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RARB REVIEW

School: Brown University
Group: Brown Derbies
Album: Down Time

Total time: 53:15, 18 songs
Recorded 1994

Ordering Information


Track Listing

  1. In Your Eyes (7.0)
  2. Tarzan Boy (7.0)
  3. When I'm Sixty Four (7.6)
  4. Somebody (5.6)
  5. Superstition (8.0)
  6. Rocket Man (7.0)
  7. Telephone Message (6.6)
  8. Eye of the Tiger (7.2)
  9. Big Time (6.2)
  10. Life in One Day (6.6)
  11. Veronica (5.8)
  12. She's Got a Way (7.0)
  13. The Derby Show (6.2)
  14. Down on the Corner (6.8)
  15. Mensaje de Telefono (6.8)
  16. Alive (6.6)
  17. Superstition (Take 1) (1.0)
  18. In Your Eyes (6.6)

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. First, let me comment that this album has the most complete liner note credits I've seen — I wish that others would be as good. The Derbies tell not only the title and original artist, but arranger, soloist, and singers on other significant parts. Nice looking, too. They have a good mix of all pop tunes, and the singing is fairly good. Many of the soloists pronounce lyrics very strangely and have odd colors on their vowels. I pay a lot of attention to intonation, so this bothered me a good bit. Arrangements are solid, but no stand-outs. The live tracks suffered from poor recording and very significant audience noise. They do percussion on many tracks, and it is usually fairly good. Overall, a fairly good album.
    Rating: 6 (6.0)

  2. The Derbies are one of the few groups who seriously use vocal special effects apart from vocal percussion (i.e., distorted vowels, syllables which emulate instrumental sounds, etc.), and they use them very effectively. Apart from that, their ensemble is very tight, their tuning is practically flawless and their soloists are very strong. Oh yeah, and their arrangements are consistently interesting and well-written. Let's see, what can I complain about? How about this — the smoking fish logo sets a bad example for aspiring singers.
    Rating: 9 (8.3)

  3. Nice job by the Derbies. Very good amateur sound, and nice arrangements. A couple of things make this album less enjoyable: it tries way too hard to be cute. Some of the stuff is funny, really, but enough is enough. Even live too many dumb gags get to me after a while, and in the sterile atmosphere of recordings it doesn't fly to _constantly_ try to make a joke. The other thing that bugged me is that a lot of things appear twice on the album — maybe they should have named it Doubletime. Both of these things can be very effective in moderation, but the candy overdose leaves me feeling a little sick. I also think their disclaimer about outside influences including no *nasty studio tricks showed poor judgement — there were some obvious manipulations in the album, and while I found them effective, especially in Alive, my *oh yeah?* register goes into overdrive at such a challenge. I want to commend them for excellent renditions of tough songs and with an exception or two very high overall vocal quality as individuals and a group. Let's hear it for a little soul.
    Rating: 7 (6.3)

  4. These guys are good! Their timing was impeccable on all tracks, and there were only a few tuning problems that I detected. Their arrangements were outstanding, as were their choice of music. The only flaw I found was the mix on the live recordings, and some misuse of studio effects, other than that, it was outstanding.
    Rating: 8 (7.1)

  5. This cd is quite accomplished-sounding — the recording quality is excellent, and it has obviously been mixed by someone who knows how to deal with a cappella. They have one bass who is really great, although it's too bad they don't have more like him. The live tracks are of significantly lesser quality, both in terms of recording and overall musical quality, although that might be because it's hard to hear the parts. Their blend could definitely be better, especially on the live tracks. They also tend to rush faster songs live. They make very good use of their fifteen people, sounding full but not like there are eight hundred of them in the studio. Their tenors are not as solid as they should be, but this fact is frequently well disguised by their arrangements. The best thing about this album, in my mind, is that they actually have rhythm! I think it's because they have someone who does quite good percussion (although nowhere near Andrew Chaikin standards, but then, that can't really be expected) and he keeps them all on the beat. But they've also obviously worked on it, and deserve credit for that. This is really the best male a cappella album I have heard yet, although (as usual) a little editing would work wonders.
    Rating: 8 (5.7)


