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RARB REVIEW

School: Brown University
Group: The Bear Necessities
Album: TBNJ: The Bear Necessities Jam

Total time: 69:39, 18 songs
Recorded 5/96 except Track 8 & 16 10/95

Ordering Information


Track Listing

  1. Crazy (7.2)
  2. Invisible Touch (7.0)
  3. Gone (6.0)
  4. Ice Cream (5.4)
  5. Hard to Handle (Live) (3.0)
  6. Sunday Bloody Sunday (5.8)
  7. Broken Wings (5.8)
  8. Little Red Corvette (Live) (3.4)
  9. Life in a Northern Town (5.6)
  10. Africa (6.2)
  11. The Freeway Freddie Bayou Percussion Jam (Live) (4.2)
  12. Take Me Home (5.8)
  13. Faithfully (5.4)
  14. Boys of Summer (5.4)
  15. Flashdance (4.4)
  16. Streets of Philadelphia (Live) (5.8)
  17. Bonus track (5.0)
  18. Invisible Touch (Bear-a-oke) (8.0)

Reviews

Overall

Brookes McKenzie

The weird thing about the Bear Necessities is that they seem to be composed mostly of jocks at the one school that I thought was immune to such a thing. However, that's neither here nor there. The other thing about them is they're suffering from a severe tenor shortage. The only person they have who even approximates one is the boy they borrowed from the Jabberwocks. But they're still doing a lot of things right, and not just basic things either, but some of the more difficult ones. Their timing and pitch, for example, are on most of the time — only when the soloist is horribly off-key do they (understandably) get pulled off as well. But most of their backgrounds are solid, workmanlike jobs that would be the envy of many a group — they don't seem to have any people that can't pull their weight, which is impressive in a group of their size. They also manage to keep their energy up admirably in the studio. In fact I'm almost amazed that they can make their backgrounds sound as good as they do with no tenors and no real basses to speak of. I'm sure the effects that they like to dollop so liberally over the recording help in that area. But they should get the credit for giving the effects something to work with, which is more than can be said for many groups. And furthermore, paradoxically enough, the best track on the album is live ("Streets of Philadelphia"). Now if they only had some tenors and a soloist or two, they'd be a group to reckon with instead of just interesting potential.
Rating: 6 (4.6)

Joe Oliva

Simply a great album overall. Although this is only my sixth album review since joining RARB, the studio recordings have by far the best production and engineering that I have ever heard on a collegiate album. I find that most collegiate albums have equalization problems in the lower frequencies (especially in the bass vocals) and it's sibilant-city in the high frequencies. There weren't any of these problems on this album that couldn't be found on a professional album as well.

A lot of collegiate groups try to throw a little of everything into an album (a little jazz, a little R&B, a little barbershop) which stifles the flow of the album. There is obviously an older rock influence to the group and that's pretty much what they stuck to in their recordings. Nice to see.

Unfortunately, they could have axed the three live recordings (NOT the vocal percussion demonstration) and the album would have scored a higher score. I know groups like to show people that they can sing in the studio as well as live, but an album is not the place to do that if the sound quality is going to be inferior in the lives cuts. Show them that you can sing live, during a LIVE show!
Rating: 7 (7.2)

Matt Cohen

This album restores my faith in male collegiate a cappella. Why? Because so many other men's groups project the image that they think they're this hottest, sexiest, rocking-est thing alive. If they can sing loudly with halfway decent percussion, they think they've reinvented the wheel. If they can slap together an arrangement of the latest radio hit, they consider that an achievement. What makes this group different is that they have a better attitude. Their collective tongues are planted firmly in their collective cheeks. They are clearly having a fun time performing the material, which has the result that you'll have a fun time listening to it.

Oh sure, it's not perfect. There's some live tracks with unforgivably poor recording quality. I still don't know why they were included. A well rendered "Broken Wings" and two great versions of "Invisible Touch" help make up for the sad live cuts.
Rating: 7 (5.7)

Mike Connelly

The Bear Necessities sound pretty decent overall, but their big weaknesses are their soloists and their tendency to let their energy get the better of them.

I got the impression that many of the singers don't have any formal training, or even much previous experience singing — not always a bad thing, but in this case, there are some amateurish sounds coming out of the group. There's a fair amount of struggling from the soloists — at least two or three of the songs should probably been lowered a step or two. There's also lots of belting (OK, yelling) - the group gets sloppy and out of control at times. Also, the falsetto singing generally needs work. Arrangements get a bit formulaic - there are some original ideas, but they're repeated in too many songs.

The group shows promise, but just needs to work on the basics like intonation, and blend, and learn to keep their energy under control.
Rating: 5 (4.7)

Rebecca Christie

Pervasive pitch problems prevent this album from reaching the casual listener. This is a clearly amateur group and recording, and these guys will take a little time to get on their feet and improve musicality.

