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If groups like the House Jacks are cutting edge fashion, pushing the envelope, and if groups like Cadence, Rockapella and the Blenders are clean, crisp, freshly pressed white shirts just back from the dry cleaner, then the All-Stars are the well-worn, knit sweaters of modern a cappella.  “Comfy” would be a good word for them – their music and music-making is pleasant, enjoyable, often scented with the air of nostalgia.  They may not grab your attention and keep you on the edge of your seat, but you’ll sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.

“Blend”, the latest release from the All-Stars, fits very much in the above-described mold.  You should know that as a business enterprise, the All-Stars perform a “modern” a cappella show but also offer an a cappella Doo Wop show and a separate dance show that partners them with a live band.  With all that material to perform, it follows, then, that the now all-male All-Stars (having previously been a mixed group of varying sizes) have a diverse and varied repertoire and a quick perusing of the track list below certainly bears that out.

This isn’t so much the typical case of a group being too inclusive in their tastes.  There is little doubt that these guys, and especially their nimble bass and founder Norm Silver, can sing anything to which they put their lungs.  It’s a consistency issue that continually dogged this CD for me, especially in the arranging department.  Listen to what they do on their opener, Level 42’s “Something About You”, and you wonder if arrangements such as “Ride Like the Wind”, “Let’s Groove Tonight” and “Here She Comes Again” which follow soon after are just filler.  Listen to “Heaven” and you’ll know what these gents can do with a simple rhythm and some tight, harmonic singing, but then how much more baffled will you be by a pedestrian “Beautiful Soul” and, but for it’s soaring solo, an aptly-named  “Should’ve Known Better”.  In concert, the simplicity of some of these songs goes unnoticed, or can be compensated for using the energy of live performance.  But on a CD, these songs are just lulls during which the listener disengages and waits for the next bit of excitement to jump up and grab his/her ear. 

If you’re a fan of the All-Stars, you’ll surely not be disappointed with this disc.  If you’re a fan of the material, you might find more intriguing covers of the same songs but these are certainly passable.  But there’s no need to specially make room on your iPod for this one.  Much to my chagrin, “Blend” is just a little bit “blah”.