Individual Tracks

  1. In Your Eyes (7.0)
    1. The soloist is fairly good, but some of his intonation is odd — some very unusual vowel colors and word pronunciations. Percussion pretty good.
      Rating: 7

    2. Impeccable ensemble; excellent changes in feel
      Rating: 8

    3. Nice try but no cigar. The tempo is too fast, the downbeats too exaggerated. The cut doesn't have the feel of mellow syncopation found in the original. The solo is whiny and melodramatic, ruining an otherwise decent, if not extraordinary background. I never thought I'd say this for a collegiate a cappella album, but the bass is too loud — the background smoothness needed to be at the same level as the rhythm parts. The pitch and percussion are good, and I have to say I like the ending.
      Rating: 4

    4. The only thing that could have made this better was Peter Gabriel singing lead. I thought the lead did a great job, but I felt that where he needed to be piercing, he had wound up being a little whiny. That term is far more derogatory than it should be, on a whole, this song was excellent.
      Rating: 8

    5. There are so many good things going on in this arrangement — the basses are really solid and good, and the swells are consistent and appropriate. It sounds really full in the beginning, but then for some reason thins out in the chorus. The use of a drone is excellent (inspired, really) when it happens, but I think it could have been used throughout the whole song. The only thing that doesn't come out as well in this version as in the live one is the solo, which is uneven and straining. In general, very crisp and on 99% of the time.
      Rating: 8

  2. Tarzan Boy (7.0)
    1. Soloist has good tone for verse, but sometimes misses pitch. Echo effect on "night to night" could have been smoother. Good energy on the chorus, and the Listerine reference was cute.
      Rating: 6

    2. Feels like it's holding back a bit, but that's probably the studio environment vs. a live performance.
      Rating: 8

    3. Lovely solo. The background is smooth, but could use a little more energy — some moving parts beneath the *tarzan* parts would help. Bass at the end is nice. The Listerine stuff is pointless — don't try so hard to be cute guys.
      Rating: 7

    4. The soloist had a great voice. There were a couple slight pitch problems but they were barely noticeable. The impressive thing on both this song and the previous track was the group's impeccable timing.
      Rating: 7

    5. I heard them do this song live and it sounded a hundred times better than this version. The chorus wasn't on such geeky syllables, and it was faster and had much more energy. Solo is good — he has a resonant voice — but has too much reverb on it. Background sometimes sounds like someone's singing the wrong notes. Arr. not bad but a little awkward especially in the area of syllable choice. The percussion absolutely _kicks_. Ad voiceover in the end is well done.
      Rating: 7

  3. When I'm Sixty Four (7.6)
    1. This was recorded in such a way as to give it an "oldies" sound for the intro, but in the bridge it loses this sound. Boppy arrangement, nice soloist.
      Rating: 7

    2. Excellent use of the studio; I especially like the treatment of the bridge.
      Rating: 8

    3. This song has that 50's record-player sound, like they're singing in a tunnel. It's kinda fun in a goofy sorta way.
      Rating: 7

    4. Nice use of studio effects to add something to the song without unnaturally enhancing the voices. The transition to a normal studio sound was a bit abrupt. I like the humorous background noises/vocals.
      Rating: 7

    5. This song is excellently done. The beginning old- record sound is rendered perfectly, and the fade into regular sound works well. The arrangement for the most part is quite good, but it could have been mixed a bit better and rendered a bit better. The solo would be entirely perfect, except that the top notes don't have the same quality as the rest, and sometimes are scraping the edge of being flat. Their tenors are good on this song, and you can hear them, which makes it more balanced than many of them. This song should have won something in the CARAs.
      Rating: 9

  4. Somebody (5.6)
    1. Simple solo/group background arrangement. I didn't particularly like this ballad. The singing is pretty solid, however.
      Rating: 5

