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RARB REVIEW

School: Washington University
Group: Mosaic Whispers
Album: 3 A.M. and Nowhere to Go

Total time: 58:47, 16 songs
Recorded 1995-96

Ordering Information


Track Listing

  1. Fantasy (7.0)
  2. Stay (5.2)
  3. That Voice Again (5.0)
  4. Pure Imagination (4.4)
  5. Little Bird (4.6)
  6. Mr. Roboto (7.0)
  7. As I Lay Me Down (5.2)
  8. We Can Work it Out (3.6)
  9. Lean on You (5.4)
  10. What More Can I Say? (4.6)
  11. Spin the Bottle (7.0)
  12. Eleanor Rigby (7.2)
  13. Tocatta and Fugue in d minor (5.8)
  14. Love Is All Around (5.0)
  15. Tomorrow, Wendy (6.4)
  16. Head Like a Hole (5.4)

Reviews

Overall

John Magruder

Effort. Energy. Integrity. Screw tempo. That should be the motto of the Mosaic Whispers. Maybe it is. This album really captures the Mosaic Whispers' style and energy. It also shows their propensity to be a bit chaotic, especially when it comes to tempo. Pretty much every song has some kind of problem with tempo, whether minor or major. However, you learn to forget that and enjoy the album for lots of other reasons. Their energy (a word I will use many times in this review) really drives the whole thing. That and their fearless repertoire! The word Mosaic is definitely appropriate. These folks will try any kind of song if they want to... and they do. From R&B pop to cheesy musical tunes to Nine Inch Nails, they tackle it all. Some people may find this irritating, but odds are you won't because there is bound to be something you like — and there are some gems lurking in this album, like their epic Mr. Roboto (probably the best song on the album).

They don't have the best blend of voices, which becomes amplified by their style of arranging. They tend to be busy, cacophonous arrangements that are nonetheless ambitious. Backgrounds get messy and choppy form the way they like to put a lot of words into the parts. And for a group plagued by tempo problems, they sure like to try some complex rhythmic things in a few of the songs — things (experiments, I like to call them) they don't necessarily pull off successfully.

Overall the album was well recorded, with a good balance and a clean, clear sound. No glaring tuning problems anywhere. But seamless is not a word that one would use to describe their sound. Sometimes though, that is not a bad thing. And like I said before, the Mosaic Whispers' energy keeps things refreshing.
Rating: 7 (6.3)

Brookes McKenzie

This is actually a rather sad sophomore album from the old Whispers, because they seem to have lost their a cappella innocence, which was charming in a completely idiosyncratic, raised-by-Manhattan-Transfer-in-the-Midwest kind of way, and traded it in for a much less interesting 8th-generation-MIT-Chorallaries imitation. Their ensemble work is more consistent, but consistently worse, on this album — blend in particular suffers. The sopranos are one big headachey vibrato, and I don't hear much from the altos, ever. Tenors and basses are likewise barely registered, which makes them sound almost like an all-female group with a few token men at times. Also the production of this album is so much worse than their debut, in fact almost sounding raw in spots, that it makes the flaws stand out more. While the Whispers of Watercolors could achieve things they almost weren't trying to do, the Whispers of 3 A.M. and Nowhere to Go are trying a lot harder and getting much less out of it. Even though they obviously lost a lot of their better members, they're still not completely out of talent. Unfortunately this album doesn't put it to better use. While the good songs on this album are arguably as good as the ones from Watercolors, the bad ones are worse, and the middle range isn't nearly as bearable.
Rating: 2 (3.4)

Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

i find mosaic whispers' song choices to be totally eclectic, and not in a necessarily positive way. nine inch nails, charlie and the chocolate factory, lisa loeb, broadway, beatles, bach, these are all fantastic things in their own rights, but i don't exactly get it. i suppose they enjoy the variety, but my documented opinion on the subject is that if you don't succeed in all genres, choose the one you like best and perfect it. the stuff i like the best on this album is actual alternative music. like, the real kind, like concrete blonde and juliana hatfield, and i guess you could say nin. they do these songs with feeling and understanding, whereas many of the other tracks seem like forays into genres unknown. the arranging is solid, the singing is decent to good, and the production is average. but check it out! liz bagby percusses! and arranges! hooooorah for women!
Rating: 5 (4.4)

Matt Cohen

I liked their debut album (I was reviewer number 5), and I like this one. They've tightened and focused their performances between albums. The last album had some duds on it. This one isn't perfect, but when it's off the mark, it isn't extremely off. On the flip side, the great tracks on this album aren't quite as good as the top numbers from their debut. But overall, this is a much more consistent album.