That being said, if this is the state of amateur a cappella, the art form has a lot to look forward to. "The Bear Necessities Jam" is full of innovative arrangements, improvisation and other departures from the status quo. And energy! When was the last time you heard a studio album that moved?

These guys are not the Tufts Beelzebubs and they know it, but they sing their hearts out and are not afraid to explore new territory. Any listener of this album should remember that, and appreciate these songs for what they are and what they represent, rather than judging them on pure musicality. I can't speak for everyone, but I know I enjoyed this album for its originality and playful spirit. And I far prefer it to another mediocre collection of standards. Everybody's got to learn sometime, and for the outside observer its much more fun to listen to a group grow up on this kind of music than "Who Wrote the Book of Love".

The Bear Necessities are an up-and-coming group just beginning to find their feet. If they can keep up the spirit and creativity packed onto this disc, they've got a lot to look forward to.
Rating: 5 (5.2)


Individual Tracks

  1. Crazy (7.2)
    Brookes McKenzie

    For a group with "way too many members" (as they put it), they shouldn't be sounding so empty. The arrangement is more-or-less standard for this song, and (to their credit) they perform it less amateurishly than many groups I've heard. The massive effects on the soloist fail to hide his flaws, both tonally and pitch-wise. The percussion is mildly good although perhaps a little overeager. The bridge is completely, wildly off, but then they recover. One (bad) syllable riff is too heavily relied on in the arrangement.
    Rating: 6

    Joe Oliva

    A good uptempo album opener. Great consistent vocal percussion quality, especially in the piccolo snare sound. The lead vocal is mixed a little low, but suits the style. Other than that, amazing mix. Great stereo effects, usually absent in collegiate recordings. The lead vocalist does a nice job. His rhythm is good and his tuning is even better.
    Rating: 9

    Matt Cohen

    I love Seal and I certainly understand why college groups are drawn to him, but we all know the results of any covers never live up to the original. I've pretty much given up all hopes of hearing a great Seal cover. Still, this one isn't that bad. I like the bass, I like the vocalist who shadows the lead on some of the choruses, I like the background "Crazy"s on the ending. I really DON'T like the high "oooooh wooooo" siren that opens the cut.
    Rating: 7

    Mike Connelly

    The tempo is a bit faster than the original, which gives the tune some extra energy. Some nice building sections.
    Rating: 7

    Rebecca Christie

    You get the feeling nobody ever told these guys how the college-guy-a cappella thing is done. Left to their own devices, they kinda had to reinvent the wheel on this one, and the result is a very engaging Seal cover that holds the attention, even if you've heard umpteen college groups and a few pro groups do this song ad nauseum. They start out by arranging the beginning part that usually gets cut in the transition to a cappella, and then move into a percussion driven, wave-of-sound style background. It's got some hitches in it and a couple of questionable sections (right after the breakdown comes to mind) but for the most part survives on rhythm. The percussion is very basic, very loud and keeps a good beat; the solo plays it straight and does fine, and overall pitch is a cut above most of what's to come. Kudos also for the best arrangement and execution of the percussion bridge in any cover of this I've heard.
    Rating: 7

  2. Invisible Touch (7.0)
    Brookes McKenzie

    This wouldn't be half bad if it weren't for the soloist and harmony, who oversing to the point that they lose any semblance of being in tune, let alone sounding at all attractive. It's too bad, because when the solo relaxes you can hear that his voice is decent — it has a nice raspy edge to it. Again, the arrangement and background are tolerable to good (although again suffering from _way_ too many effects) — just get the soloist some voice lessons or something.
    Rating: 5

    Joe Oliva

    Cool stereo vocal percussion effects to open this tune. Not as hot a cut as the album opener. The lead vocalist is good, but tends to sing ever-so-slightly on the flat side of the notes. Hardly noticeable until the tenor echo comes in. I'm still very impressed with the consistent sound quality in the vocal percussion.
    Rating: 8

    Matt Cohen

    I hate Genesis in general, particularly the cheesy 80s stuff, but damn it, this song is in good hands here! A rocking arrangement. They throw every ounce of energy at the song, but it doesn't come off as typical "loud = good" male a cappella — they're clearly having too much fun to come off as obnoxious. The only problem here is a simplified breakdown section where all of the lyrics, naked as they are, sound too clipped.
    Rating: 9

    Mike Connelly

    Another song performed a little on the fast side - lots of energy, very driving. There's a cool antiphonal section where the rhythm drops out and the melody is echoed back and forth.
    Rating: 7

    Rebecca Christie

    I like the way they put one bass on the bassline by himself. He can sing it and it gives an interesting texture to the mix, rather than having a whole section in which half can't hit the notes. This track has the basic structure of any collegiate a cappella 80's cover, riddled with pitch problems but enthusiastic. The arrangement takes chances — some, like the great way the rhythm crashes back in after the breakdown, do quite well. Others, like "ndada zhoon-tao, zhoon-tao" are a little more questionable. (That's essentially joon-tow, for those who deal better with phonetic approximations.)
    Rating: 6

