Since we posted our last blog listing the ten best isolated vocals in September, the web’s been flooded with cracking examples of the singer dragged out from behind all that extraneous noise and bawling away with every vocal somersault and inadvertent belch on show. So we thought we’d revisit the genre for a harmonies special! Yup, here’s ten of the best multi-part vocal tracks out there (and one extra Bon Jovi track for a laugh), and we didn’t even have to resort to the Flying Pickets…
A song whose brilliance is built on the four-part harmony intro, it still fair cracks along without the backing track, peppered with those blasts of sunburst harmony and, now, the odd clearing of throat and coming-in-too-early between choruses.
Not just brilliant for a display of faultless harmonizing worthy of The Be Sharps but also for Roger Daltrey’s speaker-cracking squeals and growls, like an evil lion king shouting at someone who’s just turned up in his bathroom. Do mind the minute-long gap, though.
Just sublime. As this out-take from the ‘Pet Sounds’ sessions builds its layers of barbershop harmony it sweeps you away as succinctly as the full band version, only here the story of seafaring misadventure really takes centre stage.
While the a capella version of Jay-Z’s ’99 Problems’ is perhaps a better example of rhythmic vocal expertise – Outkast can tend to drift all over the beat, making it sound messier when the beat’s taken out – these are delights for their gymnastic rap dexterity and occasional flashes of double-tracked charm and gospel choir oomph.
Many isolated Kurt Cobain vocals online verge towards the half-formed roar, but here he’s sharp, passionate and direct, and the double-tracked harmonies and hums add a brittle bite and ghostly shiver to the track. Plus, Krist accidentally stumbles into a bass guitar a couple of minutes in, which is nice.
Okay, this is a cheat – there was a backing track to ‘Thursday’ as found on the 2006 album ‘News And Tributes’, but not to this version which was recorded for their acapella album ‘Rant’. But we had to include it as a prime example of how taking out the guitars can cut to its red-raw heart and send a song soaring.
And talking of a song we had to include, you couldn’t have a vocals-only harmonies special without the daddy of all multi-part pomp-pop epics. Amazingly, you will still find yourself head-banging to the total silence after the opera bit.
Thought all the U2 guitars and stadium atmospherics made ‘Fix You’ too mawkish and sentimental for you? Try this music-free version where Chris Martin’s falsetto lament ultimately gives way to a chilling, monk-like choral chime out of nowhere at 3.18.
The master in full, fabulous flow, Bowie’s rampant ‘Modern Love’ vocal is one of his most powerful, made all the more glorious here by the choir of gremlins swapping lines with him in the chorus. Whoever said sax is over-rated must’ve heard this…
Matt’s breathy Prince impression takes on depth and deliciousness stripped bare and spattered with the vibrant robot backing harmonies. And the croaked title sounds even more like the demon from Sinister has crept inside your head in the night.
Okay, there’s no harmonising on here, but we couldn’t help pointing out this impressive feat of hitting notes that would usually need in-studio castration to reach. Please, don’t try this at home.