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RARB REVIEW

School: UC Berkeley
Group: Artists in Resonance
Album: What Meat Sounds Like

Total time: 55:28, 20 songs
Recorded 1994

Ordering Information


Track Listing

  1. Got to be Real (7.2)
  2. Just Like You (7.2)
  3. Superman's Song (7.8)
  4. Bamboleo (7.2)
  5. Don't Stand So Close to Me (6.4)
  6. Steam (6.4)
  7. Black Hole Sun (6.2)
  8. Green Eggs and Ham (4.6)
  9. Wanna Be Starting Something (5.6)
  10. I Believe (6.8)
  11. Respect (4.4)
  12. Sensitive Artist (4.8)
  13. Sweet Child of Mine (7.6)
  14. Footloose Medley (4.6)
  15. Sinking (6.0)
  16. I Should Have Told Her (7.4)
  17. Houston Hash (6.8)
  18. Freedom '90 (5.4)
  19. International Bright Young Thing (6.8)
  20. They Won't Go When I Go (7.0)

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. There are two dud tracks on this disk, but with a generous 20 tracks total, who cares? They are more than made up for by a touching "Superman Song," the amazing harmonies of "I Believe," and the simple, doo wop-esque "I Should Have Told Her." When you add in a reworking of "Sweet Child Of Mine" as a ballad and the emotional "They Won't Go Where I Go" — forget it! You'll be able to recommend this to friends without a second thought.
    Rating: 8 (6.9)

  2. The first thing that strikes me about this group is the bass section. Wow. They lay the groundwork for almost every song. The tones are rich and deep, and consistent. As for the group as a whole, they have a good sound as a large co-ed group, and they have got some really great voices, but have some occasional blend problems. Generally, however, they work well together, and the album is tight for the most part. Overall, this is a solid album to have in your collection, if you like their choice of songs.
    Rating: 6 (6.3)

  3. This is the most frustrating album I've reviewed so far. All of the soloists are very capable, they have a varied repertoire, they have clever and creative arrangers, but they just didn't seem to take the time to get their ensemble work down. It feels like a collection of talented singers who just haven't figured out how to sing together. There are a few tracks where they actually seem to gel ("Just Like You" and "Wanna Be Starting Something") but almost all the tracks have either glaring problems or just an all-around unstable feel to them.

    I'd be very curious to see what the day to day activities of this group are. How often they rehearse, how frequently the personnel changes, what the audition process is like. Perhaps there are some fundamentals that are not being addressed.

    I think it's possible that I'm judging this group a bit more harshly than I should be. It just frustrates me to see so many tracks with so much potential for greatness that just don't cut it for one reason or another.
    Rating: 6 (5.3)

  4. Ok, who let the chorale out? Coincidence, or a draft from the voice department. Either way, it is clear that all the women in this group have strong voices and a lot of training. This is great for the wonderful clear strong blend, less good for the over-the-top, vibratoey head voice solos that dominate the album. Ranging from inappropriate to downright muppet-like, the inability or decision not to turn off the broadway/classical training makes some songs difficult to listen to. The men are standard issue — reasonably on-pitch, blendy and no standout voices or memorable bass lines. The male solos are well done and for the most part well chosen for their ability to stay within the limits of the available voices.

    AIR's real strength lies in their willingness to innovate and reinterpret. None of the songs on this album could be called tired standards, a rarity in and of itself, and the arrangers show a willingness to not just adapt but change the idea of the songs they choose. Their version of Sweet Child of Mine should be required listening for any college group who has ever covered a Green Day song, and even the flops are attacked with the same intensity as the more standard songs. The overall quality of the songs in terms of accuracy and musicality is quite high — many of my low ratings reflect stylistic differences. (Although if "Respect" represents a deliberate reinterpretation than someone has a really sick sense of humor.)

