2018 | BMG

The Junction

An eclectic, brightly attenuated recording, 2018's The Junction is the Manhattan Transfer's first studio album since the death of founding member Tim Hauser from a heart attack in 2014. It's also the first album the legendary vocal group has recorded with his replacement, M-Pact vocalist Trist Curless. Along with Curless, once again showcased are the talents of longtime group members Cheryl Bentyne, Janis Siegel, and Alan Paul. The Junction follows up 2009's ambitious The Chick Corea Songbook, and finds the group moving away from that album's organic, fusion-influenced sound and delving instead into a sparkling, jazzy mix of inspired covers and originals. Produced with studio savvy by Mervyn Warren (Whitney Houston, Michael Bublé, Take 6), The Junction is a sleek production, where the Transfer's laser-tone vocals are framed by warm keyboards, percolating beats, and just enough electronic flourishes to lend the proceedings a contemporary vibe. They kick things off with "Cantaloop (Flip Out!)," a deft rendition of Us3's "Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia)," which was itself a reworking of Herbie Hancock's classic "Cantaloupe Island." Also compelling is the group's take on XTC's "The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul," in which they juxtapose Curless' lead vocals on the angular, loungey verses with the group's diamond-toned, horn section-accented harmonies on the choruses. Elsewhere, Paul shines on the languid, bossa nova-tinged "Sometimes I Do," and Siegel leads the group with emotive passion through Rickie Lee Jones' "Ugly Man." While Hauser's warm vocals and artistic vision were a huge part of the Manhattan Transfer, the group has found a worthy successor in Curless, who brings his own adept vocal skills to the ensemble. Furthermore, with all the members of the group adding their own original ideas to the album, as they've done in the past, The Junction works as both a tribute to Hauser and the mark of a new beginning.