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RARB REVIEW

School: University of North Carolina
Group: Clef Hangers
Album: No Ninths Allowed

Total time: 56:06, 17 songs
Recorded 1992-93


Track Listing

  1. Crocodile Rock (6.0)
  2. For Your Love (6.0)
  3. The Bluest Eyes in Texas (6.8)
  4. Never Die Young (6.4)
  5. Enjoy the Silence (5.4)
  6. All the Things You Are (4.8)
  7. Love Song (7.2)
  8. Heart of the Matter (5.4)
  9. Don't You Forget About Me (5.8)
  10. Little Red Book (5.4)
  11. You May Be Right (6.4)
  12. In the Mood (5.6)
  13. Runaround Sue (5.0)
  14. Do You Believe in Love? (5.4)
  15. Cruise Blues (6.4)
  16. Cheeseburger in Paradise (6.6)
  17. The Finer Things (6.4)

Reviews

This album was reviewed by five members of RARB. In this compilation, their comments are always listed in a consistent order. Thus, for each song (and in the "overall" section), all comments numbered "1" are from the same reviewer, as are those numbered "2", etc.

Overall

  1. This is a 14-voice male ensemble which prefers rich, full, instrumental orchestrations. They do these very well. My biggest complaint is that I got tired of hearing "do-do-do-do" in the background of (it seemed like) every song, and actually, that's not a very big complaint. The Clef Hangers are very good at blending voices while still having soloists who can bring out a lead line. Their tuning and ensemble are usually very good, in fact you'd have to go a long way to find a tighter bass section in a collegiate group. I also like the way they use vocal percussion.
    Rating: 7 (7.1)

  2. No Ninths Allowed, by the 1992-3 UNC Clef Hangers, marks a return to consistency after the wild swings of Safari. Most of the songs sound good and a few sound great. The blend on the album is good throughout — the basses are strong and none of the upper parts stick out. But on the majority of the album, there is simply no energy!! The arrangements drag, and the group doesn't sound excited to sing them. While the words in the background can add life to chords, they seem to be the only arranging gimmick in use. What about some cool rhythms, or vocal percussion parts? The two songs with real potential to rock — Enjoy the Silence and Don't You Forget About Me — never let loose. If kicking back on a fun song is a chore, how do you get psyched for the ballads and those middle-tempo songs that sound good but no one can dance to? A little pizazz would also clean up a lot of the pitch problems, as the album is already pretty clean. Not bad, but the Clefs can do better.
    Rating: 6 (5.9)

  3. Vocal percussion was used pretty well. Some tuning problems on most songs. The recording level was a little too high, causing some distortion and making it even more difficult to establish a proper blend with the lead vocals. I would guess that this was the first recording this group has made. A lot of the songs lacked the emotion that I'm sure would have been there had this been a live performance. I think the group showed a lot of potential, but there's definite room for improvement. It was really refreshing to hear a lot of songs that you would never guess could be done a cappella, and I admire them for attempting it. If they keep at it, they can go a long way. Overall, I'd say it was a decent album, but not show-stopping.
    Rating: 5 (5.6)

  4. The Clef Hangers are an all-male group with some strong voices and a lot of talent. They work well together and blend very well. That is one of their strongest features. Their harmony is tight and their blend is smooth. The one trap they seem to fall into is that much of their material tends to sound the same. With a few exceptions, the songs on this album sound like they are done at nearly the same tempo, and at the same volume and intensity level. Even the key sounds similar from song to song. Although none of the songs are bad, the album tends to get a little dull when the songs sound alike. I think the group might get bored with this too, because their energy drops off on several songs. The songs with vocal percussion tend to keep the energy up. There are no major problems with this album, but a little more energy and variation of tempo and dynamics would liven it up.
    Rating: 6 (6.5)

  5. They certainly sound like a _mature_ group. By that I mean that the soloists generally sound very sonorous and resonant, although lacking the flexibility that is the flip side of that quality. Their song choices are more unusual and obscure than a lot of groups, and I like that. However, unfortunately their arrangements/execution of these songs is not as strong as it could be. Too often they sound really thin and disjointed. The percussion, however, is uniformly a strong point, and often the soloists are too. This album has a lot of solid songs — no real knockouts, but nothing awful either.
    Rating: 5 (4.6)


Individual Tracks

  1. Crocodile Rock (6.0)
    1. Nice ensemble, good percussion. I'd like to see this one done live.
      Rating: 7

    2. The intro for this song is out-of-tune, but it settles down once it gets past the opener. The obbligato is well done on top of a nice solo. The song seems a little dead, though — needs more zip.
      Rating: 5

