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Various Artists

CARAs 2000 (2000)

3.8

December 30, 2000

Tuning / Blend 4.4
Energy / Intensity 4.4
Innovation / Creativity 4.8
Soloists 4.0
Sound / Production 4.0
Repeat Listenability 3.2
Tracks
1 spiralmouth::Nothing Is Written 4.8
2 AVB::Broken 4.6
3 Boyz Nite Out::I'll Be 4.8
4 Street Sounds::Black & Blue 4.0
5 Hampton Avenue::In a Mellow Tone 4.8
6 Toxic Audio::Loving You 4.2
7 Naturally Seven::Bless This House 4.8
8 Groupo Vocal Descendann::Edem Chanté 4.2
9 Okumé::Guantanamera 4.2
10 Akasa::Walk With Me 3.6
11 The Showvinistics::December 1963 (Oh What a Night) 3.6
12 Rumors::I Didn't Want To Fall 3.6
13 Da Vinci's Notebook::Ally McBeal 3.8
14 Kinsey Sicks::Gay Sera Sera 3.8
15 Everyday People (Stanford University)::As 4.2
16 Penn Masala (University of Pennsylvania)::Yeh Kaali Kaali 3.2
17 m-pact::Caroling, Caroling 4.6
18 Moscow State University Academic Choir::Spring Song 3.6

Recorded 2000
Total time: 69:00, 18 songs


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 5
Tracks
1 spiralmouth::Nothing Is Written 5
2 AVB::Broken 5
3 Boyz Nite Out::I'll Be 5
4 Street Sounds::Black & Blue 3
5 Hampton Avenue::In a Mellow Tone 5
6 Toxic Audio::Loving You 5
7 Naturally Seven::Bless This House 5
8 Groupo Vocal Descendann::Edem Chanté 5
9 Okumé::Guantanamera 5
10 Akasa::Walk With Me 4
11 The Showvinistics::December 1963 (Oh What a Night) 4
12 Rumors::I Didn't Want To Fall 5
13 Da Vinci's Notebook::Ally McBeal 5
14 Kinsey Sicks::Gay Sera Sera 5
15 Everyday People (Stanford University)::As 5
16 Penn Masala (University of Pennsylvania)::Yeh Kaali Kaali 3
17 m-pact::Caroling, Caroling 5
18 Moscow State University Academic Choir::Spring Song 3

CARAs 2000 is great for the listener who wants the best of what's out there right now and in a wide variety of styles: alternative, Christian, jazz, doo-wop, comedy, folk, world, barbershop, R&B, Christmas and classical. Sure, you might argue that the CASA committee made different choices than the "home office" (you) would have, but it'd be hard to fault them for their choices. These are great tracks, no matter what your tastes. (Unless you like crap. In which case, forget this CD. No crap here.)

Standouts? Depends on your preferred genre. But if you're like many of my friends (Romans and countrymen), you'll just say you like everything. And you'd be a liar. No one likes everything. But you might just like everything on this disk. It is that good. Check my scores for the few that fell below great. Even those are pretty decent. But the competition is tough these days. Besides, how many CDs have you ever heard where every single track rocks your world? How often? Come on. Few. Far between. Sad but true.

If the groups appeal, if the styles appeal, if the infinite wisdom of CASA appeals, then heed my words: eye-bay the ee-dee-say. Choose your own faves. Play the home game. Go check out the 2000 CARAs.


Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 3
Sound / Production 3
Repeat Listenability 2
Tracks
1 spiralmouth::Nothing Is Written 4
2 AVB::Broken 3
3 Boyz Nite Out::I'll Be 4
4 Street Sounds::Black & Blue 3
5 Hampton Avenue::In a Mellow Tone 4
6 Toxic Audio::Loving You 3
7 Naturally Seven::Bless This House 5
8 Groupo Vocal Descendann::Edem Chanté 4
9 Okumé::Guantanamera 3
10 Akasa::Walk With Me 5
11 The Showvinistics::December 1963 (Oh What a Night) 5
12 Rumors::I Didn't Want To Fall 2
13 Da Vinci's Notebook::Ally McBeal 2
14 Kinsey Sicks::Gay Sera Sera 2
15 Everyday People (Stanford University)::As 3
16 Penn Masala (University of Pennsylvania)::Yeh Kaali Kaali 4
17 m-pact::Caroling, Caroling 3
18 Moscow State University Academic Choir::Spring Song 2

Every time I listen to another "best of" compilation, the process of judging that sort of album seems more difficult. After all, each such album has already been judged — that is, each song has presumably passed muster for a judge of some kind or another in order to be included for my listening pleasure. Am I judging the judging?

