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"Extraordinary Tale" is a marvelously packaged CD that underscores why we love CDs over downloaded mp3s or such. The jewel case folds out to 6 panels, which are all decorated with moody, lowbrow children's book illustrations of mechanical birds, patchwork metal whales, and the group as children in a red-striped boat on a curly-cued sea. Inside a slot is a folded treasure map, where we see an old victrola, spouting fishes, the mechanical birds are singing, and the whale spouts a microphone-a metaphor on the group's experience as the top a cappella group in Australia, perhaps? The different islands on the map have the names of the 13 songs on them, plus the running times. On the flipside of that are the names of the singers, Sally, Naomi, Nick and Andrew, plus the welcome disclaimer: "This is an a cappella recording. All the sounds on this album were produced by the voices and/or bodies of the ION." For those not familiar with mixed Vocal Jazz quartet ION, they blew in from Down Under and won the 2003 Harmony Sweeps, and we joined everyone in the sold-out audience in becoming their fans for life. Our favorites among the 13 cuts? Their bluesy, scattish take on Chick Corea's "Armando's Rhumba," an understated, deliciously melodic, jazzy hit on the Swing tune "Don't Wait Too Long," a heartbreakingly fine soprano lead and background harmonics on Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now," Sting's "La Belle Dame Sans Regrets" riffs into an unbelievable lovely scat tapestry; Lennon and McCartney's "In My Life" fits perfectly into the poignant mood. Group member Andrew Piper gives us a rare, wonderful original, "One Minute More," Duke Ellington's "It Don't Mean A Thing" has a vocal muted trumpet and a vocal percussion solo that you should hear; Ray Charles' "Hallelujah I Love Her So," Stevie Wonder's "Never Dreamed You'd Leave in Summer," Sinead O'Connor's "In This Heart," Aretha Franklin's "Since You've Been Gone" and Peter Allen's "I Still Call Australia Home" are all amazing but this review has gotten absurdly long. Treat yourself to "Extraordinary Tale," and thank us later!
Listen to One Minute More in RealAudio.