covers that I have ever heard arranged; hands down. Kudos to every one of their arrangers, as you have set the bar pretty high for the rest of us.

Soloists
This is one area that I cannot praise enough. Each and every song, without any exceptions, is absolutely what you would hope for. If you have ever watched these guys live or looked up YouTube videos, you will see that there is little that Ed and John had to do to make them sound this way. Talent is an abundant asset in Hyannis Sound, and they showcase it every chance that they get. Seth, Patrick and Andy all own their songs, which is easier said than done. I can’t stress enough how important it is for groups to not only cover songs, but to make them your own and sell it to the audience that this is your song and you sing it, not the original artist. I could listen to Nate Tao sing the ABCs and still be captivated. That guy blows me away every time.

Overall Sound
RARB usually separates this out into different categories, but I think I can categorize Tuning, Energy, and Innovation into one paragraph. Perfection. Tuning, as expected, is flawless, as is becoming the standard for higher level a cappella groups.  The blend that is achieved is more difficult than they make it look. They are never lacking on energy. Part of this is due to the constant changing in the arrangements and the syllables that demand energetic intonation. Again, watch them live and try not to feel their energy when they sing together. It is contagious. Note to collegiate directors: play a Hyannis Sound clip at the beginning of each rehearsal. Then dare your singers to be better than that. Innovation is a difficult area because these are covers. Hyannis Sound does add their own little flavor to each song, and as stated before, makes it their own.  When each song ebbs and flows as it does, it is extremely easy to overlook the standouts in the background. Basses: I am amazed. Good basses are hard to find, but great basses? Look much harder. The vocal percussion is some of the tightest work that I have heard on an album in quite some time. If you are working with a decent pair of speakers, then you can hear every part clearly. This leads me to the final category…

Production
As a producer myself, this is undoubtedly my favorite part to critique. However, Ed Boyer and John Clark leave very little, if anything at all, to correct. Boyer has gone beyond making a name for himself, and is now climbing the ladder of names that a cappella fans everywhere should be very familiar with. This album will place him at one of the top rungs for sure. The production on this album plays to both sides of the effects debate. The tracking for the background vocals was perfect, and in every song, he finds a delicate balance between vocals and the screaming guitars and edgy bass that booms in all of the right places. There is plenty of vocal sound left in the VP, too. When they do throw in guitars here and there, it is so tastefully done that it doesn’t stand out, and instead fits right in to the groove. 
   
What? You feel like I talked the entire time about the good stuff and didn’t mention any of the bad things? Then I challenge you to give it a listen, and see how many negative things you can find. They are few and far between. Congrats to Hyannis Sound on a spectacular album and I for one can’t wait to hear more just like it in the future.

http://www.hyannissound.com/

About the author:
Eric Talley fell in love with a cappella music the very first time that he heard it. He is the founder of Appalachian State University's only co-ed a cappella group, Lost In Sound. He served as their President for three years. During that time, a cappella brought him not only musical joy, but love as well. He met his fiancé Nicki - who was the music director - while in the group, and the two will be married in August 09. A background in a cappella music and sound engineering led Eric to become involved in professional album production, where he continues his work today and as a contributor to CASA.