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Pop Music Review : Black Voices Penetrate Emotional Depth

November 01, 1994|CHUCK CRISAFULLI

Amid the crafted din and amplified clutter of modern pop, it's easy to forget that unaided, unadorned human voices are capable of creating powerful music. A substantial reminder was served on Sunday at Wadsworth Theater as Britain's five-woman a cappella group Black Voices sang their way through an inspiring international mix of blues, pop reggae, African, and Afro-Caribbean music.

With graceful, intricate harmonies, and with voices sometimes used for percussive effects, the group was able to explore the sweet tunefulness and emotional depth of such disparate works as Louis Jordan's "Early Morning Blues," Desmond Dekker's "Israelites" and the traditional "Sloop John B." A Swahili version of the Lord's Prayer was particularly pretty, and the group's gorgeous tones turned Dion's "Abraham, Martin, and John" into a passionate lament.

Black Voices' influences are wide-ranging, but almost all their material demonstrates the process by which pain and sorrow can be turned to release and uplift through song. Leader Carol Pemberton served as a good-natured guide through the evening's program, keeping the mood light but also explaining the painful roots of more solemn songs.

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