    What I'm trying to say is, if these song descriptions pique your interest, buy the album. You could (and probably have) done far worse, and for all its faults it is a novel and intriguing listen.
    Rating: 7 (6.5)

  5. An impressive album; the group sounds great and seems to be having a lot of fun. Overall, a high level of musicality. Good soloists (especially the female voices), strong basses, consistently solid intonation and blend. I was especially impressed by the song choices and overall pacing of the album. Nice variety, and when the album's over, you're eager for more (although there are a couple numbers that seem like they're thrown in just for the novelty or nostalgia factor). From a recording standpoint, the engineering is very transparent; I got the feeling that what I was hearing would be pretty close to what the group would sound like live. Unfortunately, the CD I listened to had some noticeible audio glitches, particularly toward the end of the disc. Hopefully the copy I have is an exception, and not an indication that the manufacturer was slacking off on quality control or anything like that. Also, it would be nice if the song credits/album info were a little more detailed and consistent. In all, a really enjoyable album; if you're one of those people who doesn't get into coed groups, this might be the record that gets you to change your mind.
    Rating: 8 (6.5)


Individual Tracks

  1. Got to be Real (7.2)
    1. Not one, not two, but three, count 'em, three soloist! This opening track relies heavily on it's trio of female leads, who mostly sing in harmony, but occasionally each take a phrase as a solo. The overall blend is solid, although one of the higher voices is on the thin side. Fortunately, she is balanced by a strong "bass." Towards the end they slip in a quote from "That's the Way (uh huh, uh huh) I Like It." This is one of the few tracks on the album with any sort of vocal percussion.
      Rating: 7

    2. A good track to start out on, this one is full of energy. It's also got some good vocal percussion, and plenty of soul. Nice disco riff, too.
      Rating: 7

    3. The pseudo beginning seems a bit smug. The melody line doesn't always swing quite right. The background vocals occasionally lack intensity. Ending is a bit flaccid. It tunes pretty well, save the occasional rough chord ("Our love is here to ?STAY?") I like the very busy feel towards the end. It goes on for just the right amount of time before feeling harried. I like the song choice.
      Rating: 7

    4. The trio has a glorious blend that makes this a fun rendition of the 70's classic. The training that makes this possible results in solos that are a heavy-handed and over vibratoey, but boy do they have a nice ensemble sound. The background keeps the mood going and doesn't rush too badly. Nice use of Queen in the intro.
      Rating: 7

    5. Nice trio featured doing the lead in three part harmonies; blend is incredible. Some tasteful (no pun intended) mouth percussion.
      Rating: 8

  2. Just Like You (7.2)
    1. The Artists attack this bouncy track with a little more aggression than they had on "Got to be Real". Overall, a good song to listen to while driving in a convertible on a hot summer afternoon. The catch? There's a bridge section in the song where the tempo slows down to a more grinding pace. All the parts suddenly seem out of sync. It's hard to listen to.
      Rating: 7

    2. It moves, but it's a little busy for my tastes. It really could be tighter, and the tempo transition is a little muddled. Nice bass part.
      Rating: 6

    3. This active arrangement has a good feel. Soloist is strong and has a voice well suited for the song. The half time section in the middle is quite cool. Again, a very good song choice.
      Rating: 7

    4. Best female solo on the album. The arrangement moves too, more than many on the album. The rhythm change in the middle is well-executed, as is the transition back to the driving pace of most of the song. Nothing too complex here, which may be its real strength. Nice job.
      Rating: 8

    5. Catchy tune, good groove. Tempo change a little awkward.
      Rating: 8

  3. Superman's Song (7.8)
    1. It might seem obvious to open this Crash Test Dummies parable with a section of the score from the Superman Movie, but they work it into the arrangement with admirable grace. The lead vocalist can't compare with the distinctive bass on the original, but who can? Once you get by that, and it isn't hard, he's darn good and actually hits some surprisingly low notes. What makes this track a winner is the harmonies on the chorus which are an improvement on the Dummies' original track and give it an extra push of poignancy and sadness. Chris Campell and Joel Slotkin's voices fit together perfectly on their duet sections.
      Rating: 10

    2. I really like this one. Though I know I am already repeating myself, that's a great bass solo — wow. Nice blend, nice flow as well. Changes in intensity are effectively executed.
      Rating: 9

