Tuesday, February 5, 2013

cd review THE MIDTOWN MEN - "Sixties Hits"

As cover albums go you could do a lot worse than the one The Midtown Men recently released that is entirely composed of hit songs from the sixties.  It helps that the "men" are former co-stars from the original cast of Broadway's Jersey Boys, the smash hit musical that covers the rise and turbulent times behind Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons and that every song has the same harmony inspired arrangements that the best of the Four Seasons songs had.  It also helps that the four men who make up the group spent plenty of time together originating their roles in that Broadway show and re-creating the harmonies that made The Four Season so successful.

The four men who make up The Midtown Men are Christian Hoff, J. Robert Spencer and Daniel Reichard, three of the original leads in Jersey Boys along with Michael Longoria who was in the original cast in a smaller role and in the ensemble and later took over in the Frankie Valli role.  These four guys have spent a lot of time together ensuring that their harmonies are perfectly in tune and this recording shows off their polished voices in fine form. 

The songs selected for this cd are ones that are well suited to the vocal abilities of the four men.  While none of the songs will replace the original songs from the original artists, which include The Beatles, The Mamas and the Papas, Marvin Gaye, The Drifters, The Turtles and The Zombies, each one is a chance to re-visit the songs either you or your parents grew up listening to.

The joy the four have in singing these songs, songs that I can't imagine any of the four guys are old enough to have heard when they were first released, comes across very clearly on this cd.  I also like the fact that they trade off on who sings the melody, without one of them also singing lead on each of the songs, unlike most of the Four Seasons hits where Frankie Valli would sing the melody.  Some highlights: "Can't Buy Me Love" receives a lovely jazzy rendition with lilting harmonies that is a fresh update on The Beatles classic tune; "Happy Together" with its great arrangement and the guys expertly harmonizing and "Up on the Roof" with its lush yet gentle and driving arrangement.  I also like the guys take on "California Dreamin" though the harmonies for this song most closely match the ones on the original Mamas and Papas hit, instead of being created specifically for the Men like it seems most of the other tracks on the cd receive.  "Time of the Season" also more closely matches the original Zombies arrangement but is still perfectly matched for the harmonies these guys are capable of. 

While the upbeat songs are given a highly polished production there are still some quibbles, including that about half of the songs included here, beyond the ones I mentoned above, are Four Seaons hits that these guys performed in Jersey Boys and which you can hear three of the four "men" sing on the original cast recording of that show.  And, running just over 30 minutes, it would seem like the "Men" could have included other songs that they perform in their concerts to make the run time more in line with other vocal recordings.

The Midtown Men are currently in the middle of a national tour with dates in just about every city and state you can imagine.  A complete list of dates can be found on their website.

Official website of The Midtown Men

"Time of the Season"

"Happy Together"

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