In Celebration of the Human Voice - The Essential Musical Instrument
Formed, quite literally by chance, at a mutual friend's home in 1971, The Boston Common remained active through the mid 1990s, performing in 46 states and five foreign countries. On network radio and television shows (including NBC's TODAY SHOW, the CBS AM AMERICA, Irish television, BBC-TV, Germany's WDR, and Canada's CBC-TV) and a host of regional radio and television programs. In addition, the group was featured by UPI and numerous magazines and newspapers. They've appeared on some of the most renowned stages in North America such as Carnegie Hall, Rockefeller Center, and Canada's National Arts Center. They've performed with the Boston Pops, the Portland Symphony, and on one occasion even sang as back-up for a major recording artist (Chip Taylor's album "Some of Us," Warner Brothers).
During the years they competed, 1971-1980, the group did not help itself by openly criticizing the SPEBSQSA's system of judging. It was (and remains) the practice for competition judges to serve as coaches for the very quartets they eventually critique for final scoring. Recognizing this practice to be a monumental hindrance to both impartiality on behalf of the judges and creativity among quartets (the trend eventually results in the judge-coached quartets to sound similar to one another), the bass of the quartet openly attacked the questionable practice. The quartet went so far as to protest by not competing in the finals of the 1976 International competition. A move which, many speculate, prevented them from winning the Championship in ensuing years. Not that they cared, however, for the quartet sang primarily for their own enjoyment and for audiences who appreciated their efforts.
After receiving a silver in 1979, the members agreed that 1980 would mark the last year they as a quartet would compete in International competition. Imagine their surprise when, in Salt Lake City, Utah, they were finally awarded the highest honor a Barber Shop quartet can achieve: International Champions. However they would not be able to enjoy their success for long. While on the way to work one morning in 1982, the lead of the quartet, Rich Knapp, was involved in a devastating automobile accident which not only left him totally deaf in one ear, but unable to tune.
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What'll I Do?
Review: This beautifully packaged double CD truly conveys the Boston Common aesthetic, which earned them not only the 1980 Championship, but also a exalted reputation that became the stuff of legend. Though they had no full-time coach, big band arranger Lou Perry frequently wrote arrangements for them (a point of principle, explained further in the liner notes, that apparently resulted in some political fallout), and the big band influence can be easily discerned ("Melancholy Baby"). "We Three," co-arranged by Perry and the group themselves, sounds like the early vocal harmony that became doo wop, whereas "Chatanooga Shoe Shine Boy" is a blues/barbershop amalgam that definitely isn't typical (arranger's credit to the Four Rascals, a quartet to whom the Boston Common pay repeated tribute). In general, the group's reverence for barbershop as not merely entertainment but as art radiates throughout.