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Word of Mouth

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Album Review

We've come a long way in the world of a cappella music since the barbershop quartets and even from the doo wop groups. Todd Rundgren's 1985 album A Cappella demonstrated that modern recording technology could make the human voice sound like any instrument, and the hip-hop movement, with its "human beat boxes," brought us vocalists using nothing more than a microphone who could re-create a variety of percussive sounds. The contemporary vocal group, then, has a lot of possibilities as well as challenges, and Orlando, FL based quintet Toxic Audio, which has absorbed recent influences, is not your grandfather's, or even your father's, a cappella group. After a year of Disney theme-park work, they found greater exposure by spending six months of 2004 in an Off-Broadway theater doing eight shows a week, and earned a Drama Desk Award for their trouble. They also attracted the attention of show music record label DRG Records, which has issued this album, compiling tracks from two of their three previous self-released efforts and adding four newly recorded tracks. The group clearly has spent time listening to the Manhattan Transfer, and they are not shy about throwing jazz elements into arrangements of such standards as "Route 66." But they also honor the novelty tradition of a cappella with self-written comic numbers like "Caffeine" and "Putting Words in My Mouth." And they have an eclectic sense of current music that allows them to try on not only the Broadway show tune "You Can't Stop the Beat" from the musical Hairspray, but also the hard rock Evanescence hit "Bring Me to Life." The effect of hearing such unusual choices is not unlike hearing a marching band break into a disco song, of course; it's simultaneously funny and enlightening. And one could say the same thing about Toxic Audio's act in general.


Genre: Pop

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Toxic Audio is an a cappella quintet -- consisting of Jeremy James, Shalisa James, Michelle Mailhot-Valines, Rene Ruiz, and Paul Sperrazza -- that got its start at the 1998 Orlando International Fringe Festival. Their appearance at the festival led to a job with Disney/MGM Studios, where they performed six shows a day for a year. They were the national champions at the 2000 National Harmony Sweepstakes. They recorded and self-released a series of albums that they sold at their shows and on their...
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Word of Mouth, Toxic Audio
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