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The following is a review of Pennsylvania Six-5000's "Jacket Off". For those who are not aware of RARB, our purpose is to give college a-cappella groups a chance to have their albums reviewed by our board, made up of people from around the country, with different perspectives on college a-cappella. "Jacket Off" was reviewed by Ken Purchase, Anne Raugh, Chris Tess, and Alison Berube. They each took the recording home, blasted it on their stereos until their friends, roommates, and relatives caned them senselessly. From there, they offered a rating for each track on a scale of 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest). They also added their own impressions about each song listed on the album. What follows is the rating for each song, a range of the actual scores, and a selection of quotes from the reviewers. At the end, there will be final comments about the album, as well as information on how to get your group's recordings to the review board.

RARB REVIEW

School: University of Pennsylvania
Group: Pennsylvania Six-5000
Album: Jacket Off

Available on CD and Cassette; for more info, contact them through "pkim@mail.sas.upenn.edu".
15 men
recorded March-October 1993

#1:  I TOUCH MYSELF           Rating: 6         Range: 5-7
"Interesting arrangement with good background, but overall, I found it unexciting."
"The lead is very good, but pitch uncertanties are apparent at critical points in the background."
"Penn Six starts off the album with a hint of what has made them the talk of the town on the Internet. While its funny, the song itself is mediocre."
#2:  BUILD ME UP BUTTERCUP     Rating: 7.8      Range: 6-9
"Tasteful vocal percussion"
"Full background and great percussion...the solo was well-suited." "An excellent lead could not cover the dicey intonation...the pitched percussion tag sounded sharp the first time." "Penn Six draws from their outstanding tenor corps (Daniel Cromie) to sing the solo, and he delivers. The percussion sounds too much like they are speaking syllables instead of sounding like drums."
#3:  MASOCHISM TANGO         Rating: 6.3       Range: 5-8
"While the change in some of the words is refreshing, I prefer the original words. The rest of the song is pretty standard." "The solo is rich and strong, but the arrangement is a bit monotonous." "Very nice production of the Tom Lehrer song." "The lead delivers a respectable impression of Tom Lehrer's voice...the pitch problems in the piano-like accompaniment seemed particularly annoying."
#4:  PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE       Rating: 8.0      Range: 7-9
"Great percussion, good energy...Penn Six's first song on the album that shows their CARA abilities."
"Strong group performance-great background percussion and a good arrangement with lots of movement in the background. Well done." "One of the best cuts on the album; the energy level is very high...with a bit more dynamic control and variation, this number has definite 'shiver' potential."
#5:  CONRAD BAIN            Rating: 6.8       Range: 6-8
"Cute, but some of the notes are too low for the basses, and some of the arrangement isn't all that perfect."
"Great imitative arrangement and performance of 'King of Pain' is overshadowed by the hilarious words Edward Matz wrote for this. Slight intonation problems."
"Very funny and origianl...I like the solo...some of the better lyrics are in the background."
"The lyrics are frequently clever, but occasionally difficult to decipher over the background."
#6:  JUST A GIGOLO/I AIN'T GOT NOBODY      Rating: 6.3   Range: 5-7
"Vocal Percussion was overwhelmed by the background...basses are scraping bottom, generally out of tune on lowest notes...blend and intonation of ensemble are adversely affected by this." "Tom Ward pulls of an effective solo for this song, not an easy thing. Funny cuss-out at the end."
"Minor tuning problems; doesn't have a true Jazzy feel." "A good interpretation of the song...the soloist does a good job of imitating David Lee Roth, but I prefer a more original style. Also, the profanity is unnecessary."
#7: I'LL BE THERE            Rating: 6.3           Range: 6-7
"Pretty, but the lead is a little weak." "Nice standard arrangement...the group sounds great." "Leads here are excellent...background unisons are quite shaky, but improve as the piece progresses. An early promise of dynamic variation goes unfulfilled."
"A pretty ballad and a nice change of pace on the album. Nice blend and full sound. A good track, except for a few minor pitch problems in the solo."
#8: THE WORLD'S WORST JELL-O     RATING: 5         Range: 4-6
"These guys show they're not very good at tuning up barbershop." "The idea and lyrics are entertaining, but the group does not deliver barbershop intonation."
"Definitely not perfect, but it's hard to be with 15 guys. Maybe this song needs a laugh track or something, but it didn't seem that funny." "A strange song. Creative, but barbershop singing is not this group's strong point."
#9:  ROSANNA                    Rating: 5.5        Range: 3-7
"The solo could be stronger, since the background overpowers the solo sometimes."
"A prime example of 'songs that shouldn't be done a-cappella.' Poor arranging, poor tuning, poor singing."
"Another look of CARA greatness. Great solos, great song choice, good group work and good arrangement. Great percussion would put this song over the top."
"At last-dynamics!! The arranger allowed himself a bit of fun in the background figures."
#10:  SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK MEDLEY      Rating: 7       Range: 6-8
"This one is fun, and worth the price of the tape!...this one has great energy. The transitions are a little sloppy, but the group recovers well." "Fun, shows how good these guys actually are with tuning and blend, live." "Energy level is very high, perhaps too high-the tempo frequently is unworkably fast. Musically the weakest cut on the album...Arrangement is very good...leads are excellent. Despite its weaknesses, this is one of my favorite cuts."
"Great recording quality for a live recording. One section at a ridiculously fast pace. Not an ingenious arrangement, but solid."
#11:  DOMINO           Rating: 6.5     Range: 6-7
"Good rockin' solo, upbeat song."
"A solid track"
"Good, but uninteresting, overshadowed by the rest of the album" "Full, rich sound, nice blend, and lots of movement in the background. Interesting arrangement that held my attention."

