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RARB REVIEW

School: University of North Carolina
Group: Clef Hangers
Album: Five O'Clock Shadow

Total time: 60:53, 18 songs
Tracks 1, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9, 10, 13 and 16 recorded by the 1995-6 Clefs
Tracks 2, 5, 7, 11, 12, 14, 15, 17 and 18 recorded by the 1997-8 Clefs.


Track Listing

  1. Moondance (7.4)
  2. Someone Else's Star (6.8)
  3. Obvious Child (6.6)
  4. Runaround (5.8)
  5. Little Red Riding Hood (6.0)
  6. If I Were You (6.6)
  7. Drive (6.4)
  8. View That Holy City (6.6)
  9. Shape of My Heart (5.8)
  10. Kiss From A Rose (5.6)
  11. Go Rest High on That Mountain (6.0)
  12. Africa (6.2)
  13. Kodachrome (7.4)
  14. Loch Lomond (7.0)
  15. Faithfully (7.2)
  16. Stardust (5.8)
  17. Fresh (7.2)
  18. That Lonesome Road (6.2)

Reviews

Overall

John Magruder

I just recently reviewed the Clef Hangers album Crackin' Up and had been rather disappointed by what I heard. When I received this new album from the group to review, I was not sure what to think. Half of the album was recorded by last year's group. Would that make a difference? Would it be an improvement, or would it be more of the same kind of stuff?

Turns out, it was both. This album has some improvements over the previous attempt. Though they could have made things better by having a more creative mic setup, it has a decent recording quality, and the group seems to be more expressive than before. Yet the group has not changed a great deal in the grand scheme of things. The blend is not very consistent, and the pitch follows suit. The Hangers' tempo problems have not gone away, either. That contributed to the feeling that this album went on forever... which it did. A full hour. The songs with the previous year's group sound just like last year's group... go figure. All their problems came with them in this recording.

The things that bother me most are their arrangements and the fact that they have a tendency to perform most of the songs too slowly. The slow going on this album makes itself noticed when you hear vocal support problems, which makes the pitch suffer. The arrangements... oy. They have not changed much at all! Not very inspiring arrangements filled with odd choices (rhythm, vowels, etc.) here and there. The ending of songs are the worst thing for me. So many songs have endings that just do not fit.

Once again, the Clef Hangers managed to produce an average album. I would not rush right out to buy it if I were you.
Rating: 5 (5.8)

Shawn Pearce

There are two things this group does very well: close harmony jazz, and ballads. This is a much better album than their last one because they focused more on these strengths. What they need now is to find some good vocal percussion, pay more attention to the flow of songs, and make certain they have the soloists to make a song work. But overall a MUCH better job.
Rating: 7 (6.6)

Rebecca Christie

The Clefs are a good, solid men's group doing their bit and holding the line. They like their country music; they're willing to leave genre and go modern for a bit, but mostly you're gonna get a buncha guys with good voices singing songs.

Their old-style roots come through in a couple of ways, and have their ups and downs. The Clefs have a beautiful true-choral number in Vaughn Williams' arrangement of Loch Lomond, and they sound good doing Ivy songs and other glee-clubby bits. They have a nice lighter side, as explored in Little Red Riding Hood. They also come across as very heavy-handed, particularly on some of the ballads, which need a more delicate touch. And they suffer from the energy problem on some songs — i.e., if there just was some, it might be a real nice listen. One odd thing is their inability to tune the held chords with which they end most of their songs. They have this hard, legato choral arrangement down pat, but they can't hold a major chord for a couple seconds at the end of a song. Weird.

The song order is awfully schizoid — I'm generally a supporter of eclectic orders, but some flow is called for. The album opens with an Ivy standard, moves to a slow country ballad and then into this whacked percussion thing — all are decent listens to one extent or another, but there had to have been a smoother way to line them up. I dunno.

The Clef Hangers are not gonna bust any barriers or blow away any preconceptions. They are gonna give you your money's worth, and, like many things in the South, they have a certain charm that comes with being a little behind the times.
Rating: 7 (6.7)

Matt Cohen

This album gets off to a great start, but unfortunately it can't live up to its own standard as the album wears on. The arrangements are generally well done, but a lot of songs lack the drive that they ought to have.