    2. A live recording of a song I've always found to be musically negligible and lyrically inane. Still, the Derbies do a better job on this than the song deserves, and they know when to end it.
      Rating: 8

    3. The solo sounds like he's straining and has a very forced tone. The background is fragmented and speeds up after the first verse. The key to successfully doing this song is smoothness, the one thing these guys don't have.
      Rating: 4

    4. I would have much happier if this was done in the studio, a live recording doesn't do the song justice. It was done very well, but the recording made it hard to really get into the background vocals and the arrangement.
      Rating: 6

    5. Not a bad version of a song I find completely inexplicable to want to do a cappella, as it has no background and nothing much in the way of a melody line. The arrangement does some interesting things to make up for this. However, the solo is strained and not very natural-sounding. He also gets off-rhythm with the background at times.
      Rating: 5

  5. Superstition (8.0)
    1. Intro funky and interesting. Soloist pulls off the funk/soul sound pretty well, scat sections enjoyable. The best energy on the album.
      Rating: 8

    2. Outstanding lead, very tight ensemble. A little more funk and it'd be great...
      Rating: 8

    3. Hurrah for scatting!! I've always thought groups don't do this enough. I love the first bass to come in; he has a lovely rich tone. (Why couldn't he have sung the song before? Never mind) Great beginning, and I also love the energy of the background rhythms. The solo has feeling and makes up for a few problems in tone quality with perfect pitch and a little soul. Nice scats, too.
      Rating: 9

    4. Nice solo scat at the beginning with a wonderful transition into the full arrangement. This piece had an excellent groove to it, and was really easy to get into. The soloist did a great job, and they didn't totally overdo vocal guitars like most groups do.
      Rating: 9

    5. This song/arrangement starts out really well, until the solo comes in again (after the beginning scat). His voice is fine — well suited for the song, although slightly perfunctory - but the mixing confuses the ears, because there's not enough space between him and the background. Also with just a little more feeling, this song would be fabulous. Very interesting/original song to do _a cappella_.
      Rating: 6

  6. Rocket Man (7.0)
    1. Hissing in distracting, drowns out the backgrounds. Soloist strong, (sometimes annoyingly pronounces "man" as "muuuaaaann," or "space" as "spuuaace").
      Rating: 7

    2. Neat, layered arrangement well done.
      Rating: 9

    3. The soloist makes lovely use of his break. Some of the chords sound a little funny — could be I just don't like the song. Nice beginning effect with the bass percussion.
      Rating: 6

    4. I loved the arrangement! They took full advantage of all the different sounds the human voice can make. The soloist didn't have the haunting effect I would have liked, but he was far from bad. Another solid song!
      Rating: 7

    5. Sometimes this arr. works, but most of the time it's overly crowded. Things pop in and out of it for no apparent reason. It is ambitious though. Awkward bass line in the beginning, and later I can hear one bass scraping the bottom of his range. Solo is pretty good for the most part, though at times the lyrics are unintelligible, I much prefer that to leads who enunciate so unnaturally clearly that you hear lyrics that you never knew existed.
      Rating: 6

  7. Telephone Message (6.6)
    1. I feel that I shouldn't really rate this one...it's a 30 second message, apparently designed to be put on one's answering machine, done to the tune of the recent Coca-cola ads. Well done, cute.
      Rating: 7

    2. Send-up of the Coca-Cola Jingle. Love it!
      Rating: 9

    3. Great idea, great background. But the soloist makes me wince every time I hear it, so no matter how much I like the idea I just can't dub it onto my machine.
      Rating: 6

    4. Nice phone message to the tune of the Coca-Cola jingle. Sure outdid my a cappella message (but then again, all I had was my own voice and a 4-track...)
      Rating: 7

    5. Not really very amusing until you hear the counterpart. Solo appropriately captures the slight nasal quality of many voices on tv commercials, but not particularly pleasant to listen to.
      Rating: 4

