The Manhattan Transfer, Vocalese

I have fond memories of this album as a kid because my local library had it on cassette. (You know, those places with books that people visit now for the free Wi-Fi.) It's not aged wholly without tarnish — the synths and drum machines are definitely products of its time — but the hook of vocalists singing those florid stratospheric jazz solos, squeals and squeaks intact (sometimes together with the very instruments they're mimicking), never gets old. And not just vocables and scatting, though there are some, but the witty, wacky Jon Hendricks lyrics sung to their usual high quality by the members and an ensemble cast of guests including Hendricks himself. While you'll get the joke better if you know the originals, as a fascinated young listener who didn't know a Grammy from my granny I did know the sounds in my headphones were gold. The songs are less compelling when they're less formed (particularly "Another Night in Tunisia," with guest Bobby McFerrin beneath his talent), and it loses its fifth star for being a cover album at its core, but good golly, man, what covers. It would have almost been worth the fine to keep the tape. (Content: no concerns.)