Your browser does not support our new site design, so some things might not display or function properly.
We suggest upgrading to Google Chrome, Firefox, or Internet Explorer 9+ for the optimal experience.

Various Artists

Hot Lips: The Vocal Band Sampler (1999)

4.8

November 25, 1999

Tuning / Blend 4.8
Energy / Intensity 5.0
Innovation / Creativity 4.8
Soloists 5.0
Sound / Production 5.0
Repeat Listenability 4.8
Tracks
1 Monkey (The Nylons) 5.0
2 What's It All About (Five O'clock Shadow) 5.0
3 Live Alive (Spiral Mouth) 5.0
4 Completely (The House Jacks) 5.0
5 If We Try (M-PACT) 5.0
6 Presto Change-o (6 Day Week) 4.6
7 My Heart (Boyz Nite Out) 5.0
8 Make Up Your Mind (Grafitti Tribe) 4.8
9 Wake Up Call (Blind Man's Bluff) 4.4
10 Make Me Want You (STREETNiX) 4.4
11 Burned (Ball In The House) 4.4
12 If It Wasn't (Monkey Puzzle) 4.8
13 When Doves Cry (Schrödinger's Cat) 4.8
14 You Can't Win (Toxic Audio) 4.6
15 Shower The People (The Knudsen Bros.) 4.8

Recorded 1997 – 1999
Total time: 64:00, 15 songs


Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 5
Tracks
1 Monkey (The Nylons) 5
2 What's It All About (Five O'clock Shadow) 5
3 Live Alive (Spiral Mouth) 5
4 Completely (The House Jacks) 5
5 If We Try (M-PACT) 5
6 Presto Change-o (6 Day Week) 4
7 My Heart (Boyz Nite Out) 5
8 Make Up Your Mind (Grafitti Tribe) 5
9 Wake Up Call (Blind Man's Bluff) 4
10 Make Me Want You (STREETNiX) 5
11 Burned (Ball In The House) 4
12 If It Wasn't (Monkey Puzzle) 5
13 When Doves Cry (Schrödinger's Cat) 5
14 You Can't Win (Toxic Audio) 5
15 Shower The People (The Knudsen Bros.) 4

The great thing about a compilation album, if it's good (which this one is), is that you're likely to find something you like, something new, or something cool that you weren't expecting. Don Gooding and the folks at Hot Lips clearly put a lot of thought into putting Hot Lips: The Vocal Band Sampler together, and the CD stands very solidly as a whole, even though each of the groups has its own individual sound. The track order was obviously well-planned, and the album flows surprisingly smoothly throughout (though there's a slightly jarring transition between STREETNiX's heavily electronic Make Me Want You and the doo-wop-tinged opening of Ball in the House's Burned).

This is a great album to use for introducing a cappella novices to the genre: it opens and closes on familiar notes (The Nylons' cover of George Michael's Monkey and the Knudsen Bros.' version of James Taylor's Shower the People, respectively), and is chock full in-between of a little something for everyone. There's ready-for-Top-40 R&B (The House Jacks, m-pact), straight ahead rock (five o'clock shadow, Boyz Nite Out), pleasantly quirky surprises (Toxic Audio and the offbeat yet catchy Monkey Puzzle), and even a dose of electronica (STREETNiX). Are your friends and family not convinced that a cappella is anything other than doo-wop or barbershop, or isn't diverse enough to be anything other than a small niche market? You can use this album to convince them otherwise.

There's plenty here for a cappella veterans as well. You say you don't have enough cash to buy all of the new albums coming out these days? Get a taste from this CD, and you can pick and choose what groups you'd like to drop a few more dollars on. What I found most fascinating was placing tracks on the continuum of how much electronic enhancement the vocals received, from the Knudsen Bros. very straightforward Shower the People to STREETNiX's Make Me Want You with its background that's completely unrecognizable (in my opinion, at least) as the human voice. Some groups add elements of heavily processed sounds that might or might not be identifiable as vocals to the unsuspecting listener (Boyz Nite Out's My Heart, FOCS's What It's All About, spiralmouth's Live Alive), surrounded by more typical a cappella background vocals. Many of the songs that are more obviously a cappella still use voluminous layering of vocal tracks to create a full sound, and virtually every track uses driving bass lines and vocal percussion to ensure an infectious groove.

I'll admit that I did find some tracks less compelling than others, but even they're pretty darn good — they're just up against some stiff competition. And speaking of competition, it's nice to see a compilation like this one that's not tied to an a cappella competition of any kind — I hope that Hot Lips (as well as other labels) continues putting out projects like this one. The only person I wouldn't recommend this CD to is someone who already owns, say, a majority of the albums from which these tracks are drawn. Even still, you might find something new and exciting here. But if you're looking for a lot of bang for your buck, this is the CD you've been waiting for — get it!


