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RARB REVIEW

School: Brown University
Group: Jabberwocks
Album: Woonsocket

Total time: 45:01, 12 songs
Recorded 1996


Track Listing

  1. Don't You Forget About Me (5.8)
  2. Sexual Healing (5.4)
  3. How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore (4.4)
  4. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (4.8)
  5. She's Leaving Home (4.6)
  6. A Little Help from My Friends (5.2)
  7. Don't Dream It's Over (5.0)
  8. Me and the Boys (5.2)
  9. Superman (7.2)
  10. Vogue (5.8)
  11. Blue Skies (5.8)
  12. Farewell Song (3.8)

Reviews

Overall

Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

the jabberwocks, i'm quite sure, are loved on the stage. people probably love seeing them and love hearing them, and for good reason. they do a ton of songs that people love from the pop world of the last few decades, including a bunch of beatles tunes and some dance stuff and some marvin gaye sex stuff and some alternative stuff. people love that shit. i love that shit. but often on this album, aside from rhythm problems and pitch problems and those kinds of common mistakes, i felt that the jabberwocks were trying to translate a great show on stage to a cd, and this just doesn't work unless your SOLE FOCUS in the group is the music. or at least the primary focus. and i could be wrong, but i felt that the focus of this group was the stage performance, which probably ruled. still, there are some great tracks on this album, some fun stuff, and a couple great soloists as well. i like their basses overall, too.
Rating: 5 (5.3)

Joe Oliva

Interesting repertoire choices. These are the types songs that I could sit though for during a one hour concert without checking my watch.

Almost every lead vocalist has strong character to his voice. Quite a few background vocals are untuneful, repetitive and sloppy, however they do exhibit nice examples of dynamics.

Some tempos tend to drag and even slow down midstride. Almost every song on this album could have been done a slightly quicker tempo to liven things up a bit. Perhaps future recordings should be done with a conductor using a headset with a click track.

This is an interesting group, with eclectic tastes and good (dare I say great?) vocals, which just need a little tempo and tuning work in the background. I'm already curious to hear future recordings!
Rating: 6 (5.8)

Matt Cohen

While I don't like Woonsocket, it is a step in the right direction for the Jabberwocks. Their last album to come RARB's way struck me as rather self-important male a cappella. It was as if they thought that if they screamed it loud enough they'd impress you. This album is a much more controlled affair. Even the songs that fall flat come off as being carefully arranged, rehearsed, and recorded. The overall sound is tastefully sparse and boasts strong baselines throughout.

Having said that, most of the songs on Woonsocket are performed too slowly, too stiffly, or too unenergeticly. The notable exceptions are a surprisingly well executed "Don't Dream It's Over" and, unfortunately, a "Sexual Healing" that would be a real winner if they didn't RUIN it with a pointless masturbation reference.
Rating: 5 (5.3)

Mike Connelly

If the Jabberwocks have one outstanding feature, it must be their ability to take a wide variety of songs and make them all sound the same. Specifically, many of the songs on this album end up with a vaguely doo-wop sort of sound. Lack of variety in the arranging doesn't help much, either. Repetition runs rampant. There are an awful lot of sustained notes (heck, there are times when the group is all holding a chord, with nothing going on rhythmically — even on some of the fast tunes). Similarly, there are many spots when the whole group takes a breath at the same time, leaving a big gap in the sound, and losing the pulse. However, the group does come up with some original ideas — the songs aren't all clones of the originals.

Unfortunately, the group's performance is generally sloppy — there are plenty of pitch problems, and grooves don't all lock in (they're also very square stylistically). Soloists are average at best.
Rating: 5 (5.2)

Rebecca Christie

Man, I wish Frank Zappa were hidden in one of _my_ album covers. I tell you, the miracles of photo shop are many — where else could you have Tina Turner, Pinky and the Brain and the entirety of the Brown Jabberwocks pretending to be Beatles? And they put it on the inside too, so you have to buy the CD for the picture. Window shoppers just get a wrinkly dog and some inexplicable puppies.

