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The Inversions

Cedarville University

All Along - EP (2015)

4.0

June 19, 2015

Tuning / Blend 4.7
Energy / Intensity 4.0
Innovation / Creativity 4.0
Soloists 4.3
Sound / Production 4.7
Repeat Listenability 3.7
Tracks
1 Below My Feet 4.0
2 Superstition 3.7
3 Stay 4.3
4 Mad World 4.3
5 The Man Who Never Loved Somebody 3.7

Recorded 2014 – 2015
Total time: 17:40, 5 songs


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 Below My Feet 4
2 Superstition 4
3 Stay 5
4 Mad World 5
5 The Man Who Never Loved Somebody 4

All Along features five extremely enjoyable tracks infused with arrangement creativity, an addicting group sound, sensitive soloists who command you to listen, and basically perfect production from Danny Ozment, who has created so much depth and space to let these voices ring. Today, I am a very satisfied reviewer. When can I hear more?

The vocal quality on All Along is outstanding. You'll hear what sets the Inversions apart nearly immediately as soloist Jeremy Witt starts carving out his own interpretation of Below My Feet. Soon after, you realize that the backs are owning their parts the same way, and then you'll want to drive to Ohio to watch the Inversions live because the group's stage show must be ridiculous. It helps that the group has some really compelling songs to bring to life. Mad World, a fan favorite, brings the a cappella theater and sweet drama in spades, while never losing its a cappella fundamentals. That's another area showcasing the high vocal quality; there are quite a few genuine "a cappella" moments on All Along where the production quietly exits so you can listen to the talent in the room. This is becoming more rare in our genre, and it's quite refreshing to hear this approach mixed in so elegantly next to measures of heavier production.

Bringing the vocal quality to the forefront are the soloists on All Along ... excuse me, I think I mean the vocal poets. Each lead really brings his or her own spin to these works, and does so in a way that's interesting, but not overbearing. I am particularly fond of Heather Wismer on Stay, with a voice somehow both delicate and strong, like high-grade porcelain. She takes us on a journey, with an arrangement that resolves darker dissonance through forward movement and huge builds. Stay is a special track.

Obviously, I encourage The Inversions to stay on this path, and I encourage the rest of you to listen to the group's music.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 3
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 Below My Feet 4
2 Superstition 4
3 Stay 4
4 Mad World 5
5 The Man Who Never Loved Somebody 3

There is a lot to love about this little EP. It's got smooth, it's got sweet, it's got sophisticated, and it's got sensibility. The one thing All Along might be lacking is some good ol' gut-wrenching soul. With only a few years of establishment as a group and a single previous album to their name, the Inversions of Cedarville University have given us something just shy of awesome.

All Along is the perfect length. By nixing anything less than their best, the Inversions are able to focus on their favorite songs and make a really polished collection. Though four of the five arrangements came from four different professional arrangers, the EP has a pleasantly cohesive tone and just enough variety for each track to teach you something new about the Inversions.

In the first three tracks of All Along, we learn that the group has a refined taste for arrangements. There is a wide range of techniques that make for rich textures and dynamics. In addition to "dim" arpeggios and "mm" pads, there are elaborate lyrical layerings that build each bridge into the climactic final choruses. In Below My Feet, the call-and-response alerts you to the clever interplay between soloists and backgrounds. In Superstition, the simplicity of the rhythm section keeps you grooving while you key into the higher voices filling out the funk. In Stay, the dramatic contrasts help you notice just how much each song evolves emotionally from beginning to end.

Then the crème de la crème: Mad World. Delicate arrangements are usually where groups show the chinks in their armor. You wait for one of the exposed voices to falter in the solo, the duet, the trio, the quartet, the silence. But the Inversions are flawless in their delivery, and you realize just how well this group of voices blends.

Had they stopped there, All Along would be a perfect five, but the epic finale, The Man Who Never Loved Somebody, reveals something you would rather not know about the Inversions. Maroon 5 is a pretty generic pop rock band that manages to stand out by tackling quasi-illicit themes with aggressive (and catchy) instrumentals and Adam Levine's distinctive voice. Even combining the power of two Maroon 5 songs, the Inversions don't muster the charisma to sell their take on pop.

So you listen to the EP again because it sounds so good. But even though you know how good it is, you don't necessarily feel how good it is. There's no grit. It's technically terrific and sonically superb, but for all the dynamics there is still an underlying sense of monotony. Do you still want to hear All Along? You bet! Just because it isn't perfect doesn't mean it doesn't have a lot to love. The Inversions are on to something great, and with a little more experience — and a little more grit — they'll be out of this world.


Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 3
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 3
Tracks
1 Below My Feet 4
2 Superstition 3
3 Stay 4
4 Mad World 3
5 The Man Who Never Loved Somebody 4

All Along is a new EP from the Inversions, a coed group at Cedarville University. It's their second album and their first RARB submission. It's also a great example of how effective the EP format can be, especially for a relatively young group (the Inversions have only been around for four years).

For one thing, the Inversions present a manageable amount of songs here. Soloists are all well suited to their songs, and nobody sounds over-extended. The production work is great, which I think is especially important for newer groups still trying to find their own sound and voice. Also, with a shorter track list, the Inversions don't end up being spread too thin by trying to pull together a dozen songs and ultimately losing focus.

All Along is actually surprisingly cohesive considering the variety in songs covered, as well as the fact that each song had a different arranger — and many from outside the group. Whether it's intentional or not, there's something theatrical about every track on the album. This is most noticeable on Stay, arranged by fellow RARB reviewer Nicholas Wright. The style of the arrangement, the layering rounds, the giant crescendos; it's "Broadway does Rihanna". And the group — led by soloists Josh Chase and Heather Wismer — absolutely sells it; it's my favorite track on the album.

Many of those elements show up in the other tracks as well, creating a nice thread between songs. In Superstition, which at first glance fits in the least with the other songs, the same building layers make an appearance in the bridge. Below My Feet and Mad World both veer towards a more choral sound for their endings. In Mad World especially, this creates a really powerful ending to a still somewhat played-out song. I just wish the first half of the arrangement had been able to match that emotional weight.

As a final note, I do urge the group to watch out for crossing the line from "cohesive" to "trite". All five songs on the album end by cutting out the backs leaving a single, breathy solo line (except Below My Feet which ends with the whole group on that line in unison). This is less egregious on an EP, but it would quickly get pretty ridiculous on a full-length album.

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