On the whole, the Clef Hangers have an impressive range of lead singers. With rare exception, they are all very solid; they really throw themselves at the material, and they bring a lot of their own personality to the songs. Nothing about their performances sounds forced. Impressive stuff. It is unfortunate that they are sometimes let down by an unexciting song choice or half hearted backing vocals.
Rating: 6 (6.8)

Ben Tritle

The Clef Hangers have churned out another decent CD with a similar formula to the last: a couple country, a Bobs cover, a couple a cappella standards, and a couple Paul Simon covers... yet it all seems to work again. For the most part, they keep from being stale save for a couple of tracks. For the most part, they still do a repertoire that is refreshingly different from those of other groups. They also were able to get away from the studio problems they had last time, namely poor mixing between solo and group. Once or twice it sounded disjointed, but those were rare occasions. All in all, a recommendable CD, worthy of the rating I'm giving it.
Rating: 7 (6.5)


Individual Tracks

  1. Moondance (7.4)
    John Magruder

    A fun standard from Van Morrison that people love to hear, and groups love to sing. Sounds pretty good. There are a few relatively small tuning problems within the group, but the song has a boisterous, brassy sound. The soloist has a bit of a rough time with it, straining on the highest notes. Overall it is a good, loud song that is not too offensive to hear... until the ending. All the voices join in unison for a big ending... and then sing this HOKEY 'doo-whah' chord! It is totally unrelated to the rest of the song! It is kind of like going up to the podium to accept an award and out of the blue you get a meringue pie right in the face! Actually it is more like getting blindsided by a mugger while on a picnic. Ouch.
    Rating: 6

    Shawn Pearce

    Very tightly and well sung. Even though I'm QUITE tired of this song in the a cappella circles, I can appreciate a well-sung interpretation, and the jazz overtones used in the originals are realized here. And one of the things these guys do well is Jazz.
    Rating: 7

    Rebecca Christie

    Nice big sound opens the album, with a traditional and very high-syllable background goin' on. (Ooh-dat-bop-bow!) I feel disorientingly like I took a wrong turn somewhere and ended up at Princeton. Except the solo sounds like he sings country music in his spare time, especially in the way he produces his high notes. I like country music, so it doesn't bother me and really I like his energy and personality. The overall sound is not as locked as it should be, which really shows on the held chord at the end, but overall the song works.
    Rating: 7

    Matt Cohen

    I keep hearing that this is the most overdone song of all time, but this is actually the only a cappella cover I have in my perversely large collection. And it's a damn fine cover at that. They don't make any dramatic changes, but the performance still takes on a life of its own: It SWINGS! Swinging leads, swinging arrangement. The only thing wrong with this song is that the ending is very clip. The "Doooo waaaaaa!" that closes it out doesn't help. But still a great opening track.
    Rating: 9

    Ben Tritle

    My first reaction was "Oh, no, not ANOTHER version", but after listening to it, it really grew on me. The Clefs didn't show this jazzy side last time, and it was a nice start to the album. The arrangement was well done, keeping the group's interest up, thereby keeping my interest up. Well sung.
    Rating: 8

  2. Someone Else's Star (6.8)
    John Magruder

    Look out! It's a sappy "my life sucks" song! I have no idea who wrote it, because the Clefs never give credit to the original artist, which I think is wrong — but that is another issue altogether. It does not sound that bad, but there are some things that stand out for me: the soloist's voice is nice, but sometimes gets rather piercing; the basses sometimes stick out and blat their notes... in fact, most of the group does a lot of blatting of notes. This is actually a pretty typical sound from the Clefs throughout the album — just not taking time to refine their sound and how they blend with one another. Then they have to end the song with this "whoosh"... this wind sound effect. They did it a number of times on the last album, and I see tradition continues. Guys, don't do that unless it adds something to the song, then let it fade out. Don't cut off. It sounds bad.
    Rating: 6