  3. Gone (6.0)
    Brookes McKenzie

    Though I was shocked by their nerve at daring to cover the House Jacks in the first place, and skeptical of their attempting to credit one of their own with the arrangement, I must say that they proved me wrong — they actually altered the original, and not entirely for the worse. They bring out some of the nicer chords and keep the percussion, etc. of the original. They could have sung it quite a bit more sensitively though, and at one point the bass is horribly out of tune, but otherwise it's a nice effort. The solo is not up to snuff, of course, being almost there but not quite.
    Rating: 6

    Joe Oliva

    Pretty good tuning at the beginning of the song. Nice sound production. The vocal percussion production pales in comparison to the first two cuts on the album. The first soloist needs to work on his pitch integrity on some of the longer notes. The second soloist comes in right out-of-tune, but gets on-key after only about a bar or so. The background are reasonably tuneful and well mixed.
    Rating: 6

    Matt Cohen

    Why oh why cover a song that's already a cappella? And the House Jacks, nonetheless. That takes balls. Well, they aren't at that level of singing, but they don't embarrass themselves either. The only thing they have to add to this track is that they have a lot more voices to throw at it, which allows them to have some bigger harmonies on the choruses, particularly at the end. If you haven't heard the original, you'll enjoy the cover (except for an ill advised and indulgent improv from the lead). But for pete sakes, go get yourself a copy of "Naked Noise" while you still can!
    Rating: 7

    Mike Connelly

    The opening choral section isn't quite in tune (same with ending) — also, the group is yelling a bit. There's a bit of peculiar sounding falsetto from the soloist on the intro — almost like a weird muted trumpet sound. Some of the percussion is a bit labored. The chord changes on this one reminded of me of "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday." (I don't know if that's good or bad, they just did.)
    Rating: 7

    Rebecca Christie

    We knew it was coming. The House Jacks' future hit single "Gone" has long been a favorite of pro groups looking for easily transcribable material who think they're too cool to sing Boyz II Men and the Do It A Cappella soundtrack. Now it's invaded the college circuit, and at least the Bear Necessities can say they were first. Initial solo does well, second two are on the wimpy side; Chaikin imitator is quite credible, as befits his alma mater. As for the background, those extended, high chords are a bitch to tune, but it probably was a good crowd-pleaser.
    Rating: 4

  4. Ice Cream (5.4)
    Brookes McKenzie

    The opening percussion is good, but then the whole background comes in at once underwater and out of tune. They recover for the most part, but the bass is intermittently on and off throughout the song. This track would also be ever so much nicer if we could hear the solo at all. I can't tell if he's trying to cover up his own vocal flaws or the cheesy lyrics that Sarah McLachlan is known for. The chorus is nice though, and the mood of this song is a nice departure for them. Ends awfully abruptly.
    Rating: 7

    Joe Oliva

    The song is built around a series of percussive sounds. Interesting. Unfortunately, these sounds are mixed a little loud and drown out the lead vocal in the verses. Aside from that, a neat arrangement.
    Rating: 6

    Matt Cohen

    Where the hell is the lead? He's lost somewhere in the mix. I know he's singing because I can hear him on the choruses when he has some people to harmonize with. But where is he the rest of the time? This strikes me as a song that could do without the vocal percussion.
    Rating: 4

    Mike Connelly

    Some very corny and mechanical vocal percussion start this one off. The soloist gets lost a bit in the mix, and a falsetto doubling of the melody doesn't blend well at all. The song doesn't really build up to anything in particular — it just repeats for a while and then ends abruptly.
    Rating: 6

    Rebecca Christie

    This is a bitchin' song, I can see why they attempted it. Unfortunately, it's tough to cover, and tougher for a group that has a very weak falsetto presence to begin with. On the up side, the "n-na, n-na" cascades that go over the chords are a nice touch, and the final two measures of scat and rhythm work very nicely.
    Rating: 4

  5. Hard to Handle (Live) (3.0)
    Brookes McKenzie

    It's a good thing that they told us that this was a live track — we never would have guessed. The godawful sound and (from the sound of it) about three female audience members shrieking wouldn't have given it away or anything. What we can hear of the background is not pleasant, nor is the main soloist who growls unconvincingly throughout the song. The second soloist is decent and does some good things, but the guitar solo is entirely egregious and they should have known better.
    Rating: 3

    Joe Oliva

    This cut is one of four live tunes on the album. Unfortunately, the sound is not even close to the studio work on this album. Very unfortunate. Recording live is a totally different situation than recording in the studio. This particular songs sounds like I'm at a Bear Necessities concert and listening from the men's washroom. Muffled, echo, low-end noises (someone kicking a mic stand?). The tuning suffers in this song as well more in the background vocals than in the lead though.
    Rating: 4

