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Everyday People

Stanford University

EP JONES (1999)

4.2

December 3, 1999

Tuning / Blend 4.0
Energy / Intensity 3.8
Innovation / Creativity 4.2
Soloists 4.8
Sound / Production 4.0
Repeat Listenability 3.6
Tracks
1 Doo Wop (That Thing) [EP Remix] 4.4
2 Knocks Me Off My Feet 4.4
3 As 4.4
4 Mary 4.0
5 Weak 4.0
6 (Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay 3.4
7 I Can't Get Next To You [Freaky Mix] 3.4
8 Nobody's Supposed To Be Here 4.2
9 Let's Stay Together 3.6
10 The House That Jack Built 4.0
11 Take Me There 3.8
12 Gonna Love You Right 3.6

Recorded 1999
Total time: 44:58, 12 songs


Tuning / Blend 3
Energy / Intensity 3
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 3
Repeat Listenability 3
Tracks
1 Doo Wop (That Thing) [EP Remix] 4
2 Knocks Me Off My Feet 4
3 As 4
4 Mary 4
5 Weak 4
6 (Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay 4
7 I Can't Get Next To You [Freaky Mix] 3
8 Nobody's Supposed To Be Here 4
9 Let's Stay Together 3
10 The House That Jack Built 4
11 Take Me There 3
12 Gonna Love You Right 3

EP Jones needed a little more zing to hit the big time. Great solos and creative arrangements lay a good foundation, but this latest album from Everyday People lacks the polish to make it truly memorable.

Background blur is the biggest problem. On the opening track, a rewrite of Lauren Hill's That Thing, a lack of snap turns the song into a bunch of amateurs pushing the envelope, rather than an a cappella triumph. I'm not sure whether to lay the blame on the singers or the engineers — although my knowledge of studio techniques is strictly intuitive, I suspect that better production could have filled in the gaps by putting back some crispness and energy. Mary suffers from a similar fuzz factor, despite stellar solos and a handful of fabulous gospel power chords.

The singers, however, have to take the hit for some of the other weak spots. Tuning often comes in below EP's usual standard, such as on Gonna Love You Right and I Can't Get Next To You. Poor pitch also hurts Take Me There, otherwise one of the most interesting songs on the album. I don't know how much was them and how much was copied from the original, but I do know that the thick percussion, and neat overlays combine for a terrific groove. With a little better execution, it could have been a real keeper.

Solos are uniformly excellent. Good groove. Good execution. Depth, soul, and practice all come through, whetting the listener's appetite. It's this very strength that makes the backgrounds such a disappointment — a good collegiate effort isn't enough to satisfy such lofty aspirations. Nobody's Supposed to Be Here comes closest, with a lovely gospel choir swell behind the solo, but the instrumentals behind the choir still sound a bit off.

With EP Jones, Everyday People proved that they have taken concept a cappella to a new level. No one else is doing this kind of music, let alone pursuing it so consistently. In the process, however, they may have set a bar for themselves that is too high for a part-time collegiate group to manage.


Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 Doo Wop (That Thing) [EP Remix] 5
2 Knocks Me Off My Feet 5
3 As 5
4 Mary 5
5 Weak 4
6 (Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay 4
7 I Can't Get Next To You [Freaky Mix] 4
8 Nobody's Supposed To Be Here 5
9 Let's Stay Together 4
10 The House That Jack Built 5
11 Take Me There 4
12 Gonna Love You Right 4

Stanford's Everyday People have come through with another solid R&B effort on EP Jones. The short review is, if you have 2648 West Grand Blvd and it left you wanting more, go right ahead and buy EP Jones. For everyone else, EP has put together a high-quality recording that's worth a look — the production is strong, the arrangements are varied, the soloists are excellent, and attitude is everywhere. EP again draws from classic soul and Motown as well as contemporary R&B and hip-hop, and creates a cohesive album that flows from beginning to end.

EP has smartly carried over some strengths from their previous outing. They've kept the track list down to 12 tracks, showing the maturity of a collegiate a cappella group that doesn't feel the need to record every song they've ever sung. To showcase the talent of their individual singers, many tracks again feature multiple soloists (most notably I Can't Get Next To You, Mary, and Doo Wop (That Thing)). And the CD artwork design is an accomplishment in itself — even better than the outstanding look of 2648 West Grand Blvd.