Ahem, down to business. The Jabberwocks have earned a reputation for being one of the more creative groups of recent times, with a Beatles-only concept concert and a fabulously staged Madonna cover that won best song at a 1996 NCCA semi-final. Musicality has not been their noted strong point lately, however, and this is more than born up in Woonsocket, their latest album. The new album lacks the listenability of their previous effort, Liz' Slingback Boots, as well as the occasional standout solo (Black Dog, anyone) and successful interpretation. Woonsocket tries to take all three of its Beatles covers in new directions and bombs big time with all of them. There's something to be said for at least trying, granted, but a good tribute band doesn't mess around, it just delivers the goods.

Tuning is absent throughout the album, as is energy — there's not a single song that goes off and lets it all hang out. Instead it all hangs out anyway, for lack of anything to cover it up and take the heat off.
Rating: 4 (5.1)


Individual Tracks

  1. Don't You Forget About Me (5.8)
    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    pretty good solo by gregg schaufeld, i'm sure the women loved it. he does this kind of gavin of bush thing every once in a while. relatively weak percussion. arrangement is ok, rhythm problems however, bother me between the intro and the verse. it's funny, i have a unique insight into that particular section of the song, because off the beat had the EXACT same problem for some reason when we did this tune in 1992. oh well.
    Rating: 4

    Joe Oliva

    An interesting song selection. The soloist does a reasonable good job, however the solo is extremely close to the Simple Minds' version and he doesn't really seem to put much of his own style into it. Background vocals are a little sloppy and untuneful and the song's tempo lags.
    Rating: 8

    Matt Cohen

    The right arrangement. The right voices. The wrong tempo. It's refreshingly simple, but too slow. It doesn't even get close to being up to speed until the coda.
    Rating: 5

    Mike Connelly

    The opening notes almost startled me - the group is singing open fifths with a fairly classical sound. I thought for a second they were going to open up with some Gregorian chant. Intonation gets quite iffy at times. The opening soloist's Whoah-oh parts end up with him singing "a hah hey hah." I don't know, just seemed a bit peculiar (take my word for it).
    Rating: 6

    Rebecca Christie

    Ooh baby, pull out the shades and start snapping. This song actually drops tempo after the intro (which has the grace to improv slightly) and pulls out some sweet little falsettos for the second verse. Arrangement is quite sparse, in terms of parts and rhythms and generally played straight. It's a little lyric, but still not a bad way to start an album. One picky question — why is there a percussion guy listed when the song has none? The next song has an uncredited percussion intro, so maybe that's it.
    Rating: 6

  2. Sexual Healing (5.4)
    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    nice arrangement by p. welch (not in the group) with little licks all over for sex value, nice solo by gordon wright. he shows enough grit and sex to make this difficult marvin gaye solo totally believable, and adds plenty of his own style. really good. one of the best tracks on the album.
    Rating: 8

    Joe Oliva

    Lead vocal is soulfully sung, with impressive falsetto flips, however the singer should try to flow a little better and watch pitch integrity after breaths. Tempo once again tends to drag.
    Rating: 7

    Matt Cohen

    The intro, with it's sparse vocal percussion and whispered vocals, is damn near perfect. After that, the arrangement gets a little too redundant until they let the lead get soulful on a bridge. And then, dear lord, they do the unforgivable and send this song strait to WOCA (Worst Of College A Cappella): The last line of the song in their version is "Please don't procrastinate/It's not good to masturbate." Why ruin a good song like that?
    Rating: 1

    Mike Connelly

    I imagine there are a number of approaches you could take for this tune, but I wouldn't have pictured the almost angelic sound the Jabberwocks use. I don't know, it's like hearing a church choir singing Marvin Gaye.
    Rating: 6

    Rebecca Christie

    Not bad for a white guy. The background is very smooth — too much so. Again, very simple chords form the backbone of the arrangement. The solo tries hard, but can't quite break out of the tranquilizer zone and give the song the energy it needs to succeed. Every now and again he sounds like he connects to the words, but for the most part he's just singing, not emoting the way the song deserves. Song is hurt by the fact that most of the rhythm accents (doo trios, syncopation etc.) are out of tune. Percussion intro (why does the rhythm disappear once the song starts?) nicely imagined, but the "k" sounds are to guttural so instead of thinking "neat rhythm bit" you're likely to think "I hope that microphone had a phlegm guard".
    Rating: 5

