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The Beelzebubs

Tufts University

Infinity (1999)

4.4

February 12, 2000

Tuning / Blend 4.4
Energy / Intensity 4.4
Innovation / Creativity 3.8
Soloists 4.0
Sound / Production 4.6
Repeat Listenability 4.4
Tracks
1 That's The Way (I Like It) / Get Down Tonight 3.6
2 It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over 4.6
3 Stay (Wasting Time) 4.4
4 All I Want Is You 4.6
5 Loungin' 4.4
6 She's Always A Woman To Me 3.8
7 All Night Long 4.4
8 Fire 4.4
9 No Diggity 4.4
10 Washing Of The Water 4.0
11 You and Me & The Bottle Makes 3 Tonight (Baby) 4.0
12 Why Should I Cry For You 4.6
13 Signed, Sealed, Delivered - I'm Yours 3.6
14 Brothers, Sing On! 3.2

Recorded 1999
Total time: 47:24, 14 songs


Tuning / Blend 3
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 3
Soloists 3
Sound / Production 3
Repeat Listenability 5
Tracks
1 That's The Way (I Like It) / Get Down Tonight 3
2 It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over 3
3 Stay (Wasting Time) 3
4 All I Want Is You 4
5 Loungin' 4
6 She's Always A Woman To Me 3
7 All Night Long 3
8 Fire 3
9 No Diggity 4
10 Washing Of The Water 3
11 You and Me & The Bottle Makes 3 Tonight (Baby) 3
12 Why Should I Cry For You 4
13 Signed, Sealed, Delivered - I'm Yours 3
14 Brothers, Sing On! 3

This one gets better with time. What the Beelzebubs lack in panache, they makes up for in consistency and groove. Vocal percussion provides a strong anchor for the bulk of the disk, and if there are no hits there also are no losers in the disk's primary vein.

Naturally, I like the rhythmic songs best. As a general rule, the ones with percussion are superior to the two without. The drums are the backbone — and backbeat — of a heavily hiphop repertoire. Steady, tasteful and well-executed, they help Loungin' reach its full coolness. They also cover for pitch problems in many of the backgrounds, as in the first three tracks.

The 'Bubs years ago made a name for themselves doing contemplative, synth-heavy rock songs. The mid-tempo stuff on this album is very strong. Even though they no longer have a hold on the top of the genre, the Bubs still are at their best doing covers of U2, Sting and the like.

All Night Long is once again a surprise a cappella success. I don't know what's prompted its sudden inclusion in a number of late '90s set lists, but it seems to work. The odd hitches don't get in the way of a good groove and some nice ensemble work during the bridge. The Bubs' version is not the strongest cut on the disk, but it's in the top five and merits mention because of its eccentricity.

The well-executed combo of LL Cool J's Loungin' and Blackstreet's No Diggity is a more appropriate twist. This group shocked the collegiate scene in 1990 with an MC Hammer cover, which succeeded by virtue of sheer effrontery. The Bubs' latter-day a cappella rap is much smoother, much more polished and doesn't need quite so much energy to make it a realistic go.

This album approaches "must" status for vocal percussion aficionados. It showcases consistency, versatility and a good solid groove, as well as an excellent kit of basic sounds. That information alone should be enough for the rest of you to make your decision.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 That's The Way (I Like It) / Get Down Tonight 2
2 It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over 5
3 Stay (Wasting Time) 4
4 All I Want Is You 5
5 Loungin' 4
6 She's Always A Woman To Me 5
7 All Night Long 5
8 Fire 5
9 No Diggity 4
10 Washing Of The Water 4
11 You and Me & The Bottle Makes 3 Tonight (Baby) 3
12 Why Should I Cry For You 4
13 Signed, Sealed, Delivered - I'm Yours 3
14 Brothers, Sing On! 3

During orientation week of my freshman year of college, the official catch phrase was "I feel good! Na na Na na Na na Na!" At every event, upper classmen would get us psyched-up by getting us to all do our best James Brown impersonation.

Speaker: Hey class of 1993, how do you feel?
Class of 1993: I feel good! Na na Na na Na na Na!

At one such event, an older dean of some department was giving a speech. Someone in the audience shouted out "Hey dean, how do you feel?" Well, this guy wasn't familiar with the Godfather of Soul's body of work, but he'd heard us chanting, so he confidently smiled and said "I feel great! Na na!" Everyone cheered and laughed their asses off. He smiled even more, convinced the reaction was because he'd said it so well.

I am reminded of that dean every time I hear the opening track of the Beelzebubs latest disc. The signature lyric of That's the Way I Like It is the double "Uh Huh". So why on earth do the Beelzebubs bury the second "Uh Huh" in the backing vocals? How can they get such a simple hook wrong? The best you can do is laugh.

