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Boyz II Men - II Print E-mail
Tuesday, 25 November 1997


format: 5.1 CD
label: DTS Entertainment
release year: 1998
performance: 8
sound 9.5
reviewed by: Jerry Del Colliano

Image Boyz II Men, an a cappella group from Philadelphia, have earned superstar status with their amazing four-part vocal harmonies, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff-inspired Philly-sound melodies and well-produced pop hooks. Boyz II Men went eight times platinum with their record ‘II,’ based on the success of singles like "I’ll Make Love To You," "On Bended Knee" and "Water Runs Dry."
Boyz II Men’s ‘II’ album represents many people’s first "wow" with 5.1 audio. The II record features four vocalists who make for a compelling and balanced mix in 5.1. The 20-bit element absolutely blows away the two-channel version in every sonic way. Most importantly, Boys II Men’s ‘II’ represents the best demonstration of the .1 in 5.1. The bass is tight, deep and mixed smoothly into the 5.1 version. My two Sunfire Signature woofers come alive on this CD, whereas on older 20-bit 5.1 CDs they are far more reserved in the mix.

There are two stand-out cuts on the record. Ironically, neither are the big Boyz II Men hits. The first cut "Thank You" is a high-intensity jam, featuring a Motown rap melody that breaks down to the sweetest chorus with a richly layered harmony. Rhythmically, the cut has an infectious beat that makes it nearly impossible to stay still in your seat. At the end of the track, Boyz II Men breaks out a nearly a cappella harmony that leaves nothing on the table. While not a radio hit, "Thank You" remains possibly the best 5.1 demo cut of all time.

A great act can show their worth by adding new life to a musical standard. In the tradition of greats like Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Van Halen and Lenny Kravitz, Boyz II Men takes on the art of the cover tune with the highest risk in musical material, a Beatles tune, "Yesterday." This performance is purely a cappella which amazingly demonstrates 5.1 better than practically any other track I have ever heard. The vocal bass is amazingly deep while the vocals are all- encompassing, as though you are sitting in the middle of an impromptu jam with the band standing around you. The lushness of the voices is better than anything I have ever heard on a 16/44.1 CD, including the Boyz II Men ‘II’ two-channel record. Later in the track, they break out a verse into a sort of round that pops different vocal elements over all five full-range speakers. Everyone knows this Beatles tune, but few have heard it sound this resolute and this soulful.

The hits on the record are very well done and serve to make ‘II’ a well-rounded 5.1 record. It is expensive to license music of this stature and what you get for the big dollars is strong cuts throughout. "I’ll Make Love To You" does a good job of focusing on the vocals, but tends to sound a little over-produced and a bit bright. I find "On Bended Knee" to be a better song, as it pays homage to great Philly-sound acts like Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes, who so eloquently groveled to women in their songs. Who the hell needs whiny-ass Alanis Morrisette when you’ve got nouveau soul jams like this? "On Bended Knee" also has the best bass performance on a record filled with reference- quality low-frequency information. "Water Runs Dry" makes for another strong cut, with a Babyface-style guitar arrangement and a super lush chorus filled with signature Boyz II Men harmonies.

Boyz II Men get their inspiration from the same soulful Philly-sound tunes that I grew up with. Add in their catchy vocal stylings, top-notch production, great instrumentation, 20-bit resolution and an inventive 5.1 mix, and you have one of the top five best-sounding CDs ever made. If you hear this CD and don’t lust for a 5.1 system, check your pulse – you may be dead.

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