Top critical review
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Good but not great
on 12 July 2009
The prevailing view is that this is a five-star album. Having played it quite a few times, I don't think it really merits those five stars. Those reviewers (and the critics) who advocate the top rating have made their case eloquently and I would agree with many of the points they make. This is an album with many good points, but I think there are several things that prevent it, in my opinion, from achieving greatness. These are, in descending order...
1. The tempos of many of the songs. OK, so the subject material for many tracks doesn't exactly call for fast tempos. These are sad songs, after all, and should be sung slowly: but surely not this s--l--o-- w- -l --y? In some cases, they take over a minute to get through a four-line verse. "Donald" is a beautiful song but at 8.06 long I was beginning to nod off.
2. Becky Unthank's voice. The voice does not sound "natural". Quite a few singers seem to be sounding like this at the moment. The intention seems to be to make the vocals sound "breathy" but it comes across as mannered and affected. This really sets the teeth on edge, especially when she alternates verses with Rachel whose vocals are exquisite.
3. The arrangements. The non-acapella songs feature a mainly piano-based accompaniment. The arrangements and the quality of the playing are excellent, but for all that, there is a lot of piano. I`m also not sure that the piano is the best instrument for some of these songs and the material with which they deal.
A broader instrumental palette, more Rachel and less Becky and a less glacial tempos would have made this a stunning album as opposed to a good one.