  3. How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore (4.4)
    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    this soloist, mark manning, is the real thing. the whole thang is in falsetto, and his licks and and melismas are great. doesn't back off. this arrangement backs him up competently, doesn't add a lot, but when you listen to mark rock you, you don't really give a shit.
    Rating: 7

    Joe Oliva

    A nice melodic bass vocal that comfortably hits a low C# opens this cut. The lead singer tends to underenunciate his very soulful and difficult vocals.
    Rating: 5

    Matt Cohen

    This is Prince? Whatever. Slow doo wop with a nice deep voice on lead. Unfortunately, much of the song is sung in a scruffy falsetto. I like the "Breaking up is hard to doo wop, sha ba . . ." in the backing vocals.
    Rating: 4

    Mike Connelly

    This has to be one of the most annoying soloists I've heard in a long time. He uses a ton of really fast vibrato, has an abrasive not-quite-falsetto sound, and is constantly doing hideous scoops up to high notes. Some spoken "ad lib" lines are especially painful. The chord progression is incredibly repetitive, and little is done in the arrangement to break up the monotony — there are occasionally ninth chords thrown in (and a dominant seventh chord at the very end), but they don't really match the style of the piece.
    Rating: 3

    Rebecca Christie

    Pitch problems and heavy background falsetto plague a simple snappy arrangement that could have been amusing. The arrangement is very simple, and the solo a falsetto gimmick — to succeed it needed to lighten everything by half, except for the solo who could probably stand to scream some and give some edge to his falsetto. The spoken word gags fail because the deliverers know they're in the studio and can't get close to the needed zing. But in the end its tuning that sinks this one — since there's only the one riff, the many unintentional variations on it stand out.
    Rating: 3

  4. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (4.8)
    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    really bad rhythm problems throughout. something strange: there's a really cool hiphop drum groove over the verses, but it sounds totally forced over the background, and the transition between this and the total lack of percussion in the choruses is kinda jolting. overly ambitious: lotsa interesting ideas which don't seem to mesh too well.
    Rating: 5

    Joe Oliva

    Interesting choral introduction, like nothing I've ever heard before. Rhythm problems between the vocal percussion and the background vocals. Lead vocalist has some pitch problems but does sings a fairly melodic solo.
    Rating: 4

    Matt Cohen

    This is the first of three songs from Sgt. Peppers (apparently they had a concert where they sang the whole album). Trippy, aquatic sound effects on the opening, but when they resurface later in the song, it's distracting. The choice to accompany the verses with a deep, techno-esque drum beat is strange but it keeps you listening for more.
    Rating: 6

    Mike Connelly

    This one starts out with a lot of promise — great idea of taking the tune and changing it to a rhythmic 4/4 groove. But unfortunately there are some jarring tempo changes that break up the flow of the tune. Also, the bass line and vocal percussion don't lock in rhythmically.
    Rating: 6

    Rebecca Christie

    Well, at least it ain't William Shatner. The verses come across as more Tony Rich project than psychedelic - I always got a very waltzy feel from them in the original, and these are in a slowed-down 4-4. The choruses are a little too fast and happy, with a nunna-nunna undercurrent underneath that pushes them on. Pitch problems are manifest too. It may seem a little silly to get into a thorough discussion of the musical intricacies of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", but heck, it is a song, and this version doesn't have enough personality to escape scrutiny.
    Rating: 3

  5. She's Leaving Home (4.6)
    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    don't love the solo. this arrangement is nice (by peter ermey, music director) but fails a little in the performance, which sounds kinda dirgey and has many rhythm problems. i REALLY strongly disagree with the choice to do a trumpet solo and jazz scat in the middle of this BEAUTIFUL beatles song. that ruined it for me.
    Rating: 4