    Shawn Pearce

    Again, I don't know the source material, but this sounds like the OTHER thing the Clefs do well — country. The arrangement is very basic bell-tone based sound, decently sung with only minor tuning problems throughout. The soloist does a decent job of selling the song...but this isn't exactly back-breaking material.
    Rating: 6

    Rebecca Christie

    Solo here has a very pretty voice that doesn't have any trouble coping with the extremely high range of this song. It grows on me as the song progresses. He seems a little out of place with the country thing — since I know the song, I find myself reaching for qualities he doesn't have or doesn't have enough of. The background is *very* straight, like the guy who wrote the arrangement only felt comfortable drawing quarter notes. I think the song could use a light guitarish background rather than block chords. Percussion is basic, but at a nice level and is fine with what they're trying to do. The whole thing reminds me of the James Taylor songs of Clefs gone by. The first tenors have a very heavy falsetto sound that I'm not used to hearing so much anymore. It's in tune, but sounds a little strange on its "doo-doo-doo" melodies. End chord again loses tuning.
    Rating: 6

    Matt Cohen
    I guess I must be wishing on someone else's star
    It seems like someone else keeps getting what I'm wishing for
    I can not be as lucky as those other people are
    I guess I must be wishing on someone else's star

    Now, those lyrics ought to sound damn cheesy to you. Yet, somehow it doesn't come off that way. The melody is charming and the leads are sung so sincerely that you buy into it. The emotions ring true.
    Rating: 9

    Ben Tritle

    Until another group catches a clue, this may be the only outlet for a cappella country. A rich solo just pours in over a nicely built background. The arrangement suffers slightly from over-dooing it, but it doesn't detract from a beautiful track.
    Rating: 7

  3. Obvious Child (6.6)
    John Magruder

    The Paul Simon percussion-fest, a cappella. Pretty fun to hear, and it must be a blast doing this live. Some tuning problems, some tempo problems, some typical problems. The percussion is done in an interesting fashion: they vocalize it. I mean, they do it on actual syllables, like "stri-ick-e-licky-chicky-chick, doom-doom". Interesting, but I don't like it much. It makes things sound kind of silly. The ending is not as bad as the endings usually are, except for the fact that the last chord is sharp.
    Rating: 7

    Shawn Pearce

    Good percussion, especially given the lack of it in the last album they did. Soloist does a good job of capturing Paul's essence. The problem is that the arrangement (or the arrangement execution) is very stiff, very unwavering...whereas the point behind the original was the improvisational aspects of African music when blended with western ideals. The slower, less drum-heavy sections were very nice, though.
    Rating: 7

    Rebecca Christie

    This is cool because of its radical departure from Clefdom. We started out in the solid rear-guard of the a cappella envelope, and quite nicely. We went into a traditional ballad, and out of nowhere they start a song which is completely dependent on drums. The whole group does drums for about four measures and it's actually pretty good and makes up for the fact that the opening guy didn't have the rhythm quite right. Solo needs to relax a little bit, not be quite so earnest. He infects the rest of the group on the "had a lot of fun, had a lot of money" bit. This song has got to be laid back to work, and I think the background has that some of the time, they just can't keep it; they get heavy handed. The quiet verse does quite well, with a nice lower harmony line, and then wrecks it with the "ooh-wah-oohs" in the middle. In general the background does really well with the verses, it's just the bridges where they get heavy — add words and it gets out of control.

    Now, back to the percussion. What's good about it is the way they layer rhythms and sounds. There are about three that back the whole song. And they've got the right idea. Where they come up a little short is choosing syllables — they are of the "words" rather than "sounds" type of drum educators. The "lead drummer" is the biggest problem, and he is real fond of "chicky chig", and during the breakdown part comes up with "Stigitta-licky-chicky-chick" which ventures out of the realm of good taste. Oh, and is there any reason the tenors took the falsetto melody at the end and turned it from laid back to a bugle call? Why rewrite it? And why, oh why, did they choose to have the whole group come back in with a big chord on "child" after smoothing themselves out of the song.
    Rating: 6