The Whispers sound is defined by clever arrangements that never get overcrowded, a brisk and straight ahead singing style, and some really nice blend. The vocal percussion is tastefully done and kept to a minimum. When they're at their best, they perform with drive and spirit. Though they do some alternative music, they never seem to be doing it just for the sake of doing it. This is a very approachable album.
Rating: 7 (7.0)

Randi Sherman

The song selection on this CD wasn't extremely consistent, because I wasn't sure if the group was trying to convey what kind of music they do. Most of their upbeat songs are executed very well, yet I'm glad that the entire album isn't upbeat. There are some beautiful ballads as well, such as "Tomorrow, Wendy" and "What More Can I Say?" The style keeps the listener interested, and almost none of the songs are your typical a cappella tunes. The Mosaic Whispers are a solid, well balanced group, but the two things I think they need to work on most are dynamics (many songs don't have any!) and more creative syllables. Sometimes the style that the soloist is performing the song doesn't really blend with the arrangement. However, one song on this album definitely tackled these concepts: Mr. Roboto. This song is terrific; enough said. There really aren't any major flaws with the entire album, but perhaps the group simply picked songs that shouldn't be done a cappella.
Rating: 7 (6.6)


Individual Tracks

  1. Fantasy (7.0)
    John Magruder

    Good opener! This song is infused the trademark Mosaic Whispers energy. A busy, engaging arrangement that only gets slightly sloppy in the second half of the song. I have not heard the original song by George Michael, but I had no problem recognizing his particular style. This was fun to listen to.
    Rating: 8

    Brookes McKenzie

    Bizarre arrangement that's overly choppy for the song. The female solo is much better than the male — she should have sung the whole thing. But neither of them has a style that's even remotely appropriate for a George Michael song — they sound like the last George Michael they listened to was Wham!. Twittering sopranos and boppy baritones predominate. The two trios are only mildly interesting.
    Rating: 3

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    solid opening to the album. great pitch throughout. i liked the triple tracked lead vocals, that was definitely cool, and the leads, spread throughout the group, were very well done. what i find slightly strange is the use of bop, bah, doo, dit, doot, dop, and dow in what was originally a slammin' dance track from george michael's sex shop. not that this is a bad track, but it's kind of typical of "a cappella versions" of contemporary music. i don't know, nothing bad, for sure, lotsa energy, solid arranging (NOT BORING! YAY!), good solos, this is a good track.
    Rating: 6

    Matt Cohen

    This is a great arrangement, rich but never overdone. Every note is clear and distinct — none of the usual sonic blur that marks so many college arrangements. The dual soloists (is that an oxymoron?) are in strong voice, the bass section gives the song some real drive. Excellent harmonies on the midrange stuff. There is one section where they go too far and their normally crisp delivery morphs into a stiff performance on two lines. Other than that, this is everything an album opener should be. In a word — engaging.
    Rating: 9

    Randi Sherman

    This was an excellent choice to start their CD. It's upbeat and not extremely well known, so it doesn't fall under the category of "so many groups do this song!" Mixed groups have the advantage of a huge pitch range, and they take this aspect and use it well. The fast rhythm of the basses during the entire song moves it along with very little percussion needed — a hard thing to do for some groups. The best part of this song is the soloists. A male and female who sound so much alike, it's difficult to tell them apart. They blend very well. The one thing I'd like to see the group add is a little more dynamic variation, since the song has such a bright, brassy quality to it.
    Rating: 9

  2. Stay (5.2)
    John Magruder

    Here is that Lisa Loeb song every a cappella group wants to do, but not every group should try. The Mosaic Whispers do a passable job of it. An interesting arrangement, but it makes the backgrounds clunky-sounding and out of balance with the rest of the group. It was also a quick take of the song... they sounded like they rushed through it. The really pretty quality that the original touts is only in evidence here at the very beginning and the very end. The rest of it was like listening to a drum: bang, bang, bang. Where was that strident/gripping part in the middle that makes your heart soar?
    Rating: 5

    Brookes McKenzie

    Solo is _marginally_ less whiny than Lisa Loeb on the verses, but equally coy, and she chops up all the phrases, loses it on the chorus, and gets completely out of control and awful on the bridge, which is the only decent part of the song. The arrangement is at once chirpy and choral, and it emphasizes the stop-and-go nature of the song to ill effect. Bad, bad syllables ("ma ma ma"). The end is mildly ridiculous.
    Rating: 2

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    this arrangement is up really high, the women's parts are way up in their ranges, the men are in their falsettos (except for the basses) often. also, there's an overwhelming amount of the syllable ma, which i thought was kind of an unusual choice. otherwise, mara levin's arrangement is nice, with good changes throughout, and her direct harmonies on the solo are performed well. the lead is a little youthful, but i suppose that's what lisa loeb sounds like too, so i guess that's not a helpful criticism. performance by the group was again solid on this track. what this song lacks is a little energy; it could've used the percussion that helps the original.
    Rating: 5

    Matt Cohen

    I love the original, but I know that others were getting sick of it and had problems with Lisa Loeb's voice. If you're in that camp, don't worry — the lead here has a much more agreeable voice. I will give you this warning though: What made the original so good was the tension in the music. The melody sounded like it wanted to rush ahead, but was holding itself back for some reason. Tricky stuff. Sometimes the whispers seem to be fighting to hold their version together rhythmically, as if they were on the verge of getting off tempo. They never lose control, but it always feels like they're dangerously close.
    Rating: 8

    Randi Sherman

    The soloist on this song has a great tone quality for this Lisa Loeb song. However, she sings it too straightforwardly; it's just a series of notes and doesn't have much phrasing. Fortunately, the rest of the group handles the phrasing quite well. They do tend to rush slightly during the chorus of the song, and it seems to "run away" a little bit. Although the background accompaniment is repetitive, that isn't necessarily the fault of the group. It's probably due to the fact that it's simply a boring song. They perform it well, but it's not the best song to do a cappella.
    Rating: 6

