Take 6 – One (2012)

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It’s hard to believe that 25 years have passed since gospel/jazz sextet Take 6 released their self-titled debut album. Since then they have established themselves as the premier acapella group, having performed with everyone from Stevie Wonder to Quincy Jones to Don Henley.

For their latest release, One, they have returned to two of their primary strengths: performing gospel, and recording with only minimal percussion to accompany their intricate harmonies. One other word could be used to describe this outing: joy, as in their ebullient vocals and their celebration of spirituality.

Those unfamiliar with Take 6 are in for a pleasant surprise when listening to their unique takes on hymns such as “Alleluia.” In repeatedly singing just that one word, they create a symphony of sound that overwhelms the senses. Listening through headphones allows one to fully appreciate their extremely complicated harmonies, from the bass notes to falsetto. No one has interpreted the familiar hymn in such a multilayered way.

Take 6 members Claude McKnight, Mark Kibble, Joel Kibble, Dave Thomas, Alvin Chea and Khristian Dentley (who replaces newly retired member Cedric Dent) clearly cherish singing together, and this elation is evident in such tracks as “Glorious Day,” an old-fashioned revival number that allows the group to express their love of God as well as their affection for performing. Hearing their voices call and respond to each other toward the song’s end communicates infectious joy. They even manage to turn the 1952 gospel tune “Down Here I’ve Done My Best” into a virtual party, their tight vocal blend coasting over hand-claps that serve as percussion. When they scat and ad lib while chanting one line, “I want to go to heaven and rest,” they reach a crescendo that fully expresses their devotion.

While One focuses predominantly on gospel, they also include a couple of secular tunes. The title track is Take 6’s salute to family in the guise of a family reunion. Like Jill Scott’s “Family Reunion,” it’s a charming tale of home-cooked food, sports, and the good will present at a boisterous family event. Wonder makes a guest appearance on Take 6’s version of his song “Can’t Imagine Love Without You” from the 2005 album A Time to Love. As the sextet stands in as backing “instruments,” Wonder croons the lovely lyrics and even turns in a harmonica solo. “Can’t Imagine Love Without You” is a track that can be interpreted both spiritually and romantically, so it fits in quite well with One’s overall tone.

But it’s the gospel tunes where Take 6 particularly showcase their sophisticated harmonies, even on familiar tunes like “What Friend We Have in Jesus.” Amazingly, they take a song written in 1855, update its tempo and chords for modern audiences, yet still retain the lyrics’ original meaning. When they sing lines such as “We should never be discouraged, take it to the Lord in prayer,” their lush, rich voices render the words comforting and soothing. Similar to “Alleluia,” their harmonies alone are a work of art.

This project’s retelling of Noah’s Ark in “Noah” charms but still retains the story’s serious meaning. Only Take 6 could narrate the story using only their voices, creating the effect of full band accompaniment. One can only imagine how much time the group took to arrange the difficult harmonies. Listen closely to how all their individual voices blend together to create a dense instrumental backing, and inject a distinctly jazz sensibility to the spiritual realm.

One represents a fitting “full circle” moment for Take 6, as it marks a welcome return to the spirit and content of their 1988 debut. Twenty-five years later, the group shows no signs of slowing down or altering their original sound, and that’s a very good thing. This joyous outing will greatly please longtime enthusiasts, but should attract new fans as well. Put simply, One is one of the best albums thus far of 2012, and is a must-listen.

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Kit O'Toole

Kit O'Toole

Kit O'Toole is a lifelong music enthusiast who maintains a stand-alone music blog called Listen to the Band. In addition, she is the internet columnist and a contributing editor for Beatlefan magazine. She also holds an Ed.D. in Instructional Technology. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Kit O'Toole
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