    Joe Oliva

    Lead vocalist tends to overenunciate his consonants and is a little on the pedantic. Background is quite boring and repetitive. The saving grace for this tune was a little "vocal saxophone" bridge followed by a duet scat.
    Rating: 4

    Matt Cohen

    A grabbing and underplayed Beatles' song that works great a cappella. Pretty much what you'd expect until they throw in a jazz section with "trumpet" and scat. Works like a charm. Rather theatrically, they try to suggest that the parents are singing the chorus by splitting it into a duet for bass and falsetto. A good idea, but not as tight as the rest of the vocals. Overall a great track.
    Rating: 8

    Mike Connelly

    I liked the feel on this one — a relaxed jazz waltz. It would have worked better if the backgrounds weren't rushing so incredibly much. A fake trumpet solo is bad, followed by a scat solo that's worse.
    Rating: 5

    Rebecca Christie

    Jazz chords audibly snap in to tune as the solo sings "day begins", which is really, really noticeable because the preceding chords are so off. The rest of the verse doesn't stray so much, but the 'Wocks just don't have the talent, focus and clarity required to pull off an arrangement based on extended jazzy chords. There are some neat ideas in the intro and periodically, but overall the thing wavers between being a dead cover of one of the prettier Beatles songs and a murky, out-of-tune jazz ballad. Example: the first bridge (the "we gave her most of her lives" part) seems to be well-arranged, with nice accents, then goes into some chords that sound like they would be wrong even if they were in tune. On the second rep, the first of those chords sounds better, but the second is still off.
    Rating: 2

  6. A Little Help from My Friends (5.2)
    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    fun, nice little cover of a fun beatles tune. i like the arrangement, too, by tom jackoboice, i feel like it really does capture the essence of the groove of this song. bouncy, great bass line movement. some problems going into the high harmonies, but otherwise a good track.
    Rating: 6

    Joe Oliva

    Another good tune that could have been taken just a few beats per minute faster. Some real tuning problems with the harmony line, no Lennon and McCartney here.
    Rating: 5

    Matt Cohen

    This ought to be a great a cappella anthem, but it just doesn't hold together here.
    Rating: 5

    Mike Connelly

    Personally, I think the Beatles are the best band in the history of the world, but covering three of their tunes in a row? The intro is kind of nice...actually the whole thing is fairly nice...which is fine, if you happen to like nice. The swing feel is squared off in spots (I caught the basses singing some straight eighths).
    Rating: 6

    Rebecca Christie

    No, I probably wouldn't. Stand up and walk out on these guys if they sang out of tune, but only because I have a long history of surrounding myself with a cappella of questionable quality. ("What would you think if I sang out of tune, would you stand up and walk out on me," for the three of you who have escaped the Beatles in your musical career.) This Beatles cover actually moves and picks up some happy-go-lucky sentiments a bit, and one of the falsetto harmony lines sounds good. This is good because the rest of the song is as musically iffy as its preceding Beatles colleagues. Most of it is just tuning, monovolume delivery etc, but there's also this drum solo from nowhere in the first verse, the only percussion anywhere in the song and generally mystifying. It'd actually be a great gag if they were performing this and some guy walks to one side and starts going off in a rest, but even if that were the case it wouldn't translate to the studio.
    Rating: 4

  7. Don't Dream It's Over (5.0)
    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    crowded house. decent. you need a really good soloist to pull this song off... we often discussed doing this song in my ex-group, and in fact it was probably even voted in one year, then overruled by yours truly. this performance by the jabberwocks confirms what i had supposed about the sheer boredom factor of this song. somehow everyone loves this song for the first minute, but what they don't realize is that it never ever changes after that. boredom factor high. i do like the exit from the bridge into the next verse...
    Rating: 4

    Joe Oliva

    Interesting arrangement, especially the bridge. The lead vocalist has a nice voice, but lacks flow and at times tries to vary his version from the original and sings notes which don't quite fit the chords.
    Rating: 4