  8. Eye of the Tiger (7.2)
    1. Nice intro, esp. the "manamana" keyboard parts, but I felt the the "dow"s might have been more effective if they were more "doh" and had a more pitched sound to them. The solo really didn't work for me on this one, unfortunately. He tries for a rocky sound but it just doesn't work very well, and pitch is sometimes poor. The "Rocky" theme section is cute, but basses are on overdrive in the mix during this part.
      Rating: 6

    2. Very exciting arrangement, excellent vocal percussion, great energy
      Rating: 9

    3. I really like the percussion here. My *Tarzan Boy* soloist makes a second appearance. I like him on this one too.
      Rating: 7

    4. Another great example of how vocal guitars should be done. Great vocal percussion and a cool arrangement. A couple slight tuning problems here and there, but only if you're a very picky listener. If I wasn't reviewing, I probably wouldn't have caught it. The bass could have been turned down a bit in the surprise interlude in the middle...
      Rating: 8

    5. The low parts of this arr. are excellent, but unfortunately the higher ones don't really measure up to their standards — so the bass line and percussion are amazing, but the tenor/bari parts don't work as well, and they don't match the others. The bad syllables on the top parts are distracting. The "Rocky" thing is well-done, but I find it only mildly amusing. Solo is perfectly fine, with the requisite melodramatic treatment, but if I got even the slightest sense of tongue-in-cheek it would be hilarious.
      Rating: 6

  9. Big Time (6.2)
    1. "Dm-dm-dm"s are dominating not only the other background parts, but also the solo. The mix should have been different — more even background parts, and higher solo (esp. in the beginning). Something about this arrangement made the many parts seem uncohesive. It sounds hurried and busy rather than energetic and driving. The solo is fairly good, but not huge.
      Rating: 5

    2. Arranging this piece for a cappella ensemble is a major challenge. This result is pretty damn good.
      Rating: 8

    3. Now see here. I know I heard a studio trick at the beginning of this song. It's not a bad thing, but their disclaimer is looking more and more like a broken promise. Again, I think the bass is a little overloud here. The high obbligato is very nice, and the soloist does a good job. Great ending, and nice percussion. I would've liked them to lean a little more on the chorus trio. This is a tough song to do, and the Derbies do an excellent job. It doesn't have much melody, though.
      Rating: 7

    4. Way too much depth in the effects in this one, I could barely make out the background vocals, all I heard was bass. What I could make out was good, but the effects really hampered this track.
      Rating: 6

    5. This arrangement starts out only decently, but then improves somewhat. Too much reverb/space on the solo, which in turn strains on top notes and is occasionally flat. Background is occasionally (seemingly unintentionally) dissonant. They sound like they're rushing, and the solo, which is more like the correct speed, sounds slow compared to their hyperspeed. Random weird noises in the background, the purpose of which is not clear.
      Rating: 5

  10. Life in One Day (6.6)
    1. The solo has a pretty nice tone, but has trouble with some of the timing on the more "talky" parts of the verse. The backgrounds should have been tighter in pitch. Arrangement was a little to "boppy," and the scat seemed inappropriate to the tone of the rest of the song. Percussion good.
      Rating: 6

    2. I really like the way the Derbies' arrangers develop an arrangement, even while they are adhering so closely to the style and feel of the original.
      Rating: 8

    3. The scatting here isn't nearly as successful. The solo is uninspired and unexceptional. I like the "oo" trio. The background doesn't blend on the background rhythms, though the last verse is very nice and the best part of the song.
      Rating: 6

    4. The lead slurred his words too much, and his vocal coloring was far too low for this song. Howard Jones has a much higher colored voice, and it helps in really punching out the words. Great vocal percussion, though.
      Rating: 6

    5. They really nail the rhythm on this, producing a much better version than the other attempts I've heard of this song. Arrangement is quite good, in parts reminiscent of Rockapella. Sometimes the swells are too harsh and too fast, when they should be softer. Solo is ok, though sort of nondescript, and it needs a little more space. The percussion break is okay, although not great. This is a hard song to do though, so I give them credit for a decent version of it.
      Rating: 7