  3. That Voice Again (5.0)
    John Magruder

    What an energetic song... seems like a harder-rockin version than the original Peter Gabriel song I remember. The soloist Jeff Gordon is intense, and the low men's voices buzz and grab you right at the beginning. This has got that staccato background arranging style that the Whispers love to do. Cool song.
    Rating: 7

    Brookes McKenzie

    This could have been a halfway decent rendition of the song if it weren't for the soloist, who sounds as if he's about to pop a vein, which is (needless to say) unattractive and renders the song soulless. He also speeds up rather noticeably before the bridge. This is not helped by the background which is too boppy and fast to begin with — although the percussion is decent, and at a few points the arrangement descends into awful syllables but then recovers.
    Rating: 4

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    ok, there's a dude, i guess the soloist, who yells a g at the top of his lungs through the entire intro to this song. it's really incredible. after listening to the whole song, i suppose i understand why it's there (as far as i can tell it's a reference to the bridge, where the solo wails for many bars on a high g or an a flat or something), but i must say, i don't think it's a particularly cool effect, & it's completely incomprehensible until about three quarters of the way through the tune, by which point it's lost any impact it might have had. besides this part the solo is fine, albeit slightly melodramatic. pitch falls noticeably at the start of this tune. jeff gordon and others in the mosaic whispers have learned a valuable lesson in arranging from somewhere; their arrangements are quite varied throughout, never simply repeating the same verse or whatever, but i can't say that i love this arrangement regardless.
    Rating: 3

    Matt Cohen

    The lead is a little to blunt for this number. He has a rough, almost violent passion. He'd probably be great elsewhere, but this song calls for a little more restraint. In particular, the opening is too abrasive. I respect the guy's long notes, but his initial attack is off-putting. The clear, precise attacks that define the Mosaic Whispers as a group are overdone here. It's as if they're bonking every note on the head with a whack-a-mole hammer. Close, but not quite.
    Rating: 5

    Randi Sherman

    I know this is a Peter Gabriel song, so I thought perhaps the "scream" that the soloist does in the beginning would serve some purpose. He sounds better during the rest of the song, but it really sounds like he's doing damage. I feel it's an immediate turn-off to the song, because his tone quality is fuzzy and harsh. The percussion is terrific in this piece; it's just loud enough to be noticed and move the song along, but not overdone. Their transitions between sections are very smooth, but they occasionally lose tempo.
    Rating: 6

  4. Pure Imagination (4.4)
    John Magruder

    Willie Wonka. What a sappy, high school jazz sounding arrangement. You know, the cool singing group in high school used to do these complex jazz arrangements (usually something from Robert Shaw... blech) and you used to think they were soooooo cool. Not anymore. Sounded like high school, and I did not need the flashback.
    Rating: 4

    Brookes McKenzie

    This song, albeit cheesy, could have worked if it were more sensitively sung. The style certainly suits them better than most of the songs on this album. But mediocre blend and some sour chords in the middle don't help, plus what sounds like just bad intonation.
    Rating: 4

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    allow me to take a moment to mention the fact that i love charlie and the chocolate factory. ah, and now that the moment has passed, let me mention that this album has the most eclectic selection of tunes that i've ever seen on a college a cappella disc. nin, beatles, sophie b hawkins, bach, and willy wonka. uh, ok... this is a jazz version of the main tune from the movie, has some nice changes, some good jazz techniques in the arrangement, but suffers from bad pitch in many places, and is just kinda longwinded and bored...
    Rating: 2

    Matt Cohen

    A wonderful song from Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I've secretly been waiting for someone to do this a cappella for years. This is well performed, but not what I was hoping for. The arrangement is very choral. The song is so simple and sincere, such a celebration of creativity — perfect material to bring out the best in a soloist. But without a lead singer the whole thing becomes very impersonal and inexpressive. The overall sound here is like the chorus from the soundtrack to an old Disney movie.
    Rating: 5

    Randi Sherman

    I like the choice of this song. Not a typical college a cappella tune, so it caught my attention immediately. The imitation of "bells" is crystal clear and lyrical. A tempo change from 4/4 to 3/4 is smooth and well executed, and the diction is solid. There isn't much dynamic variation in this piece, which would've been an easy way to make a close-harmony piece beautiful. Even though the chords are well in tune, without dynamics it becomes a little monotonous.
    Rating: 7

  5. Little Bird (4.6)
    John Magruder

    That Annie Lennox song! Hmmmm... not bad, not special. Some of the backgrounds were messy and just did not jive right with me, especially in the choruses. The soloist did not sound very comfortable in the higher stuff. And what was with that tempo/rhythm experiment towards the end? Energetic though.
    Rating: 6

    Brookes McKenzie

    Inappropriate arrangement that carries the wrong lines and makes others piping. It has none of the drive and power of the original. The chorus is so random that it almost sounds as if the background is singing a different song than the solo, who is far too fragile to carry this song — she's tolerable on the verses but way too girly on the chorus. For God's sake, where is the percussion?! They must be completely insane to attempt this song without it. It's not even too fast but it sounds like it, because the arrangement is so wrong.
    Rating: 2