    Matt Cohen

    Well, they grabbed a good singer to cover a contemporary Paul Simon song. It's hard to sing tunes that were written in his patented, almost spoken yet strangely musical style. The lead here pulls it off well. But it wasn't the best idea for a cover. The song gets a lot of its power out of its exotic army of drummers. It doesn't have much impact with the vocal percussion. Also, you don't truly believe the lead singer in the role he has to play. This song is from an older and more worldly perspective than a college student should be expected to have.
    Rating: 5

    Ben Tritle

    FUN!! The percussion opening was great, though the bridge was a little kitschy (Dickleickity chicky chick?) The arrangement was brilliant, though...chair dancing type song.
    Rating: 8

  4. Runaround (5.8)
    John Magruder

    What a silly sounding song this has become! The tenors singing the harmonica part in falsetto sounds so silly going "wah-wah-wah-wah". Probably gets the people in an audience rolling with laughter. I could not help but grin. The balance is a bit out of whack, with parts sounding more like they are intruding rather than blending (ah, the curse of blatting your note). The soloist sounds good, and the solo harmony in the chorus is done well, with the right balance and a tight sound. The rest is just a bit too sloppy. Nothing new there. And as usual, I did not like the ending much, though this one was not nearly as offensive to my ears as some of the others.
    Rating: 7

    Shawn Pearce

    HATED the sung "harmonica" at the beginning...if you can't make the sound work, don't try the sound. The background is stiff again, and I don't buy the soloist or his harmonist...it sounds like glee-club doing Blues Traveler. There are many things this group does well, but this song just really doesn't work for them.
    Rating: 3

    Rebecca Christie

    Okay, back to familiar territory. A nice, upbeat doo-wop song. Oh, wait. It's the Blues Traveler song. Oh. Well, I hate to break it to the soloist, who is going along really just fine, but the background thinks it's doo-wop, and is doing a decent job with that too. The falsetto guys just sound '50s — don't even think the word "harmonica" and you'll be fine. The solo split actually works pretty well — they have one guy doing the verses, and another guy coming in to do the higher chorus. This is particularly evident as a good idea, because the last verselet is too high for the verse guy and he loses his style. They cut out huge chunks of the song, but that keeps it short and sweet in doo-wop fashion.
    Rating: 6

    Matt Cohen

    I could do without the "waaaaaaaaaa waaaa waaaaaaaaaaaaa"s in the background vocals. Other than that, this is sharp arrangement. The lead singer is good, but he's not as good as John Popper. You gotta give him credit for making the song his own though. The guy is having fun singing every note. I particularly like the "Hey Baby, let's keep in touch," line — he really plays up the insincere agent quality of the line.
    Rating: 7

    Ben Tritle

    Repetitive, especially in the basses where the "Bow"s get to be annoying. The solo and trio carry the song, as it just didn't offer anything to grab attention. Nice to listen to though.
    Rating: 6

  5. Little Red Riding Hood (6.0)
    John Magruder

    Hey, I love this song... when the Bobs sing it. This time around, it does not thrill me. It is sung a bit too slow, which seems to emphasize the problems the soloist has. He hits the low notes just fine. But he does not stay there. His voice wavers all over on sustained notes that are longer than a quarter note. Nine times out of ten he's flat. Just not great breath support, I think. It is especially painful on the last note, which is of course the longest note of the song. The rest of the group tends to follow his lead and has tuning problems too.
    Rating: 5

    Shawn Pearce

    The Bobs with sound effects. I'm glad that they didn't try to be as obnoxious about the sounds as the Bobs did...here things are more jazzy. The basses are a LITTLE too brassy at times, but this is meant as a bass feature. A solid performance.
    Rating: 6

    Rebecca Christie

    This song proves that these guys have the middle school circuit (and all those nice private school fees) absolutely cornered. I see them in coats, ties, and hastily donned sunglasses. It's smooth, tuned, got a little percussion goin', and a bass solo and a good strong solo tenor intro. The style is not for all of us, but this is great at what it's trying to do.
    Rating: 8

    Matt Cohen

    I don't think I'll ever say this again, but the Bobs' version is better. I thought this fifties novelty song was supposed to be FUN. Here, it's sung too slowly to have any life. It's neither sexy nor spooky nor funny.
    Rating: 4