  11. Veronica (5.8)
    1. Suffers from the live recording. Very uptempo version. Hard to hear what's happening in the arrangement due to recording quality. Everything is really quiet, except for the soloist on the chorus. He sounds pretty good.
      Rating: 5

    2. The live environment doesn't do anything good for this recording. It also doesn't explain the repeated metrical glitches. Here's an unusual complaint: I can't hear enough of the background.
      Rating: 7

    3. Nice solos, particularly the bottom soloist. Nice job. For once a live song that I like.
      Rating: 7

    4. Same problems with the live recording...I realize it's far easier for college groups to record some of their live performances, but the mix of the background vocals really needs to be a lot better if you're going to lay it on a CD.
      Rating: 6

    5. Arrangement is very choppy, and they rush through it in such a way as to make it even more chaotic. The leads are sort of strained and melodramatic-sounding, probably so that they can be heard in the hall or wherever they're singing. They get off-rhythm with background too. Audience is annoying — this is the other reason I rarely like live tracks. Does not live up to the original, although better than the other versions I've heard of the song.
      Rating: 4

  12. She's Got a Way (7.0)
    1. The soloist is the same one as on "Eye of the Tiger," and he's much better suited to this song. Arrangement is uninspired. (Solo — the "whoa-whoa"s don't really work).
      Rating: 5

    2. You won't often hear a falsetto voice in the background so well-blended and in tune as here, at least on a collegiate CD. The lead is also particularly effective in this one; and my goodness those ensemble chords are beautiful!
      Rating: 9

    3. A bit slow. Solo has odd inflection at times, but is pretty good. Same with the background chords — some oddities at times, but nothing too grievous
      Rating: 6

    4. Kind of a strange beginning, but as the song progressed, they did a really wonderful job in bringing it together. I liked how they actually used words in the background, something many groups forget they can do. The soloist did a great job.
      Rating: 8

    5. I hate this song, but the lead has a fabulous voice — very resonant and well-projected without sounding unnatural - which sort of makes up for it. Arrangement is nice and lush, and doesn't detract from the solo. At times it's old-fashioned (I take it that it's deliberate) but that works ok, and it's an interesting twist. Really quite well done.
      Rating: 7

  13. The Derby Show (6.2)
    1. This one *really* suffers from live recording. So much audience noise that it is fairly impossible to hear the things going on. Only the first voice/solo sounds at all like a muppet. Pitch doesn't sound tight, from what I can hear. It sounds like some funny visuals were going on, unfortunately, that doesn't help on CD.
      Rating: 3

    2. Neat arrangement; I like the special effects.
      Rating: 8

    3. I wish I could have seen this live — it's very funny, and disgustingly accurate. I didn't think collegiate a cappella singers had that much free time.
      Rating: 7

    4. Arrrggghhh! An a cappella version of the muppet show theme!!!! I wish the recording was better! The live recording really didn't pickup the bass line at all, which is crucial on this piece.
      Rating: 7

    5. Cute. Arrangement could be better, but I suppose that's not really the point. Sound quality is terrible, but you get the idea. Good Muppet (tm) imitations.
      Rating: 6

  14. Down on the Corner (6.8)
    1. Percussion convincing, and driving. Soloist trying REALLY hard. It kind of works, but not quite. He's got a good voice, but he's pushing it way too hard. Off-time singing from the backup singers doesn't work very well here. Arrangement is good.
      Rating: 6

    2. Great energy, especially good percussion bits.
      Rating: 9

    3. I like the bass. The background chords seem a little lost and unrooted, a common problem on the album. The soloist has a lot of energy and the choruses are fun, although the trio never seems to sing quite at the same time. Three cheers for the harmonica, and the drum corps had some nice stuff.
      Rating: 7

    4. A wonderful groove to this song again, though the lead was just a bit-too full voiced. When he first came in, I thought he was going to sing the song a la Pavarotti or something. There's other ways of showing energy other than being loud.
      Rating: 7