    3. The ensemble work is a bit spotty, Occasional voices sticking out and sloppy cut-offs complete with a tuning problem or two. The soloist has a very nice resonant voice. It's not an incredibly interesting song.
      Rating: 5

    4. The Superman theme intro segues very nicely into a solid rendition of the Crash Test Dummies song that hasn't always made such a smooth adjustment to a cappella. The first solo has great pitch and lyric sense but the second solo has the bass resonance the first lacks. The tenor obbligato doesn't blend with them very well, making the final line without him my favorite.
      Rating: 7

    5. Humorous (or attempted humorous) intro pretty cheesy (too "doo doo" heavy), but the song itself is really strong, especially the soloists. A couple minor things: backgrounds get somewhat repetitive, also the harmony part above the lead is shaky at times.
      Rating: 8

  4. Bamboleo (7.2)
    1. I've never been good at foreign languages. I have no capacity to learn them. I resent the fact that I've been required to take over nine years of Spanish in my educational career and just about the only things I know how to say are "Tu hermana es bonita" and "!Que desayuno!" (One of which will get you slapped and the other will get you committed.) In short, I hate Spanish. So why is it that I find myself singing this Gypsy Kings' song in elevators and other public places? Well, it's a catchy tune. The leads vocals grab you in and the fun (if vaguely silly) interpretation of the horn lines keep you there. A great song choice.
      Rating: 8

    2. The Latin rhythm and sound of this one are very well done. This Spanish-language tune is something not commonly heard in pop a cappella. Nice dynamics, and tight entrances and cutoffs in the background.
      Rating: 8

    3. This is very clever arranging. Quite rhythmically rich. The soloist feels on shaky ground every now and then. This is not a song I would expect to work in an a cappella setting, but they do an admirable job.
      Rating: 7

    4. Too muddy to carry the rhythmic intensity of the original, this version nonetheless has some great moments, such as the soprano bits in the second verse. The soloist has reasonable style and does a great job with the verses, but is unfortunately not consistently in tune in the choruses. Nicely original song choice.
      Rating: 6

    5. On first listening, I thought I was losing my mind because I couldn't understand any of the words. Then I realized they were singing in Spanish. Jazzy with some thick harmonies, and they really pull it off. My only complaint is a few annoying syllable choices in a couple background lines (the "dee dee dee's").
      Rating: 7

  5. Don't Stand So Close to Me (6.4)
    1. So close, and yet, so far. The chorus on this song is an original, not imitative arrangement. Unfortunately, it's not a good arrangement. It's too sparse and rushed. It's a shame, because the verses are a real piece of work. Sparse (which works in this part of the song), emotional, electric and surprising. Surprising because the leads are taken by Jennifer Saito. The original implied that the lead (former history teacher Sting) was the professor in question. Now the implication is that the lead is taking the point of view of the student! Wow! There's also a nice quote from "Lolita" (that book by Nabakov). If they tried a different arrangement for the chorus, this would be one for the books. No pun intended.
      Rating: 6

    2. This one features a nice solo voice, but she pushes a little too hard. Good arrangement of the opening. And an interesting arrangement of the rest of the song — the solo carries the song with seemingly little backup.
      Rating: 6

    3. The reverb is particularly noticeable on this Bobsesque arrangement. The soloist does a good job of propelling the song in an otherwise sparse setting. The background voices during the verses are very exposed and do not always lock in.
      Rating: 6

    4. Remember how I said some interpretations work, and some don't? Well, this is a real lemon. I do respect their willingness to go whole hog, however — if it's gonna flop, might as well flop big time. I don't think the overly dramatic solo or the Lolita reading were meant to be, but better this than a mediocre rendition meant to be taken seriously.
      Rating: 5

    5. A really emotional interpretation of this song. I liked the female lead; it gave the song a new twist. Very musical.
      Rating: 9

  6. Steam (6.4)
    1. I like the way the album segues from Don't Stand So Close to Me to the opening line of Steam ("Stand Back!"). I'm a Peter Gabriel fan. I like the lead vocalist (who did killer work on their last album.) And yet this does nothing for me. I can't pin it down. The imitative arrangement is solid, but it just doesn't grab me.
      Rating: 6