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    opens with a lot of energy, which might be the cause of the basses' slight sharpness at the top. later on we realize, however, that the basses actually are the anchors on which jon krivitzky's arrangement is founded, and they move quite well and are quite solid for the most part. i like the insertion of lyrics in the parts up until about 3:15, and then jon goes a little nuts and changes the time signature and goes madrigal and everyone's singing the lyrics and then it's jazz and aaaaagggh! craziness. too much sensory input, i feel like jon had a ton of good ideas but unfortunately he threw in ALL of them. soloist is quite tame for this tune, might've been better suited for lisa loeb or something, but not annie lennox, diva.
    Rating: 4

    Matt Cohen

    Hey, a college group did Annie Lennox and didn't botch it! Instead of trying for (and failing to create) a lush sound, they just gave the song some breathing room and let the song cheerfully bounce along it's merry way. The lead is a little thin on the choruses, but still secure enough of a singer so that you don't even think to compare her to Annie Lennox (not a contest Annie is used to losing). There are some sloppy tempos toward the end but the basses are (once again) solid throughout.
    Rating: 7

    Randi Sherman

    The accompaniment that the men do on this song consists of many "fa-fa-fa" syllables, and the "f" slows the tempo down and drags. It's nice when a cappella groups use words from the song in the background, but here it sounds messy because of lack of diction. The soloist has great diction, but her high notes are unsettled. There's a part in the middle of the song where the sopranos sound like they're trying to imitate bird wings, but it is out of tune. The basses could have used more variation.
    Rating: 4

  6. Mr. Roboto (7.0)
    John Magruder

    I was wondering if anyone would attempt this song. The Mosaic Whispers did. It was GREAT! A fun, busy, MOVING arrangement that captured all of the frenetic, mechanical energy the original 80's epic by Styx _ever_ had. In fact, I think it I may like this a bit better because it was such a refreshingly different way of hearing it! I loved that "Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto, domo, domo" part. Gave me chills. Sharp ending. Fun all around. It worked. It rocked.
    Rating: 9

    Brookes McKenzie

    By far the most atmospheric song on the album, which is odd, to say the least. The solo sounds a lot like Thomas Dolby (which is a good thing in my book). He actually does a decent job, although in the end things get a little bit ugly. The percussion, while amateurishly recorded/mixed, has the right idea. The sopranos are too bad to be this prominent in the arrangement. Could use a _lot_ more bass — the few spots where they come in at all low just show up the gaping lack of it in the rest of the song. This and "Eleanor Rigby" are the best songs on this album, though.
    Rating: 6

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    when i was a kid i would sit by the radio and wait for this tune to come on so i could write down the lyrics and look real cool as i sang along whenever it came on again. ah, horrible, horrible adolescence. great opening, pretty cool arrangement by brad eisenberg who employs tight rhythmic lines and echoes and running operatic lines and beeps and boops and slides and all kinds of good arranging techniques. WHOA there, all of a sudden in the bridge we speed up like crazy and the soloist goes inSANE. this is WAY to high for him, unfortunately. he's also mixed kinda low through the whole track, possibly because he's a bass singing a song most tenors wouldn't even dare attempt, so he sounds a little pinched? then in the mellow verse we're back at tempo 1, a really abrupt change which closes with a relatively wussy little drum fill. i don't know, i don't know. i loved the beginning, but the parts of the song i love in the original didn't seem to come through for me here.
    Rating: 4

    Matt Cohen

    Did I lie? No, I didn't. The soloist who I trashed from track 3 is back and he does much better with different material. This strange Styx high concept piece is rather bombastic. The lead's "damn the torpedoes" attitude and unchained energy is perfectly suited to this song.
    Rating: 6

    Randi Sherman

    The beginning of this song amazed me, and the rest of it fell nothing short of excellent. The sopranos sound exactly like a flute, and it's haunting with the synthesized sounds that the group produced. Another commendable quality of this song is simply its arrangement. It completely speaks for itself, and it keeps the computerized 80's sound that the original has. There are so many different sections, and other than the chorus, there is little repetition. It's impossible to get bored listening to this song, because there's always a new part to pick out.
    Rating: 10

  7. As I Lay Me Down (5.2)
    John Magruder

    Hey, it's that Sophie B. Hawkins sap-fest that every a cappella group wants to do, but not every group should try. (Am I repeating myself?) The Mosaic Whispers do a decent job of this one too: nothing bad, nothing special. Kind of boring, just like the original.
    Rating: 6

    Brookes McKenzie

    They rush the changes on the verses, the percussion/ bass combo is good at points, arrangement would be good if it weren't for the bad (Muppet-like) syllables, the high sopranos are good. Solo is not _much_ worse than Sophie B., but that's still saying something. The bridge is too chopped up, but for once they didn't make the whole song choppy. I actually almost like the interpolation of "Pachelbel's Canon" — cheesy but no more so than "As I Lay Me Down" is by itself.
    Rating: 5

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    here's one of those young white girl solos (sophie b. hawkins), performed pretty well, except for the high notes (which aren't so high) which suffers from the dreaded flatness disease afflicting millions of a cappella youths. the bass line is too low for the basses in many parts. the percussion is nice, tasteful and tight. the arrangement is also very nice, building from a simple beginning to a full ending. ok. now thrill me.
    Rating: 4

