Both Sides Now
The accomplished American singing group return with a new album. It’s good to hear their voices again, blending mellow and enthralling, smooth and rousing. This time around they have some guest artists aboard. My only problem as listener/reviewer is the choice of material. The song listing includes some really hackneyed folk-group-from-hell selections. Someone somewhere is underestimating the intelligence and taste of the group’s international fan following…but this is not to say that these recordings sound anything but fantastic. This is a group of mega-talented singers and performers who bring warm soul and crafted dynamic impact to every piece that they approach. If I have heard several of the numbers far too many times in my humble existence does not mean that other listeners cannot enjoy them.
Jerusalem is the old familiar anthem – usually sung by drunk sports fans who think they have tuneful voices – and here the 7 are joined by the ethereal vocals on The Swingles, no less AND the Chantage choir. So the song is delivered as a beehive of harmonies and very churchy it is, too. The vocals make the whole song float with a celestial richness.
Shape Of My Heart is a Sting song of a troubled man, and features Peter Hollens. The vocals are on the deep side layered with higher tones and with a conspiratorial touch. The number itself puts me in mind of Curtis Mayfield or moreover The Staples. The music created here is at once beautiful and clever, the impact achieved with no yelling or overkill. Admirable indeed ; I Need Air starts like a close cousin of the Bacharach classic The Look Of Love, with similarities in melody too. But the angelic chorale ambience is not far away, just hear those striking fifths and sixths chiming in !. Meanwhile the bass register singing evokes 70s Stevie Wonder, quite deliberately one must surmise.
Going Home – Largo from the New World Symphony by Dvorak will put you in mind of Classic FM if you’re British! The composition is a favourite with them…it’s sung clearly and with some restraint and hints of Bach in the bass register. At 2:44 you would swear you were listening to a Brian Wilson record!
Prince Igor – ‘Here Comes A Pretty One’ – has a levitated hymnal melody and supporting vocal arrangement, very churchy. The melody you next hear briefly was of course used in the song Stranger In Paradise. Then we are off on a bumpy tempo and a finger-clickin’ soul vamp. Probably irresistible live, especially if they take a walk around the venue. Five minutes of class. One of the far-too-familiar choices next and First Time Ever I Saw Your Face. This is always credited to Roberta Flack the US soulstress but it was written by Brit folkie Ewan McColl, relative of the late Kirsty. N7 sing it accurately but don’t bring anything new to the party, imho.
Both Sides Now is also very familiar to music fans, the Judy Collins hit song (written by Joni Mitchell) with plenty of chords – I have played it – and gorgeous cadence and melody. It is maybe a touch too reverent as performed here. Surely a tune to let rip on and render as joyous ? The sense is wonderment is retained but this isn’t a hymn, lads!
Hello is a favourite with fans of Adele, and here the group showcase Helene Fischer in basically a duet format. Caught In The Moment has Kevin Olusola on cello, the only time you hear an instrument on this set. This works really well, the intensity almost overpowers the tune but not quite. An inspired pick to include and probably the star cut on the whole album. It just draws you in and sways your soul. If you recall The Fifth Dimension, you will enjoy this outing.
Pipes of Peace is the McCartney tune starts in a corny crooning style but the melody soon asserts itself. It’s the archetypal Macca righteous child-like song, almost as bad as his song with Jacko. This version is tuneful and has a fine depth to it due to the smart arrangement. I would have put phasing on the alto parts. Bridge Over Troubled Water closes the set and I don’t know about you, but I never want to hear this song performed by anyone anywhere, ever again. It’s at best a dirgey, po-faced quasi-hymn. And who the **** is ‘Silver Girl’?? And no, I don’t care if you chose it for your wedding. Only Amazing Grace would have been a worse song choice. I wonder what these glorious voices would have made of A Hazy Shade Of Winter, or Fly Like An Eagle?
Singers don’t come better than this and most of the arrangements do them justice.
(Thanks to our friends at Republic Media)
Naturally 7’s new album is released by BMG/Universal.
It is out now in digital format with the physical CD release scheduled for Friday 16th June 2017.
For group info and tour dates, try www.naturallyseven.com