#12: LITTLE BLUE SMURFETTE Rating: 7.0 Range: 6-9 "Musically, the percussion and blend, again, are noteworthy. Some people may be turned off by the sexual content, though." "Great arrangement, rude words, good singing." "Spoof of Prince's 'Little Red Corvette', not hilarious, but cute; group sounds great, OK solo."
"Intonation is somewhat better on this one, and dynamic control begins to surface, though the lead is still sometimes difficult to hear over the background."

#13:  MACK THE KNIFE          Rating: 5.3    Range: 4-7
"Annoyingly chunky bass line, decent solo, but not the end-all; An O.K. 'big-band' sound."
"Arrangement was servicable...difficult to maintain energy level in a piece lie this...by the end of it the group is beginning to sound a bit bored."
"Doesn't quite fly. Kind of corny. Nice standard ending, though." "This song just didn't do it for me. The arrangement is boring, but the original doesn't lend itself easily to a-cappella. The soloist sounds very lounge-lizrdish."
#14:  THE OOMPA-LOOMPA SONG     Rating: 8.0   Range: 7-9
"Great! A strong and authentic version of the original." "Best song on the album...fabulous arrangement, very inventive, yet very true to the original in feel and sound. An example of an a-cappella cover that is better than the original."
"A very nice arrangement. The bridges between sections are particularly good. Intonation and blend are better than usual and there is even some effort at dynamic control."
#15:  WALK OF SHAME            Rating: 6.3   Range: 5-7
"Tuning problems, funny, but repetitive words." "The usual standard arrangement with the usual pitch problems." "Funniest words are the ones repeated for each chorus, but its funny every time. Good group sound, but the the pitch falls on the very last chord...studio problem?"
"Background is a bit top-heavy, but full and strong...again, buyers should be aware of the sexual content and profanity."
#16:  ROCKIN' ROBIN            Rating: 6.8    Range: 6-8
"One of those songs that makes you want to dance (and I don't like dancing!). Though relatively standard, the group sounds fab." "The usual sort of arrangement, but not the usual sort of lead voice quality, which is an interesting change. Energy tends to flag a bit." "What they do is nicely done, but the arrangement is a bit empty." "Why do this song???"

#17: THE LITTLE STRING THAT HANGS DOWN FROM THE ROOF OF YOUR MOUTH WHEN

YOU BURN IT ON PIZZA            Rating: 6.5     Range:  6-8
"Very Strong Background. This song failed to be funny on me, though, and it was way too long."
"An original with an interesting, complex arrangement." "Points for originality on this one. It is entertaining, but the solo is a bit shaky."
"Woohoo, an original! and Matz did a good job-great idea! Good music. While the solo is OK, it doesn't knock your socks off. Funny words, very pleasing writing and arranging."
#18: Coconut Woman                Rating: 5.8        Range: 4-7
"Good Island feel; tuning problems; a little annoying." "A unique song choice, but not one of my favorites. The solo could be stronger, and I didn't like the accent. They do a good job with a difficult musical style, though."
"An island-type song. Annoyingly repetitive." "The character lead is very good and the background accompaniment better than usual."
#19:  THE 12 AND 1/2 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS     Rating: 7.0    Range: 6-8
"A very difficult arrangement, intonation is unusually good and the ensemble is excellent."
"Could this be the new Lion Sleeps? Penn Six shows that they've got great voices all around and good blend."
"Well-done and entertaining...a great arrangement of Christmas songs." "Please see to it that the original author is given credit..."

OK, the original title to this song is "Christmas Soup", by Prof. Richard Gregory of the Williston Caterwaulers & Widiggers.

#20:  ROCKET MAN                     Rating: 8.3         Range: 7-9
"Nice arrangement, could have had more dynamics, and the basses sound klunky."
"Aside from some minor pitch problems and a somewhat weak solo, this is a good interpretation with a nice bass line and good background blend." "Cromie rocks my world-almost as good as Elton himself! Arrangement brings it all together. Heavy reverb is a good choice for this song." "Easily the best cut on the album. Intonation is very good and the resulting sound quality is very close to the original recording."
#21:  COME ON EILEEN                 Rating: 7.8        Range:6-9 
"It's a challenge to listen to this catchy tune and not sing along." "Good arrangement and great percussion. Very solid, and nice blend. They do a good job of changing tempo within the song." "Very Good Guys!!! Now I can't get the song out of my head." "Intonation is not bad. It seems to go on a bit long for me, but then, so did the original."

Average score: 6.3

OVERALL COMMENTS:

"The first a-cappella album I've ever heard that has a 'warning:adult language' sticker on it. These guys are a real powerhouse, and this album is a pretty good representation of them. They have a full sound, strong voices, and for the most part, interesting arrangements. They have one dynamic level-LOUD, but it's nice that their vocal percussion, unlike some groups, is as a tastefully mixed in level." "This is a good quality recording, and it has a lot of originality and creativity. They are heavy on parodies of popular things, as well as sexual content and sexual profanity."
"A good effort...It should be noted that the humor tends to be earthy, if you didn't flinch at the cover art and can overlook the occasional in-joke you should have no complaints with he comedy content. Most of the pieces are standard, imitative arrangements suited for a group of 15. Penn-Six does a good job of keeping energy level up despite recording studio environment."

        
That's it for this edition of the RARB...if there are any questions about this or any past or future review, give me a call at (314) 935-1911, or e-mail me at bttritle@artsci.wustl.edu

-Ben Tritle

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