    Matt Cohen

    This might be good if it weren't a low quality live recording.
    Rating: 3

    Mike Connelly

    The recording quality is just horrible — it sounds like the group is way on the other side of a gymnasium singing without any mics. The arrangement is way too poppy sounding for my tastes - sounds like the group reused the background parts from You Can Call Me Al or something. I had a tough time figuring out what the soloists were trying to do — they're mostly just yelling (moaning?...caterwauling?...) and they can't seem to decide what style they're trying to do. And the scat solo is just dismal.
    Rating: 2

    Rebecca Christie

    Nice percussion intro — I wish it had kept up through the beginning and maintained a larger presence in the rest of the song, though I fault poor marking for some of that. This is of the "one mike 10 feet in front of the arch" variety of concert recording, and it doesn't really help their cause. The song is on the whole very shouty and not a great repeat listen for those of us who weren't there. I question its inclusion, particularly since this song is so much lower-quality than the rest of the album.
    Rating: 3

  6. Sunday Bloody Sunday (5.8)
    Brookes McKenzie

    The beginning starts out quite well, if a little bit strange for this song, with some pulsing robotic percussion, until the solo comes in. His actual voice isn't at all horrendous, being one of those watery Euro-sounding baritones appropriate for a New Order understudy, but he sounds like he's he's trying to fill a giant hall rather than singing into a studio mike. And then, to add insult to injury, the background promptly becomes monotonous and generically-syllabled ("bow") for the entire rest of the song.
    Rating: 5

    Joe Oliva

    The album needed a strong tune to follow Track 5, and this was just the song. Really powerful vocal percussion opens the song along with cool arpeggio-like background vocals. The lead is pretty strong on this cut. There are some intonation problems in the background, but hardly noticeable.
    Rating: 7

    Matt Cohen

    Again, a quality, high energy performance (although the percussion is starting to hurt my ears). I'm not sure what possessed them to cover this song, but they pull it off. I like the duet sections.
    Rating: 6

    Mike Connelly

    I just didn't like the opening intro — it's too polite for a rock (or even pop) song. Backgrounds are very static (the tune is repetitive and generally too long). Basses sound muddy in spots. There's an odd countoff from the soloist in the middle of the song (what's he counting off, and why "one, two, one?").
    Rating: 5

    Rebecca Christie

    Great intro here — the percussion sounds very polished and the sequential voicings at the beginning and end are excellently timed and tuned. Choruses come together well. Verses are weaker, and as a whole the arrangement seems a bit empty. Solo is really pretty decent — he's at his best when he lets it out and lets his voice get some rasp and some color, but I can support his decision to keep a lid on it at times in favor of more pitch control. Coming back in from the live track production seems first rate.
    Rating: 6

  7. Broken Wings (5.8)
    Brookes McKenzie

    The question this song raised in my mind, namely, "Have the Bear Necessities found a genuine tenor amid their massive ranks?" is unfortunately proven false. Why do they choose songs that go this agonizingly high when they have to yelp them out? Although the solo's actually not bad on the verses, it's hard to enjoy them when one is dreading the chorus. The background is also not as atmospheric as they'd like it to be, but that's more the fault of the musical director than the arranger.
    Rating: 4

    Joe Oliva

    Really nice arrangement. The lead vocalist needs intonation work especially on his pitch integrity. The background vocals are great and well mixed. Bass and vocal percussion is excellent as well.
    Rating: 7

    Matt Cohen

    The moody intro takes too long to get started, but once it gets rolling, there's a great solo, cool percussion (mostly brushes and cymbals), and a bass section that really holds the whole thing together. As the track fades out, the soloist comes back at full volume. Very surprising. Very effective.
    Rating: 8

    Mike Connelly

    Other than an interesting ending, this one just didn't do much for me. I guess it's adequately arranged and performed, but it was too predictable to get me excited.
    Rating: 5

    Rebecca Christie

    Rhythm overlays in the intro set the stage for the arrangement - complex, but not too busy. The held chords again are very tough to get in tune and don't quite make it. Solo does a nice job — he has good tone, and if he has a tendency to drift out of key at times, he keeps straining to an absolute minimum, and this is a higher-than-heck solo line. He's backed by a nice descending echo in the chorus. Here they do a good job of muting percussion to fit the song, something Ice Cream didn't quite manage.
    Rating: 5

  8. Little Red Corvette (Live) (3.4)
    Brookes McKenzie

    Solo talks his way through the song, and the background is unexpectedly empty. He also gets faster and faster as the song progresses. Clapping to disguise the solo's inability to do the high part of the chorus, while cute in the abstract, doesn't work. Overall not worth the space on the album.
    Rating: 2

    Joe Oliva

    Like the first live cut on this album, sounds quality poor, but this one doesn't seem as bad as Track 5. According to the liner notes this was recorded at a different hall than Hard To Handle. Perhaps the acoustics aren't as bad in this setting. There is more presence to the background vocals. The lead is adequate considering the circumstances. The arrangement is pretty boring and repetitive.
    Rating: 5