EP Jones starts off strong with Doo Wop (That Thing), complete with new, EP-specific lyrics, and contains only a few weak spots throughout. I found Weak to be a bit, well, less satisfying than most of the other tracks on the album, which I think is mostly due to slightly weaker material than the other songs. I wanted a little more oomph on the classic tracks (Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay (Otis Redding) and Let's Stay Together (Al Green), since the power was clearly there on I Can't Get Next To You (Temptations) and The House That Jack Built (Aretha Franklin). And while the slow, R&B groove sound really works on the sexy Nobody's Supposed To Be Here, it comes off as more rambling and unfocused on the closing track, Gonna Love You Right. But these are minor quibbles, and I mention them only to point out that, as with their last CD, EP Jones is not a perfect album, but it certainly is an excellent one. I can't say enough about the soloists, and the energy the group communicates on this recording is tangible. This is a combination not often seen in collegiate a cappella, and it makes EP Jones an album worth having.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 5
Tracks
1 Doo Wop (That Thing) [EP Remix] 5
2 Knocks Me Off My Feet 5
3 As 5
4 Mary 4
5 Weak 5
6 (Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay 3
7 I Can't Get Next To You [Freaky Mix] 4
8 Nobody's Supposed To Be Here 5
9 Let's Stay Together 4
10 The House That Jack Built 4
11 Take Me There 4
12 Gonna Love You Right 5

Soulful leads, R&B flava, a strong production hand and catchy song choices. That's the formula for Everyday People's Jones. And this formula works. It's as radio-friendly a collegiate a cappella recording as you'll find and puts many supposedly "professional" recordings to shame. Though not without its flaws, Jones jams and will definitely get spin time in this reviewer's boombox.

About those flaws: For 80-90% of the album, the recording quality is fantastic. Every now and again a production blunder, like improper mic-to-singer distance (that probably only producer-detail-freaks like me notice) tarnishes this high gloss product. Still college groups nationwide will be hard-pressed to make such a well-produced, smoothly-mixed and soulful album.

But let these other groups be warned: Jones surely did not come cheap. Quality costs. Hours spent laboring over a mix pay off in the end, but the bill comes due. EP has the ASSU and Stanford Fund to pick up that bill. [According to Geraldine Chung and Michelle Moulton of EP, the ASSU and The Stanford Fund do not "pick up the bill". The ASSU loans them a portion of the costs, and The Stanford Fund provides employment for students and student groups. -SG] Not enough college a cappella has that kind of backing. Hopefully colleges will realize that for a prominent reputation, proper financial support is required. In other words, you can't race NASCAR in a fixer-upper.

But returning to the singers themselves… At some points, the vocal melismatics become somewhat overdone. Take-6's Mary is a perfect example. Though technically impressive, the soloists' stylings detract from the overall musicality. Mary is about more than showcasing vocal pyrotechnics. Mary is also a rare example of arrangement outside the singers' best tessitura, normally a tremendous strength of EP's.

The original flair: I found the self-referential, original lyric rewrites (e.g. "EP" in place of "That thing" in Lauryn Hill's Doo Wop) a bit provincial. A group of this caliber simply has no need to add heavy-handed tricks. Fans of the group might appreciate the rewrites, but fans of the music probably won't.

But despite these imperfections, Jones is a remarkable achievement for a collegiate group. Considering the eclectic, mish-mash that is hauntingly prevalent in the college scene, EP's Jones stands out as a pillar of overall quality and a testimony to the appeal of their signature sound.


Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 3
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 3
Repeat Listenability 3
Tracks
1 Doo Wop (That Thing) [EP Remix] 5
2 Knocks Me Off My Feet 4
3 As 4
4 Mary 4
5 Weak 3
6 (Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay 3
7 I Can't Get Next To You [Freaky Mix] 3
8 Nobody's Supposed To Be Here 4
9 Let's Stay Together 3
10 The House That Jack Built 4
11 Take Me There 4
12 Gonna Love You Right 3

Money doesn't buy love, but it sure can give you amazing packaging on a collegiate CD. Before delving into the music, I must start "jonesing" about Everyday People's album EP Jones. Picture a clear booklet with silver writing, and tucked inside are 3x3 cards of beautiful pictures of the group members. Grab this CD just to see the song lists, photos, and creativity. Be warned- this cannot be done by most collegiate groups, because money talks. [According to Geraldine Chung and Michelle Moulton of EP, the album was funded by a combination of sources, including loans and work opportunities from Stanford, loans from group members, and work by current and former group members, but did not include significant grants from the university. -SG]

Still one of the nation's stronger a cappella groups (and perhaps the only R&B group that I know of), Everyday People has a refreshing selection of songs on EP Jones. With the exception of their rewrite of Lauryn Hill's Doo Wop (That Thing) (new lyrics to praise their group), nothing was pulled off Top 40 stations (a common approach by many, many groups). Instead we've got a new angle on Motown, with Stevie, Aretha, The Temps, and classics that are mixed in with more recent R&B chart toppers.

