Long before a capella pop sensations Pentatonix became a YouTube, Billboard chart and touring sensation this decade – in fact, even before its members were born – Take 6 was laying the groundwork for all modern voice generated pop/R&B madness. Though their breezily infectious, soulfully arranged latest album Iconic celebrates 30 years since the release of their self-titled platinum selling debut, founding members, first tenors Claude V McKnight III and Mark Kibble, have been the anchors since they were college students in 1980. The title Iconic comes charged with a double meaning.
With ten Grammys, ten Dove Awards, a Soul Train Award and collaborations with everyone from Whitney Houston and Don Henley to Quincy Jones, Joe Sample and current tour mates The Manhattan Transfer, they’ve more than earned that status as innovators of the form. Yet Take 6 also applies their hip, bubbly, alternately smooth and funked-up arrangements to iconic pop, rock and soul tunes from the past 50-plus years. Time traveling from the playful 1978 Earth, Wind & Fire arrangement of The Beatles’ “Got To Get You Into My Life” through a finger-snap propelled romp through Justin Timberlake’s anthem “Can’t Stop The Feeling,” Take 6 finds a way to bring an inventive freshness to tunes that are almost too familiar.
While their trippy and hypnotic, sparsely arranged take on Christopher Cross’ “Sailing” and dreamy spin through Norah Jones’ “Don’t Know Why” seem included to simply showcase their sense of invention, others take on deeper meanings. The Eric Clapton popularized mid-90s ballad “Change the World” is a relevant response to these crazy sociopolitical times, while their wild vocal percussion party and spot on Al Jarreau voicings create a beautiful tribute to the legend who conquered the same musical worlds they inhabit. Lest we forget their powerful gospel roots, Take 6 wraps the set with a thoughtful, increasingly emotional take on the hymn “Nothing But the Blood.”