    Matt Cohen

    Okay, I know some other reviewers were less than fond of Spur of the Moment's last CD, and I also know I'm not considered to be impartial (since I designed the packaging for them), but I still say that it was a good album and that their version is far superior to this one. I do like the soloist on the Whispers' version, and they do have some intriguing, deep harmonies, but they're a little out of their area of expertise with this arrangement. It's one of those wall to wall arrangements that groups like "Off the Beat" are so good at. It's a new approach to arranging for the group and they have problems performing it. They have a hard time agreeing on a tempo. A strong start, but they hold it together after the first verse.
    Rating: 6

    Randi Sherman

    The soloist on this song tends to scoop under the pitches, which takes away from the light texture of the song. She sounds uninterested, and the words aren't believable. My favorite part of the song is where other women join the soloist on the verse where the words begin at "and it felt like church bells." A simple harmonic structure followed by unison singing into the chorus was almost like a lullaby. Throwing a bit of Pachebel's Canon towards the end was nice, but not necessarily that creative of an arrangement.
    Rating: 5

  8. We Can Work it Out (3.6)
    John Magruder

    Was that the Beatles I heard? I think it was... If you expect this to sound anything like the original, think again. If I thought that the little lyrical rhythm experiment in Little Bird is kind of wacky, this one was much wackier. Doing it just to do it? I guess. There was a snippet of Tears For Fears right at the end that made me smile after the "tempo test" made me wince.
    Rating: 5

    Brookes McKenzie

    The arrangement sounds like something that would be done by a choir of 200, with _all_ of the women singing the high part of the harmony, and the men coming in at random intervals. Of all songs to get that horrifying treatment, this one really doesn't deserve it — even _aside_ from the fact that it destroys every bit of the rhythm/pop sensibility which the original was so richly endowed with, it renders the entire _point_ of the song cheesy and stupid by making it sung by large groups of people instead of two songwriters/egos. In short, I absolutely loathe, despise and in fact take offense at the mere existence of this arrangement. This performance of it isn't that bad, but it's certainly not great, and the serious lack of taste on the Whispers' part is appalling.
    Rating: 1

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    the beatles never started with bah bop bow ever before. this is a jazzy little arrangement by steve bogart (not in the group), which transforms the mosaic whispers into a "jazzy little group." it's funny, the whispers have a way of coming up with arrangements that take songs to a different place, like jazzing up the beatles or just plain singing pure imagination or throwing in unusual time signatures into what have always been 4/4 tunes. i have no problem with that conceptually, and it definitely makes this album interesting (god, i can't imagine what's gonna happen with head like a hole), but i can say for sure that i never wanted to hear the beatles like this.
    Rating: 3

    Matt Cohen

    A wonderfully brisk start, full of harmony without ever compromising the drive. But then they start rushing and making the song more complicated than it needs to be. The poor song never knew what hit it.
    Rating: 5

    Randi Sherman

    This song has a lot of problems with consistency. The beginning is too choppy without any phrasing. The verses seem to runaway rhythmically, and there's too much repetition. The high soprano who sings part of the solo (with other harmonies) really needs to blend.
    Rating: 4

  9. Lean on You (5.4)
    John Magruder

    It is the "everybody-have-a-solo" song in the repertoire. Tempo problems abound in this song that has "Come-on-up-here-alumni-and-have-your-swan-song" written all over it. Like I have said before and I will say again: Not bad, not good. Just.
    Rating: 5

    Brookes McKenzie

    Oooh, an original. Are we sure this isn't secretly from a musical, like the one after it? It certainly sounds like it. There sure are a lot of quavery sopranos in this year's group, and every one of them gets her own line, as well as some semi-resonant tenors/baris. No basses worth mentioning of course, but that's not surprising. The song itself would be hard put to get any cheesier, but I suppose I have to give it a point for originality (what there is of it). Overall not a particularly compelling offering.
    Rating: 2

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    an original song? for shame! seriously, i was very excited to hear this one, i haven't seen an original tune on a college album since fleet street. hey, this isn't bad! this is pretty good! a little on the eighties "fame" tip, if this tune had a kickin' drum beat it'd be instantly transported closer to this decade. seriously, it's a nice song, sounds a little dated, but the sentiment is very nice.
    Rating: 6

    Matt Cohen

    Nope, it's not Lean on ME, it's an ORIGINAL! The Whispers impressed me on their last album (their debut) by having some original material (even though I wasn't overly fond of the music they wrote), and again they get an A for effort. But don't let that distract you from the fact that they (okay, Kareah Garrison) wrote a fine song, and they sing it well to boot.
    Rating: 8

    Randi Sherman

    I liked the group's approach to letting a different person sing on each phrase of the song, because it really plays on the lyrics. It's a very original approach. The biggest problem with this, however, is that the song is in 4/4, and the melody is based around triplets; every soloist's rhythm isn't always consistent with the one preceding it. I would have liked to hear the group do some more complicated rhythm during the verses instead of the walking bass line while the rest of the group just simply says "baa." (However, the rhythm that they have moves the song along well.) Again, not much dynamic variation at all on this song.
    Rating: 6

