Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Best of Manhattan Transfer

Manhattan Transfer was passenger transfer station situated in Harrison, New Jersey on the main line of Pennsylvania Railroad, 8.8 miles west of New York Penn Station. It served 1911 to 1937 for changing steam to electric locomotives used in tunnel under Hudson River. There were also two car-floor-level platforms for passengers changing to intercity trains. This station was not opened for local access, it served only for changing and transfer purposes. The name Manhattan Transfer was popular and used in various contexts. Strong position in social memory was occupying as the title of important novel by John Dos Passos. In published in 1925 novel writer captured unique character of the Big City with new writing technics inspired by Joyce, Eliot and Eisenstein. In this novel, made as fabric braided with many different stories connecting and overlapping, Dos Passos was trying to show identity and origins of New Yorkers. And to this understanding of popular station name Tim Hauser alluded calling the newly created group. Vocal quartet called Manhattan Transfer shortly became most obvious designate of its name.
Group started in 1969 and in 1971 recorded debut album with Gene Pistilli – Jukin’ (1971). In this first line-up group was keeping out until 1973. After terminating first quartet Tim Hauser completed new group with Janis Siegel, Laurel Massé and Alan Paul. In this formation Manhattan Transfer recorded 4 albums – The Manhattan Transfer in 1975, Coming Out in 1976, Pastiche and The Manhattan Transfer Live in 1978. Last change in the group took place in 1978 after Laurel Massé get injured in car crash and approving Cheryl Bentyne as replacement. In this line-up group lasts until today.

The Best of Manhattan Transfer (1981)

In second half of seventies decade Manhattan Transfer became famous and what was symptomatic, in first years their recognition in Europe was even bigger than in US. The 1975 and 1976 records were perfectly executed vocal arrangements in balanced fusion of smooth jazz and pop music. The group remained in public memory with renewed 1958 hit by Wayne Shanklin Chanson D’Amour. This was number one hit in many countries. 18 years after it was sung by The Fontane Sisters and Art and Dotty Todd the song perfectly met public needs and expectations, giving Manhattan Transfer immediate world recognition. In fact it was neither their first nor the last hit. What's more, it was not even too much innovative performance and lack of innovations was its strongest point. Tim Hauser’s group just tried to get as close as it’s possible to the sound of the Todd’s old recordings. And that they did it perfectly.
In fall of 1981 Atlantic Records label published first compilation including most successful songs of the group. The program of this album contains thirteen songs taken from five prior albums: 1975 The Manhattan Transfer, 1976 Coming Out, 1978 Pastiche, 1978 The Manhattan Transfer Live, 1979 Extensions and 1981 Mecca for Moderns. Difficulty with selecting the best of Manhattan Transfer’s songs is this, almost every song they recorded can be considered as a hit. During period of 1975 to 1981 they published 12 singles what makes about two times more material than could be put on one LP. It seems that the editors choose our songs rather guided by the ambition to illustrate how rich are their relationship with tradition, even if this tradition was fifteen years old. In this case using old style modes of expression was not just pose or empty gesture. From its very beginning Manhattan Transfer is New York group and their multi-layer stylizations were always serving for displaying their unique identity. And this was the idea clearly displayed by designers of the album. Among many reasons to take this record from the shelf is the cover. Maybe it’s the best cover in whole Manhattan Transfer’s discography. Front illustration by Leslie Cabarga, his original typography, style and graphic ideas say more about this music than best reviews.

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