Route 6 (2005)
Thoughts on Route 6
By James Harrington ('01-'04)
Route 6 was recorded and produced during the final two of my four summers in the Hyannis Sound (Cape Standard Time covered my first two), and was very much a "coming of age" for us in that it was our very first all-studio album. Until Route 6, as Mark mentions in his retrospective of Cape Standard Time, Hyannis Sound albums were split 50/50 between studio and live recordings from the previous two summers. This was, for the most part, a conscious decision—a compromise between our creative ambitions for the studio and a sentimental desire to preserve for ourselves and our audiences a few vestiges of the live experience that is so essential to what Hyannis Sound is and means to those closest to it.
Each recording was a source of pride for us, a way to show ourselves, our alumni, and our fans what we could do beyond the live stage. It came also to be the way that a cappella fans across the country were introduced to this group, to its creative and musical prowess—and in time, these recordings began earning recognition and awards, which was immensely gratifying. One thing, though, seemed stuck in the collective craw of our reviewers, non-Cape fans, and admittedly many of the guys in the group: the studio recordings now sounded so good, so fresh, that the sonic juxtaposition between studio and live tracks became jarring, even downright unpleasant, to the listener.
Ultimately, the shift to all-studio albums was not made to garner better reviews or higher sales numbers for us; by the time Mark presented the idea for board approval in 2003, the conversation was a few years old, instigated internally by our own creative ambitions, and emboldened by the indirect counsel of objective and respected reviewers. Thankfully, the board agreed with our position, and the groundwork for our current recording program was laid: biannual studio albums were now complemented by our "Annual Bootleg" series, which provides an entire live show, talkabouts and all, for those who can't bear the thought of a winter without our witticisms and *cough* wisdom.
With all of that in mind, Route 6 was and remains a very special album to those of us who were involved in its production. Assembled under two of our finest music directors (Eric Fosbury and Ed Boyer), and featuring some of my personal favorite soloist/song pairings in our history, with Route 6, we truly had carte blanche to explore our creative limits. Songs like "Don't Cry" and "What's Going On", sung by Micah; "Jump", performed by Greg; Fozz's take on "Boys of Summer", a brilliant combination of solo, song, situation... and seagull; Tim's authentic look at Chick Corea/Al Jarreau's classic, "Spain"; and Vic tearing the roof off of U2's "Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" were the kind of tracks the Sound could be counted on to produce year after year. But with the extra wiggle room afforded us by the elimination of the live cuts, we were able to explore songs that would have been left off of previous years' albums, either mathematically or aesthetically. "Clarity", which Fozz arranged and a very young Paul Toms sang very well, was an opportunity to look at a stripped down, acoustic tune in a studio setting, the way we had with "Walking Away" and "I Will Remember You" previously. "Señorita", which probably would have been left off of Route 6 for the same reason that "I'm Like a Bird" or "In the End" didn't make Cape Standard Time (i.e. being a little too dated), instead wound up affording us a chance to play around with an über-pop song, and to great effect, I think.
The emotional and creative highs I mentioned earlier are, of course, cruelly followed by the inevitable disbanding of the group at summer's end—back to classrooms, day jobs, and other trappings of the world too easily forgotten in the whirlwind of a summer singing for your supper on Cape Cod. These recordings are a labor of love from the group first and foremost to its fans, who make the summer what it is, year after year. We hope we make you proud. It is also for the members themselves, who restlessly count the days until they return to a stage in front of you, in what remains the essential expression of all that the Hyannis Sound is: the live show.
(My apologies to Jason Taylor for the many instances—inadvertent and otherwise—of alliteration in this piece.)