by Carys Evans
“It’s Reigning Men” is a wonderfully diverse showcase of the talented All the King’s Men, with a wide range of styles and vocal performances. For a group that, for me, works so well because of the fantastic energy and comedy in their performances, I was worried that the album would not be able to live up to the live experience. However, the group has managed to successfully convey the personality and individuality that you would expect from a live performance – with the soloists in particular showing flare and occasional cheekiness.
One of the most impressive aspects of the recording are the incredible dynamics. Whether in the upbeat Born This Way, or the slow-building Hide And Seek, the dynamic contrasts and swells are extremely impressive, and show fantastic control. Coupled with wonderful blend, the group show themselves to be very professional in their singing capabilities, often with quite a choral-sounding tone, which works extremely well on the ballads (Hallelujah and Hide And Seek). The chorister sound can sometimes sound at odds with the music in the up-tempo numbers, though this can work to their advantage – for example in Livin’ La Vida Loca, the soloist’s more classical sound works to great comic effect. Indeed, I have to congratulate the entire bass section in general – not only can their wonderful low notes be occasionally hilarious (the bass solo in It’s Reigning Men has got to be the highlight of the album), the sound is absolutely wonderful, particularly in Hide and Seek. Similarly, there are some amazing high notes in Hallelujah, which are perfectly in tune and with a beautiful tone.
Although some of the arrangements of the poppier numbers are quite simple musically, some of the sounds and the backing vocals are absolute genius: the use of ‘gaga’ in the backing to Born This Way not only creates a great sound, but is the kind of move that I’m sure Gaga herself would love. Similarly, the changing of lyrics in It’s Reigning Men, as well as the great backing lyrics would make The Weather Girls proud. There are some fantastic solos, with one of the best being the Let Me Entertain You section in It’s Reigning Men. I’d say that the album seems to be quite lacking in vocal percussion – this may be due to the more choral nature of some of the arrangements – although there are some great ‘dv’ bass drum sounds in It’s Reigning Men. Nevertheless, I think that Born This Way and It’s Reigning Men would have benefited from more beatboxing, particularly as the upbeat nature of both songs can be brought across more in choreography when live, which of course the album cannot portray.
If I had to find criticism with the album, I would say that there were the occasional balance issues – with various parts coming on too strongly, or some not at all, and sometimes the words are slightly harder to make out, for example in Hide And Seek where the syllables are so long that they can get lost. Of course, it is impossible to capture all of the exuberance of the boys’ live performances, but what we have here is a tantalisingly short snippet of what they can do – and what they do is extremely good.