    3. Tuning a little off, and it seemed to drag. The arrangement was good, but the performance just didn't have the energy and emotion that I thought it should have. The soloist had a good voice, but too rigid. Loosen it up and have some fun. The use of vocal percussion was pretty good.
      Rating: 5

    4. The arrangement and performance of this track are faithful to the sound of the original. It has a good, even sound — all the voice parts can be heard in the background. Good solo, good bassline, and good vocal percussion.
      Rating: 8

    5. Sort of a subdued, lusterless arrangement, although the percussion is nice. Solo is so well enunciated that I can hear the lyrics (which I never understood before) — the effect is slightly foolish, though, and the soloist also lacks confidence and rhythm. The descant is well done, but the overall balance is off.
      Rating: 5

  2. For Your Love (6.0)
    1. Great blend, nice texture changes.
      Rating: 8

    2. For all that this song is not as in tune as some, it feels more psyched and as a result succeeds. The solo has a few pitch problems but has good tone. In contrast to some of the other numbers, the words in the background help this song rather than hurt it, and the obbligatos keep the song going.
      Rating: 6

    3. People should just not imitate wailing guitars. It just does not work except for the very skilled. It's a dangerous thing and shouldn't be tried at home, or in most collegiate groups. Once they got through the guitars at the beginning, the song was pretty decent. I thought the transition into the bridge was a little too long and thin, but tolerable. The use of vocal percussion again was pretty good, but the solo was thin.
      Rating: 6

    4. This is a solid rendition of this song. The background blend is especially good. There are some nice tempo changes as well, which are made smooth by the percussion. Nice effect in the background of going in and out.
      Rating: 6

    5. Arrangement strangely thin, and chaotic in parts. Solo is really tremulous. The background is just too _quiet_, and the basses are singing a line that's too low for them to be heard properly.
      Rating: 4

  3. The Bluest Eyes in Texas (6.8)
    1. A pretty ballad well sung, with an arpeggiated background. A good arrangement which would be even better if there were a bit more relief from "do-do-do-do", although the scoring under the chorus is really nice.
      Rating: 7

    2. This song fits the pattern for this album — nice solo, lovely obbligato, dragging arrangement. The drag is offset by the fact that this _is_ a slow song, but it still could use intensity. The choruses are the best part of the song.
      Rating: 6

    3. I liked this song quite a bit. I thought the soloist did a wonderful job at feeling the song. The balance of the background voices could have been improved and the song would have been near perfect.
      Rating: 8

    4. I like this song. It is a pretty, smooth ballad. The solo is clear and smooth, and the background blend, again, is notable. The arrangement is full and pretty, and the basses are strong. This is a nice change of pace from the pop style.
      Rating: 7

    5. Not bad although the song is not my favorite. Solo is appropriately mournful, although occasionally not quite on pitch. Descant works well, but the bass line could use some improvement. Background is out of synch at points. Otherwise not bad.
      Rating: 6

  4. Never Die Young (6.4)
    1. An up-tempo ballad. Excellent lead for this tune. The arrangement is very similar to that for the previous track, "Bluest Eyes".
      Rating: 7

    2. The solo has a sweet voice and sounds like he's enjoying himself. The background has more going on rhythmically than just sustained notes in the background, which carry it along.
      Rating: 7

    3. Are there any syllables in this song that didn't begin with the letter D? A little more imagination with the background vocals instead of so much Dum-Dum-Do-Do-Dah-Dah could have really turned this into a winner. All the "do"s cause the lead to be a little muddy. Then there's also the fact that nobody can perform a James Taylor song with the kind of emotion that JT can.
      Rating: 6

    4. Good song choice — I haven't heard many groups do James Taylor songs. Not a bad arrangement, with nice movement in the background, but the soloist needs to loosen up a bit — he sings it a little too straight.
      Rating: 7

    5. solo impersonates James Taylor well. Arrangement sort of choppy. The descant is flat, and the guitar solo just unnecessary. Trio not in synch and wavery-sounding. Other than these points, quite a good effort. It goes on too long though, especially the unsuccessful end bit.
      Rating: 5

  5. Enjoy the Silence (5.4)
    1. Interesting opening scoring, and there are some tricky chord changes in the melody which are pretty well done.
      Rating: 8

