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The EDLOS

Just Us (1999)

4.0

May 6, 2000

Tuning / Blend 4.6
Energy / Intensity 4.2
Innovation / Creativity 4.2
Soloists 3.8
Sound / Production 4.0
Repeat Listenability 3.4
Tracks
1 Acappellypso 3.8
2 You 3.8
3 What a Surprise 3.8
4 Freedomsong 3.8
5 Our Home 3.6
6 Ascending Star of Bethlehem 4.0
7 For Daddy 3.6
8 Paper 3.8
9 Garbage Man 3.8
10 The IRS Blues 3.4
11 Down at the Mall 3.6
12 Kitty's Quake 3.6
13 Late Nightmare 3.4
14 The Dream 3.4

Recorded 1999
Total time: 53:08, 14 songs


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 Acappellypso 4
2 You 5
3 What a Surprise 4
4 Freedomsong 4
5 Our Home 5
6 Ascending Star of Bethlehem 5
7 For Daddy 4
8 Paper 4
9 Garbage Man 4
10 The IRS Blues 4
11 Down at the Mall 4
12 Kitty's Quake 4
13 Late Nightmare 5
14 The Dream 5

Genre-defying is the only adjective that comes to mind. So put aside all the baggage that usually comes with that cliché, grab this CD and listen to some neat new music.

There's gotta be a good market for this disc. In a strange way, I think it's going to be the Chanticleer crowd, the folks who like classically tinged close harmony with a taste for contemporary effects.

I say that with some reluctance, because the EDLOS' latest, Just Us, is not a classical disc. Nor are the singers, although I happen to know that they have reams of classical training. But they don't sound terribly classical, and the repertoire is original, contemporary and periodically funny. So what is it? Not folk. Not energetic enough to be pop. Too straightforward for jazz. Too American for world. Too interesting to be easy listening.

You figure it out. If you are still intrigued by this point, chances are that you'll like the CD when you hear it.

Me, I liked it for a lot of reasons, not least being that the EDLOS are an inherently likeable bunch. I've seen them a couple times over the years and have always found them funny and engaging in a way that a lot of fringe groups aren't. So it was a good thing to get this disc, such a labor of love, with such a careful and classy collection of songs.

Ed Cohn has always had my vote for cutest EDLO, but it turns out he also is my pick of of the group's song writers. Ascending Star of Bethlehem is maybe my favorite, for its range as well as its polish. Our Home is lush, complex and milks the group's classical training in all the right ways. Paper is sick, twisted and more than a little Bobs-y. And You is just plain pop fun.

It's all good. The question is, are you up for it?


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 3
Tracks
1 Acappellypso 3
2 You 3
3 What a Surprise 4
4 Freedomsong 3
5 Our Home 2
6 Ascending Star of Bethlehem 4
7 For Daddy 3
8 Paper 3
9 Garbage Man 3
10 The IRS Blues 3
11 Down at the Mall 3
12 Kitty's Quake 2
13 Late Nightmare 1
14 The Dream 2

If you thought that the EDLOS sounded like the Bobs on their country album, wait until you hear Just Us. The album gets its name because the songs are all written by the group (no covers) and performed by them and only them (no instruments). Well, it may be just them, but the spirit of the Bobs looms large over this CD. The sense of humor is different — the EDLOS aren't as weird as the Bobs — but they certainly aren't afraid of being goofy either. And Ed Cohn, the group's bass, still has a sound that is reminiscent of Richard Bob's.

The big difference between the groups is that the Bobs always came across as a strange rock band. The EDLOS, on the other hand, sound like a very silly barbershop quartet that decided to play around in other genres. They don't seem to have any pretensions of being a "vocal band" — they're an a cappella group. You're never going to play this album to "convert" your non-a cappella loving friends. This album is meant for two groups of people: 1. Harmony freaks like you.
2. Fans of Doctor Demento.

There are a few cuts that would make neither group happy. Kitty Quake and Late Nightmare (which happen to be back to back at the end of the album) are both unfunny. The monotonous Kitty Quake feels like the longest three minutes and fifty seconds of your life. Late Nightmare, a song about late night TV, features irritating chords and painfully out of date topical references. ("Larry Bud Melman" has been Calvert DeForest since 1993, Raymond Burr died in 1993, and Johnny Carson retired in 1992). Otherwise, the novelty songs are enjoyable enough. There are some attempts at serious songs, but they aren't especially grabbing. Some of them are on the verge of being maudlin. (Freedomsong in particular has a little too much nerve when it presents the EDLOS as "brothers" to freedom fighters. The sentiment is a bit hard to buy on a disc with lyrics about toilet paper. Sorry, I'm not buying it.) Although one of the serious entries, For Daddy, comes close to hitting its mark. Sure it's trying to be a touching tribute to their late fathers — a sure recipe for drippy sentiment — but it does it with a refreshing honesty. It's not afraid to allow use a dash of humor and discuss their dads as real people (he "puts up the Christmas tree from Sears") and that helps give the song the desired emotional impact. Also, What a Surprise has a refreshingly clear melody line that makes it the strongest song on the disc.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 3
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 2
Tracks
1 Acappellypso 4
2 You 4
3 What a Surprise 3
4 Freedomsong 3
5 Our Home 3
6 Ascending Star of Bethlehem 3
7 For Daddy 3
8 Paper 3
9 Garbage Man 3
10 The IRS Blues 3
11 Down at the Mall 4
12 Kitty's Quake 3
13 Late Nightmare 4
14 The Dream 3

The EDLOS have taken a strong turn away from the country sound many knew them for. Just Us is a very different beast. Some of the songs are funny. Some just try to be. Some are unintentionally so. This is exactly the kind of album that only a real a cappella head could love. The humor is more likely to cause groans then laughter. The heart-warming, inspirational type songs are well-intended, but so obvious and so cliche that they end up as trite. The music as a whole still has that "Hey look there's no instruments here! Isn't that amazing?" quality. If you still think that that alone is amazing then you'll love this album. My non-a cappella friends literally begged me to turn it off.