  10. What More Can I Say? (4.6)
    John Magruder

    A brash soloist and predictable arrangement make me wonder: High School musical? Kinda like other musicals that nobody but theater majors have heard of. Guess this must have been the lead female solo. I bet it is nostalgic for those who know it... makes me wonder though how anyone has heard of it. Especially with lyrics like " I halt, I stammer, I sing a rondolet" or how about "... its so swell, dammit! Even I'm surprised". Penalty: 5 yards, insipid lyrics, 4th down. Gotta punt this one.
    Rating: 4

    Brookes McKenzie

    Talk about quavery sopranos — whoa. This woman really needs to be singing Verdi or something — when you have too much vibrato even for a musical, you know you're in trouble. This type of song is so much my nemesis that it's hard to judge it objectively, but the arrangement certainly isn't helping the stop-and-go nature of the song. The blend is actually noticeably better though than on many of the other songs, but this fact is counteracted by her somewhat frightening voice. Even if one _liked_ musicals, one would have to conclude that she's overdoing it.
    Rating: 2

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    broadway? i guess so... uh, this just ain't my cup'o'T. there're serious pitch problems throughout, although laura weidt's solo is quite solid. i think i'd've even appreciated the arrangement if it wasn't obscured by the crazy changes and pitch imperfections. that said, this kind of music is always extremely difficult to sing, and even more difficult to sing well. maybe it's better left unsung...
    Rating: 3

    Matt Cohen

    Interesting song choice — it's a showtune. This torch song sounds like it's going to break into "My Way" any second. As long as were talking about showtunes...

    Attention All College Groups: Since you seem to be rediscovering showtunes, I'd like to make two requests: 1. Please don't do anything from Rent. If harm any of the wonderful songs from that show, I will be forced to kill you. 2. Would someone please give a listen to Simple Joys from Pippin? Am I crazy, or should would that be perfect a cappella (particularly in a production)?

    I now return you to your regularly scheduled review.
    Rating: 6

    Randi Sherman

    The color of the soloist's interpretation and the accompaniment match very well together, but they overpower her at times. She expresses the words she sings very well. Here's a case where a simple arrangement is fitting to a simple melody, and the piece remains beautiful. Except for a few unsettled chords (right around the key change) the piece is pleasant to listen to several times. Without the listener even knowing, it's obvious that this is a showtune. Therefore, they keep the style appropriate.
    Rating: 8

  11. Spin the Bottle (7.0)
    John Magruder

    A fun, cute, clean arrangement of a sorta-goofy song. I found myself singing this one for days, it was so infectious and cute. They even did the radio edit where they don't sing the bad word! Too damn cute!
    Rating: 7

    Brookes McKenzie

    I can't believe that this is a Juliana Hatfield song. It sounds like a long-lost Peter, Paul and Mary classic or something. Not having heard the original, it's hard to comment on the strangely twee arrangement, but I feel certain that it can't be that appropriate. That said, it's not bad — the syllables don't horrify, the solo is trying and has a decent voice with a bit of richness to it, and overall it evokes _something_, I'm just not sure that it's what they intended.
    Rating: 5

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    cooly cooly beginning in bruce darrow's (not in the group) arrangement. soloist mara has balls, which rules. actually she reminds me of poe's singer, you know, "johnny, angry johnny," cool altoness. ooh, did she say fuck? oh, FUCK! they edited it out (tastefully though, no beep, just muted the track). i like this one. ooh yeah. could definitely have stood for it to kick a little more ass by the end, but it's nice and short and sweet and well sung and no probs.
    Rating: 6

    Matt Cohen

    This song embodies everything I like about the Whispers. Great solos. Great blend. Crystal clear arrangements. Bright and spirited performances. What more do you want?
    Rating: 9

    Randi Sherman

    I really like the rhythm of the "ba-na-na's" in the background. It keeps a steady, consistent, flowing tempo to the song. I found this a great song to sing along to, even if they went out of tune a little bit. It's great to listen to a song and know, without even seeing the group, that they enjoy performing this song. The percussion on the bridge adds just enough rhythm without overbearing. It also has a great balance of parts in the accompaniment.
    Rating: 8

  12. Eleanor Rigby (7.2)
    John Magruder

    Somber. I like it. I am not sure why, but I do. Maybe it's because....... nyah.
    Rating: 7

    Brookes McKenzie

    This song is actually almost perfect Whispers material — choral yet pop, sort of. Although that aspect of it is almost wrecked by the solo, who can't seem to sing the chorus right to save his life. This is actually a tolerable arrangement, though, by the same guy who did "Mr. Roboto" (thus proving that the Whispers don't _have_ to sound lame, they just choose to) — nice background lines in the end, nice high soprano bit, decent syllables (with the glaring exception of the "jin"'s on the second verse). They have a nice lush sound on this one, and this arrangement, in stark contrast to that of "We Can Work It Out" , actually reflects a hint of the power and depth of the original.
    Rating: 7

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    again, another tight, sweet opening. i like the choppiness here, appropriate well sung. good syllable choices change with the passing verses, lovely little echoes and soaring lines in and out and around the solo. speaking of the solo, he's very good, but he's mixed a little low for my taste. they succeed in this song because a. brad eisenberg's arrangement is very solid and b. it's not too long... ah, look at all the other tracks; why do they all go long?
    Rating: 5

    Matt Cohen

    The staccato string section makes this Beatles song well suited to the Whispers. A very faithful interpretation. Much better than any of the crappy King Singers-esq madrigal versions you keep running into.
    Rating: 8

