HUB EXCLUSIVE: Legendary Vocal Ensemble Take 6 Releases Brilliant New Album of “Iconic” Songs

HUB EXCLUSIVE: Legendary Vocal Ensemble Take 6 Releases Brilliant New Album of “Iconic” Songs

By Michael P Coleman

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”  - John 8:32

After 30 years, the legendary vocal ensemble Take 6 has never recorded a more truthful album.  And ironically, for a group that began firmly entrenched in the gospel tradition, their new album only includes one overtly religious song. 

That said, the very aptly entitled Iconic is comprised of 10 songs that are immediately recognizable.  According to founding member Claude McKnight, that was very much by design. 

“Because we have a national and international audience and following, we tried to branch out even farther and say ‘What 10 songs could we go almost anywhere in the world and sing, and people would immediately know them,” McKnight shared during our EXCLUSIVE interview. 

With the wealth of popular songs from which to choose, fans may wonder how the group settled on the 10 included on the new album.  McKnight said that the group’s song selection process was, and has always been, extremely democratic. 

“We vote on everything,” McKnight shared.  “We sat down in a room together and each guy went through in their own mind and hearts literally dozens of songs that could have worked with this album.  We voted on them, and all of the songs that received at least four votes ended up getting another look.  Then, we whittled it down from there.” 

In this case, a surprisingly simplistic process has yielded stunning results.  Iconic’s highlights include masterful covers that are somewhat inspirational — and, thus, very much in Take 6’s wheelhouse — like Eric Clapton’s “Change The World” and Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Fight The Feeling.”  Other highlights are more up another of Take 6’s alleys, like the R & B and jazz-influenced “All This Love” (originally recorded by DeBarge), Norah Jones’ “Don’t Know Why,” and Al Jarreau’s “Roof Garden.” 

Fans may be surprised by a couple of others, like Christopher Cross’ “Sailing.” 

“Sailing?”  Christopher Cross??  The guy was a two-hit wonder back in the early 80s, and he quickly faded from view a handful or so years before Take 6 took the world by storm. 

“I’m actually glad you’re asking me about that particular tune,” McKnight reassured me.  “If I’m not mistaken, “Sailing” had at least five votes.  Even if people don’t remember the song, everybody knows that iconic guitar riff, and that riff actually makes that song.  It already had two to three hooks built into it, so we didn’t have to come up with a new intricate arrangement on it — all we had to do was let the song unfold.” 

That’s a good way to take in and enjoy all of Iconic:  just let it unfold.  In doing so, you’ll discover that, after 30 years in the music business, the men of Take 6 have lost none of their vocal magic.  In fact, if anything, they sound better than they did decades ago. 

And for the Take 6 diehard who longs for therm to sing gospel standards, Iconic closes with the stalwart “Nothing But The Blood.”  

“That one was on [group member] Joey Kibble’s list,” McKnight shared. “Because we were going to be taking a complete departure from having numerous spiritually-based songs on this album, we knew we had to have at least one.  I’ll be honest: it was not one of the songs I voted on.”

“Mark Kibble, who’s our primary arranger, said he could put an amazing arrangement together,” McKnight continued.  “We all said ‘Who are we to question genius?’  Once the arrangement came together and we recorded it — man, there’s a vibe about that song and when you get to the vamp and all of that — I felt that that song really rounded out everything else that’s on the new album.” 

Don’t take McKnight’s word for it — or mine.  Check out Take 6’s new Iconic for yourself.  After you do, you’ll know these truths:  Take 6 is still, after 30 years, at the very top of their game, and the group is our time’s premiere vocal ensemble. 

Take 6’s new Iconic album is available online and at retail. 

Look for the summer edition of THE HUB’S print magazine, which features more from Take 6 as well as Black Music Month features on R & B legend Jeffrey Osborne, jazz artist Robin McKelle, and others.


 Connect with Sacramento-based freelancer Michael P Coleman at michaelpcoleman.com or follow him on Twitter:  @ColemanMichaelP.