    2. A full arrangement with nice balance of parts and a strong solo voice. Cool percussion — I like it. The song moves along with a very steady beat, but gets a little monotonous.
      Rating: 6

    3. The soloist has a nice voice, but this arrangement just isn't doing it for me. The original is just too dependent on a more intense rhythm track and really beefed up engineering to translate well. This just feels ploddy. The background chords have some voices sticking out and they don't always tune.
      Rating: 4

    4. Nice job of reinterpretation. The female solo makes this song her own, giving it a tad of funk and sailing over the melody with energy and pizazz. This is even more impressive given the distinct lack of zip in the background. "Dig-idit" and "bump" are poorly conceived bass syllables, but most of the arrangement is a good base from which to work.
      Rating: 8

    5. Good 'n' funky, although backgrounds get monotonous after a while.
      Rating: 8

  7. Black Hole Sun (6.2)
    1. This track is reminiscent of U Penn's Off the Beat's cover of "Soul to Squeeze." While it isn't as complicated an arrangement (actually, it's a very basic, choral arrangement) it has similar grungy lead vocals. The verses hold up, but the chorus isn't enough of a crescendo. It doesn't growl and grind as much as it should.
      Rating: 7

    2. I am not familiar with the original of this song, and this version didn't really appeal to me. Nevertheless, the performance has merit in its strong, smooth solo and stylistic variations. The background does tend to get too loud sometimes.
      Rating: 5

    3. Suffers from very bad tuning in the introduction, and then it doesn't get that much better. I like the approach of the arrangement (especially the upper parts in the chorus, nice choice of syllables for a really neat sound), but the ensemble work just doesn't cut it. The bass line is intensely low and seems to make the group feel on unstable ground. Soloist is quite good. It's a mediocre performance of a pretty inspired arrangement.
      Rating: 5

    4. Grunge ain't my thing — this song has that Hootie threechordness and a low raspy solo stretching to find a melody. Having said that, this is decently done. The background is in tune a reasonable percentage of the time, the solo is competent and seems to like what he's doing.
      Rating: 7

    5. Really good song choice, not an obvious one to do a cappella, but it works well.
      Rating: 7

  8. Green Eggs and Ham (4.6)
    1. Hats off to them for trying an original (most of the lyrics aren't direct quotes from Seuss), but this is still unfunny and unpleasant to listen to. It starts off sounding like a Philip Glass opera and then settles into the less dissonant harmonies of every other Manhattan Transfer song. Skip it.
      Rating: 1

    2. Points here for cute song choice and originality. The jazzy feel is a nice change of pace, and who doesn't love Sam I Am? However, the high background parts are overpowering.
      Rating: 6

    3. Very cool beginning. In fact, incredibly cool. One of the neatest a cappella sounds I've ever heard. This track swings pretty well. There are still careless endings (e.g., right before the Carmina Burana send up, the women just fall apart) but most of it locks right in. This makes me think it's more of a concentration problem than lack of ability.
      Rating: 7

    4. I like the intro a good bit, and was beginning to get psyched up for some sort of funky, punk-synthesizeresque really odd interpretation of this Dr. Seuss classic. Instead I got the Manhattan transfer, minus the va-va-voom. *sigh*
      Rating: 4

    5. Some really nice elements in this one, but they just didn't fit together; it seemed like the arranger was just trying too hard. The dissonant harmonies sound cool, but everything going on seems to overwhelm the lyrics (the music seems awfully gloomy for these lyrics, too). The words are changed from the original, which I don't see the point of: can you really parody Dr. Seuss? Can you improve on Dr. Seuss? In this case, the answer seems to be no. Liked the Carmina Burana reference, though.
      Rating: 5

  9. Wanna Be Starting Something (5.6)
    1. The lead vocals and the main backing vocals are taken by the female members of the group, but they in no way make fun of Michael Jackson. No high squeaky, impersonations for them. If only they'd taken the whole track as seriously. On the lines "You're a vegetable/ They hate you" they add a mocking echo sung in a cartoon voice reminiscent of a pack of nagging mother-in-laws. Really irritating.
      Rating: 4

