Somehow, despite writing on occasion over the last five-plus years about my sister’s record collection in the 1960s and early 1970s, I have never mentioned the Swingle Singers.
The group, formed in Paris in 1962 by a singer named Ward Swingle, performed “Classical and Baroque works with a jazz rhythm section, employing a distinctive scat style in the vocal parts,” according to All Music Guide. If that’s a hard concept to wrap one’s mind around on a Tuesday, here’s an example of what that sounded like, with the group taking on Bach’s Prelude & Fugue No. 1 in C Major from (I think) the group’s first album, Jazz Sebastian Bach, released in 1963:
I guess that sometime in the mid-1960s, my sister heard the group somewhere – school, a friend’s house – and selected as one of her regular choices from our record club the group’s 1964 album The Swingle Singers Go Baroque. I have no idea how often she listened to it, but I know I rarely dropped the album on the stereo. The music seemed, well, too bippity for my tastes, for lack of a real and better word. Perhaps the best measure of how little I cared for the record is that, of all the records that my sister took with her when she left St. Cloud in 1972, The Swingle Singers Go Baroque is one I’ve never tried to find. I don’t know if I’ve ever run across it, but if I have, I’ve left it in the bin.
Come the 1970s, the tale gets a bit tangled, with Ward Swingle moving to England and forming a second group, Swingle II, designed, AMG says, “to perform a broader base of repertory.” That second group eventually took on the original name (if I am reading things correctly) and has continued to record, broadening its repertoire to include popular music and incorporating words into its performances along with the scat-style vocals.
And that’s where I caught up with the current version of the Swingle Singers. Somewhere out in the wilds, I stumbled upon Ticket To Ride: A Beatles Tribute. That 2002 collection of rather inventive covers of sixteen Lennon-McCartney songs has piqued my interest, and I will likely dig deeper into the group’s catalog. Here’s the Swingle Singers’ take on “Revolution.” (The visuals provide more background into the group’s history.)
Tags: Swingle Singers