Add to that the facts that each track comes from a different group; that no three tracks represent the same kind of music; and that although each track may be (on this album) its genre's best defense for the current year, when compared to the others on the album it may shine fulminously or fall short. All that makes me scratch my head. What am I judging?

I suppose I'm judging the overall feel. As far as that goes, CARAs 2000 is not for me. Out of eighteen tracks, only four or five would I listen to again; the rest fall short. Thankfully, whoever judged these tracks before and found them worthy seems to have ordered them not only by genre (interesting enough) but by quality. I'm just a lone reviewer. I can't issue edicts or proclamations or bulls, but I swear to you that if you try to play this disc beyond track ten within earshot...

So, questionable methodology aside, this disc doesn't do it for me. For my money, better compilations are available, and (illicit judging, anyone?) some of the groups on CARAs 2000 are to be found on earlier CARAs, proudly singing songs from the same original album. Many of the groups on here are good, many of the genres they represent cutting edge and so forth, but this disc doesn't do them justice.


Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 spiralmouth::Nothing Is Written 5
2 AVB::Broken 5
3 Boyz Nite Out::I'll Be 5
4 Street Sounds::Black & Blue 5
5 Hampton Avenue::In a Mellow Tone 5
6 Toxic Audio::Loving You 4
7 Naturally Seven::Bless This House 5
8 Groupo Vocal Descendann::Edem Chanté 5
9 Okumé::Guantanamera 5
10 Akasa::Walk With Me 3
11 The Showvinistics::December 1963 (Oh What a Night) 3
12 Rumors::I Didn't Want To Fall 5
13 Da Vinci's Notebook::Ally McBeal 5
14 Kinsey Sicks::Gay Sera Sera 4
15 Everyday People (Stanford University)::As 4
16 Penn Masala (University of Pennsylvania)::Yeh Kaali Kaali 3
17 m-pact::Caroling, Caroling 5
18 Moscow State University Academic Choir::Spring Song 3

This album, Contemporary A Cappella Recording Awards 2000, is simply put, the best of the best. Every genre of a cappella music is on display here: vocal bands, jazz, barbershop, doo-wop, folk/world, religious, classical, humorous, and collegiate.

I'm an avid fan of various artist collections, but I'm beginning to think enough is enough. The a cappella community is allowing itself to be asphyxiated with these various artist collections. Maybe I just feel smothered right now because I have two more various artist collections to review after this album, and various artists albums are extremely difficult to review.

Who and what exactly are you reviewing? The groups on the album? Well, they really had nothing to do with the assembly of the album; they just happened to be chosen for it. The album producers? They didn't sing a note on the album; all they did was assemble it. I think what the review comes down to is whether or not, as a listener, you can listen through this album from start to finish enjoying the flow of the album and the diversity of groups. This is a great album, but the answer to that isn't a definite "Yes!"

Every track on this album is a highlight. Nothing Is Written, Edem Chanté, Walk With Me, Ally McBeal, and Caroling, Caroling are just a few of my favorites. All of the groups chosen for this compilation are obviously very talented and at the head of their respective classes.

The problem is that the flow of the album has room for improvement. I don't understand the need for grouping the categories on the album together (e.g. all of the folk/world songs together, the collegiate songs together, and the humorous songs together). I think the same theory applies to live show and to an album. Spread things out, surprise your audience. You wouldn't sing four ballads in a row, and then not sing any more in the entire set, would you??

A little peeve I have with this particular various artist collection: some of the tracks on this album are from the nominees or runners-up in specific categories and not the CARA winners. Why isn't this a compilation of all of the winners? I'm sure there is a good explanation for this; I just found it disturbing.

If you love a cappella music, you're going to love this album. People, this is the best of the best! How can you not love that!?! If you only enjoy a certain style of a cappella music, then I'd advise against purchasing this project. Then again, if you only like a specific style because you haven't had an opportunity to hear different avenues of a cappella, this is a great album to buy, because you know you're getting to hear the entire a cappella form at its finest.


Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 3
Tracks
1 spiralmouth::Nothing Is Written 5
2 AVB::Broken 5
3 Boyz Nite Out::I'll Be 5
4 Street Sounds::Black & Blue 5
5 Hampton Avenue::In a Mellow Tone 5
6 Toxic Audio::Loving You 5
7 Naturally Seven::Bless This House 5
8 Groupo Vocal Descendann::Edem Chanté 4
9 Okumé::Guantanamera 3
10 Akasa::Walk With Me 3
11 The Showvinistics::December 1963 (Oh What a Night) 3
12 Rumors::I Didn't Want To Fall 3
13 Da Vinci's Notebook::Ally McBeal 4
14 Kinsey Sicks::Gay Sera Sera 4
15 Everyday People (Stanford University)::As 5
16 Penn Masala (University of Pennsylvania)::Yeh Kaali Kaali 3
17 m-pact::Caroling, Caroling 5
18 Moscow State University Academic Choir::Spring Song 5

Each year, hundreds of albums are submitted to the Contemporary A Cappella Recording Awards. Tracks from the select few that are nominated are compiled into a yearly album. How can this album be anything but good? I must admit that I did like the CARAs 1998 album better, but this is a completely worthy compilation.

The CARAs 2000 disk is a mixture of pop, rock, religious, jazz, folk, doo-wop, barbershop, humor, collegiate, world, holiday and classical a cappella. All of this is in 18 tracks.

Some of my favorites include spiralmouth's Nothing Is Written and Boyz Nite Out's I'll Be. They are polished and perfect. As is a little less refined, but I love it all the same.

I had the good fortune to see Toxic Audio perform at this year's summit. They were phenomenal, the most entertaining a cappella group I have ever seen. They got such a long ovation, they had to come back for an encore. Their version of Vox One's Loving You is very well done, but I prefer the original soloist's richer sound.

Listening to this album over and over again is difficult, because (of course) the songs are so different, there isn't a nice flow.

But if you want a sampling of the best there is to offer in the world of a cappella, this album is a great choice. No matter what you like, there will be something on this album just for you, and you will surely learn something new. It will also give you a good idea about which full albums you should buy. Happy listening.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 2
Tracks
1 spiralmouth::Nothing Is Written 5
2 AVB::Broken 5
3 Boyz Nite Out::I'll Be 5
4 Street Sounds::Black & Blue 4
5 Hampton Avenue::In a Mellow Tone 5
6 Toxic Audio::Loving You 4
7 Naturally Seven::Bless This House 4
8 Groupo Vocal Descendann::Edem Chanté 3
9 Okumé::Guantanamera 5
10 Akasa::Walk With Me 3
11 The Showvinistics::December 1963 (Oh What a Night) 3
12 Rumors::I Didn't Want To Fall 3
13 Da Vinci's Notebook::Ally McBeal 3
14 Kinsey Sicks::Gay Sera Sera 4
15 Everyday People (Stanford University)::As 4
16 Penn Masala (University of Pennsylvania)::Yeh Kaali Kaali 3
17 m-pact::Caroling, Caroling 5
18 Moscow State University Academic Choir::Spring Song 5

The good news is that there's something for everyone. The bad news is that there's something for everyone. Don't get me wrong; there isn't a bad song on this CD. But for at least half the songs on the disk, while I can appreciate and respect what the group is doing, I don't truly enjoy it. Of course, that's just my personal response. If your tastes encompass pop, jazz, three or four different flavors of world music, cheap-shot humor, and classical repertoire, then this CD is for you. If not, it may still be for you, but be warned and proceed with caution. The lowest score for this album is repeat listenability. It's very interesting for me to hear (on a first listen) what the top groups out there are doing with genres I don't generally follow, but having heard everything once or twice, I found sections of the CD to drag on upon multiple listenings.

The groups' tracks are well mixed and the overall song balance is fine, with one exception: the last track. Since the classical piece Spring Song covers a wider dynamic range than its more contemporary disc-mates, it can become hard to hear through the quieter sections of the piece. It's worth turning up, though. Some other pleasant surprises: AVB's Broken, this year's Best Religious Song, is still stuck in my head. Okumé took Guantanamera, a song I've heard too much in a genre I could do without, and somehow managed to get me shaking my booty with their ultra-tight arrangement. And fans of vocal jazz get a real treat with the triple-header on tracks 4-6; Street Sounds, Hampton Avenue, and Toxic Audio serve up three different flavors of jazz sure to impress any enthusiast.

Bottom line: this is a very broad collection of songs and groups at the top of their respective forms. If you want to see what's out there that you haven't sampled yet, this CD will show you; just don't expect it to live in your CD changer. If you have exceptionally broad taste that's particularly big on world music, then this is a must. If you know what you like and like what you know, then I'd give this a pass.


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