    2. As usual, the basses are steady. My big problem with this one is that the "yeah yeah" background parts seriously lack blend. This is very distracting, and the solo is weak in comparison.
      Rating: 4

    3. Now this (as opposed to Steam) is a groove that works. The soloist really belts it out during the first half. Things take a questionable turn during the second half (vegetable?), but the "hee haws" and the "mamma says" make up for it. Very enjoyable track.
      Rating: 8

    4. The basses could smooth out and bring the background together, but even so the women have some great opportunities to showcase that velvety blend. The solo has a good feel for the song which gets her through occasions when her voice isn't quite up to the task. For the most part she does well, and her Michael Jackson squeals are wonderful.
      Rating: 7

    5. A decent version, but the song just doesn't do much for me (sounds kind of dated). Soloist not as strong as most of the other songs on the album. Also, some of the lyrics were _really_ odd — made me wonder if this was supposed to be some sort of parody (in which case it totally went over my head), or if the words were really the same as the original (in which case it still went over my head).
      Rating: 5

  10. I Believe (6.8)
    1. The only downside to this Stevie Wonder gem comes in the verses. The lead vocalist has to make a large jump up the scale and it sounds like he's sliding up to reach the note. That aside, the leads are great, the blend is impeccable and the harmonies, particularly on the deceptively simple chorus, are the best I've heard in years. I repeat: THE HARMONIES ARE THE BEST I'VE HEARD IN YEARS. Did I mention that the harmonies are the best I've heard in years?
      Rating: 10

    2. This is a very nice ballad, and also a nice slow-down after the last several songs. The solo is smooth and gentle, but strains just a bit for the high notes. It's a pretty song with a pretty chorus - nice group choral work, but ornamentation should be left to the soloist. It just doesn't work in a background part.
      Rating: 7

    3. Ensemble problems throughout. It's a very pretty arrangement and the soloist has a nice voice, but the group never feels solidly planted in tonality. Very frustrating.
      Rating: 4

    4. The pitch on this isn't up to snuff for these guys. The solo does a surprising job of having a higher chest range than his tone would indicate, and there are some lovely moments between him and the duet, but for the most part this song doesn't go anywhere and isn't strong enough to be memorable.
      Rating: 5

    5. Lush ballad, nice thick harmonies.
      Rating: 8

  11. Respect (4.4)
    1. It isn't really fair to hold anyone up to the legacy of Aretha Franklin, but, on the other hand, it's impossible NOT to hear her voice whenever you hear this song. This imitative arrangement can't compare with the memory of the original. The group does score points for styling a semi-religious opening.
      Rating: 5

    2. Good effort on the part of the soloist, but otherwise unexciting. The harmony sounds off on the echo parts.
      Rating: 5

    3. This arrangement is much too busy for this song. The soloist gets completely swallowed up. (It probably doesn't help that it's sung entirely in head voice.) The group sings to be singing everything correctly but I feel that the arrangement is not working. It seems to feel more like a calliope than a funk grove.
      Rating: 4

    4. Blasphemy. This is just wrong. This woman has a good voice, but for her safety and everyone else's, under no circumstances should she be permitted to sing anything approaching motown.If Miss Piggy had chops — ahem, I mean singing talent — this is what it would sound like. It's a sad day when the only thing to recommend an Aretha song is the Gregorian chant intro.
      Rating: 2

    5. Aside from the funny intro, a fairly conventional arrangement. Song just isn't the same without Aretha (and the soloist doesn't really come close).
      Rating: 6

  12. Sensitive Artist (4.8)
    1. This comic monologue about a tormented, "sensitive artist" simply doesn't work. The backing music is unassertive. The lead is a good vocalist, as witnessed on track 17, but not much of a character actor. He simply has the wrong sort of voice for the role.
      Rating: 1

    2. The talking voice on this song is soothing and captivating. The song itself is a clever concept. Nicely balanced background, too.
      Rating: 7

    3. A little tongue in cheek spoken word piece. Pretty nondescript. The ensemble is filled with glitches, but it all seems pretty inconsequential. It's just there.
      Rating: 4

