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Off the Hook, Ithacappella’s sixth studio album, is the perfect example of accessible a cappella done right. Ithacappella is a collegiate all-male a cappella group from Ithaca College. From the on-par ensemble, gifted soloists, and masterful arrangements, this album displays all the artistic strengths of Ithacappella.
The album begins with a simple telephone ring, then transitions right into the group’s rendition of Lady Gaga and Beyonce’s hit “Telephone”. After listening to this track, it is hard to believe that apart from the occasional telephone ring, the entire song was a cappella. In this track, the vocal percussion is showcased when they mimic the many electronic beats that are in the original song. The boys of Ithacappella reclaim this Gaga anthem as their own with their impeccable group dynamic.
The highlight of the album has to be their rendition of Beyonce’s “Halo”. The first time listening to this track, I was captivated by the dynamic vocal build up throughout the song. The layering of vocal parts is perfect. From the debut of the resonating background vocals to the lead vocalists captivating falsetto, the arrangement immediately intensifies the moment the track begins. Once the blending voices reaches its peak at the top of the second verse, the entire choir crescendos on one of the most powerful lyrics of the song, “Hit me like a ray of sun/Burning through my darkest night”. From the artful build up to the hard-hitting impact point, I fell in love with this rendition almost instantly.
Although you might have clear favorites when first listening to the album, after listening to the album enough you will discover that each song is a masterpiece that can stand strong on its own. Between the tracks, there is a balance between sweet ballads such as “Sound of Silence” and “This Time” with remade pop hits like “Man For Life” and “Fireflies”. The group rises to the challenge and displays their talents in each diverse song.
As I continued to listen to each song over and over again, I found the strength prevalent in every song that creates this strong album. If you listen to any of the tracks, the vocalists create various impact points with their mastery of varying their volume. Listening to the quieter background oh’s and ah’s gives the listener a chance to really appreciate the intricate harmonies. The combination of the ensemble and soloists create an ideal relationship that many a cappella groups strive to accomplish. Of course, Ithacappella makes these harmonies sound effortless.
After a whirlwind of a cappella mastery, Ithacappella ends the album with a cover of the dance hit “When Love Takes Over”. The group takes reign of this song once the breakdown before the last chorus begins. As the lead vocalist sings “when love takes over” repeatedly, other members chime in with excerpt riffs from other songs on the album. Although you have to listen carefully, it’s worth experiencing how the group brings together the entire album within the last minute of the song. After this the track explodes, and gets back into the original arrangement. Not only does the group end the album on a high note, but also they include the sound of a phone off the hook at the end of “When Love Takes Over”. This final song brings this fantastic album full circle, from the lyric excerpts to the iconic telephone close.
Without a doubt, I recommend getting your hands on Ithacappella’s Off the Hook. This album is perfect for all music fans alike, whether you are a die-hard a cappella fan or new listener. To listen to a preview of the album, check out the a cappella group’s website or you can find the album on iTunes.