    Matt Cohen

    There's a strange tempo change that throws a cog in the wheel in an arrangement that otherwise moves along gracefully. Please note: Despite what you might imagine, the lead singer actually has some testosterone in him! NO wussy tenors or shrill falsettos to worry about!
    Rating: 8

    Mike Connelly

    The soloist is generally on the flat side, and overenunciates some of the lyrics. Otherwise fairly bland and predictable.
    Rating: 4

    Rebecca Christie

    This one rushes, but I think that helps it by making the thing keep pace. Soloist Gordon Wright does a pretty good job, taking a whiny 80s solo and keeping it in check for most of the song, which goes on quite a while. The arrangement has some movement yet doesn't get complex enough to throw them too far off. And it gets you out of Beatles hell.
    Rating: 5

  8. Me and the Boys (5.2)
    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    more rhythm problems here in the backgrounds, they seem to speed up at unusual spots. this is another tune that could've benefited from some amazing soloists. i was..... bored?
    Rating: 4

    Joe Oliva

    Almost identical background arrangement to The Nylons less the percussion. The lead vocals are split four ways on this track. The first soloist should try sticking to the original melody, the second needs to keep in time with the background, the third is very well sung, the fourth is well sung as well and the vocalist even tries some different rhythms which work quite nicely.
    Rating: 7

    Matt Cohen

    Better than the last version they did of this Nylons autobiographical ditty. I respect that they sing this very carefully and crisply, but it comes off as being too slow and a bit boring. I think I've just never liked the song — It's no "Looking for an Echo."
    Rating: 6

    Mike Connelly

    Your typical a cappella tune about...you guessed it, singing a cappella tunes with the guys. Far too long and repetitive, and ironically, the group shows absolutely no sign that they are having any fun.
    Rating: 4

    Rebecca Christie

    This one opens like a breath of fresh air, having on the whole clean, un-bogged down sound in its simplicity after the preceding leanings toward cacophony. Second soloist has lovely tone. Nice way to break up the set — nothing remarkable, but generally listenable in that way of generic guys music, even when rough.
    Rating: 5

  9. Superman (7.2)
    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    cool! i liked this one. the solos here are appropriate sounding for early r.e.m., and the arrangement by jackoboice & s. saini (not in the group) is very nice. a good performance with some good dynamics make this a good track for me.
    Rating: 7

    Joe Oliva

    An interesting arrangement which kept me wondering what was going to happen next! The best background and bass vocals on the album in terms of rhythm and pitch integrity. The soloist were mixed a little too quietly. The soloists start out a little weak (overannunciating) but pick up after the first verse and close the song in fine fashion. My favorite track on the album hands down!
    Rating: 9

    Matt Cohen

    CLOSE harmony, just like you'd hope for in this R.E.M. cover. It's a new sound for the group that up until now has specialized in laying down a clean and solid bass. Unfortunately, they don't really have any momentum to carry them through the song. Also, the "Hey! Hey!" that comes in at the end is too clip.
    Rating: 7

    Mike Connelly

    I found the cornball intro kind of amusing. The solo and harmonization (I guess you call that a duet) are pretty solid, but once again the arrangement is bogged down by too much repetition.
    Rating: 6

    Rebecca Christie

    Comparative groove is in the house with this one, an REM cover which comes off as a real uptempo rock song after the slow stuff we've had so far. Could still use a little more zing — it's a bit earnest — but it's clear that they like to sing this one. And no wonder.
    Rating: 7

  10. Vogue (5.8)
    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    i'm POSITIVE the group did funny dance moves or something to make this song work live, and i can imagine a bunch of college dudes dancing across the stage doing this tune would be a fucking riot. the choruses to this song benefit from some pretty sweet vocal percussion & a kickin' bass line, but every other part is just not that good. they sound like a bunch of white dudes doing dance music, it doesn't have the integrity of real dance music, which is obviously because it was a comic thing on stage. BUT THAT DOESN'T TRANSLATE too well to an album. then they go into groove is in the heart and it's a college dance party thing, but again, you probably had to see this live.
    Rating: 5

