While I’m not the biggest fan of jazz music, safe to say this album shows off the musical ear that the group were so highly praised for at the Final last weekend, and demonstrates a capacity not only to put a fresh, original take on well-known numbers, but also the inventiveness and musical precision that is presented in the two original tracks on the album, Your Motivation and Voices.
The group show off the insane variety of harmonies that can be used for one note during the start of High (Forever You And Me) by the Lighthouse Family, with some gorgeous falsetto from Sam Robson delicately soaring over the top of the blend. Emily Dankworth takes the solo, which is angelic but the complexity of the harmonies throughout the piece means it is probably the least interesting part of the song. There are some exquisite slides up towards the bridge, and I enjoy how the group drops the beat during the first chorus and sings almost in unison, a unique and brave choice which pays off, with some complex jazz harmonies once again shining through. The most impressive thing about this number is the group’s ability to turn a lovely yet uninteresting original into something in which a new and interesting rhythm, chord or beat is just around the corner.
They segue into the second track, Ezekiel saw de Wheel, a spiritual piece, which incorporates some incredible high harmonies and a gorgeous tenor solo from Sam Robson of which I am insanely jealous. Some of his runs are just insane, especially towards the end when everyone else drops out and he is left to have free reign on the solo, which he fully utilises. I enjoyed the group’s slide towards the end note again at the end of this one. The first original, Your Motivation, written by Sam Robson, is great. The group splits the solo between the boys, each one of them proving they are no less talented than the others, with each one of them showing careful control of their soothing voices. Again, great jazzy, original harmonies throughout.
Just as things stray near the danger-zone of becoming ‘too same-y’, the group bring out two more well-known numbers in Kiss From A Rose and Somewhere from West Side Story, the latter of which is the highlight of the album. Kiss is the straightest cover on the record, and it is refreshing to hear the group stick more closely to the original, despite the fact they have a good play about with the rhythms towards the second half of the track. The vocal percussion is used sparingly here but effectively. Somewhere is phenomenal, simply because for forty seconds, the group sings ‘Ooh-Aah’ to about a hundred different notes, with almost every single combination of notes different to the others and thus capturing the attention of the listener. Dankworth’s solo is beautifully floated over the top, and Robson’s falsetto descends, ascends and resolves with precision and delicacy several times. The final chord is unreal. Just unreal.
The final track, Voices, is kind of Your Motivation 2.0, a solid arrangement with some decent solos and gorgeous jazz chords, and this brings me to my only criticism of the album – there is no denying that Vive are a mega-talented bunch of musicians, and that their jazz/spiritual vibe is very much lounge music and not even close to the realms of sing-a-long pop, but there isn’t a huge amount of variety here. They know what they are good at, and they do it superbly, perhaps a little self-indulgently, but I’d love to see them tackle more numbers like Somewhere on their next album that give them the opportunity to blast out and hold some really meaty chords – a lot of the most impressive and unique chords in a lot of the numbers were so fleeting that you weren’t given enough time to really enjoy them.
That said, the group has way more musical proficiency than I could ever dream of, but from the point of view of a listener, this isn’t an album I’d choose to put on – rather, something I’d add to a lounge playlist to stick on during a particularly long and stressful Russian essay. There is no doubting the group’s musicianship, which is frankly phenomenal for a group this young, but it is their ability to entertain and the replay-factor that doesn’t quite come across here. No doubt the group has a massive future ahead of them, and I can’t wait to see how the group develops and further improves in the coming years.