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The Spirit Of St. Louis

25 customer reviews

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Audio CD, October 27, 2009
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The Spirit Of St. Louis by The Manhattan Transfer

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Clichés have gotten something of a bad rap. Essentially, they're the most instantly recognizable attributes of any artistic endeavor. Louis Armstrong's were his sweetly gruff, speaking/singing voice and deceptively simple Dixieland jazz trumpet flourishes. The Manhattan Transfer's clichés are the group's slick jazz and harmonically perfect takes on the traditional vocal quartet. The common ground of this Manhattan Transfer tribute to Armstrong may not be entirely discernable at first listen, but that's the beauty of music--influences can sometimes reveal themselves in ways that surprise and delight the performer as much as the listener. Crucially, the veteran quartet wisely dispense with their sometimes predictable MO, allowing producer Craig Street (Me'Shell Ndegeocello, k.d. lang, Cassandra Wilson) to challenge them with a series of arrangements that wed vintage instrumentation to a distinctly non-vintage set of instrumentalists (including Los Lobos' Steve Berlin, modern jazz horn great Jon Hassell, Beck alumni Smokey Hormel, and adventuresome guitarist/loopist David Torn). The producer also allowed Transfer members to pick their own Armstrong favorites for interpretation, giving the band members unusually free solo spotlights (including Tim Hauser's one-take wonder "Blue Again," a deliciously lazy reading of "Sugar" by Cheryl Bentyne, Janis Siegel's "The Blues are Bewin'," and Alan Paul's playful "Gone Fishin'"). The result is arguably the Transfer's best album in a decade, one that fuses their impeccable vocal perfectionism to Armstrong's still vibrant and soulful legacy. The result is anything but a cliché. -- Jerry McCulley


1. Stompin' At Mahogany Hall
2. Blues Are Brewin'
3. Sugar
4. A Kiss To Build A Dream On
5. Old Man Mose
6. Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans
7. Gone Fishin'
8. Nothing Could Be Hotter Than That
9. Blue Again
10. When You Wish Upon A Star

Product Details

  • Audio CD (October 27, 2009)
  • Original Release Date: October 10, 2000
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Atlantic
  • Run Time: 60 minutes
  • ASIN: B00004YNGW
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #34,774 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on December 28, 2000
Format: Audio CD
I agree with this title's reviewer here when he states "The result is arguably the Transfer's best album in a decade, one that fuses their impeccable vocal perfectionism to Armstrong's still vibrant and soulful legacy. The result is anything but a cliché."
This is easily their best work since the one-two punch of Vocalese/Brasil, which, ironically another reviewer here denigrates by saying about it "look how devoted we are to jazz arcana." (The first time I EVER heard that nay saying about the Vocalese outing. And probably about as untrue as could possibly be.) Why this release is getting brickbats is beyond me. I've been a fan of the group since 1980 ... I consider myself fairly objective. A highly regarded release here, Swing, I find somewhat disappointed by as a counter-example. People speak of the "sound" of St. Louis, but I found the "westernized-swing" sound of Swing disconcerting. Granted, I've warmed up to that one, but the top 3 TMT albums in my book are easily Vocalese, Brasil, The Spirit Of St. Louis.
This is a wonderful outing and I really think the dissenters should have another listen or three <g> Louis Armstrong had such a large body of work and I believe the Transfer touches on many aspects of it ... it IS a wonderful tribute.
Jim
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Kenneth Myers on February 16, 2001
Format: Audio CD
I felt that MH did an outstanding job as they always do. My beef is with the recording, engineering and arrangements. I think that the engineer is trying to be cute in capturing the vintage sound of the 30's and 40's by reducing the highs and tinning the middle. In other words, before HI FI. I dont appreciate LO FI sound. Lets hear how MH reallys sounds. I feel like I am sitting in a 55 gallon drum. Also I can't hear the soloist over the rhythm instruments. Or sometimes that's all I hear. Bad mix. Can't understand any of the words. Sometimes too busy, sometimes big gaps in the sound. Sounds like a bunch of kids playing with new audio toys. Summary: performance good, sound quality bad.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 10, 2000
Format: Audio CD
I've been listening to an advance of "The Spirit of St. Louis" for weeks, and think it is the best vocal album of the year -- if not in ages. Raw, impassioned, and exciting performances -- both invidually and collectively -- make this the best Manhattan Transfer album since "Vocalese", if not the best of their long career. Producer Craig Street and the incredible musicians strip away all the gloss and reveal the luster of 4 great singers. The songs may be from the Louis Armstrong canon, but the Transfer give original and indelible interpretations they make their own. There's not a bad track in the bunch. Longtime fans may be put off -- but the adventurous, and the uninitiated, will find this to be a classic.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Lawrence W. Neumann on December 1, 2001
Format: Audio CD
Just when you think they have done it all, they do it all again.
The Manhattan Transfer is priceless. There is no one in the whole world like them. Unlimited energy and creativity. They tour and they record, and they get better every year. Tim Hauser is a musical genius. To have found Janis Siegel, Alan Paul and Cheryl Bentyne in a single generation and created a style that respects all of their talents is truly a work of art. They exude a modern sense of life that is pure happiness. In the words of a philosopher, they have owned their own lives and spent them growing. Please buy this CD and everything else they have ever done. You will thank me.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 3, 2000
Format: Audio CD
Obviously, there is a lot of controversy about this latest effort from TMT. As someone who has been a fan of the group since their summer replacement TV show back in the mid-70's and owns all of their albums, I would suggest the following: Listen to this one at least three or four times before passing judgment. At the end of the day, I think most TMT fans will find something to like about this effort. For one thing, the songs themselves are good. And in spite of the rather unusual arrangements and some really offbeat instruments on few of the cuts, you still have four wonderful voices that blend together in a truly special way. I appreciate their willingness to try a little something different. It helps keep their music fresh.
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15 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Brian Throckmorton on October 13, 2000
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Although much of my favorite music is the product of the Manhattan Transfer, I often get the feeling that the group has something to prove. With "Bodies and Souls," it was "look how commercial we can be"; with "Vocalese," it was "look how devoted we are to jazz arcana." The agenda of "Spirit of St. Louis" is evidently to show off jazz credentials, at the expense of lyricism and lyrics. I enjoyed the CD more when I stopped expecting the performances to relate to the texts; given some scarcely intelligible vocalese, it might be better to regard the singers as instrumentalists. Certainly the "When You Wish Upon a Star" track seems designed to display some avant-garde arranging, not to interpret the original song. And in "Gone Fishin'," there's spoken-word acting by Tim and Alan that felt overlong and strained even on first hearing; I fear it is not going to hold up well in repeated listening. I had found "Swing" educational, exuberant, accessible, emotional; "Spirit of St. Louis" seems esoteric or self-indulgent by comparison, certainly not as attractive in terms of pure sound, although Cheryl more than carries her weight with nuanced, meaningful deliveries on "Sugar" and especially on "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans." Production, however, is excellent. Janis is given a reverb on her long blues number, and it really jacks up the atmosphere of the piece. I'm sure many fans will exult in this CD, but jazz wussies like me prefer stuff where the joy outweighs the pedigree. (Oh, for another "Corner Pocket" ...)
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