    5. The basses kick on this song, and they're also well mixed to best effect. Solo is a little thin compared to the background, but not bad. Again the rhythm is on, almost — in a weird way — _too_ on, there's something slightly unnatural about it. The trio does not blend at all, although maybe the way they're separated into different speakers has something to do with it.
      Rating: 5

  15. Mensaje de Telefono (6.8)
    1. The Coca-Cola telephone message from #7, but in Spanish. Is it worth as much the second time?
      Rating: 7

    2. El "Telephone Message" en Espanol. Tambien le gusta mucho.
      Rating: 9

    3. Being that flat twice is a little much for the soloist. I still like the idea — too bad I don't speak Spanish.
      Rating: 5

    4. See track 7...
      Rating: 7

    5. The thing that's funniest about this, to my mind, is the way their syllable is changed to "do do do do", which genuinely makes it sound like Menudo. The lyrics are also amusingly ridiculous. Very cute and justifies its existence on the album.
      Rating: 6

  16. Alive (6.6)
    1. Soloist good. It needs a little more drive in the verse, but chorus works pretty well. They do get somewhat of a "grunge rock" sound. Seems a little plodding, tempo-wise, but that may be a function of the arrangement.
      Rating: 6

    2. As nasty as the original, but a good performance is a good performance.
      Rating: 8

    3. I'm not too familiar with the original song. This sounded pretty good, especially the beginning. Towards the middle things got a little shaky, but I did like the funky bit almost to the end, where they used a really neat effect on the chords and bass. Guys? That was cool, but has always counted as a *nasty* studio trick in my book. What's the deal?
      Rating: 7

    4. Quite the interesting intro to this song, but yet again they somehow brought it together. The reverb was turned up a bit too much on the lead, but it worked out okay with the song.
      Rating: 7

    5. Something about the way this is mixed is bizarre — it sounds like there is a huge space between the solo and the background. It also sounds like only half the group is singing. This seems like at any minute it's about to take off and kick in, but it never quite gets there. The drum fills are quite good. The "grunge" guitars almost work, but the contrast between them and the rest of the arr. is too great, so they just sound weird. Solo has all of the grit of Eddie Vedder's voice with none of the resonance. Unnecessary studio effects on one section.
      Rating: 5

  17. Superstition (Take 1) (1.0)
    1. This is a 10 second outtake of #5.
      Rating: none

    2. An abortive attempt at an earlier number. Not sure why it's in here, except as a bit of comedy relief.
      Rating: none

    3. I already like the song. Nuff said. Not sure about the pertinence of this — but hey, if they want to pay to master and mix it, I won't bitch too much.
      Rating: none

    4. no comment
      Rating: none

    5. Not worth putting on the album. Not even funny, unless you count the "dude!" at the end.
      Rating: 1

  18. In Your Eyes (6.6)
    1. This is a live version of #1, obviously, in which they get the audience to sing along by chanting "your eyes" during the chorus. The intro explaining this is a solid minute long, and the version is no better then #1 (same arrangement, I think that the solo on #1 is better). If you like concert albums, you may like this one more. I don't think that they needed to include it on the album...one version is fine.
      Rating: 6

    2. One of the best live cuts I've heard on a collegiate CD.
      Rating: 8

    3. Works better than the studio version — solo is a little (only slightly) more bearable. I personally don't think this song is good enough to merit being on the album twice.
      Rating: 5

    4. The best live recording on the album, they got a decent mix this time. Just as good as track one, and the crowd was in tune!!!!! :)
      Rating: 8

    5. This is the only live track where the sound quality is anywhere near the rest of the album. Intro and mid-song patter is annoying, and distracts from the song. The solo is also much better than on the studio track, although unfortunately the background is proportionately worse, and he's still not perfect - still overly abrupt for this song. To be honest, I would probably think this a much better rendition of the song if I hadn't heard the studio version.
      Rating: 6

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