Music News & Reviews

For Take 6, ‘the song comes first’

Take 6 will appear in concert Nov. 6 with Manhattan Transfer at The Orpheum.
Take 6 will appear in concert Nov. 6 with Manhattan Transfer at The Orpheum. Courtesy photo

One ironic thing about Take 6’s latest studio album is that despite being called “Believe,” it’s one of the few albums in the vocal group’s 30-year catalog that isn’t a gospel project.

“This album, and maybe the standards (the 2008 release “The Standard”), were the first albums where we weren’t necessarily (doing) a gospel project. There are some songs that are secular,” bass vocalist Alvin Chea said in an early October phone interview.

“That is the unique thing about this project. It has overtures and there is a strong thread of a faith message in it, but it is actually a secular project. (The song) ‘You Know You’re In Love’ is talking about the butterflies when you’ve fallen head over heels for that person that we all can go through, that’s what it’s talking about.”

It might be tempting to consider “Believe” an attempt by Take 6 to attract more of a mainstream pop audience.

After all, vocal music is back in vogue, what with a cappella group Pentatonix having hit the mainstream pop charts and Straight No Chaser also enjoying considerable popularity. And televisions shows like “The Voice” (as well as the now-canceled “The Sing-Off”) have focused on singing and helped create renewed appreciation for the wonders of the human voice.

Add in the fact that on “Believe,” several songs feature the kind of modern production common to today’s mainstream pop music and even incorporate some hip-hop stylings and rapped vocals on the songs “Walk Away” and “Keep The Faith,” and it might seem like Take 6 is trying to cross over into mainstream pop and capitalize on some current musical trends.

But Chea said the group – which also includes Claude McKnight, Khristian Dentley, Mark Kibble, Joey Kibble and David Thomas – isn’t chasing crossover success. As with previous Take 6 albums, the group stayed true to one of its core philosophies.

“One of our old record presidents, right from the beginning, taught us a valuable lesson, and that is serve the song,” Chea said. “It’s great to have an idiom, it’s great to have a genre that you’re comfortable with, but the song comes first.”

Take 6 is also doing something different on the concert front. The group’s current tour with fellow vocal group Manhattan Transfer takes a different approach than typical double-bill concerts.

“It’s not going to be the classic opening act, closing act kind of thing,” Chea said. “We’re going to perform together and really pay homage to our 30-year career and their 40-something-year career of doing things, having wonderful recordings, and just lots of nice moments to break it up. You’ll see a 10-man army once or twice, but it’s not going to be just a vocal all of sound. It will be little moments just capturing the beauty of vocal jazz.

“There will be a couple of classic moments when it will be just us doing some songs that have been popular for us,” he said. “And then they’ll be on with their band doing their thing, and then quite a few moments where we’re either together or having fun together or trading off and doing different things.”

Take 6 and the Manhattan Transfer are two of the longest running, most successful and most honored vocal groups in the history of contemporary music. They have not previously toured together, although they have occasionally ventured into each other’s musical worlds.

“We’ve performed on each other’s projects,” Chea said. “Mark Kibble and myself have backed up (Manhattan Transfer member) Cheryl (Bentyne) on a couple of her solo things. And Mervyn Warren, an ex-member of ours, produced a couple of tracks for the Transfer. So we’ve kind of gone in and out of each other’s wing door on stage, as it were, but we’ve never really officially performed together.”

Manhattan Transfer and Take 6

When: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 6. (Doors open at 6:30 p.m.)

Where: The Orpheum, 200 N. Broadway

Tickets: $39-$49