Giacomo Susani

Giacomo Susani
Giacomo Susani (Photo by Luciano Tomasin, 2015)

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The King's Singers: America – Paul Simon, Peter Cetera, Randy Newman, Jimmy Webb, Don McLean – English Chamber Orchestra, Carl Davis (Audio video)

This 1989 disc by the King's Singers was an oddity to begin with: it is just one of a few orchestrally accompanied discs that this mostly a cappella group has done, and it was not just orchestrally accompanied, but accompanied by ornate, almost experimental arrangements that in some cases substantially recast the meanings of the original songs. Furthermore, although the album's title led one to expect a collection of familiar American pop hits, what the buyer received was a rather strange-looking assortment: four songs by Paul Simon, two by Jimmy Webb, and two by Randy Newman, with outliers by Don MacLean ("Vincent") and Peter Cetera ("If You Leave Me Now"). Not all the songs were well known, and at least one (Webb's "Scissors Cut", originally the title track of an Art Garfunkel album with anemic sales) could qualify as obscure. The group's stated explanation was that it looked for great melodists, and indeed each of these songwriters qualifies. Nearly two decades down the road, the choices look pretty good; Paul Simon, bless his essentially parasitic little heart, is still very much with us, and if "Vincent" now seems to cloy a little, Jimmy Webb is looking more and more like a candidate for the hall of immortals, and it wasn't easy to see that in 1989.

Does it all work? There's a level of "interference" here – lovers of the unaccompanied King's Singers sound will experience interference from the very busy English Chamber Orchestra, and for pop fans the layers of meaning piled on by the King's Singers will interfere with the subtleties of the original compositions. Simon, Newman, and Webb all built inventively on foundations made up of blocks of pop, R&B, and country syntax, but each had a distinct emphasis that gets lost here. The original rhythms of the songs are present only intermittently. Still and all, this is a virtuoso effort unlike anything else you've ever heard. There's a surprise a minute, and the range of textures gives a full workout to the group's remarkable vocal capabilities. Sample "The Sound of Silence", track 2, for an idea of how wild some of the arrangements can get. If you're still on board, you're in line for a unique look at some great American popular songs.

Source: James Manheim (

Το βραβευμένο με Γκράμι, διάσημο βρετανικό a cappella φωνητικό σύνολο The King's Singers ερμηνεύει, με τον δικό του μοναδικό τρόπο, ποπ τραγούδια των Αμερικανών συνθετών Paul Simon, Peter Cetera, Randy Newman, Jimmy Webb και Don McLean. Τους King's Singers συνοδεύει η Αγγλική Ορχήστρα Δωματίου (English Chamber Orchestra) υπό τη διεύθυνση του Αμερικανού συνθέτη και μαέστρου Carl Davis. Η ηχογράφηση έγινε στα Abbey Road Studios στο Λονδίνο το 1988 και κυκλοφόρησε σε δίσκο βινυλίου το 1989 από την EMI Records, ενώ επανακυκλοφόρησε σε ψηφιακό δίσκο το 2006.

The King's Singers


Paul Simon (b. 1941)

1. Bridge Over Troubled Water [00:00]****
2. The Sound of Silence [04:29]
3. America [09:58]
4. Homeward Bound [13:59]

Peter Cetera (b. 1944)

5. If You Leave Me Now [18:13]

Randy Newman (b. 1943)

6. Simon Smith and the Amazing Dancing Bear [22:53]

Jimmy Webb (b. 1946)

7. Scissors Cut [26:49]

Randy Newman

8. Lonely at the Top* [31:10]

Don McLean (b. 1945)

9. Vincent** [35:24]

Jimmy Webb

10. Wichita Lineman*** [42:44]

* Howard Shelley, piano
** José-Luis Garcia, violin
*** Michael Laird, trumpet

Arrangements by David Cullen (b. 1959)

The King's Singers:
Jeremy Jackman, Alastair Hume, altos
Robert Chilcott, tenor
Bruce Russell, Simon Carrington, baritones
Stephen Connolly, bass

English Chamber Orchestra
Conductor: Carl Davis

Recorded at Abbey Road Studios, London, 1988

EMI Records 1989 / 2006

Cover: Poster, France, 1917

(HD 1080p – Audio video)

**** Start time of each track

The King's Singers, 1989 (Photo by Steve Hickey)
The King's Singers are an entertaining six-man vocal ensemble that tours the world singing a variety of repertory to appreciative listeners. The group was formed in 1965 by a few of the choral scholars of the Choir of King's College, Cambridge. They had decided to make a private recording of some of the secular music they had been working on, calling themselves "Schola Cantorum Pro Musica Profana in Cantabridgiense". They commissioned 100 pressings to keep and give to friends and families. From this start, the six (Martin Lane, Alastair Hume, Neil Jenkins, Richard Salter, Simon Carrington, and Brian Kay) decided to undertake a tour, and booked themselves as "Six Choral Scholars from King's College".

All at Once Well Met: English Madrigals. The tour was a success, and a new name – the King's Singers, suggested by an Argo Records executive – was chosen. Their first concert officially took place on May 1, 1968. By 1971, the King's Singers had drawn considerable attention in England and began making their first recordings. By Appointment and The King's Music appeared in 1971 and 1972, respectively. In the 1980s, the King's Singers experienced their first personnel changes, but the group's popularity remained high, bolstered by a heavy touring schedule that even included an appearance on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show. Then-recent recordings, like their All at Once Well Met: English Madrigals (1985) and Beatles Connection (1986), achieved impressive sales.

The King's Singers continue to entertain audiences with their music, maintaining their meticulous style through numerous changes in their lineup. The longest-serving member of the group was Alastair Hume, who remained with the King's Singers until the end of their 1992 season. Several former members, such as Nigel Short and Gabriel Crouch, have established successful solo careers. Members of the 2016-2017 season included Patrick Dunachie and Timothy Wayne-Wright, countertenors; Julian Gregory, tenor; Christopher Bruerton and Christopher Gabbitas, baritones; and Jonathan Howard, bass.

Simple GiftsThe King's Singers have made several dozen recordings of a wide variety of music for several labels, everything from madrigals and motets to Japanese folk songs to a cappella arrangements of pop songs. They have also commissioned a large number of new compositions from composers such as Luciano Berio, György Ligeti, Toru Takemitsu, James MacMillan, and Gabriela Lena Frank. They also teach masterclasses and summer programs for young musicians. In 2009, the King's Singers won a Grammy Award for their recording Simple Gifts, on the Signum label. They were also part of Eric Whitacre's 2012 Grammy-winning recording Light & Gold. The King's Singers continue to perform, frequently to sold-out audiences, and make recordings that are not only critically admired but also much loved by fans.

Source: Rovi Staff (

See also

The King's Singers: Christmas Presence (Audio video)

The King's Singers: Joy to the World (Audio video)

The King's Singers: Christmas Songbook – The Greene Space, New York – Thursday, December 1, 2016, 2:00 AM – Live on Livestream

The King's Singers: Christmas Concert 2011 (HD 1080p)

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