on April 6, 1999
Incredible engineering with inspired arrangements interpreted by flawless voices on CD? 5 stars is not enough, the Singers Unlimited shouldn't be put in the same catagory with those that emulate them (without due credit). If you don't already know about this music, you won't part with the 100 bucks, your loss. I now I have the digital back up for my precious, volitile vinyl. For the fan, the interviews in the companion booklet cut right to the issues that a disciple has always wondered. I feel like I know Ms. Herman a little better, and I am still rendered hypnotic when she sings. Gene Puerling is to vocal jazz arrangement what Oscar Peterson is to Jazz Piano, what Buddy Rich was to Drums, solidly etched as the top of the art form for all forseeable future. And beyond that, still modest and a gentleman. (I would have liked to known more about Mssrs Dressler and Shelton.) Emily, email me. Buy Christmas separately, it is God's favorite CD, and we have to keep it in print. SU, please make one more a capella for us, please!
on September 24, 1999
The Singers Unlimited are a marvelous convergence of (1)a pioneering vocal arranger, (2)four voices which not only can stand on their own but know how, why, and when teamwork makes more beauty, (3)an experimentalist, perfectionist risk-taker on the audio equipment, (4)and some of the world's finest jazz artists to back up/front up (whatever) when appropriate. One can spend hours trying to comprehend why such unusual chording and changes work so perfectly. Every time I listen to one of these marvelous disks I hear some previously undiscovered nuance. Or forget analysis and just simply listen and be carried away on waves of the smoothest or swinging-est numbers you've ever heard. And did Puerling happen to choose all my favorite titles or, by choosing and arranging them, turn them into my favorite titles? Who cares!
Years ago a friend (thanks much, Warren) gave me a tape of the McConnell-backed set. Afraid the tape would eventually go (it was losing its highs and lows) and I'd be missing a critical piece of my beloved McConnell connection, I searched the web for the single--out of print!! Oh, no!! Then I saw it could be covered by purchasing the boxed set. I thought it was worth it to get the one disk! And then....WOW! Puerling is the vocal arranging counterpart to McConnell, adding extra voices, experimenting with close harmonies, and even throwing in occasional subtle humor. The artists are similar to McConnell's collection of great individuals, all working together selflessly because the charts are sooo good to play or sing. And sadly, neither McConnell nor Singers Unlimited go live (with the exception of McConnell's practice sessions in Toronto.) Thank goodness for the technology that enables all of us to share the joy of hearing these master artisans, wherever we are.
Finally, thanks Gene, Bonnie, Len, Don, Georg...and guests. You've brought me more aural pleasure than you'll ever know!
on March 12, 2004
This is one of the toughest pieces we ever recorded. Even Don, who I always counted on being perfect, had a few problems here. However it was one of the most fun and satisfying to sing. The whole album was one that we all had fun doing. Roger and his crazy bar room style really set us off.
Len Dresslar, one of the Singers Unlimited.
on August 24, 1999
SU's music is a giant leap in style for the vast majority of today's music buying public. The bulk of their catalog is material from the 40's & 50's and their style has roots in the popular music style from that era. On the surface, this is your mother's/grandmother's music. Melodies are sung in breathy, straight-tone unison, which is characteristic of fluffy easy-listening. Familiar tunes are rephrased in a lounge-act swing style. Many people simply will not be able to get past the catalog or style elements to hear what is underneath.
Ahhh, but for those who listen, what's here is sublime. Puerling uses standard tunes as a playground for vocal arranging. Communicating a lyric is not the priority. It's all about creative harmonic textures, reharmonizing, voice leading, and chord voicings - all performed with tremendous accuracy and exquisite blend. SU is harmonic movement and surprise. This is the essence of SU's contribution.
I bought this set after hearing "Christmas" and a few snippets of other songs on the Internet. On first listen, I only really liked about a third of the material because of style or song choice. After a couple of weeks, I've grown to enjoy nearly all of it. Since this is their entire catalog (except Christmas), there are certainly cases where the song choice, arrangement or production does not work for me. But I'm glad I have the choice of what to listen to rather than getting a pared down best-of set. All in all I'm very happy with my purchase and recommend it to vocal harmony or big-band jazz fans. If you perform vocal or instrumental jazz this set is Highly recommended ear-training.
SU is not for everybody. It's not dance music or sing-a-long music. It's listening music that demands attention to fully appreciate.
on May 29, 2000
The Singers Unlimited are, in a nutshell, the apotheosis of vocal harmony. The complex chordal structure, flawless phrasing and intonation have all been alluded to in the other reviews. I had been waiting for years for this complete digital collection(sans Christmas-anybody know where I could get that?). I remember the first time I heard SU- on an AM station in NY-"Emily" in l973. I was so blown away I stopped the car at the first phone booth and called the station. Over the next few years I was able to acquire the complete LP discography except two. I wrote to the station and they gave me Gene Puerling's address in California. Besides being a brilliant arranger, he was gracious enough to send me the two LPs I lacked (not free of course).When the Magic Voices collection came out I was ecstatic. It has given me untold pleasure. Unfortunately, the SU will probably never get the recognition they deserve from the general public since they demand the trained ear of a musician to appreciate their gift (see Johnny Hartman). In any event, if there are any musicians out there who have yet to be mesmerized by their sound, BUY THIS COLLECTION. It will go in your top 5 list of all time.