    2. Where is the energy? This song plods along — it's no wonder the background is out of tune. The arrangement is too straight, but the solo has a nice voice and live intensity would probably cure a lot of the song's problems.
      Rating: 5

    3. I just didn't like this song. The chord progressions were bizarre, and that could have made the song really interesting, but instead the background vocals were whiny. With the interesting chords, the singers really needed to be confident in what they were singing, and I didn't get that impression.
      Rating: 3

    4. This song starts out with an interesting beginning, but gets somewhat monotonous. I think that is just the song, though, and not the fault of the group. The solo is rich, and the sound is full, though the background gets a little sloppy at times. The ending is weak.
      Rating: 5

    5. Arrangement is sort of out of control, although the dissonant chords are sort of nice, the bass line sticks out and doesn't work, the solo is overly sonorous — sounds slightly jokey. Since I don't know this song at all, it's hard to tell if it's appropriate or not. Percussion is well done.
      Rating: 6

  6. All the Things You Are (4.8)
    1. Jazz ballad in a traditional arrangement with a slight twist. Vowel matching problems make many of the chords sound uncomfortable, and the tuning is (uncharacteristically) dicey in a couple of exposed places.
      Rating: 6

    2. Very straight, not particularly noteworthy standard. Pitch is not the greatest, and the whole arrangement sounds a little blurry.
      Rating: 4

    3. The timing could have been better in this song, and I don't know what the little high speed bridge was in the middle. It really seemed out of place. Once again, I think this song could have been really good given a bit more emotion. The dynamic level was the same throughout the song. Some changes might have made it more interesting.
      Rating: 4

    4. Another pretty ballad, with a more choral feel. The beginning is weak, but then the group comes together. This song switches between two tempos, and the slow parts tend to drag. The faster parts are much better. The group has a good choral sound, though it sounds as if someone is really reaching for those high notes at the end of the song.
      Rating: 6

    5. A very sedate choral-y jazz number — I don't quite know what to make of it. If they sounded fuller and if their pitch were more certain, it would be more successful.
      Rating: 4

  7. Love Song (7.2)
    1. Nothing really wrong with this, it just isn't remarkable...
      Rating: 6

    2. This song has dynamics!! Combined with the percussion and an interesting arrangements, the song has some feeling. The instrumentals are clever and the solo, if a bit strained once or twice, takes pride in his own strength rather than trying to sound like the original. Nice obbligatos and arpeggios.
      Rating: 9

    3. I liked the arrangement on this one, except it was difficult to hear the lead vocals in some parts. The vocal percussion was good, as it was on most of the tracks. The background did tend to get muddy after the second verse (right before the "I wanna loves" the second time). The breakdown section without the vocal percussion was very cool.
      Rating: 7

    4. The Clef Hangers seem to wake up with this song — nice to hear the tempo pick up a bit. This song has good energy both in the solo and in the background. The solo is good and strong, and the bass line is just plain groovy.
      Rating: 7

    5. Percussion is quite good again. I like their swells and dynamics in the background. Solo comes close, and for the most part works well, but strains on top notes. Overall this song works pretty well, I think the most consistent and polished on the album.
      Rating: 7

  8. Heart of the Matter (5.4)
    1. A dramatic ballad treatment of a tune that I wouldn't have thought was worth the effort. Nicely done, though.
      Rating: 7

    2. The strained, slightly above-his-range solo is probably a lot like the original, but it doesn't grab me. Nothing too egregious about this song, but nothing particularly worth listening to over and over again either, except for a couple of cool ornaments.
      Rating: 5

    3. The tuning was noticeably off in this song, and the arrangement could have been better. There were too many wide chords, which might have contributed to the tuning problems. I found the lead's voice irritating. It sounded like he was screaming the whole song, which is normally not what you want in a ballad. A much softer, less piercing voice would have been much better.
      Rating: 4

    4. This is a good arrangement: full and interesting with variation in feel. The basses are good once again, and the solo is light and on, and is sung with feeling. I like the way he does his own thing with the song, rather than imitate Don Henley.
      Rating: 8

    5. Arrangement pretty basic, verging on annoying. Solo however is outright bad — overly melodramatic, straining on high notes, nasal and scooping.
      Rating: 3

  9. Don't You Forget About Me (5.8)
    1. Great lead; some interesting background treatments, but I kept feeling like the song was waiting to break into something, but never did.
      Rating: 7

