Frommermann – Holland-America Line – Channel Classics multichannel SACD CCS SA 29008, 66:45 ***** [Distr. by Harmonia mundi]:
This is the second SACD on Channel Classics from the five vocalists plus pianist who have patterned themselves after the hugely popular (in Europe) Comedian Harmonists of the 1930s and 40s. We reviewed a fine film about the Comedian Harmonists several years ago, as well as a Naxos reissue of some of their original 78s. Three of their members were Jewish, which resulted in their having to break up in the late 30s. Their repertory was extremely diverse, coming from novelty songs, evergreens, music hall and cabaret, folk songs, jazz, gospel and show tunes. Their arrangements were clever and often very humorous. A number of present-day male vocal ensembles owe a good part of their sound to the pioneering Comedian Harmonists.
For this SACD, the modern group has added a guitarist to their pianist for a fuller sound. The album’s theme is designed around the fact that during the difficult 1930s many Europeans traveled on ships of the Holland-America Line in order to leave strife-torn Europe and emigrate to the U.S. There are just a few tunes here in Dutch, but lyrics to all 20 tracks are provided in the note booklet, and they are fun to hear anyway. One is titled, in English, My Brother Makes the Noises for the Radio Play, and once you read the translation hearing it will become completely clear to you even if you don’t understand Dutch. There is outrageous use of the surround channels, among other effects. My favorite track is the masterful arrangement of Duke Ellington’s Rockin’ in Rhythm – what a kick! There is another Ellington tune, a delightful Java Jive, and another surround sound special on the classic Dry Bones. The penultimate track is quite a surprise and seems to bring us up to the present day – though it was for Bernstein’s musical about the sailors on NYC leave during WW II – New York, New York.
The sonics are one of the primary attractions of this album for me – I admit I’m not even much of a vocal group fan. Frommermann’s special sound reminds me of the wonderful Chesky SACD of the Persuasions singing the Beatles. And here’s yet another link: the group currently has a great music video on YouTube!
1 It don’t mean a thing (if it ain’t got that swing) 2 Bel me even op 3 Java jive 4 Rockin’ in rhythm 5 Into each life some rain must fall 6 The flatter the plate/hoe platter het bord 7 Daniel prayed 8 Bel ami 9 Jeepers creepers 10 Mijn broer maakt voor het hoorspel de geluiden 11 I’m making believe 12 Matrozenlied 13 Liefde in rhythme 14 Morgen vaar ik weg 15 Dry bones 16 Lou de ladenlichter 17 Veel mooier…! 18 Brother Noah 19 New York, New York 20 Does your heart beat for me?
— John Sunier