Finland’s finest, Fork, put out an outstanding live album called “Pink Noise Live” in 2011. There is no end to my respect for the group and the sound team for Fork’s live show, who deserve some serious recognition, because I had to remind myself this was a live album multiple times. You can tell the team works really closely with the group, and that makes a huge difference in a live show, especially when translated into a live album. Fork is really good at establishing a mood from the beginning of every piece and maintaining it throughout the song. They have solid arrangements, stellar soloists, and such high energy that you can almost see the audience’s faces melting.
“Ray of Light” (OPB Madonna) was the perfect song for an opener for the album. The group has great energy and the background is engaging but not overpowering. The solo is powerful and precise but still has plenty of flow and doesn’t sound over-rehearsed or over-thought.
When I saw “Viva La Vida” (OPB Coldplay) on the track list, I must admit I might have sighed and rolled my eyes because there have been so many covers of the song lately, but I have to say Fork’s is my favorite. The simplicity of the arrangement keeps it from overpowering the solo, but keeping the volume of the background high allows the soloist to really shine and give everything he has to the solo. The girls’ harmonies in the verses, simply on “ah,” keep the arrangement interesting but not so complex that it takes away from the solo. I really appreciated that a female took the “oh” solo section in the end, because in most renditions, there is a male reaching for notes that just don’t want to come out of his mouth, and she made ait sound easy and lilting.
It took a few listens through “Gaga” (OPB Lady Gaga) for me to consciously realize that it wasn’t the same song all the way through (the song is a mash-up of “Poker Face” and “Bad Romance”), and when I did, I was so impressed that they had managed to sneak it past me that I wasn’t even mad. I might go so far as to say this could be my favorite a cappella mash-up ever. I love the gender-bender as well, and the effects on his solo fit the song so perfectly. The end section of the song is interesting and unexpected, and Fork does a great job at making minute changes every time the Radio Gaga section is reiterated, keeping it from going stale.
“Only Girl (In the World)” (OPB Rhianna) is decidedly different from the original, seeming much more mature and believable. The flow of the song is more precise and has a different kind of energy. The background features a lot of good choices in syllables and great precision, and the sound team does a great job at retaining the integrity of the voices while still adding enough effects to achieve the electronic sounds in the original. The solo is powerful and confident, and she does a great job of putting attitude in her voice.
All I could think of when I saw “Jump (For My Love)” (OPB The Pointer Sisters) on the track list was cheesy ‘80s songs, but Fork’s rendition is actually an enjoyable listen. I found myself bopping on more than one occasion. The background has great energy and you can tell the soloist is having a great time with such a fun song.
“Hello” (OPB Lionel Richie) does a great job at achieving a haunting tone from the start, and maintaining it throughout the piece. By keeping the soprano line separate from the cluster of notes sung by the other members, it achieves the proper balance and desired mood. The accuracy of the background on repetitive parts is admirable, because with arrangements that have such repetition it’s easy to fall flat and become disengaged. The soloist has great emotion in his voice and gives great growth throughout the song. Again, I have to compliment the sound team on their work at keeping the bass line prevalent and keeping it from getting lost in the mix.
One of my favorite songs on the album, “Toxic” (OPB Britney Spears) is distinctly different than the original in all the best ways. Within the first few seconds, Fork gives a very jazzy take on the song keeping the sultry message of the song alive without just copying Britney note for note. Fork makes great decisions on when to pull a gender-bender, and this is no exception. Not just any man could pull off a Britney cover, but the soloist does it with ease. The high soprano line during the bridge is haunting and accurate but doesn’t have a shrill feel, which is refreshing. This song was performed so well that I had the hardest time remembering that it was a live piece and not a studio recording.
The key change from the original version of “Sleeping Sun” (OPB Nightwish) might have been detrimental to the overall quality of the song, as the solo goes from haunting to shrill very quickly. Although it is impressive that the soloist can accurately go up to a G# in a live setting, it is also unnecessary. The background has great blend and help maintain the haunted feeling of the solo, and the harmonies fit perfectly with the blend of the solo.
“Fix You” (OPB Coldplay) has some interesting elements in the background giving it a flowing feel, and the blend is flawless. I admit, I am biased and I will always be partial to Nathaniel Baker’s solo with Exit 245 (BOCA 2007), but Fork’s soloist does a good job of conveying the appropriate emotion in her voice. The electronic section building up to the end of the song feels rushed and choppy, but other than that, the arrangement really works for this song. There are a lot of very subtle effects throughout the song that maintain the integrity of the voices while still making them sound like instruments.
“You Came” (OPB Kim Wilde) was one of the weakest songs in Fork’s set. Although the background has great blend, it falls flat and doesn’t really enhance the song. The solo is solid, but not stellar. That said, I would definitely not skip it if it came up on shuffle in iTunes; compared to the rest of the album, however, it isn’t one of the standout tracks.
I found myself clapping along with the audience during “You’re My Heart, You’re My Soul” (OPB Modern Talking), and I can imagine really enjoying this track live. The solo is very smooth and the background blends really well. Again, the high soprano line at various parts of the song floats instead of sticking out in a shrill tone, and the rest of the background does a good job of providing support for the solo over it.
The sass in the solo of “Always on the Run” (OPB Lenny Kravitz) keeps me coming back to this song. Her powerful vocals drive the song along with support from the background with an interesting bass line. The harmonies to the solo in the background fit perfectly and do a good job of not overpowering the solo, not that that is even remotely possible with such a powerhouse in the lead. The solo does a great job of being conscious of the levels in the background. The interactive section with the audience is fun and keeps the song moving in a part that could have easily fallen flat.
I think that “Kiss From a Rose” (OPB Seal) could have been switched in the order with “Always on the Run” because as a closer, it leaves the audience on a melancholy note. I appreciate that the song features different soloists throughout the song, but there are quite a few points in the song where the sound levels from the background overpower the soloist. Having the background singing words at different times makes it sound muddy and aides in the confusion of who the soloist is at any given moment. The chords, as always, lock very well which helps the overall sound of the song, but it isn’t enough to cancel out the confusion.
“Pink Noise Live” is available on iTunes for just $9.99 and I highly recommend that you splurge and buy the entire thirteen-song album; you won’t be disappointed.
About the author:
Nina Beaulieu is a student at James Madison University, studying Media Arts & Design with a focus on Converged Media and a Music Industry minor. She is a proud member of The BluesTones and has arranged various songs for them as well as for other groups. Nina hopes to stay very involved in the a cappella community after graduating. She likes ice hockey, peacocks, and dissonance.