    Matt Cohen

    Another faint live recording. The loudest thing on this track is the screaming crown and the periodic clapping (from the group).
    Rating: 2

    Mike Connelly

    Although recording quality is a bit better than track 5, it's still not quite up to par. Handclaps overwhelm the voices, and balance is all over the place. Also, there are what sounds like two or three young women in the audience who keep screaming for no particular reason. The soloist...I guess this is kind of a cop-out, but the only way I can describe him is to say that he sounds "nerdy." I guess he just doesn't sell the lyrics like Prince does.
    Rating: 3

    Rebecca Christie

    This time the live recording helps them on the pitch side, muting rather than emphasizing any pitch problems. This sounds like it was a blast, from the dead-on "whoo-hoos" to the solo to the overall charisma. The occasional well-timed audience screaming is fun too.
    Rating: 5

  9. Life in a Northern Town (5.6)
    Brookes McKenzie

    Finally, a soloist who's not oversinging! He starts out nice and soft, and he actually has a pretty voice, very smooth and resonant, but he gets warbly when he tries to push it. But then I always like the soloist on this song - it seems to bring out an attractive sound on almost anyone. The background is decent but confused at times, particularly the chorus, where someone comes in very loudly for no apparent reason, unless it's to cover the soloist's part.
    Rating: 6

    Joe Oliva

    A really soothing and smooth lead vocal, which is mixed low, but it suits the song. Other than that. A great cut. Well sung by both lead and background vocalists. Great vocal percussion and well produced and engineered.
    Rating: 7

    Matt Cohen

    Say what you will — the Dream Academy wrote a great little song. A lot of groups have tried this one and it really ought to work like a charm, but I've yet to be blown away. This version doesn't do it for me either. The background harmonies that make this song a natural cover are stuck a little too far in the background. The arrangement does have some inventive turns to it, but the performance is a little clumsy on the first half of the song. The solo is all right, though.
    Rating: 6

    Mike Connelly

    Very slow and lifeless. The falsetto parts in the backgrounds are much too classical sounding, and an ascending countermelody sticks way out — it's too loud, and the part itself is strange. Weak ending, too.
    Rating: 5

    Rebecca Christie

    Standard interpretation II: this time, with innovations like "zoo-pa-doo-wa doo" on the main riff, it's a bit like reinventing a fifth wheel. Lotsa pitch problems, few surprises. Solo and one of the falsetto overlays are nice points. The last chorus and transition to the end moves better and sounds better than the rest of the song. Otherwise it's a sleeper.
    Rating: 4

  10. Africa (6.2)
    Brookes McKenzie

    The percussion-plus-random-noises department of this song is nice, but the solo is Mr. No Cigar from "Gone", which is unfortunate (for many reasons, but particularly) because he's obviously trying. Especially on the chorus, where we are shown yet again that a screaming bari is no substitute for a true tenor. The rest of the arrangement is also standard, but performed energetically enough for ten groups. Though they could use some serious attention to dynamics, the solo on the chorus is the only fatal flaw.
    Rating: 6

    Joe Oliva

    A pretty crazy background containing some pretty quirky hiccup-like sounds. Sonicly, a very FULL chorus. The lead vocal is adequate during the versus (overennunciates), but is great during the choruses. I mean GREAT, and the harmony is bang on!
    Rating: 8

    Matt Cohen

    Another Holy Grail of college a cappella — often sought, never found. This isn't a masterwork, but it's the closest I've heard the mythic version that must be out there somewhere. They certainly don't skimp on spirit and harmony, but the vocal percussion is a bit too much at time and the "instrumental" solo (they bill it as a "pan flute") is feeble. They do a good job covering their track with a big finish.
    Rating: 7

    Mike Connelly

    Some nice guica sounds, although the jungle effects go a little overboard toward the end. The first soloist sounds like it's too low for him, second soloist sounds like it's too high. There are some mediocre syllable choices in the backgrounds, and the scat solo toward the end is buried in the mix (which is maybe not a bad thing in this case).
    Rating: 4

    Rebecca Christie

    I like the hip-hop groove that pushes this one. It opens with a two- and four-driven beat, then it moves to sort of a house/jungle beat with pitched accents. Opening with a solo percussion line is beginning to get gimmicky, but it works well enough in many cases that I have a hard time getting to annoyed. Rhythm saves this from being another humdrum Toto cover — it has aspects of that, but falls a cut above much of what's out there.
    Rating: 6

  11. The Freeway Freddie Bayou Percussion Jam (Live) (4.2)
    Brookes McKenzie

    These sort of things tend to annoy me — what is the point of them, really? To show off your oh-so-excellent percussion skills? Well, unless they're really _that_ impressive (and they almost never are), the whole trend should just die immediately if not sooner. This example is no exception to the rule.
    Rating: 1

