Take a valuable document, make a photocopy, make a copy of the copy, repeat the process another 19 times and the end result would be a barely recognizable replica of the original. Such is the case with the latest (and 22nd) configuration of the Four Freshmen.
The current crop of guys—Bob Ferreira, Curtis Calderon, Vince Johnson and Brian Eichenberger—have been together for more than a decade and are as harmonically tight as many of their predecessors. But that Freshmen magic, that jazz-flecked hipsterism that underlined their acrobatics and set them apart from the endless array of American vocal groups in the 1950s, has faded to comparative blandness. This could easily be a reconstituted version of the Lettermen.
Still, as slick lounge acts go, the foursome has an undeniable sheen that blends well with the lush arrangements. And though the playlist is composed solely of sturdy standards, nine of the 10 tracks have never previously been recorded by any combination of Freshmen. Wisely, they generally stick to breezier selections like “I Can’t Believe That You’re in Love With Me” and “With Plenty of Money and You.” When they do venture deeper, technique trumps emotional sincerity—a common problem among vocal groups. There’s no longing in their “These Foolish Things,” and a powerful line like “my life a wreck you’re making” in “Body and Soul” has all the dramatic heft of an order for ham on rye.