    Randi Sherman

    The best part of this song are the details that the group pays attention. The sopranos do this haunting octave jump, and I think the recording was edited slightly, because it sounds unreal. Each verse is different, and they take a "theme and variation" approach. The first verse is the simplest, and each verse adds a totally new element, but it never sounds too "crowded." Some of the transitions are a little rough on the edges, but nothing to be terribly picky about. The range of different syllables, such as "jin", "ba" and "bum" do so much to change the piece at different times. A great song!
    Rating: 9

  13. Tocatta and Fugue in d minor (5.8)
    John Magruder

    Bach? OK. The whole thing? OK. Cool. How many other groups would try the whole damn thing? Not many. This was just really cool to listen to, and the Mosaic Whispers do a good job at it, too. Mind you, this is not some gorgeous thing like the Fleet Street recording of Biebl's "Ave Maria" everybody knows from the BOCA I album. It does not have all the effects, either. The Whispers don't sound choral, which I think makes this arrangement that much more interesting. They changed vowels and sounds all the time, which made the feeling of all the different instruments of a great symphony going at it more apparent. Sounded like they had fun with this. The little whistling snippet they threw in was great. Not choral. Not perfect. More fun that way.
    Rating: 8

    Brookes McKenzie

    Here's a tip — when doing a classical song (which means that all ears will be on them, so to speak), do NOT choose even remotely bad syllables. In my book, "ba na na" qualifies as bad syllables. Other than that, there's nothing all that wrong with this song. They pull off the complex parts fairly well, and the whistling bit is nice (dreadful though that may sound). The other syllables are standard-issue classical vocalese, for what it's worth, and overall a fairly solid performance.
    Rating: 6

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    i don't like this track for several reasons. syllable choice (i like ba na na myself, but i don't think it quite works for, well, bach). pitch is off in many places. the arrangement has some interesting things in it, lines that meld from one part into another, occasional other neat ideas, but overall, it doesn't warrant the length of this track. it's probably kinda fun to sing, but the syllables just kill me; classical music was not meant to have "bing" and endless ba na na and na ma na and bm, i just think it's wrongo the songo and mucho too longo.
    Rating: 2

    Matt Cohen

    I think they're doing this just to show that they can. You have to give it a few minutes before it becomes interesting, but it's rather listenable. They never embarrass themselves, which is impressive. There's a nice, lush section towards the end. Is the whistling bit interesting, or just shrill?
    Rating: 7

    Randi Sherman

    The color of this piece is unsettling to me. They sing most of it on "ba-na-na" which isn't exactly original syllables for them. Using a very bright "ah" sound eliminates the original sound of the piece, which is a much richer, darker color. A hard piece to do, since no one person (or voice part) is always on a melody, hence, a fugue. (duh!) I have to give them credit for doing this piece, but the "baa"s throughout the piece get annoying at times. You can tell they worked really hard on this piece, because there is so much syncopation per part, and they do it well. The whistling is great towards the end. I would've liked to hear the whole piece done like this. Just kidding.
    Rating: 6

  14. Love Is All Around (5.0)
    John Magruder

    What a cheesy song! Hey, if some group called 'Wet Wet Wet' did this arrangement, you know it's Velveeta. This is one of those 80's disco/dance hall love songs. The backgrounds got a bit sloppy towards the end, but the energy was appropriate.
    Rating: 6

    Brookes McKenzie

    Is this the song as done by a chorus of birds, with the Everly Brothers' (even) wimpier younger brothers for soloists? Or did the original mysteriously lack any parts written below the middle of the treble clef? Maybe it's just my faulty memory, but I barely recognize the song. It's literally all peeping and tootling sopranos, except for a few random mid-range parts — it sounds as if they're trying to parody the song by pretending it's scored for a Baroque a cappella group, a la Monty Python. I almost hope that they did mean it to sound this way, but somehow I don't think so. Insane is really the only word for the final product.
    Rating: 1

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    wet wet wet. interesting, the altos sing bass in this song, and the men do direct harmonies and backup stuff behind the soloist. there are certainly some beautiful, thick chords, but towards the end the women's parts get overly complex unnecessarily, and the song, again, goes a little long. i always felt like the lead was on the verge of just missing, although he never did, which i must say i was happy about. having the women sing bass and the men just do backup vocal type stuff is interesting, but i think it's problematic, kinda like having the bass player and guitar drop out for one song on an album and let the treble clef instruments have a day in the sun...
    Rating: 4

    Matt Cohen

    The lead, a baritone, has one of those great voices that give the impression of harmony even when they're singing solo. Androgynous, but talented. More great blending from the rest of the group.
    Rating: 8

    Randi Sherman

    The notes that the soloist holds at the end of each phrase are almost always out of tune. But, I really like the bright sound the group produces by having very little bass in the song. There's a couple of out of tune notes that really stick out in this song. The second verse sounds a little messy, because too much is going on that starts to clash after a few seconds. It's simply too many syllables. I think a simple percussion line could have done this song a lot of justice.
    Rating: 6