    Joe Oliva

    A brief vocal percussion demonstration, just over two minutes. A neat break for a long album. Although performed recorded live, it was recorded in a sound studio for superior sound. Really neat to hear the talented vocal percussionists solo. Near the end of the tune, one of the percussionists (gasping for air) says to the other "I think I want this to end", but I didn't!
    Rating: 9

    Matt Cohen

    A two person percussion jam. It's live (probably in the studio), but for once it's a clear recording. Better than the solo from Off the Beat's "Tool Box", but nowhere near as good as Andrew Chaikin or Jeff Thatcher. Real rock and roll drum solos have very little reason to exist in general (for a notable exception pick up Vinx's first album). The only thing a vocal percussion solo has going for it is the "Wow-How do they do that?" factor. Well, it's 1997 and we've heard it before. They're good, but not worth listening to for 2 minutes.
    Rating: 2

    Mike Connelly

    I wouldn't mind having a long percussive intro to a song. I wouldn't mind a long percussive interlude in the middle of a song. I wouldn't even mind an entire song that was all percussion (like this is), if it was totally amazing. But it's not.
    Rating: 2

    Rebecca Christie

    I like that they followed the back to back nouveau-standards with an improv. Impromptu jams like this are what a cappella is all about, and they do wonders for your style, groove and technique across the board. This one is fast-paced and reasonably straight-forward — the hip-hop frills and scratchies are nice touches. They could use variety in their bass drum sounds, which get heavy-handed when prolonged and "boomy" in the wrong way.
    Rating: 7

  12. Take Me Home (5.8)
    Brookes McKenzie

    Two Phil Collins songs? Well, I suppose it could be worse — it could be two Don Henley songs. At any rate, Euro-boy from the unintentionally New Wave U2 cover is back, doing his best Phil imitation. He actually sounds much better on this song, but sadly he still hasn't learned how to emote. This is also not as hideous _a cappella_ as I might have imagined — there's a nice low-midrange riff going on that propels the song along, at least until the ill-conceived ending.
    Rating: 6

    Joe Oliva

    A nice percussion (and sparse vocal) introduction. A pretty good lead vocal, mostly tuneful. Unfortunately the background drifts slightly and the lead must follow suit.
    Rating: 7

    Matt Cohen

    It may be by Phil Collins, but I've always liked "Take Me Home." (Having Sting and Peter Gabriel singing backing vocals never hurts.) An obscurish song and a great choice of material. The soloist delivers a very Phil Collins-esq performance. The arrangement is a little cluttered at times but no major damage is done to the song.
    Rating: 6

    Mike Connelly

    The soloist's voice sounds a bit like Phil Collins - it's hard to tell if the singer is trying to sound like him (and generally failing) or if he is just has a strange voice. Either way, it's distracting. Also, he's belting way too much.
    Rating: 5

    Rebecca Christie

    This is Phil Collins' trademark, end-of-concert song. The Bear Necessities capture that perfectly — from the boring drum/solo synth intro to the solo, who mimics Phil Collins to an astonishing degree. It then follows that there's nothing that interesting in this song, and also correspondingly nothing to distract them and their listeners from their tendency to be a bit out of tune. But bonus points for sounding like Phil Collins — I've never heard anything like it. I'm not sure why anyone would bother to work so hard for such a dubious achievement, but Fritz Darling should get some kind of attention for it.
    Rating: 5

  13. Faithfully (5.4)
    Brookes McKenzie

    The frightening thought that this song brings to mind is that someone in this group *actually likes* Journey, as I've certainly never heard this song before. So the fact that it's incredibly bad isn't at all mitigated by the camp value it could have had if it were a hit. Such considerations aside, neither the solo nor the background get anywhere _near_ to redeeming the awfulness of the actual song. I suppose it's decently executed, but still...
    Rating: 3

    Joe Oliva

    A pretty cool lead vocal with some Steve Perry-like qualities. The lead does struggle for some of the higher chest voice notes, but who wouldn't? The background vocals are good (some parts stick out at times by not suiting the song style) but are mostly tuneful, and as usual, the vocal percussion is excellent.
    Rating: 7

    Matt Cohen

    The lead comes at this with a horse tenor voice, which actually lends him a lot of personality. Too bad the backing vocals, particularly on the instrumental sections that come off of the chorus are goofy falsettos. The vocal percussion is too crisp — kind of like a drum machine — and rather out of place here. They throw in some good harmony on the finish, but it only serves to show you what the arrangement should have sounded like at the start of the song.
    Rating: 5

    Mike Connelly

    Kind of lifeless (and too slow) — the energy keeps dying out. An "instrumental" riff sounds like the singer is trying to imitate some sort of exotic bird. This one left me pretty much bored.
    Rating: 4

    Rebecca Christie

    I strongly question the taste of anyone who genuinely likes Journey, but I have to give them high marks for the job they do on this one. The solo is great — I mean, he sounds at least as good as the guy in Journey, he's got that style absolutely nailed. The background arrangement is very quiet and controlled — a shock to find after listening to the bulk of this album. It's in pretty good tune, too. I think their secret was to keep the rhythm simple and also have everybody change pitches on a regular basis — it's these parts that sit on one note that can be harder to keep in tune.
    Rating: 8

