In August, when the UK collegiate a cappella world decamped to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, your fearless blog writers were anticipating at least 3 albums on which we could spend our hard earned money. We ended up with 6. One of them is the follow up to Pinkredible from the sassy ladies of Oxford’s In The Pink is the culmination of two busy years, including a visit to Berlin prior to their 2012 run at the Fringe, and is definitely a step forward from their previous efforts.
She Who Dares, the last production with Becca Nicholls as the Musical Director of the group, features a selection of the girls’ favourite renditions from the last two years, and as such credits several now-alumni of the group, including Naomi Puri, Clare Palmer and Harriet Rees, who are welcome additions to the vocals throughout the album. Surprisingly enough, though, certain members of the Oxford super-group Out of the Blue are also in the credits, being thanked for their assistance and banter, which is an encouraging step forward in terms of collaboration within the world of a cappella.
The girls open very strongly, presenting a powerful mash-up of Adele’s Rumour Has It and Duffy’s Mercy, which features two forceful solos from Becca Nicholls and Heather Catchpole, as well as a tribal-esque opening, which was a fitting call to arms from the group. Becca’s mighty solo prowess translated into the second number too, P!nk’s Perfect, which sounds just as good, if not better, than it does live, especially Suzie Merchant’s impressive beatboxing, which is a real gift for a girl group like this. The third track is even better, their award-winning arrangement of Damien Rice’s The Blower’s Daughter, with Sara Lawson simply stunning skyscraping solo fitting perfectly into the delicately fragile piece of music, climaxing wonderfully with a lone voice at the very end – perfection. The fourth number ain’t half bad either, a mash-up of Hey, Soul Sister, Just The Way You Are and I’m Yours with flows effortlessly from one song to the other, just the way a mash-up should work – indeed, Suzie Merchant should be praised for this particular work of art. Quite extraordinary.
The rest of the album, while predominantly executed with precision and pleasantries, doesn’t quite measure up to the opening four numbers, mainly due to the lack of ‘oomph’, for lack of a better word, that comes across in the otherwise quite bombastic originals – take their renditions of One Direction’s What Makes You Beautiful and Take That’s Never Forget, both of which boast huge choruses that aren’t quite done real justice here, and the latter especially definitely didn’t bring the spine-tingling sensational that the original provided back in the 90s. The rest of the tracks were amiable and refreshing enough – their cover of Elton John’s Your Song stuck quite close to the original, and as such added a touch of feminine magic to the number, while Clare Joyce’s solo on Candyman is definitely a positive sign of things to come. Save Tonight sounded fresh with a female lead vocal, and the album was rounded off perfectly with a cover of Katrina and the Waves’ Walking On Sunshine, which would have made a fitting alternative title to this album.
In closing, this really is a feel good album with some remarkable beatboxing throughout, and does indicate that the group as an entity has grown and matured through the last 18 months, showing that their endeavours in Edinburgh and Berlin have not been in vain. There is definitely scope for improvement, as there is with any album, but with a fantastic beatboxer and all around musical goddess in Suzie Merchant, who recorded, edited, mixed and mastered the entire album, and some promising girls continuing the legacy of the group, the future looks bright for In The Pink.