    4. This is wonderfully funny, from the deadpan lyrics to the overlays of other songs hidden in the background. Even the flat "I am a sensitive artist"s at the beginning and end seem to fit with the general mood of the song. Nicely done.
      Rating: 9

    5. The original version of this song is hilarious; what happened to this one? There are some clever musical quotes from other songs in the backgrounds, but since the lead is spoken (and very deadpan at that) I ended up listening to the backgrounds and ignoring the words (maybe not a bad thing, since the lead's delivery is pretty lame and unfunny).
      Rating: 3

  13. Sweet Child of Mine (7.6)
    1. You might think that coed collegiate a cappella groups would only embarrass themselves by trying to cover a Guns and Roses song. You'd be right if they tried an imitative arrangement. Instead, what happens here is an inspired reinterpretation of the song as a tender ballad (as arranged by John Bennet). In another case of gender bending, the leads are handed over to Shara Miller, who turns in such a tender performance that men everywhere won't even notice that she's addressing the song to a "she", not to them personally. They minimalize the "where do we go from here" section of the song. I think they could have elaborated on that section more than they did, but hey, who am I to look a gift horse in the mouth?
      Rating: 10

    2. Well now here is a cover of this song that is different and unexpected. It is smooth and pretty, and very easy to listen to. I was apprehensive, but I was pleasantly surprised.
      Rating: 8

    3. A straight faced rendition of the Guns and Roses original. It's not particularly interesting. I think they're trying to capitalize on some irony, but as it is, it's pretty forgettable.
      Rating: 4

    4. Jazz, swing, bounce — everything a good Guns n' Roses cover should have. The solo sounds like a lighter version of Joni Mitchell with Sarah McLachlan accents. I rather liked her, but even if she annoys you this wonderful interpretation is a real treasure for its musicality, style and verve. (The scary thing is, for once I'm not being sarcastic.)
      Rating: 8

    5. Some surprisingly complex harmonies for such a simple song (although a couple chords sound a little awkward). Group blends really well.
      Rating: 8

  14. Footloose Medley (4.6)
    1. A good idea for a medley. It's got massive nostalgic value and most of the songs are good candidates for covers anyway. "Footloose" is handled with spirit. It has particularly nice slap and clap percussion section (which unfortunately falls apart towards the end). The medley segues into a brief bit from "Let's hear it for the boy" and then onward to "Almost Paradise". This duet is a nice paring of the two leads. (It makes you wonder why they don't do any duets elsewhere on the disk. Probably cause they're cheesy. Never mind.) Pay attention to the echoes in the background vocals. This is the one section of the song that seems to get cut a bit short. Fortunately, its by a kicking "I Need a Hero." The lead exhibits the self assured, roaring female leads that make Artists in Resonance a stand out group. Too bad they tack an extra "FOOT LOOSE!" onto the end. It rounds out the medley, but it detracts from "I Need a Hero."
      Rating: 8

    2. I got the feeling that this medley is probably better live. Including Footloose, "Let's Hear it for the Boy", "Almost Paradise", and "Holding out for a Hero", the medley starts out lame but gets progressively better. The title track doesn't have the energy it should, and there are some blend problems throughout. Fear not, though. The songs get tighter as the medley goes on.
      Rating: 4

    3. The worst ensemble problems on the album so far. There must have been over a dozen true winces. The arrangement isn't particularly inspired either. ("Oh yeah...yadda yadda yadda yadda") The stomping/clapping routine at the end of the "Footloose" segment was nowhere close to being in rhythm. The transition into "Lets Hear It For the Boy" was pretty poorly conceived. The entire track is clumsy and poorly executed.
      Rating: 2

    4. Great intro, and neat music too. Once the song starts, the Footloose arrangement doesn't bop enough, and the solo is too heavy, to really be cutting loose. The middle bits with the clapping work better. "Let's Hear it for the Boy" is okay, even if the solo does whine a bit. "Almost Paradise"'s soloists are a little too flat to be ethereal, but alto has great tone down there. "I Need a Hero" has a nice sop line and those blendy women, but overall sounds a little too desperate to be effective. Ending has bad pitch problems — not a good way to leave.
      Rating: 6