  14. Boys of Summer (5.4)
    Brookes McKenzie

    Overly repetitive background and slightly cartoonish soloist who sometimes goes spectacularly off make this song hard to take seriously. Bad syllables ("doo wa da") and unnecessary effects are noticeable, although one 'guitar' part is slightly improved by being distorted. Double- time percussion is also a bad idea. Overall not as successful as it could be, although at times the mood is there.
    Rating: 4

    Joe Oliva

    A good lead vocal (same lead vocalist at track 1). Definitely a talented baritone voice. Mixed a little light. The background vocals in the chorus were a little boring. Other than some slight background intonation problems, an all-round good cut.
    Rating: 8

    Matt Cohen

    Again, I'd like less percussion and more harmony, but the basses are back to give this song a fuller sound than "Faithfully." Still, the group doesn't throw enough energy or harmony at this song until the last chorus.
    Rating: 6

    Mike Connelly

    Another song that sounds fine, but just doesn't add anything to the original at all. Some raspy sounds out of the soloist - he doesn't keep a consistent style or sound throughout the song.
    Rating: 5

    Rebecca Christie

    Solo's pretty good on this one — you go, Jake George. I liked your duet on the U2 song, too. Otherwise, this one is on the quiet side. It's mellow enough to be quite listenable, but for the Bear Necessities, mellow often means underenthused and therefore undertuned. Percussion is a bit heavy-handed and a little ahead of the gang, but that could just be the energy differential.
    Rating: 4

  15. Flashdance (4.4)
    Brookes McKenzie

    Strange treatment of the beginning, like a slow doo-wop song, then it settles into a fairly workmanlike background, the percussion sounding as if someone fell asleep at the drum-machine, coupled with a truly painful solo. He's all over the place, amateurish, warbling and reaching for notes (and failing to come anywhere close), etc., etc. — I'm sure you can imagine, should you choose to subject yourself to such torture. The background is (understandably) not as into it as they usually are, and the result drags.
    Rating: 2

    Joe Oliva

    Great bass vocal presence during the song, but especially during the introduction. A nice arrangement, but perhaps taken a few beats per minutes too slow, as it tends to drag at times. The lead vocalist tends to lose pitch integrity on baritone notes, but really shines on the higher ones.
    Rating: 7

    Matt Cohen

    I think they're serious about this one. If you don't recognize this song, you won't start laughing (for nostalgia's sake) until the chorus. Oddly, this song gets started on the right foot (they totally invest themselves in the material) but the chorus, which should boost the energy, is lacking the oomph that makes the better songs on this album work.
    Rating: 6

    Mike Connelly

    A particularly weak soloist on this one — he gets shaky, and can't keep the high notes in tune (sometimes doesn't even make it all the way up there in the first place). At times, it almost sounds like he's in pain. The arrangement is very corny and square — some of the background parts sound like they'd be more at home in a Sousa march.
    Rating: 3

    Rebecca Christie

    Ah, I catch on to the pattern now — they stuffed all the rock-ballads here at the end. Judged on its own merits, this one sounds like one of those 70s rock ballads (Come Sail Away, anybody?) where you were never sure whether it was a slow-dance or a fast-dance song in the junior high school gym. It's not bad for one of those; like its immediate predecessor, mellow means listenable, if underenthused and undertuned. Of course, this used to be a much faster, upbeat "inspiration song" a la Boston, but I never liked it enough to mourn its absence now. Ooh, tuning in the "a cappella" bridge section is truly painful. But mercifully it's not too long, and it snaps a bit back when the drums and bass return. For some reason, the drums on this sound like they came from inside a roller skating rink.
    Rating: 4

  16. Streets of Philadelphia (Live) (5.8)
    Brookes McKenzie

    This is actually quite a good song choice, although their treatment of it is a little choral at times, but they do get the mood and the slow-train percussion right, and the solo doesn't entirely wreck it. The sound quality on this song is 100 times better than on the other live tracks, in fact, it's the best I've ever heard for a collegiate live song. Quite an impressive performance — they even nail the dynamics, although things threaten to get out of control at one point. By far the best song on the album. If they were smart, they would have let it end there.
    Rating: 8

    Joe Oliva

    The last live cut on the album, which has the same quality as Little Red Corvette (i.e.. not as bad as Hard To Handle). A pretty slow and musically boring song to begin with, this group does a pretty good job with it. The best of all the live cuts. A nice lead vocal fronting some tuneful background vocals. Great full ending.
    Rating: 7

