Various ‎– Top Twenty Barbershop Quartets Of 1982

S.P.E.B.S.Q.S.A. ‎– BH 60182
2 × Vinyl, LP, Album


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November 7, 2015

This is easily my favorite barbershop recording of all time. Some of the previous annual competition albums do not have MCs, or the MCs arent exciting. Not here - the crowd is also fit to match that zest for close harmony with their raucous applause and screams. Of course this is edited from the order that the quartets actually performed but you can hear the immense fandom for the best quartets when they came on stage, whereever they fit into the day's schedule.

The opener makes it pretty clear why the Classic Collection won. They follow it up with a quiet, nuanced ballad (many of the groups follow suit) but its the exciting opener that probably sealed the deal for the judges. Great dynamics and I have to bet this was their last song being judged in the finals as you really hear them go for it in the tag - listen for the lead's voice even crack just a bit as he really belts it out. No lost point for that - that kind of effort and passion goes a long way.

Center Stage was relegated to second place for seemingly the entire decade and when you compare their performance to the groups that finished after 10th place, it's like you are listening to a stereo with great EQ when you are used to a crappy mono transistor radio. It seems like a phantom quietly snuck over to your receiver to just crank the volume up a few notches. Their version of the classic in track A3 shows such a complex arrangement - especially the midsection, full of dynamics and a great crescendo to the epic coda where the tempo increases leading to the paint peeling tag. Wonderful!

It is a vast understatement to say that the Side Street Ramblers show 'potential' here - this is a group so well rehearsed that third place here must have been quite the impetus for the gigantic push that would take them to the top in a short time. Like this year's winner, their two songs display a great contrast but it is the lively second track that steals my heart.

Flipping the first platter to side B brings us the veterans from the Grand Tradition - remanants of which would later win international as the New Tradition. The side opener begs me to clap my hands or snap my fingers - some innate tempo is built into their voices, delivering an unseen rhythm after the lengthy intro.

I must admit that I have only listened to sides C and D sparingly, but it is tracks B5 and B6 that I come back to again and again. The Roaring 20s really hit it hard with their rendition of a true classic, painting a pictures with the delivery of such poetic lyrics and making me long for my home in a state that it does not even reside. The baritones introduction to each verse "back home again..." tickles something inside me, so warm and wonderful.

The crowd really goes berserk for the Harrington Brothers. I can only imagine the hype surrounding this group of true youngsters, even without the internet to help promote them. The subtlety they bring to this classic tribute to mothers everywhere really brings me to the edge of my seat even after surely hundreds of listens; and a tear to the edge of my eye at times, as well. Things are so tenuously held together for so, so long when they finally let the levy break for the last chorus as their vocals sing skyward, only to be followed by more excellent dynamics in the lengthy tag.

1983 is almost as good but for my money, I'll take 82 everytime.