The EDLOS often have the tone color of the early Bobs. That's a plus for some, a minus for others. Oddly, some of the songs even seem like watered down versions of the Green/Gunner writing duo (Acappellypso, Garbage Man, Down at the Mall, Late Nightmare). But then, many EDLOS songs sound nothing like the Bobs. For instance, there's the barrage of auto-tuned to death, cheesy, songs about love (What a Surprise), parentage (For Daddy), and freedom (Freedomsong). Or the tonally challenging and strongly phrased (but again cheesy and over-autotuned), Our Home.

So much effort went into making this album accurate. I wish more had gone into making it genuinely funny or genuinely believable. Just because the artists feels it doesn't mean the message is conveyed. Yes, these are four extremely capable, talented voices. But let this be a call to artists: talent cannot overcome a refusal to recognize tired clichés for what they are.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 5
Tracks
1 Acappellypso 5
2 You 5
3 What a Surprise 5
4 Freedomsong 5
5 Our Home 5
6 Ascending Star of Bethlehem 5
7 For Daddy 5
8 Paper 5
9 Garbage Man 5
10 The IRS Blues 5
11 Down at the Mall 5
12 Kitty's Quake 5
13 Late Nightmare 4
14 The Dream 4

Wow.

That's it...that's the review...wow.

What more can be said of a group, where my only previous listening experience came in the form of a collection of covers from country music that I was REALLY not high on before, whose newest CD blows my socks off...wow.

And yet, "wow" doesn't seem to convey everything I love about this collection. I have been privileged to fourteen ORIGINAL tracks, each one diverse in style and subject, and yet it feels like there is a connection from one track to the next, however tenuous that link is.

Right from the get go, the EDLOS throw open the doors and say "welcome to our world" with a great calypso style track that seemed natural to them. And yet, just when you're in that island rhythm, you're eased into a more big band/contemporary feel.

There is something in this collection for everybody; no, really...there is. From the EXTREMELY radio-friendly What a Surprise, to a heart wrenching ode to 1989 and the events of the year in Freedomsong (with a clever use of lyrics in the South African language Xhosa), to a worthy tribute that is drop dead punny in Paper. If anyone can pick this disc apart and say they liked nothing about it, then Bellevue Mental Ward has a space open.

Equally pleasant is the fact that while there were some vocal gymnastics in the bridges of some tracks, none of them felt as if they were forced upon me as a listener. The vocal percussion complemented each track beautifully, even as it was creatively used.

I will admit to chasing the bandwagon with this CD...this is hands down a must have, and I intend to keep track of the group and any possible gigs in the local area. If this CD were reviewed last year, it would have been my choice for album of the year...what else can I possibly say about Just Us?

Oh, yeah...

Wow.


Tuning / Blend 3
Energy / Intensity 3
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 3
Sound / Production 3
Repeat Listenability 3
Tracks
1 Acappellypso 3
2 You 2
3 What a Surprise 3
4 Freedomsong 4
5 Our Home 3
6 Ascending Star of Bethlehem 3
7 For Daddy 3
8 Paper 4
9 Garbage Man 4
10 The IRS Blues 2
11 Down at the Mall 2
12 Kitty's Quake 4
13 Late Nightmare 3
14 The Dream 3

At one point in time, I think The EDLOS' tag line was "The Bad Boys of A Cappella". So, I was rather excited to hear some edgy or downright mean a cappella. Apparently, they are not the "Bad Boys" anymore. This CD, which consists mainly of original tunes, is a hodge-podge of witty, weird songs that immediately seep into your brain for continuous repetition.

The CD begins with Acappellypso, which represents one distinct style that runs consistent through the CD; the catchy, doo-woppy tune that is somewhat thin and bass heavy. When I say bass heavy I don't mean "thumpin' heavy", but more like the shrill bass scoop heavy. You know, "Baaaaooooom". Every doo-wop bass does it. Don't get me wrong, Ed Cohn (the bass) is very good, and you can hear him well too! Anyway, there are six tunes that fall into this category, all of which include the standard call and response background parts. It goes something like this. Just Us by the EDLOS (the EDLOS) is a very funny disc (funny disc) full of humorous little ditties (ditties) and clumsy lyrical wit (lyrical wit). It does serve its function, however.

The other half of the CD is more The King Singers meets The Bobs. The songs are thicker and the harmonies are fuller. This makes for an interesting contrast, however it does become a distraction toward the end of the CD.

I loved Garbage Man, the tune for all the sanitation engineers out there. It is quite comical. Paper, the tune about... paper, was incredibly unnerving as it spoke of the uncontrollable nature of... paper, of course. Generally, the album is perfect listening for any a cappella aficionado. If you don't like songs about the shopping mall, the IRS, garbage men, or paper (that sounds so funny), skip it. Otherwise, entertain yourself, it won't hurt at all.

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Ordering Information

Send $15.00 plus $2.50 shipping to:

The EDLOS
433 Town Center
Suite 670
Corte Madera, CA 94925


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