    Matt Cohen

    Despite what you may think this song can really work when

    1. Not performed by Bruce
    2. Sung a cappella
    The sparse vocal percussion that you would imagine IS more enunciated than the original version, but instead of being intrusive, it has a lonely haunting quality. Yes, Bruce's vocals were brilliant, but when someone else sings them in a clearer voice, they gain a different sort of power — hearing every word makes it impossible to ignore the cutting lyrics. This is true of both this version and the one by the Tufts Beelzebubs. But why'd the Bear's have to do it live? Not only is the recording quality as poor as it was on the other live cuts, but it also diminishes the emotional power of the song (which relies heavily on creating a haunting ambiance).
    Rating: 2

    Mike Connelly

    I generally liked this one (and the fact that it's a fairly recent song). It's nice that the tune builds, but the group gets out of control and starts yelling toward the end. During the intro, you can hear someone giving a note on the pitch pipe, which seemed extremely amateurish to me.
    Rating: 7

    Rebecca Christie

    Calm, more-or-less tuned ballady background. Hoo boy, such excitement. Oh yeah, with a decent percussion intro — though the pitchpipe just before the voices come in is a new element. (At first I thought "don't they know that is *not done,* but then I thought hey, why not. It adds variety, it keeps them from forgetting the pitch and doesn't distract the mood. So let's hear it for breaking tradition.) Really it's not bad, but I keep wanting Johnny Cash on the solo and I'm getting something like Van Morrison without the soul. The highly overlaid whoa parts are nicely conceived and poorly executed.
    Rating: 5

  17. Bonus track (5.0)
    Brookes McKenzie

    [Not reviewed]
    Rating: none

    Joe Oliva

    Live, sort of comical, Adam Sandler-like performance about how everyone's butt is the same. And I guess they're mostly right! Ok, there's not much music to it but I like the phil-ass-ophy "behind" it (someone stop me please). So, I'll give it a really high score but I won't include it in the overall grade, ok?
    Rating: 10

    Matt Cohen

    Okay, it probably sounds like sophomoric humor from the title. It is. But not the way you think. There isn't any inept sexual innuendo. This song is fun because the lead singer, who's clearly making it up as he goes along, enjoys saying the word "Butt." Nothing wrong with that. It's a silly word. Say it. Butt. Butt. Wasn't that fun? Don't you feel better? Now try praising everyone's butt. Tell everyone you know that they have a "special" butt. See what I mean? This is just plain goofy fun. But why, of all the live tracks on this album, is THIS is the only one where the engineering doesn't suck?
    Rating: 6

    Mike Connelly

    Horribly sung, painfully unfunny...the soloist can't even get the lyrics right.
    Rating: 1

    Rebecca Christie

    Clearly butts are important to them; it's obvious if you read the liner notes. As sophomoric humor goes, this goes on fairly long, but does have about five seconds of funny material, which accounts for the higher than average score for an in-joke track.
    Rating: 3

  18. Invisible Touch (Bear-a-oke) (8.0)
    Brookes McKenzie

    Bear-a-oke version: how cute. All it demonstrates is what we already knew: backgrounds are not the problem with this group, it's the soloists. Although the (lack of) basses are cruelly exposed on this version. Not rated as it doesn't really count as a song. I also wish that they had done the usual and put the humorous live bit _way_ at the end, instead of right between "Philadelphia" and this track. Especially since (also per usual) it's not really that funny.
    Rating: none

    Joe Oliva

    Identical recording to track 2 on the album but without the lead vocal for karaoke purposes, so I'll give it the identical score EXCEPT when I sang the lead over it, it really stunk (I'm a bass). WAY OUT OF MY RANGE! Fortunately, I'm not counting this cut in the overall score!
    Rating without my lead: 8
    Rating with my lead: 1

    Matt Cohen

    It's just track 2 without the lead vocals. This isn't just the self-pleased bit of cleverness you might expect. For starters, the song sounds great without the leads (that's NOT a slam on the lead from track 2, by the way). It really lays the great backing vocals bare. Plus, it is damn fun to sing along with. Come on — admit it. Isn't that one of the reasons you like college a cappella? You like singing along. Sometimes, with the help of the post production studio in your head, you secretly remove the lead singer's vocals and replace them with your own superior vocal stylings. We'll, you don't even have to imagine you're the lead here! Just let it rip! Even if you keep yer mouth shut, the track still sound great without your help (with the exception of the one irksome flaw that the first version of the song had.)
    Rating: 10

    Mike Connelly

    Repeat of track two with no lead vocal. I suppose it's not a good sign that I preferred this version.
    Rating: 7

    Rebecca Christie

    I had fun with this, more than I expected I would. Then again, I also have been known to have an odd sense of humor. You can sing along over their energetic percussion and nice little chorus accent, and then jam with the crew on the breakdown. The background sounds better tuned than it did on the one with the solo, although I suspect that's my imagination and the energy contrast with recent songs helping out. In addition to being a novelty, it's a nice way to pick the energy up at the end of the album too. After those slow numbers, you almost forget about the charisma that is their strongest point.
    Rating: 7




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