    Ben Tritle

    The Bobs again??? NOOOO! Well, ok, maybe the arrangement is pretty good, enjoyable even. And even when the soloist scrapes bottom, he does so while still putting some intensity into it. Tuning is excellent, as this song relies on harmony quite heavily.
    Rating: 7

  6. If I Were You (6.6)
    John Magruder

    Just another typically average song. Blending of the parts is not really there. Things get too loud all the time. The soloist has an earnest voice, but works too hard to have a vibrato and a dark, serious sound. Thus he goes flat way too often. Occasional tuning problems. Another wind effect at the ending of the song that should not have been there.
    Rating: 5

    Shawn Pearce

    (Side note: A pet peeve of mine is groups that don't list original artists with each of the songs....there are people who would like to know original source material.) Anyways, the song....very nice. Is this another country song? I don't know...they don't list the original artist. The soloist strains a lot, but it seems to work well with this arrangement.
    Rating: 7

    Rebecca Christie

    This one is about as light and airy as a bag of wet cement. Which is too bad, because otherwise most everything about this song is fine. If the background could have sung at about half voice, the solo could get by as is and then we'd have a light, pretty ballad. As it is, I feel like I'm already dragging a ball and chain instead of being implored to fall in love. (Funny, in a couple of spots the whole pitch snags, like they caught their ball&chain on something for a sec.)
    Rating: 6

    Matt Cohen

    This ballad showcases yet another strong soloist. Unlike track 2, the lyrics are coming off as kinda cheesy. But nicely sung.
    Rating: 7

    Ben Tritle

    Cover of a Colin Raye song that the Clefs stand out on well again. In this case, lack of commentary is very good, as the only flaw is a too-strong solo in some spots. MORE!!
    Rating: 8

  7. Drive (6.4)
    John Magruder

    The Cars. I have always liked this song. The Clefs sound good on this one. The blend is better, and the pitch stays more consistent than usual. This is a good thing. It tries to get worse, and occasionally manages to do so, with the backgrounds getting sloppy in the choruses when they sing anything that is not a sustained note. But thankfully the song is mostly sustained notes, so this does not happen enough to wreck things. Until you get to the... can you guess? Yes, you're right! The ending! The percussionist puts on one of those damn wind effects right at the end. Sounds just like a leaking tire. Why do you guys insist on doing that? Probably the best song on the album, despite the hiss.
    Rating: 7

    Shawn Pearce

    Something I've noticed is that the Clefs seem to have this thing about breathing every four bars. I think this may be the problem with a lot of their arrangements not having the flow that others do. This is apparent at times here....the arrangement itself is good...and the soloist is good...the execution of the arrangement was a little lacking, specifically due to the breathing mentioned here. However, this is a good song that, again, could have been great.
    Rating: 7

    Rebecca Christie

    What a pretty '80s ballad. Not too complicated, but the background is solid and the upper parts have a lovely light sound with some nice rhythmic accents over well-tuned sustained parts. The basses are right there, but I think would do better to sing less vowel and more sound - needs more resonance, less "sing", if that makes any sense. Complexity drops out just before the second chorus for a measure or two — poor arranging choice/cop-out. The "who's gonna drive you" echoes and ensuing bridge are too heavy and take away from the rest of what the song's doing. Cause when it sticks with its point, which is most of the time, it's doing quite well.
    Rating: 7

    Matt Cohen

    Well, it looks like this once mocked Cars song is finally getting justly recognized, at least by college groups. This version isn't as good as the one on BOCA, but it still works. The soloist gives a dramatic performance, but he seems a little thin on the high parts, particularly on his entrance. The backing arrangement doesn't have enough tension to be emotionally effective.
    Rating: 6

    Ben Tritle

    Unfortunately, the song isn't...driven. The arrangement doesn't allow for a smooth flow of chords and harmonies. Too many ba-da's make it noticeable. I'm not sure I liked the choice of how the ending was arranged. If you don't pay too close attention, it is nice, but it is merely passable.
    Rating: 5