    2. Very strong solo — this song has been covered by a lot of groups and the solos usually don't have enough resonance for the song. This one is the exception. Unfortunately, the arrangement does not live up to the song's promise. The words in the background in the chorus are distracting, and the whole song is lacking in energy, especially dragging at the end. The chords are sustained, and there isn't enough rhythm.
      Rating: 7

    3. Loosen up! I'm sorry, but I just pictured polyester and hammond organ covered with carpeting in an empty Holiday Inn dining room. The song needed to be sped up, and the lead needed to loosen up. He was too rigid in his tempo and his "proper" enunciation. The arrangement was actually really good, just not sung as well as it was written.
      Rating: 4

    4. In my opinion, this was not a great song to begin with. I like the lower voice on the solo in this one, and there is nice blend in the harmony. Overall, however, this is a boring arrangement and an unexciting performance. There is nothing really wrong with it, but it needs energy.
      Rating: 6

    5. One of the more tasteful versions of this song I've heard, however mildly boring — it could really use some of their good percussion. Solo is so resonant that (again) it's almost funny. Overall not bad, just sort of lifeless.
      Rating: 5

  10. Little Red Book (5.4)
    1. Cute, bouncy, otherwise unremarkable.
      Rating: 7

    2. Not a lot to say about this one. The first tenors are out of tune on their triplets, but most everything else is okay.
      Rating: 5

    3. This was just a good song. Nothing spectacular, nothing really awful. It was a nice filler song to use as a transition song. The lead did a good job, and the arrangement was solid.
      Rating: 6

    4. A cute, boppy love song. There is nothing really remarkable about this one. It's not bad, but repetitive and dull. The tuning isn't quite as tight as in most of the other songs, and the soloist tends to strain for the high notes.
      Rating: 5

    5. Solo not comfortable with high notes, arrangement really basic and while that works in some places, in others it really doesn't. A cute song, but it goes on _much_ too long.
      Rating: 4

  11. You May Be Right (6.4)
    1. Neat beginning, solid arrangement and the energy level is high throughout. I like this cut.
      Rating: 8

    2. Very beginning is off, but it recovers. The obbligatos are nice, the solo sounds fine and the group seems to like this song. Energy is everything, at least on this album.
      Rating: 6

    3. Argh! There are those guitars again! Run for the hills. Whenever the guitars weren't there, it was reasonably solid. I didn't like the lead, mainly due to his enunciation of vowels. You can always tell a trained voice, and I hate to say it, but Billy Joel doesn't sing with proper diction.
      Rating: 5

    4. Finally some energy! This is the first song that I wanted to sing along with. It has a full arrangement, tight harmony, and nice blend. The vocal percussion helps to keep it going, too.
      Rating: 8

    5. Arrangement is okay — the guitar-riff imitation is annoying, but other than that it's not bad. Again percussion is good. Solo is sort of foolish-sounding.
      Rating: 5

  12. In the Mood (5.6)
    1. Traditional (vocal) arrangement. The ensemble here is unusually loose in the upper parts. I do like the ending sequence, though.
      Rating: 7

    2. Nice happy standard. Yay.
      Rating: 6

    3. I liked this! There were some minor tuning problems at the beginning, but they disappeared as quickly as they appeared. I enjoy Glenn Miller, it brought me right back to my ballroom dance class. I really enjoyed the Jeopardy Theme song, I thought their arrangement of that was excellent! This was probably my favorite track on the album.
      Rating: 8

    4. Well, yawn. This song should be lighter and more upbeat, but it tends to drag. Some clever lyrics add some humor, but the arrangement is dull overall, and there are some minor tuning problems.
      Rating: 3

    5. It's nice to hear them attempting a different kind of music, but I'm forced to conclude that it doesn't quite succeed. It lacks energy and it sounds like they're not quite sure of their notes. The end bits (with the theme to Jeopardy) are amusing though.
      Rating: 4

  13. Runaround Sue (5.0)
    1. Classic do-wop arrangement which really suffers from a lack of off-beat claps - I have to wonder how they managed to resist the temptation to add them? The lead is very good, though.
      Rating: 6

    2. Nice intro. Song a little too precise — could definitely stand to swing more, but a nice song. Solo a little strained at times, but he has some nice moments to compensate.
      Rating: 6

    3. The backgrounds were too rigid. The "hey"s should be staccato, but they were far too staccato. They needed this kind of timing on "All The Things You Are," not on this song. As with a lot of the other tracks, the song just lacked the feeling. I will point out that most college groups are used to performing, not recording. It's really easy to get into songs when the crowd is there jamming along, but microphones don't do that. They tend to make people paranoid that every mistake they make will be glaringly obvious, and hence, they get rigid and lose that feeling.
      Rating: 5

