Down In Birdland
The Manhattan Transfer
1992: Rhino R2 71053
I dont really like to explore artists works through best-of collections, but with the Manhattan Transfer I knew I wasnt going to be a big fan of all of their stuff just because I liked some of it very much: their range is just too vast and varied for that to be even a likelihood. Before acquiring this set, I primarily knew them for three things: the stunningly gem-studded Extensions album, the not-so-stellar but still interesting Brasil one, and certainly their killer single Boy from New York City, which I had heard on the radio when it came out, back in the early 1980s, and which had quite impressed me. (Also a couple of others Id been introduced to by friends but which hadnt compelled me to dive deeper.)
This collection introduced me to a few of their many directions or exploration areas via roughly representative tracks, and boy do those make for a hit-or-miss array. In the Hit category of material I hadnt heard, theres solid stuff such as Operator, in which Janis Siegel belts it out of the park (her buildup to the ending is just amazing) and &147;Why Not! (Manhattan Carnival) and, in some ways, Four Brothers, which gave me a taste of their 1940s capabilities.
But then there are the Definitely Misses tracks, such as Candy Chanson dAmour, and Smile Again. If I thought a whole album would be like any of those, I would never have listened to it. So theres the value of compilations, I guess.
Other non-Extensions favorites of mine here are Zindy Lou, Rays Rockhouse, Java Jive (which I had encountered previously and still think is the beans), That Cat Is High, and probably Blee Blop Blues. The Brasil tracks, well, Im not keen on them but I appreciate them, I guess you could say. And A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square is always a fun challenge to sing along with, albeit not as challenging as their amazingly effortless-sounding-and-practically-impossible arrangement of Body and Soul.
Comments © 2017 Mark Ellis Walker, except as noted, and no claim is made to the images and quoted lyrics.