on June 12, 2000
You'll hopefully read the other reviews. And then you might wonder, what's wrong with these people! How can grown-ups lose their cool just like that? Don't hesitate: spend the money and buy this lasting piece of art; see, you'll never even have the chance to buy a first row ticket to one of their concerts since they only do studio. This is not singalong music, nor is it the type of music to play at a party, you'll most likely be on your own when you listen to this set. If you happen to have a hard time being with yourself, here's the remedy: go to the basement and get one of your finest wines, fill up your glass, switch on your - hopefully - excellent hifi system, and sit down. You won't need the remote control because now, you're going on a trip, and you'll become addicted. And remember: the set might go out of print, and what then, poor you! (Thanks also to H.G. Brunner-Schwer, the man who made it all possible by recording the band irrespective of the unlikely possibility of mass appeal. And a million thanks to the Singers Unlimited.)
on February 7, 2005
Well, it really is too bad that this phenomenal group stop putting out new music after 1980. Gene Puerling's arrangements on those old standard tunes will pierce open your heart. As for John's comments on stylistic crime and the disco tune (and you all know which one we are talking about), all you have to do is fast forward 2 numbers, and you will hear Bonnie's amazing solo against the walking bass line. Bonnie's phrasing at times even better than the stand up bass.
All the numbers are excellent and I cannot get enough of it. The poster just below me was right: God was working through the singers and the arranger of these songs... Yes, only God can give such beautiful melodies and harmonies to the people He loves. Listening to ballads like "where or when" etc literally brings tears to my eyes. I was fortunate enough to have collected all of the Singers releases on vinyl LPs (including their Christmas LP). The dynamics on these old analog records are incredible. For the vinyl collectors: go after the German pressings (they cannot be beaten), second choice would be Dutch pressings, the Dutch pressings are tied with the PA USA pressings (in terms of ambience, soundstage and over naturalness in the tones), and I would stay away from the USA/BASF pressings (although the German BASF is very good). You will not hear how good the Singers Unlimited can sound until you hear them on vinyl.
It would be interesting if MPS records release this group on Super Audio CD (SACD), but even with SACD's high resolution (96/24 2 channels), it still falls short of the true analog wavelengths you found on vinyl LPs. All of us have been duped by the music industry for selling us the snake oil "perfect sound of ever" silver disc. Just think about it: if cd really is "perfect sound of ever", we wouldn't have SACD now, would we? Anyhow, the music industry is all about marketing, bottom lines etc, and sound quality is last on their list, even Gene Puerling openly admits to this. I heard that the music industry is actively seeking sub-par bands right now, and the upcoming grammy award is a joke. In case you haven't noticed, way back before this group was formed, jingle singers such as Bonnie Herman, Kacey Cysik (do you know who she is?), etc, can sing circles around the best pop female vocalists at the time. They can certainly sing circles around today's Norah Jones and the like (and Ms Jones won multiple Grammies recently). You tell me if this is fair. And I haven't mention singers like June Christy and Chris Connors, Ella, etc. Sorry for the rant.
And last but not least: thank you, Gene Puerling, Bonnie Herman, Len Dresslar and Don Shelton for sharing your music with us. We miss the old times.
on August 25, 2002
I had the privilege and honor of being introduced to the Singers Unlimited by a dearly-admired choral music director in high school in the early 1980s. In his classes we listened to the SU's LP's in awe and amazement, and us girls were so envious of Bonnie Herman's spectacular range and musicianship - she sang ALL the soprano and alto parts!
Our director challenged us to learn some of these charts, including "On Green Dolphin Street", "I Don't Know Where I Stand", "You are the Sunshine of my Life" "My Romance", and "Here, There and Everywhere"; "HTAE" catapulted us to the top in a choir competition! We were capivated and entranced by the lush, close harmonies of Gene Puerling's arrangements.
I will never forget when our director introduced "Deck the Halls" to the mostly-parental Christmas concert audience. Most parents had heard of Gene Puerling ("formerly of the Hi Lo's") and our director added, "...this arrangement has some unusual harmonies."
The music of the Singers Unlimited had a profound effect on me and many of my peers and so many others. As it is extremely difficult to find any of their albums individually nowadays, it is definitely well worth it to pick up this box set. You WON'T be disappointed - there is something for everyone!
on May 6, 1999
I first heard Singers Unlimited in 1975, and spent the next few years trying to find their albums. I finally found them in Vienna, Austria, of all places! I collected almost all of them, and now they are all here in this boxed set. Not only is this set worth every cent, every minute you spend with this group will enhance your life. The standards they sing will never be the same for you again. "Angel Eyes," "I Might As Well Be Spring," and especially Acapellas I, II and III are some of the most brilliant arrangements ever written for vocals. Every musician I introduce to this group is blown away. I hope this set brings a million new listeners to this outstanding, unparalleled group. It is a desert island pick (one you would take on the island if you could only take 5!)
on January 19, 2000
I was first introduced to this music in the '70's while completing a degree program in instrumental music. Our jazz harmony prof (a fine jazz pianist) used some cuts as examples for ear-training in quartal harmony. I was amazed and smitten by the sound and bought all the vinyl I could find, which I still have to this day. Words cannot describe how excited I am to find this music on CD. This is some of the finest vocal jazz ever arranged and performed.