HomeRecording Review: The Wicked Pitches' "Think Twice"

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The Wicked Pitches are a 6-member Boston-based jazz group.  After sixteen years of being together, they released their first full-length album, Think Twice, in February 2009.  And I certainly had to think twice about how I felt about this album.  Upon first listen, I was not impressed.  As I listened time and time again to the CD, new things came out of the texture and I began to appreciate the Wicked Pitches for what they were going for.

The album starts with one of my favorite songs of all time, “Scarborough Fair.”  When I saw this on the track list I got so excited.  The song begins with a moving bass line followed shortly by block chords from the rest of the voices.  I really began to enjoy the feel of the song.  And then the solo came in.  I expected a baritone or maybe even a mezzo voice, but what I got was a very, very high soprano.  I was caught off guard, to say the least.  The rest of the song consisted of a bass line, simple percussion, and all the other voices singing harmonies to the solo.  No “instruments” at all.  The song also dragged on for over four and a half minutes; it seemed like it would never end.  Most of the songs follow that same equation:  too many off-the-staff notes, very simple percussion, lots of harmonies, and way too long (two songs exceeding five minutes).  There were even a few tracks that, after listening to them four or five times, I began to skip when they came up.

On the other side of the spectrum, there are a few tracks that I completely dig and they will without a doubt find their way to my iPod.  The third track, “Summertime,” features Debbie Gruber providing a soulful lead as well as a very nice vocal trumpet from Phil Webster.  Webster’s trumpet is one of the only places on the album where I appreciated the production.  The EQ on it is just right and it completes the song.  Gruber also gives us a little bit of scat that tantalizes the ears.  The listener can tell that this is probably the group’s favorite song to sing, and that makes it one of the best to listen to.

 “My Cherie Amour” also finds its way onto the album, with a guest arrangement from Think Twice’s producer Paul Stiller.  Something about the soloist, Nancy Wolinski’s, passion draws the listener in and makes you want more.  While almost all the other solos sound as if they are just singing a song, Wolinski has a quality to her voice that convinces the listener that she really believes what she is singing.  The song as a whole is more upbeat than the others and gives a bit of contrast to the slower tunes.

The album is then wrapped up with a wonderful rendition of a classic:  “Shenandoah.”  I have heard at least twenty different a cappella versions of this song, but this one is different.  No where in the song is there a chord that isn’t complicated in some way, shape, or form. The Wicked Pitches bring their jazz flare to this classic and make it different and interesting. 

Unfortunately for The Wicked Pitches, these tracks, “Summertime,” “My Cherie Amour” and “Shenandoah,” felt like too-little-too-late.  Accompanied by a few “okay” songs and a handful that I couldn’t listen to more than twice, three songs couldn’t save Think Twice for me.  My recommendation to the listener?  Go to cdbaby.com and check it out.  There are clips for every track on the album.  It's very possible The Wicked Pitches just aren’t for me, but sound great to someone else.  You can also purchase individual songs on iTunes, and if I were you, I would definitely buy the three songs I have mentioned here.  They will prove to be a nice addition to your a cappella library. http://wickedpitches.com/ -Jill Clark

About the author:
Jill Clark has been involved in music since age 5, singing, playing guitar, drums and piano. She is a member of UNC-G Sapphires, who were the 1st place competition winners at SoJam 2008. Clark also won Best Vocal Percussion at SoJam '07 and '08 for VP within the group.