    4. The energy seems to have dropped off again. This song is well sung, but needs a jump start. The notes are there, but there is very little life behind them. The background is monotonous, and the ending is wimpy.
      Rating: 4

    5. Soloist is _much_ too classical and demure-sounding for this song. Arrangement is rather boring — lacks some form of percussion/ rhythm-keeping (i.e., snapping).
      Rating: 4

  14. Do You Believe in Love? (5.4)
    1. A typical arrangement with the occasional surprise in the background figures. The tuning in the upper background figures tends to be a bit precarious.
      Rating: 6

    2. Intro a little off. KInda straight, but that's partially the song's fault. The duet is well done during the choruses.
      Rating: 6

    3. I've heard more imaginative arrangements of this. The vocals at the end of each verse got muddy with whatever was going on in the background and I couldn't make out any words. I couldn't stand the screeching high harmony on the refrain, and it was really unnecessary.
      Rating: 4

    4. This track is better than the last one, both because it is more energetic and the arrangement is more interesting. The high harmony on the solo line is nice. The rest of the harmony is tight.
      Rating: 7

    5. Arrangement mildly successful but sort of unsubtle, and it falls apart in places. Solo is sort of mournful-sounding and forced. Chorus is overly strident, and the end is ridiculous.
      Rating: 4

  15. Cruise Blues (6.4)
    1. A jazz-5 number reminiscent of "Take Five", although it alternates between 5 and 4.Excellent lead and ensemble.
      Rating: 8

    2. Bass Zach Nelson reveals he is really a tenor in disguise — not bad, if a little rusty. Very nice for an original — the melody doesn't really grab me, but the background is simple and fun, and it's tough to write good doo-wop and they sing it pretty well.
      Rating: 6

    3. It caught my interest right from the start as a nice jazzy blues piece. This was very refreshing after the last song. Everything was solid in this song. I didn't hear any tuning problems, and the lead had more emotion in his voice.
      Rating: 7

    4. It starts out sounding like another very repetitive song, but it gets good, especially at the bridge. The solo is good, and the background blend is there, as usual. It's nice to hear the group vary the syllables used in the background a bit.
      Rating: 7

    5. Arrangement pretty basic, solo not really on and sort of tremulous. Not bad for an original though.
      Rating: 4

  16. Cheeseburger in Paradise (6.6)
    1. Another excellent lead; I also like the percussion in this one.
      Rating: 8

    2. The solo sounds like he's singing over a phlegm ball, or maybe just having an off day. This is an okay rendition of an okay song — nothing special.
      Rating: 5

    3. Vocal percussion was solid, as it was throughout the album. The arrangement was decent. I could have done without the guitar solo, but it was done better than in the two other songs that used "vocal guitars" on the album.
      Rating: 7

    4. This is one of the more lively tracks on the album. Good song choice, and some good vocal percussion makes a welcome appearance. This is a solid, fun rendition of the Jimmy Buffet song.
      Rating: 8

    5. The solo makes this song even cheesier (no pun intended) than it already is. The background is kind of lame except for the percussion, which is excellent as usual and would improve the song even more if it were louder. This is kind of a cute song, though, so some of these flaws are forgiven.
      Rating: 5

  17. The Finer Things (6.4)
    1. Outstanding lead, usual arrangement. the upper parts. I do like the ending sequence, though.
      Rating: 7

    2. This is a fun song. The solo is a little strained, but wonderfully sincere and sounds good with the duet. Nice ornaments.
      Rating: 7

    3. A little too much arpeggiation in the chords. Simplify them a little bit, and it would improve noticeably. This song has a lot of potential. There were a couple "interesting" chords at the end of the refrain that I didn't think fit, but the rest of the arrangement was pretty good. The lead wasn't as screechy as he was in other songs, but he still needs to learn how to sing softly instead of yelling everything.
      Rating: 6

    4. This is a good song with which to end the album. The solo is great, the arrangement is good, and there are some nice variations in dynamics. The harmony is tight, and the there is nice blend of the solo and the harmony on the solo line. The entrances and cutoffs are also tight.
      Rating: 9

    5. Totally rhythmless version of a song that I thought could work well _a cappella_ — they don't take advantage of what's in the song, with syllables like "dit-dit" and a poor bass line. Solo is also annoying, melodramatic and off-key in parts.
      Rating: 3

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