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 5
Tracks
1 Monkey (The Nylons) 5
2 What's It All About (Five O'clock Shadow) 5
3 Live Alive (Spiral Mouth) 5
4 Completely (The House Jacks) 5
5 If We Try (M-PACT) 5
6 Presto Change-o (6 Day Week) 5
7 My Heart (Boyz Nite Out) 5
8 Make Up Your Mind (Grafitti Tribe) 5
9 Wake Up Call (Blind Man's Bluff) 5
10 Make Me Want You (STREETNiX) 5
11 Burned (Ball In The House) 5
12 If It Wasn't (Monkey Puzzle) 5
13 When Doves Cry (Schrödinger's Cat) 5
14 You Can't Win (Toxic Audio) 5
15 Shower The People (The Knudsen Bros.) 5

Compilation albums are, more often than not, meant to offer the best of something, be it the greatest or most well known songs of an artist, or to show the best of a certain theme (such as Ultimate Dance Party, Millennium Funk Party, Freedom Rock, etc). Hot Lips is billed as a "vocal band sampler", showing the vast range of the a cappella subgroup known as "vocal band".

The funny thing is, the term "subgroup" is a very strong misnomer, as this is the group that is closest to that which is mainstream in music in general... pop music. Granted, the music may have alternative subtext, hip-hop flavorings, etc...but the majority of vocal bands sing music that could conceivably be (and in some case, has been) heard on any radio. But to the mass public at large, this isn't what a cappella is. A cappella to the uninitiated often means barbershop, doo-wop, or lush, harmonic R&B. To the uninitiated, this album isn't only recommended, it's necessary.

I have heard at least one third of this album prior to this review through other reviews that I have done or albums that I have bought. This has had an interesting effect...some of the songs I've heard before have either gotten better with age or sound better to me for some reason out of the context of their group's album...the five o' clock shadow and Ball in the House tracks stand out to me in that regard.

Another thing was that there is a severe disjointing of sound styles in this album that is the hallmark and curse of any compilation album. The House Jacks were VERY Backstreetish in their sound, while Blind Mans Bluff for some reason sounded like Styx at it's very best, while yet again m-pact sounded straight off an adult contemporary station. Not necessarily in the music style, but in the way it SOUNDED, if there is a difference. With only ever having seen three of the groups on this sampler live, it's hard to tell what each groups personal goals are and if they match with the representation on this album.

Technically, if this albums have musical flaws, I had a hard time finding them...all of the tracks sounded very well produced technically, given their respective recording surrounding, and energy abounds here. Special kudos from me go to both Schrödinger's Cat for putting forth this kind of quality from a group just getting started in the professional ranks, and for The Nylons, for finally going with vocal percussion..the dimension it adds to them makes it SO much more fun to listen to, and Monkey was a joy to start the album with.

The only nit I have is that this album is HEAVILY dominated by male groups, with three known coed groups (I say known because some albums had no group pictures and the blend may be that good). It makes me wonder if there are any female vocal bands out there, and when do we get to hear them?

Overall, though, an unequivocal smash. Thumbs WAAAAAY up. Fans will love having a built-in mix disc, and non-fans will become fans. It's that good.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 Monkey (The Nylons) 5
2 What's It All About (Five O'clock Shadow) 5
3 Live Alive (Spiral Mouth) 5
4 Completely (The House Jacks) 5
5 If We Try (M-PACT) 5
6 Presto Change-o (6 Day Week) 4
7 My Heart (Boyz Nite Out) 5
8 Make Up Your Mind (Grafitti Tribe) 4
9 Wake Up Call (Blind Man's Bluff) 3
10 Make Me Want You (STREETNiX) 2
11 Burned (Ball In The House) 3
12 If It Wasn't (Monkey Puzzle) 4
13 When Doves Cry (Schrödinger's Cat) 4
14 You Can't Win (Toxic Audio) 3
15 Shower The People (The Knudsen Bros.) 5

Hot Lips is a sampler CD, and sample it does, with selections from several of the most talked-about (on rec.music.a-cappella, anyway) contemporary a cappella groups around. There's a wide range of styles, sounds, and quality here — from the tight and finely polished to the banal and extremely corny.

This collection starts off extremely well — The pairing of Rockapella's Jeff Thacher with the once-pioneering Nylons. The new sounds of FOCS; tight, catchy, and stunningly mixed. The solid House Jacks and the soaring tenor of m-pact's Britt Quentin. Maine's 6 Day Week does a good Sean Altman tune, and the extremely processed but strikingly cool My Heart by BNO rounds out a killer A-side. And then it's downhill...

The second half of this collection is far weaker than the first. Cheesy cornball voiceovers (mmmm, cheesy cornballs...) from Grafitti Tribe and Toxic Audio. Tuning issues, weak vocal percussion and bass lines from BITH. If It Wasn't has an interesting Talking Heads feel, and When Doves Cry is an impressive vocal photocopy of Prince by Schrödinger's Cat (albeit just a photocopy that adds nothing new). And the Depeche-Mode-on-a-bad-day techno-idiocy of Make Me Want You ("Show me what you've got and I'll tell you if I want it/Tell me what you need and I'll show you if I've got it"). The Knudsen Brothers thankfully redeem the end of the disc.