    5. Sorry, but I just don't like _any_ of these songs (it doesn't help that the arrangements are the weakest on the album). Transitions are abrupt, medley goes on forever. I imagine this would get a good crowd response live, but on a recording, it just bombs.
      Rating: 3

  15. Sinking (6.0)
    1. This song falls into the rare genre of a cappella songs about alcoholism. The only problem with this track is that the diction is weak. The lead vocals seem to be on the right track, but the cautionary lyrics never seem to be able to break away from the backing vocals.
      Rating: 7

    2. The soloist on this one has a rich voice, but is very hard to understand. In addition, the background in kind of all over the place.
      Rating: 5

    3. Once again, a neat song, a clever arrangement, a capable soloist, and sloppy work in the ensemble. The rhythm, pitch, and blend are all shaky pretty much throughout the track. It isn't so bad that destroys the listening experience, but it definitely detracts.
      Rating: 5

    4. Soloist makes great use of her break. Seems to me the background is a little frantic, but I haven't heard the original so that could be the idea. Solo is excellently clear over the muddy background, and as a whole I think the song works.
      Rating: 7

    5. Starts out high-energy, but doesn't go anywhere.
      Rating: 6

  16. I Should Have Told Her (7.4)
    1. For those of you who haven't heard the original by Vinx, you're in for a treat. For the rare few of you who have heard this song before, you're also in for a treat. They've taken the original sparse, world/jazz song and given it a doo wop style arrangement. Although the arrangement is more complex than doo wop would normally imply, the label still fits, largely because the song is sung mostly by the guys and it isn't hard to imagine them bemoaning their lost loves on some typical NYC street corner. Even though this is a song about regret, the arrangement is upbeat with bright harmonies.
      Rating: 10

    2. A good song, and a good solo who has nice voice texture and sings with feeling. This track sounds like just the men are singing. The overall sound is not as full, but it works on this one.
      Rating: 8

    3. The ensemble problems have cleared up (for the most part), but that's probably because the arrangement is very simple. It didn't leave much of an impression on me at all. Pretty forgettable.
      Rating: 4

    4. The simple, catchy rhythms of Vinx are very welcome after the slew of busy, overactive arrangements. The solo isn't flashy but turns in a very solid performance. The repetition is lively and has a good tempo that doesn't wander much and keeps it together. Nice choice, nicely done.
      Rating: 8

    5. A feature for the guys in the group. Simple and catchy.
      Rating: 7

  17. Houston Hash (6.8)
    1. Upbeat silly fun. It's a Johnny cash song originally so the lead goes to a bass. He manages to avoid the pitfall of sounding like he's doing an impersonation of Johnny. His vocals have a convincing, light drawl. An impressive trick.
      Rating: 8

    2. This is a hokey, silly country song, originally done by Johnny Cash and sung here by a deep voice with an appropriate twang. It's got cute lyrics and a good beat.
      Rating: 7

    3. A cute country western tune. The soloist is right on. The ensemble does just fine. Still...pretty innocuous. Nothing to write home about.
      Rating: 5

    4. Wonderful. Old country is a much-maligned genre whose serious musical contributions should not be overlooked. Even if you don't buy that, the strong bass solo, catchy lyrics and general cheerful mood make this song a nifty listen. Sure, there are pitch problems, but they are under control for the most part, and I guess the goofy guitars are a pre-req.
      Rating: 8

    5. I can't think of a reason why there's a country song on here, other than the fact that it seems like every a cappella group in the world sticks a country song on their album about three quarters of the way through. I could do without it.
      Rating: 6

  18. Freedom '90 (5.4)
    1. The first few bars promise a killer version of this George "Please-Forgive-Me-for-Wham" Michael cut. Unfortunately, the backing vocals aren't coherent. There's a lot going on and none of it QUITE fits together. Oddly, when they blend in "I Want Your Sex" everything meshes perfectly. From there on in, they switch styles (basically to a more synchronized, choral sound) whenever they get the chance. It keeps the arrangement from getting boring, but, in the end, it feels as if they cut the whole song short.
      Rating: 6