There are elements of clarity and crisp music that I heard in their previous album that are missing here. Many of the arrangements have a lot going on, but parts "smoosh" together because they are not sharp and clean. There is some fairly sloppy singing here, with notes that need a sharper attack and more sustenance regarding pitch. This may also be attributed to the overall recording quality. I waited for the sound to "open" up during the entire album, but the overall effect sounds as if Everyday People are singing into very large, very fluffy pillows. The sound gets captured and just goes flat.

Specifics? The song Weak reflects the title: the arrangement has many holes, chords that aren't voiced well (and some chords that are wrong all together in the chorus). Take Me There could've been great if tuning was cleaned up. (Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay needed more drive, more passion behind a great, soulful song. I waited for innovative arrangements, and while there are really no BAD songs here, there are no show-stopping, heart-dropping tunes, either.

When scoring this album, I was torn between comparing them to the "collegiate" standard of good music and EP's past results, they have different levels of excellence and different levels of problems. In terms of their past, the overall score is a 3, but since they are much further along than many groups out there, they received a 4. The presentation is definitely a 5 (more like a 6 or 7!), but (to borrow a slogan from Sprite) "image is nothing".

The level of enthusiasm on this album is not what I've seen or heard from past years. The soloists still have amazing, unique voices that give it their all, but when soloists step to the background, they lose their touch. I think that this group is not as tight as others because parts don't blend very well. It's as if the basses sing, the tenors sing, the altos sing, and the sopranos sing- but they don't sing together. When you are being compared to an album that has been one of my favorites (2648 West Grand Blvd.), it's tough to top. I wished there were songs that I felt "Hey- I want to put that one back on the CD player", but I wasn't "wow"ed by this album on any level. If you have great songs, great soloists, but a weaker group effort, the final result will not meet its great expectations.


Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 3
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 3
Tracks
1 Doo Wop (That Thing) [EP Remix] 3
2 Knocks Me Off My Feet 4
3 As 4
4 Mary 3
5 Weak 4
6 (Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay 3
7 I Can't Get Next To You [Freaky Mix] 3
8 Nobody's Supposed To Be Here 3
9 Let's Stay Together 4
10 The House That Jack Built 3
11 Take Me There 4
12 Gonna Love You Right 3

E(veryday) P(eople) has scored again with an album cut in the same groove as their previous release: "more soulful than thou". More than most contemporary a cappella groups, and certainly almost alone among collegiates, they strive for and generally attain an R&B feel. Accomplished initially through song selection (running a fairly limited gamut from rock to R&B), this choice gains strength from the soloists' consistently successful interpretations. The album virtually screams "cool" (as does the packaging, proclaiming the group's second message: "wealthier than thou", or at least this reviewer, who is impressed at the professional quality to the liner notes). [See the other editorial clarifications in this review regarding EP's sources of funding. -SG]

As said, song choice is fairly constrained, giving the album a uniform quality. The group has a consistent approach which must stem from long practice: a light touch, featured soloists against a background painted in muted colors, VP which is effectively used (neither drowning out the music nor badly executed, although as usual I could wish for some more variety in sounds) . . . What seems to be lacking most is energy: although the group does soulful well, and loving and/or enamored with comparable aplomb, nothing really rocks. Some moments do build towards nice crescendos of volume and polyphony; the climax seems perpetually postponed. The basses only add to this with a universally mellow, soft and sometimes flat sound: a bit more push in the lower frequencies could fill out the well-orchestrated but timidly attacked arrangements the group favors.

All that said, this is a high quality album, surely again a contender for one of the CARAs. The songs are too similar from one to the next to merit continual rehearing, but I expect one or another to appear on an upcoming BOCA. Kudos to EP for sticking to its guns; some change-ups in the targets would have made this good album great.


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Ordering Information

Send a $15 check to

Everyday People
P.O. Box 9908
Stanford, CA 94309-9908
Please be sure to include your name and mailing address.

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