If you get a good deal on this CD and want to hear a sampling of some of today's styles of contemporary a cappella, get this CD. If you like what you hear, buy these groups' albums. Support your friendly neighborhood vocal band! My advice with this one: Enjoy the first half. Then skip to the last track and call it a day.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 5
Tracks
1 Monkey (The Nylons) 5
2 What's It All About (Five O'clock Shadow) 5
3 Live Alive (Spiral Mouth) 5
4 Completely (The House Jacks) 5
5 If We Try (M-PACT) 5
6 Presto Change-o (6 Day Week) 5
7 My Heart (Boyz Nite Out) 5
8 Make Up Your Mind (Grafitti Tribe) 5
9 Wake Up Call (Blind Man's Bluff) 5
10 Make Me Want You (STREETNiX) 5
11 Burned (Ball In The House) 5
12 If It Wasn't (Monkey Puzzle) 5
13 When Doves Cry (Schrödinger's Cat) 5
14 You Can't Win (Toxic Audio) 5
15 Shower The People (The Knudsen Bros.) 5

Hot Lips is a compilation of the best vocal bands in a cappella. The mystery remains why someone did not compile these groups earlier, because this is an album for any a cappella fan. All songs are recorded with exquisite attention to detail, a full sound, and lots of dynamics to follow. Every track has huge vocal percussion, a tremendous vocal range from the performers, and impeccable diction and tuning. This is a professional CD from professional groups.

What's missing? Two major factors, neither of which necessarily take away from the overall result of the album. First is the apparent lack of women in vocal bands. Three of the fifteen groups have women, and there are two at most in one group. (Keep in mind that the largest group on the album is a whopping seven members.) Whether this is the fault of the a cappella community on a whole or we should blame women in general, I will leave that up to the listener! (Please understand the sarcasm in the previous statement!) The album reflects what the public wants: all male a cappella groups seem to take precedence in popularity. The second missing piece is a certain angle/aspect of authenticity throughout the album. There are no "live" tracks here, and at times one does not realize that 4-5 members cannot physically sing 2-3 notes at a time per person! There is also quite a bit of digital enhancement; more on some tracks than others (take a listen to STREETNiX). On the other hand, a track like If It Wasn't by Monkey Puzzle seems closer to one person per part.

In any music, a cappella, rock, country, whatever it may be, a song can go from good to great via talented producers and engineers. If all of these groups sang each song live, we would have a very different album, but this is not to say that the groups are any less talented. It is simply something to keep in mind when comparing the (perhaps) expensive approach to multi-tracking to what other groups do not have the means to afford.

That said, this album is a creative, exciting, tight selection to have if you want a sampling of the cream of the crop.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 5
Tracks
1 Monkey (The Nylons) 5
2 What's It All About (Five O'clock Shadow) 5
3 Live Alive (Spiral Mouth) 5
4 Completely (The House Jacks) 5
5 If We Try (M-PACT) 5
6 Presto Change-o (6 Day Week) 5
7 My Heart (Boyz Nite Out) 5
8 Make Up Your Mind (Grafitti Tribe) 5
9 Wake Up Call (Blind Man's Bluff) 5
10 Make Me Want You (STREETNiX) 5
11 Burned (Ball In The House) 5
12 If It Wasn't (Monkey Puzzle) 5
13 When Doves Cry (Schrödinger's Cat) 5
14 You Can't Win (Toxic Audio) 5
15 Shower The People (The Knudsen Bros.) 5

Well, the jury's back, there's no beating around the bush — Hot Lips is an unqualified success as an introductory disc for new a cappella fans, and a fantastic compilation a la "NOW THAT'S WHAT I CALL A CAPPELLA" for old a cappella fans. What ultimately makes this a success was Don Gooding's selection of quality recordings from each of fifteen groups from around North America (13 U.S., 2 Canadian). What's also heartening is that these fifteen groups are widespread throughout the land as well as (going by the selection of tracks) musical flavor. Each of the fifteen tracks have unique sounds — covers and originals, R&B to pop — each group makes their three to five minute play and covers themselves well.

My favorite finds from among the groups I'd never heard of before were 6 Day Week and Schrödinger's Cat — especially the latter's cover of When Doves Cry. But to further single out any group is to negatively impact other groups despite their excellent tracks.

The person to congratulate on this recording is Don Gooding, for conceiving of and following through with an excellent and timely idea. Hopefully, as a cappella becomes more mainstream, groups here and on subsequent recordings will benefit from this exposure.


How To Get Your Work Reviewed

To have your album (2 or more tracks) reviewed by RARB, please email us with your name, group name and album title. You will receive a response with information on how to register your album in our system.

To have your digital single reviewed by RARB, please fill out our online singles registration form.

×

Ordering Information

Order online from Mainely A Cappella or call them at 800-827-2936; http://www.a-cappella.com/; fax 207-244-7603; order@a-cappella.com

×