Once you get past the opening track, the Beelzebub are clearly back on the top of their game. They know how to dish out very tight and polished performances. The album has all of the things you'd expect from a Bubs' CD. There's some Peter Gabriel (The Washing of the Water), some classic soft rock (She's Always a Woman to Me), and some classic ROCK AND ROLL (a wonderfully distorted Let Me Stand Next to Your Fire.) It's good to see that the group is staying the course, but the Bubs used to be cutting edge long ago by being one of the first groups to sing contemporary rock songs. It would be nice to hear them regain their vanguard status by going where no other group has gone before and covering a few obscure, overlooked artists.

The Bubs have always been brave about mixing new genres into their contemporary repertoire. (A cappella Pink Floyd? A cappella MC Hammer? They've been there, done that.) This time around, they take a stab at swing with their cover of You and Me and The Bottle Makes 3. The song fails because for a neo-swing song to work, you need a drummer who can beat the living crap out of the kit. Even though the Bubs where pioneers in vocal percussion, they can't provide enough drive to make the song work. They Bubs also take a couple of stabs at rap/hip hop with covers of LL Cool J and Blackstreet. The LL Cool J arrangement is lush and has a nice mellow groove, but it doesn't build or go anywhere. It doesn't help that the smooth lead vocal sinks into the backing vocals. No Diggity offers more variety, but it could use a little more energy.

The albums best track, hands down, is All Night Long. Yeah, I know, it's Lionel Ritchie. So what? It's a good song and a refreshing and original song choice. The Beelzebubs capture the infectious spirit of the song and also add some new life to it. (However, the fake ending — the song fades all the way out, then fades back to a vamp for a few seconds, then fades out again — will leave you scratching your head.) A close second for the best track award is It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over. It's a fabulous arrangement with a great, spacious ending — but the Bubs succumb to their tendency to use too much falsetto.

Two final notes:
1. The traditional school song doesn't suck! This is because it's not a school song really, it's a song just about the group. It's therefore more interesting musically and lyrically than the average alma mater. 2. Buy this album.


Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 3
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 That's The Way (I Like It) / Get Down Tonight 4
2 It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over 5
3 Stay (Wasting Time) 5
4 All I Want Is You 4
5 Loungin' 5
6 She's Always A Woman To Me 3
7 All Night Long 4
8 Fire 4
9 No Diggity 4
10 Washing Of The Water 4
11 You and Me & The Bottle Makes 3 Tonight (Baby) 5
12 Why Should I Cry For You 5
13 Signed, Sealed, Delivered - I'm Yours 4
14 Brothers, Sing On! 3

I've had the opportunity to hear a lot of strong collegiate a cappella because of RARB. So much so, in fact, that lately I find myself questioning or second-guessing my ratings. Is this album "excellent" or merely "good"? Is this one "good" or is it really just "average"? And what is "average", anyway?? I haven't had many "weak" or "poor" albums pass by my mailbox in a while. And I know this isn't because these albums aren't out there — I know they are. We get a lot of good albums, and that makes our scores seem skewed high. But I asked myself the question "Am I giving out too many fives?" and I've decided the answer is no.

And here's another one — the Tufts Beelzebubs' Infinity. The Bubs are no strangers to making recordings, and it shows on this polished release. They have a good collection of singers, and they have the recording prowess to showcase them properly, individually and as a group. Their biggest strength as a whole is having capable singers across the vocal spectrum, from bass (and VP) to the high tenors and falsetto lines. Tuning and blend are great, and nowhere am I put off by parts that are too high for the voices trying to sing them (as I occasionally am by all-male groups). Arrangements are generally varied and well-executed — Why Should I Cry for You? and You and Me and the Bottle Make 3 are standouts (among others).

On the individual front, soloists are solid, and occasionally excellent. Oliver Wong is the star of Lenny Kravitz's It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over, offering a searing solo, and through the miracle of modern technology he also adds crisp vocal percussion. The R&B/rap tracks (Loungin' and No Diggity) are surprisingly funky for a group that also sings Billy Joel's She's Always a Woman and Lionel Richie's All Night Long — due especially to the efforts of the soloists.

