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Take 6 - Take 6 Print E-mail
Thursday, 01 March 2001

Take 6
Take 6
format: DVD-Audio
label: Warner Music Group/Reprise
release year: 2001
performance: 8
sound 8
reviewed by: Richard Elen

ImageLike Aaron Neville’s Devotion (see link below), this is also, at least nominally, a gospel album, and it too contains a number of traditional numbers, in virtually every other respect it is in a completely different genre. This is a re-working of the group’s debut album that is not as eponymous as it might seem: it actually has a title if you read carefully.

The original CD was released – on Reunion Records, I seem to remember – in 1988, but the act switched to Warner soon after that, and it is through Warner that this DVD-A/V reissue has appeared. It offers 24/96 surround in the DVD-A aspect with Dolby Digital surround and high-resolution stereo in the DVD-V department. The present disc also adds two extra tracks ("I L-O-V-E U", 1990 and "So Cool", 1996, from later years) compared to the CD, which are added to the existing running order.

Take 6 was formed in Alabama in 1985, and became a kind of turning point for black male vocal groups – at once reminiscent of earlier times while at the same time pointing the way for later artists such as Boyz II Men (who have also enjoyed surround treatments in recent years). Their truly a capella style, in which – at least until the mid-Nineties, I think – involved no instruments other than voice whatsoever, is ablaze with technical virtuosity, from the very first incredible faded-in chord of the first cut to the final notes, while their musical versatility makes them hard to categorize. This unique combination no doubt contributed to the original Platinum CD receiving both jazz and gospel Grammy Awards.

The material here ranges from a capella gospel to big-band jazz, and Take 6 demonstrates an impeccable sense of timing and rhythm that is seldom heard. Claude McKnight and Mark Kibble produced the original album and perform the lead vocal role in many cases, by the rest of the group sing lead on at least a cut or two. The quality, balance and professionalism of the group’s performance is sustained impeccably throughout the album – so much so that it is difficult to point to specific numbers as being outstanding. The final two numbers perhaps lack a little of the uniqueness of the rest of the album, with a rather different sound, too, but this is possibly a little too picky. The whole is enjoyable and extremely well executed.

Sound-wise, a band like this is a great opportunity for surround mixing, with tight harmonies, "vocal instrument" tonalities and plenty of density to play with. In addition, the digital audio medium allows this kind of material to shine through in a way that it is hard to imagine an earlier technology permitting. The surround positioning is sensitive and avoids being ostentatious (which must have been a severe temptation), simply leaving you with a warm, enveloped feeling in which the individual voices are easily distinguished when they want to be, and form an amorphous "instrument" when necessary – which is entirely appropriate for the material.

Interestingly, there are none of the usual suspects involved in this production. The original album was a Nashville recording (yes, they do produce a good deal more than one genre there!); the surround was proficiently mixed by Jack Nicely at 16th Avenue Sound, and mastered by the excellent Hank Williams at MasterMix, both in Music City. There is in fact a lot of surround capability in Nashville’s studios – expect a good deal more in the future.

If you enjoyed the original album, you will find it transfers extremely well to surround, where the additional spatial dimensions at once reinforce and highlight the tremendous jazz/gospel a capella virtuosity of the artists.

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