  8. View That Holy City (6.6)
    John Magruder

    Gospel time. Once again, the guys manage not to surprise me. Pretty typically sloppy. Pitch problems, little tempo problems, little problems. The soloist breakout in the middle of the song was not recorded right. The soloist should have stepped up to the mic a bit to get a cleaner sound. Oh well. I never liked this song much anyhow.
    Rating: 4

    Shawn Pearce

    Very cool spiritual. You either love this kind of music or you don't. I happen to love this music. And the group is very well suited to this musical style.
    Rating: 8 (6 if you're not a gospel fan)

    Rebecca Christie

    Glee-Club gospel. If those words strike you with terror move right along now. Within that framework, however, this is actually not bad. The solo voice accents are sweetly done and the li'l southern accent of the whole group is a nice touch. Bass is strong, and it's a all-the-voices-on-one part, old-style quartet arrangement. The true-gospel breakdown starts out like it's gonna be scary, but shapes up real nice-like and gets back to the old style nicely too. And for once their big chord ending kind of fits.
    Rating: 7

    Matt Cohen

    This is the time where I would normally have to say how much religious music leaves this Jew cold. But this spirited (no pun intended) song gets off to such a bouncy start that I liked it from note one, no disclaimers attached. The one thing that bugs me is when the soloist leaves the group behind to improv. The group rejoins him after an awkward pause. The timing is just . . . off.
    Rating: 7

    Ben Tritle

    A gospel tune that relies on tuning and blend, and does it very well. The only major problem falls in the bridge during Lusk's solo, and the group's subsequent re-entry. It just felt awkward, like "should we be coming in here?" awkward; a nice recovery smoothed out any leftover wrinkles.
    Rating: 7

  9. Shape of My Heart (5.8)
    John Magruder

    The other best song on the album, I think. Sung with sensitivity by the soloist — in fact, the entire group. Dave and Jake do a good job on their duet with a good blend and balance. There are only a couple of times where the tenor background goes a bit flat. Finished off with a decent (but not great) ending, and you are left with a good feeling off of this one.
    Rating: 7

    Shawn Pearce

    One of Sting's latest a cappella flavors du jour. Again, the group breathing really makes arrangements that would otherwise flow very disjointed. This arrangement would be solid if not for the effect that that leaves. Other than that, nothing horrible, nothing remarkable..although the call and response of the second verse came off as cheesy.
    Rating: 5

    Rebecca Christie

    They open this like a ballad — no rhythm. I find that problematic. A few pitch problems (esp. in the instrumental part) but mainly just nothing to move. Percussion comes in for the rest of the song, and it helps, but it just doesn't do enough. Dave Sperandio has a great voice, and his duet is good too, but this song needs rhythm, needs to move, and they don't do enough to make that happen. And it can be done a cappella — AudioRadiance's CARA-nominated version kicks some really serious butt. On a good note: Basses have a really nice presence throughout the song.
    Rating: 5

    Matt Cohen

    Something about the vocal percussion makes the whole verses seem out of sync. I like the echoing of the lead vocals. The arrangement has some nice subtle touches, but in the end it isn't very engaging. But stick round anyway for the tight harmonies on the choruses.
    Rating: 6

    Ben Tritle

    A song without drive. The solo and duet drive a song that was arranged rather mediocrely. The "doo"s were far too prolific throughout the song. Also, the group lost much of the intensity it needed in trying to keep to a low dynamic.
    Rating: 6

  10. Kiss From A Rose (5.6)
    John Magruder

    I really did not need to hear this again. I really did not need to hear this from the Clefs. Their usual problems just get magnified by this song, which is not as easy to sing as many may think. I know. I have sung it. Hard work. Their generally sloppy sound just gets really sloppy this time around. This time, the duet is not that great. No sir, I didn't like it.
    Rating: 4

    Shawn Pearce

    The arrangement seems very somber and empty, lacking the ethereal exuberance of the original. Also, the breathing finds its way in here again... two words: stagger breathing. All in all, very flat arrangement.
    Rating: 4