    2. This is a popular song among college a cappella groups, and may have already reached the status of "overdone." But this particular version is not bad anyway. The two lead voices are good, but the background arrangement could really be more interesting.
      Rating: 6

    3. The arrangement starts out pretty well. A straight enough translation of the original. It takes a weird turn just in a transitional section. ("I think there's something you should know") I'm convinced that those chords are just wrong. It's certainly not the way I remember the song and it sounds very uncomfortable. The chorus feel very dead. Just as the arrangement seems to stall, it inexplicably breaks into "I Want Your Sex". Then it goes back to a pretty unconvincing "Freedom" and just leaves me wishing the arrangement worked better than it did.
      Rating: 5

    4. The song seems to drag — the arrangement and syllabification are not conducive to keeping the thing light and moving along, and often the arrangement is way too busy for it's (or anyone else's) own good. The two male solos are better than the song plays them to be, and the echo solo in particular is surprisingly soulful. The lyrics-only bridge into "I Want Your Sex" is quite successful but when both songs come in the music degenerates rapidly. Mistake number 2: letting that "Respect" woman loose at the end. That sort of, um, talent, should be placed in a box with a glass cover and a sign that says "break to scare away aliens invading the planet" or something similar. Or just encourage her to back off the notes, or maybe sing something that doesn't necessitate chest voice.
      Rating: 5

    5. Some tempo problems between the soloists, the backgrounds, and the basses (or maybe the arrangement just has some _extremely_ awkward syncopations, hard to tell). Some distortion in the recording.
      Rating: 5

  19. International Bright Young Thing (6.8)
    1. This track has a great, fresh, full harmony sound. The leads are sung by pretty much the whole group. This leads to unintelligible lyrics. I try to follow them, but I keep getting lost in the overall sound.
      Rating: 7

    2. I like this one. The arrangement is well done — it sounds difficult to sustain but is carried off well. Nice blend and nice use of voices in the group.
      Rating: 8

    3. Fun track. It's still plagued with the ensemble problems that are a signature of this album, but it sets enough of a groove that it's not as bothersome. It's a pleasant listen.
      Rating: 8

    4. The only cool thing about this song is the way the coed lyric singers blend on the unison "bright" in the hook phrase. Okay, the intro riff is kind of cool too. Otherwise, the harmonies are either too dissonant or out of tune to really justify listening. I think there are some neat ideas hiding in here, but it is not polished enough for them to really come through.
      Rating: 5

    5. A combination of multiple people singing the lead, and backgrounds that are too busy cause the melody to be overwhelmed. Disappointing — I like this song, but it could have been done a lot better.
      Rating: 6

  20. They Won't Go When I Go (7.0)
    1. Think you heard them do this track on their last album? Wrong. Last time it was a just another cover tune. This time it's a tour de force for Jennifer Saito. The arrangement brings her into sections of absolute frenzy and then suddenly drops back to complete calmness. The track achieves a rare emotional rawness. Before I heard it, I assumed it was a rather down song to end an album on. Now I know it had to close the album: you need a minute of silence to cool down after listening to this one.
      Rating: 10

    2. This is not an easy song to so, musically of emotionally. It is very intense and is full of strange chords. The solo is strong and clear, and the basses are good, but the ending is a bit much.
      Rating: 5

    3. An interesting choice for a closing track. The soloist muscles her way through this one, with little help from a shaky ensemble once again. It's a pretty song.
      Rating: 5

    4. This is a very solo-centric song, and although she has some great moments, I'm not sure it's quite strong enough to justify the length and dirge-like feel of the song. The background is very out of tune in many places, except for the sopranos who are only a little bit out of tune. Like the other Stevie Wonder track on this album, it is not recognizable as such but I don't think that's nearly as big a deal. The oversinging solo actually works and has some real power in places on this one, but overall the song can't quite pull itself up.
      Rating: 7

    5. Good soloist featured on another strong ballad. Other than the somewhat obnoxious high note on the last chord, a strong end to the album.
      Rating: 8

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