Some song choices seem a bit bland for an album that indicates it's supposed to "last...well, a really long time". The Billy Joel and Lionel Richie tracks are especially cliched, and the artists on the track list almost reads like a rundown of the usual a cappella suspects, but on the plus side they're always well-executed. If you're considering buying this CD, I'd say look at the song list — if you like the songs and want to hear them done a cappella, go for it.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 That's The Way (I Like It) / Get Down Tonight 4
2 It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over 5
3 Stay (Wasting Time) 5
4 All I Want Is You 5
5 Loungin' 4
6 She's Always A Woman To Me 4
7 All Night Long 5
8 Fire 5
9 No Diggity 5
10 Washing Of The Water 4
11 You and Me & The Bottle Makes 3 Tonight (Baby) 4
12 Why Should I Cry For You 5
13 Signed, Sealed, Delivered - I'm Yours 4
14 Brothers, Sing On! 3

Why oh why can't more collegiate groups take their recordings as seriously as the 'Bubs do? The world of college a cappella would be a much better place if they did. I realize that not every group who produces an album can afford lots of time in the studio. Not every group makes performing as high a priority. They decide that they are students first, performers somewhere after that, so they don't rehearse as much as they should and their sound suffers. All of these things show up on a recording. OK, everyone in a college a cappella group listen up: Go and get a Beelzebubs album. You will learn something.

Now the Tufts Beelzebubs are a group that take things very seriously, and it shows. They obviously place performing together as a pretty high priority. (It also helps that they are a talented bunch of guys too.) They concentrate on creating a quality product, and they have done just that with their new album Infinity.

This is a balanced collection of songs that spans four decades of music, performed with style and grace and energy. The group never sounds like they are bored while performing, which also means YOU don't get bored. The choice of songs are fun and varied; the arrangements are great. The 'Bubs use all 14 members of the group to create balanced layers of sound that makes things rich and interesting. Another thing about the arrangements is that they are occasionally shorter that the originals. You know how sometimes you hear a song done a cappella and you think "Wow. Great idea, but it got boring after a while..."? Well I think that the 'Bubs recognized this, so they cut off just enough of the songs to get rid of the boredom factor. That way they were not repeating stuff and getting bland. Good job, especially to Music Director Roger Limon for keeping things in focus. My favorite songs on Infinity are the rich sounding Lionel Richie party classic All Night Long, and the rippin'-n-rockin' version of Fire by Jimi Hendrix. That song in particular is really strong. I like it a lot.

The only weak spot on the album happens when the 'Bubs let nostalgia get in the way of the high quality of the rest of the album. They perform the classic glee club song Brothers Sing On! by Edward Grieg with some (or all) of the Beelzebubs alumni. They sound rough around the edges, and have some pitch problems with that one, which most likely come from the alumni. But I will forgive them that little snafu, because the rest of the album is so good. Get it, and enjoy it.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 5
Tracks
1 That's The Way (I Like It) / Get Down Tonight 5
2 It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over 5
3 Stay (Wasting Time) 5
4 All I Want Is You 5
5 Loungin' 5
6 She's Always A Woman To Me 4
7 All Night Long 5
8 Fire 5
9 No Diggity 5
10 Washing Of The Water 5
11 You and Me & The Bottle Makes 3 Tonight (Baby) 5
12 Why Should I Cry For You 5
13 Signed, Sealed, Delivered - I'm Yours 4
14 Brothers, Sing On! 4

This album is, I feel, a return to the form that the Bubs had when they were pushing boundaries in albums such as Foster Street. Not that this album is a ground-breaking masterpiece...that distinction is reserved for very few albums out there, and it doesn't have to be to have a kick booty sonic ride going for it. But the last couple of Beelzebub offerings that I have heard (admittedly on BOCA discs) have seemed a touch on the lackluster side...certainly not bad, but not as aggressively good as they were in the mid-'90s. During that time, it seemed that other groups had taken over as the leaders in a cappella innovation. With this album, it appears the Bubs have kept pace once more...and that's a very good thing. It's got everything you would expect of a Bubs album (intricate arrangements, lush ballads, a Peter Gabriel song...) and then some.

What makes this album work so well are two elements that quite frankly are essential to a good album....the singers sing the arrangements they are given very well, and the arrangements are designed to bring the best out of the singers. In a lot of cases of college a cappella, they can get either one or the other happening in many cases, but not both. The arrangements are complex and interesting to listen to without being overly busy, something that arrangers (like me) spoonfed on the "OTB Style" in the past few years have fallen into the trap of. On this album, everything sounds as if it belonged on the album. There's two charts here by seminal Bubs arranger Todd Herzog as well as one of Deke Sharon's arrangements , but the arrangements by current member hold stride with those, with No Diggity being one of the most shining examples of this. Hey, kids, they even SWING (and quite well, I might add) on Big Bad Voodoo Daddy's You and Me & the Bottle Makes 3.

Musically, wow...TIGHT. This is the kind of group I listen to and forget it's voices. I turn the bass up, and it's PHAT. The percussion fits. It's very exquisitely and TASTEFULLY done...after hearing so many groups trying to get funky with their bad selves and more or less overdoing a groove, it's nice to hear something understated become something sublime.

This one's a buy. For sure. GREAT for playing in your car with the top down and bass up.


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