Top 10 A Cappella Records From The 20th Century

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Guest contributor Jessica Kane is a writer for SoundStage Direct, the number one online source for the best vinyl records and turntables.

It can often be difficult to pin down the greatest a cappella records, but there will always be a few groups and albums that stood taller and pushed this style of music forward. Here are the top 10 a cappella records from the 20th century. 

10. “The Whiffenpoof Song,” by The Whiffenpoofs Technically this Yale favorite may not be considered an album, but the popular song from the very first decade of the 20th century is often regarded as the very beginning of collegiate a cappella, which set the stage for the coming a cappella explosion. 

9. The Manhattan Transfer, by the Manhattan Transfer Their debut and self-titled album in 1975 included evergreen hits like "Java Jive," "Tuxedo Junction," and the biggest hit from the album, "Operator." 

8. Cooleyhighharmony, by Boyz II Men This 1991 album comes from the tail end of the century, but it included some of the greatest a cappella contributions to the world of pop music, most notably with "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday." A later remake of the album also included one of the greatest hits, "End of the Road," which was originally recorded for the movie Boomerang

7. We Came to Play, by The Persuasions The Persuasions first made a name for themselves with their original album put together by Frank Zappa, but they first hit big with this album, which included, among others, the hit song "Chain Gang." 

6. Mecca for Moderns, by The Manhattan Transfer The Manhattan Transfer seemed to have a few hits on every album they put out. In Mecca for Moderns, they became the first group to win Grammy awards in both pop and jazz, with hits like "The Boy from New York City" and "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square." 

5. Simple Pleasures, by Bobby McFerrin Bobby McFerrin distinguished himself as the first, or at least most prominent, one-man a cappella group. On this album, he gained worldwide fame for the hit "Don't Worry, Be Happy," which was also featured in the film Cocktail

4. Good Vibrations, by The King's Singers Named for the title track, a cover of the popular Beach Boys song, this album also featured the somber "M.L.K.," a song originally written for the late Martin Luther King, Jr., but often sung to commemorate the passing of a loved one. 

3. Seamless, by The Nylons This album featured what may be the most recognizable a cappella song of all time, "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." The album also features a cover of Lennon and McCartney's composition, "This Boy." 

2. Street Corner Symphony, by The Persuasions The Persuasions had many great albums and hits, but Street Corner Symphony set them apart, with the popular "Buffalo Soldier" and "People Get Ready" remakes, as well as several other a cappella covers brilliantly arranged by the group. 

1. Vocalese, by The Manhattan Transfer This 1985 record produced one of the most incredible a cappella arrangements ever, called "Another Night in Tunisia." The song was an all a cappella version of "Night in Tunisia" by Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie "Bird" Parker, and it featured singing legends Bobby McFerrin and Jon Hendricks. Also on the album was a cover of the famous "I Remember Clifford," changed slightly to "Oh Yes, I Remember Clifford." The original song was written about the brilliant jazz trumpeter Clifford Brown, who died in a tragic car crash at the age of 25. The album received 12 Grammy nominations, second only to Michael Jackson's Thriller album for nominations of an individual album.