  15. Tomorrow, Wendy (6.4)
    John Magruder

    I give the Whispers points for trying this. Who else would try this Concrete Blonde song about a dying woman? I have to admit that I was afraid to hear this song, because I love the original. But I was impressed — not by its perfect musical sound (it did not have one), but rather by the feeling it invoked. The soloist did not have the same rough edge that Johnette Napolitano has, but I did not care. The whole group gave me the goose bumps. Also a song that had no noticeable tempo problems. Just add a little polish to this song and you have a real gem.
    Rating: 7

    Brookes McKenzie

    If Johnette Napolitano sang this song any higher than a full octave lower than the soloist sings it here, I'll eat something large and mechanical. Kind of a ridiculous-sounding arrangement choice, especially when she sings the part about God getting his ass kicked in her oh-so-dulcet tones. The arrangement doesn't help, considering it's so choral it would choke a coloratura, not to mention liberally infested with bad syllables. On the one part where the background attempts to go about kicking some ass of its own, it becomes simply a teensy bit less lame. Although the percussion actually isn't bad, the sopranos are still painful.
    Rating: 2

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    ah, finally some good vocal production. this is one of the only songs on the album where you can really hear the soloist. mara's lead is totally dry, no reverb, no crap, a great contrast to the rest of the group's sound here, and she really performs well. also, a very cool song, relatively unknown, but cool. this is theirs. liz bagby's arrangement is restrained and fitting, very pretty, very simple. unfortunately when the group really kicks in we lose a little bit of the solo in terms of volume, and the percussion misses relatively often. ooh, and the bass part at the end is a little odd (they sing a melodic thing WAY low). again, goes too long i think, but this might be the best track on the disc.
    Rating: 7

    Matt Cohen

    This arrangement, like "As I Lay Me Down", is a departure from their typical, open and highly articulated style. Except this time it works. I don't like the men in the background doing the falsetto right before the big crescendo, but the rest is solid. It sounds very "Off the Beat" (Penn's ass kickin' coed group. A nickel says Gabe really likes this song.). A beautiful finish with great bass vox.
    Rating: 8

    Randi Sherman

    The first time I listened to this song, I got the chills. I got them the second time, too. There is beauty in the soloist's voice, and there's also anger when it's needed. The biggest turn-off about this song is when the infamous "ba-na-na" syllables returned. I think they can explore their outlet of creativity and pick a new one. It's completely the arranger's choice, but I would have cut the ending shorter. It sounds like the a cappella accompaniment was recorded, and the soloist did her solo separately. A strange sounding mix of recording — There's almost two minutes of music after the last verse, and I was waiting for more words, not just another variation on "Tomorrow Wendy's going to die". But, these are the only elements that keep the song from getting a higher score. It really is a sad song to listen to, but there is musical greatness despite the lyrics.
    Rating: 8

  16. Head Like a Hole (5.4)
    John Magruder

    Nine Inch Nails? OK. These people aren't afraid of anything! And they didn't cheapen the attempt by putting lots of effects all over it. It misses the huge, driving beat of the original, but the arrangement is pretty good considering the material. This was full of energy, which it really has to be to make it work. In the end though, you kind of have to be an a cappella fan to really appreciate the effort, otherwise it's kind of stupid to try. But SCREW IT! I'm an a cappella fan!
    Rating: 7

    Brookes McKenzie

    Once I recovered from the massive coronary brought on by the mere _idea_ of the Whispers doing this song, I was still capable of being amused by the reality of it. Even aside from the expected Mormon Tabernacle Choir effect of the whole group singing "Bow down before the one you serve", the solo is freshly hysterical - with a _lot_ of reverb he actually sounds less embarrassing than he could on the verses, but on the chorus he turns into a whining 3-year-old (a not entirely inappropriate fate for Trent R., but still). The percussion is flaccid, the background (what else?) choral, but the overall effect, though bizarre, is not as bad as it could have been.
    Rating: 3

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    opens with kickin percussion and a sweet women's part, this immediately sounds totally different than anything on the album, more heavily produced in terms of effect on the lead and percussion. when the lead starts wailing in the chorus he's a little pinched, and the percussion is often imprecise. i like liz's arrangement quite a bit, nice contrapuntal stuff everywhere, then the end comes out of nowhere and, while it's nice that this tune doesn't go too long like so many of the others, it seems totally sudden and is unexpected. what i don't understand is why liz's arrangements are shoved to the end of the album. if i'd've been making that decision i'd've stuck tomorrow, wendy and head like a hole right out front to kick the album off with a jam. oh well.
    Rating: 6

    Matt Cohen

    The soloist is the same guy from track 14 (and he's definitely a GUY on this one!). Once again, he's a captivating singer. The intro to this track is off: on the "Bow down before the one you serve!" line they sound a little too much like Queen. It tries to be hardcore, but it just isn't sincere. They should have flipped the order of this and track 15.
    Rating: 7

    Randi Sherman

    Hmmm — Nine Inch Nails goes a cappella. I really like the percussion breakdown in the beginning of the song. You can tell there are a lot of effects used in this song to get echoes, etc. I have to give them some credit for going out on a limb and doing this song, but I don't think it's a good song to end the album and to leave the listener with. I humbly state that this shouldn't be done a cappella, unless they were to completely change the style of the song. It sounds like the song doesn't belong with the rest of the album. I did like the humor of the ending of the song where the soloist sings "There's nothing left".
    Rating: 4




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