    Joe Oliva

    A difficult song for any group, a cappella or otherwise to attempt successfully. This recording is reasonable well done, and contains some really authentic sounding vocal percussion (toms) on this track, but this still isn't something I would want to listen to more than once. Some really neat vocal percussion on this track.
    Rating: 6

    Matt Cohen

    The "Strike a Pose" lines in the intro sound like they're being read off of a cue card by someone's mom. The lead really kicks in on the choruses, but the group has trouble staying in time with the complex dance rhythms of the song.
    Rating: 4

    Mike Connelly

    I expected the worst from this one, and I was actually fairly pleasantly surprised. Some nice harmonies, and the groove locks in better than most of the other songs on the album. I couldn't really tell if the group was trying to be campy or not (and the idea that they'd take this song seriously scared me a bit). The spoken parts annoyed me, although I'd probably say the same for the original. The Dee-Lite segment at the end would have worked better if I wasn't so ready for the tune to be over (this one clocks in at almost six minutes — an eternity for a cappella. Or Madonna).
    Rating: 5

    Rebecca Christie

    You'd be crazy to buy this album if you hadn't seen the group live for a lot of reasons, but this song is the key reason. It's got a decent bassline and spoken accents, and, you know, I could care less how many keys the oohs are in because I saw them do this and it was incredible. The whole damn group was voguing, really really well, and playing it like straight guys who are really cool instead of a bunch of wannabe flaming college kids. So when the drums kick in on the chorus and the song picks up I find myself moving in pleasant reverie. Rock on, guys. You get the great score for my memory.
    Rating: 9

  11. Blue Skies (5.8)
    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    irving berlin was one of the greatest jewish songwriters of all time. did you know he wrote white christmas? his biggest hit. anyway, this is completely different from the rest of the album, performed competently. i'm not sure WHY, since this album is a collection of pop songs from throughout the last few decades, they chose to do this, but it's ok.
    Rating: 5

    Joe Oliva

    Sounds like a live recording, but might not be. Well sung and recorded. I don't think this Irving Berlin tune quite fits in with the other repertoire on the album.
    Rating: 7

    Matt Cohen

    I love this song and was expecting a simple, jazzy rendition from this group (given their taste for scat and the less-is-more approach of this album). Unfortunately, they just decided to do their best impersonation of your dad's glee club.
    Rating: 4

    Mike Connelly

    On this almost barbershop-style arrangement, the top tenors have a very King's Singers kind of classical falsetto sound. It's cheese, but intentionally so — kind of funny that the group seems more comfortable on something like this than the contemporary pop stuff that makes up most of the album. Nice ninth chord at the end.
    Rating: 7

    Rebecca Christie

    Oh yeah, Brown's in the Ivy League. If you've been distracted by the school's differences from its stodgier neighbors, the 'Wocks have included a song to remind you. It's short, it's snappy, it's in generic-male-tune (rough but listenable) and it could have come from any of the second-tier Princeton groups. Nice job for a group breaking ranks with its repertoire.
    Rating: 6

  12. Farewell Song (3.8)
    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    another group does their school thing on the album, fine.
    Rating: 5

    Joe Oliva

    A live recording of a "Brown University traditional" piece. Nice choral background achieves excellent dynamics, but falls grossly out of tune.
    Rating: 3

    Matt Cohen

    It's another damn school song.
    Rating: 1

    Mike Connelly

    A collegiate alma mater-type tune — if you went to college, you probably heard a pile of this kind of stuff (they even repeat the tune with "oohs" the second time around). The arrangement sounds like it's been passed on for years. I'd imagine it's much more interesting if you went to "dear old Brown."
    Rating: 4

    Rebecca Christie

    In the same vein, a lovely little number a la an alma mater.
    Rating: 6

  13. Secret Hidden Bonus Track
    Matt Cohen

    The Jabberwocks had no particularly compelling reason to do a hidden bonus track, so they didn't do one! There's no sophomoric humor! No 20 minutes of silence after the last track followed by a lame inside joke. The album simply stops after the last song! A brilliant concept! Just another example of the good taste that went into this album (with the exception of the school song and the stray masturbation joke).
    Rating: 10

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