Sunday, December 11, 2016

An ECHO mishmash

For this second installment of this mini-ECHO series or whatever you wish to call it, we have a mishmash of things. This was originally only going to be a song review, but where's the fun in that? Actually, I was thinking that this would be a good way to cover as many ECHO related things as possible. Because sometimes you need to go all out with something. In this case, that something would be introducing the world (well, my readers) to the wonders of this group.

We have an EP review, a mini-video spotlight and a song review all mixed up together. This is the first time I've attempted something like this, so we'll see how it works out. Go with it.

One of the things that I've learned since getting into a cappella music, it's that it's not unusual for group members to have multiple things going on. You have people who sing with more than one group. In fact, ECHO's E.J. Cardona fits into that category as he also sings with Voctave. On that note, I did a video spotlight on their beautiful "Disney Love Medley" back in August and wrote a review of Voctave's gorgeous album, The Spirit of Christmas, last month. A review that took off in a way I never could have anticipated. It is now my most viewed post of all time! Not only that, but it has over twice the number of hits of my second most viewed post. A post that had been up there at the top for about three years. I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around that. It's crazy to me. A good kind of crazy. I'd definitely recommend checking Voctave out; you can start by looking at either of the posts linked above. Both because it'll give you more of E.J. and also because they are absolutely incredible. So check them out.

Here's the other thing I've learned that relates to this. These performers are so talented. So many of them are like musical chameleons, capable of switching between different kinds of music like it's nothing. That's actually one of the reasons why I wanted to put all these things in one post, to try and showcase that. Voctave and ECHO are pretty different and yet E.J. fits into them both seamlessly. He's not the only ECHO member with other things going on. This summer, Deejay released his own EP, Unplugged. It is not a cappella, save for one song that he does with Antonio. It's an R&B/urban style EP. Not something I know much about, to be completely honest. Plus, as one who was born and raised on country music more than any other kind, this is kind of the opposite. Although, there are several country artists who infuse R&B with country, much to the chagrin of many a diehard country music traditionalist. That's a potential discussion for another time. 

My point is that is a bit of a different animal for me, but I decided to get it on a whim and you know what? It's a solid EP and I like it! I've ranted about this in the past, but this is why it pays to keep an open mind. I got it because I liked his voice and was curious about it. There are six tracks on Unplugged. What surprised me the most about the EP is how much it spoke to me. That first track "Be Free (Intro)" started off by getting me thinking, which I respect. It's also a message that I think a lot of people could benefit from hearing. Then there's "Box" - that'd be the one that features Antonio. Listen to that and try not to relate to it. Especially if you're someone like me who has never felt like they quite fit in anywhere. This song is really about embracing who you are, even if it means not fitting into the boxes other people try to stuff you in. Perhaps especially then. It's a great message and don't be surprised if you end up singing and/or dancing along. Then, there's "Tonight" which has a really cool feel to it and a very nice vocal by Deejay. 

Next up, is "Rebirth (Acoustic Remix) which is probably one of my favorite tracks on the EP. I like the melody and I can definitely relate to the desire to be reborn and wanting to find your purpose. I think all of us can. Meanwhile, I happened to listen to this EP for the first time during a rough night where I was thinking about how my life hasn't turned out the way I hoped it would. I was feeling bad about that and kind of beating myself over it. And then "Be OK" came on and that ended up being exactly what I needed at that moment. It touched my heart. It really did. Arguably, his best vocal too. Beautiful song. The EP ends with "I Wanna Be". Cool track to close with and there's something I really like about the melody too. So I would definitely recommend checking it out. You can find his website right here

Okay, now. This fall, ECHO released their version of "Wait for It" from Hamilton. A mini-review of that is coming, but you're just going to have to...wait for it. I couldn't resist. First, though, let's talk about the vocal percussion. Well, one of the vocal percussionists because ECHO technically has two. They're fancy like that. But, with all due respect to Bryce, we're talking about Antonio. Simply because he's the one featured in the video below. It doesn't matter how much I listen to a cappella music, I'm not any less fascinated by vocal percussion than I was the first time. It's such a cool talent; one that's really hard for me to wrap my head around. Particularly when they're at this level. 

This video is on ECHO's YouTube channel and it makes me smile every time I watch it. Because it's Antonio beatboxing and singing and it's so much fun to watch. I love that they posted this on there - why don't more a cappella groups do that? I think most of them will have their beatboxer do a solo at some point in the show, but from what I've seen, ECHO's the only one to put up a video featuring just their (er, one of their) beatboxers. Lucky for us that they did too because I promise that it's a good one. Here's Antonio performing "Drive".


See, wasn't that cool?

You know what else is cool? ECHO's version of "Wait for It". They released this back in September and it's pretty incredible. That explosive energy that I've come to expect from ECHO is on full display. ECHO, like all great a cappella groups it seems, understands dynamics and how to use them. "Wait for It" is a bit like a roller coaster and I love that. One of my biggest musical pet peeves is when a song stays flat the whole time - I don't mean flat as in when a singer is off pitch, I mean as in boring. That is not a word I could ever use to describe ECHO. I don't think they could be boring if they tried. The rhythm section is on point. Great vocals all the way around.

I couldn't even tell you how many times I've listened to "Wait for It" since they released it. It's been a lot. I love it and am so happy they decided to do it. It's a terrific song for them. One that you can buy on either iTunes or Amazon. Go and do that, would ya?

And stay tuned for the final installment of this little ECHO trilogy. Hint: it involves Christmas. Hopefully coming sometime within the next couple of days. Key word: hopefully.

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