Let’s get one thing clear from the very beginning: in my opinion, GQ is one of, if not the single most outstanding a cappella group singing today in terms of vocal quality, tuning, and blend. I first heard the group less than year after its inception, at SingStrong 2012 where they positively shocked and awed the audience en route to winning the Aca-Idol live competition. Indeed, the audience in DC learned the very same lesson that night the Mid-Atlantic Harmony Sweepstakes region had learned a short while before—that GQ comes to play, offering up a unique combination of barbershop conventions and aesthetics, with contemporary sensibilities to assemble one of the most compelling live acts in the world.
But what would a GQ album sound like?
Vol. 1 errs toward the side of traditional barbershop. I appreciate that’s the tradition this group is coming from, and though I wish that the group had pushed the envelope a little further, the fact remains that this is a stunningly clean compilation of the group’s early efforts.
Vol. 1 is at its best when the group allows its barbershop background to inform less traditional song selections and arrangements—when the group innovates, and particularly when strong soloists have the opportunity to shine. Examples of the group at its finest include “Timshel” and “Fly Away (Reprise).” A song like “Hot Knife” also allows the group to thrive through the clever and playful addition of body percussion.