Hype/Reality articles are a twist on the traditional CD review.
First, I’ll provide you with a few sentences about a CD or a song. These will typically come from a paid music promoter or from another reviewer who is enthusiastic or derogatory. After giving you their hype, I’ll add my own opinion (aka “reality”) and assign a grade ranging from A to F.
Here’s the twist. An “A” doesn’t necessarily mean the CD or song is fantastic. It simply means the sensational comment from another source matched my opinion.
Our first entry comes from Crossroads. Today, I received an email encouraging me to review the latest CD by the Down East Boys.
The Hype: “Thought you knew the Down East Boys? Well, hit your erase button and think again! Amen is among the best recorded male quartet vocal performances ever. It has the intensity of the best of the Kingsmen, the precision of the best of the Cathedrals, and the sincerity of the best of Gold City.” (Crossroads’ email subject line: “Can We Get A Witness?”)
The Reality: There seems to be an attempt to level with us in the first two sentences. “Hit your erase button” is an indirect acknowledgement that the previous work by the Down East Boys wasn’t very good. Understand, I’M not saying their older recordings were bad. That’s just what most readers would naturally infer from “Thought you knew?…think again.”
It’s the third sentence where this publicist really throws caution to the wind. Only a diehard Down East Boys fan would accept the notion that this CD is among the best male quartet recordings of all time. “Best…ever??” Not even close. But that wasn’t enough. Amen is then said to occupy the same territory as three of the most beloved quartets of all time, and not on an off day either…when they were at their peaks! Take the Kingsmen, Cathedrals and Gold City at their best, and you have three amazing and unique groups.
I do like Amen. “Redemption Draweth Nigh” and the title track are the most familiar songs on the CD. “Redemption Draweth Nigh” is more effective than “Amen,” but I like the fact that neither arrangement was an entirely direct cover. There are several predictable song lyrics and moments on this CD where the vocal arrangements play it safe, though. If I were assigning my usual star rating, Amen would fall in the 3 1/2 to 4 Star territory. But today, we’re here to assign a grade on how accurately the CD reflects the hype coming from Crossroads.
Lives Up To Hype: D