    Rebecca Christie

    I seem to be the only person in a cappellaland who doesn't like this song. Just in general. And in general, this version of it is Just Fine. Not as polished as Seal, pretty solo, some real nice moments from the basses again, background sounds fine to me, they do nice with the rests, ho hum.
    Rating: 7

    Matt Cohen

    Very interesting. A Seal cover that doesn't try to imitate the original, lush production. There's no vocal percussion. All the vocal lines are boldly sung. The arrangement is relatively simple. By getting to the heart of the song, it works much better than the standard Seal cover. (The solid lead singer doesn't hurt, either.) If only it was a little more energetic, or if it just had some more drive, it would be something to write home about.
    Rating: 7

    Ben Tritle

    TECHNICALLY: It's well done. All the notes are hit well. EMOTIONALLY: It's phoned-in. It felt like a track that was used as filler to connect two sides.
    Rating: 6

  11. Go Rest High on That Mountain (6.0)
    John Magruder

    This song is a tribute. The Clefs lost one of their own... Brad King, Class of '96. I remember his voice distinctly. It was simply the best voice on the album. It is truly a shame that such a voice will never be heard again, and I am sure that his passing is felt by many.

    As for the song, it is just not very good. It is not bad, just not good. The soloist gets too loud in the mix on the choruses. Pitch problems happen. Lackluster.
    Rating: 5

    Shawn Pearce

    This album was dedicated to a former member that had died in 1996. I can tell the emotion evident in this arrangement when they sing...and it comes through....I think this is a Vince Gill song...if so, this is another country song that they really bring out. (I guess they really like country down there.) All in all, nicely done.
    Rating: 7

    Rebecca Christie

    Very pretty solo. Chorus is a little high for him, but I like it better than the guy who got the CARA nod for this song from Emory. Background again is very straight, and very heavy. Maybe if they mixed them lighter, or added some extra parts so they didn't have so many people singing.

    By the way, I knew Brad King. Not well, but I knew him. He always remembered my name, even when I forgot his, and I always wished I'd gotten to know him better, even before I heard that he had been killed in a car crash. He is missed.
    Rating: 6

    Matt Cohen

    A sad song made sadder still by it's dedication to one of the groups late members. Nice blend on the chorus. A solid version that's on par with the BOCA version.
    Rating: 7

    Ben Tritle

    Once again, this Vince Gill track felt phoned in. The arrangement seemed to be the biggest barrier to its flow. It just felt like an A-B-A-B-B song. You knew what part they were on, and could expect the next part coming.
    Rating: 5

  12. Africa (6.2)
    John Magruder

    This a cappella classic gets nothing special this time around by the Clefs. The arrangement gets these moments of emptiness that weaken the whole thing. Some tempo problems mar the song. Just typical. It has a powerful sound, but that is not hard to get when you have lots of men singing the same notes.
    Rating: 5

    Shawn Pearce

    I had the pleasure of reviewing the last Clefs album that had this arrangement on it. The arrangement is as good as ever. The soloists, however, are totally wrong for this song. They sing well enough, it just doesn't fit this song well. Also, this song needs strong percussion to work well, and this group just doesn't have that.
    Rating: 6

    Rebecca Christie

    Just when you thought the Clefs couldn't do mellow, they come out with a very laid-back version of Brannon Wiles' great arrangement. This one is, I think, in better musical control, or at least produced better, than the one that made it onto Safari. But it feels different — less energy, and a revamped percussion line that I don't connect nearly as much as with the old three-part foundation for the song.
    Rating: 7

    Matt Cohen

    Could my quest for a really good recording of Africa finally be over? No. It's nice to hear a bass on the lead, but he's a little too smooth to rock out on the verses. And giving the first line of the chorus to a tenor doesn't work. It gets lost in the mix. When the tenor and the lead harmonize on the rest of the chorus, it all comes together, but it isn't enough to make this work. Especially when so much of the song seems under tempo. Great drum fill, though.
    Rating: 6

    Ben Tritle

    Originally a CARA winner for best arrangement maybe? Certainly helped in driving the song through. Jason Allbert's solo is definitely worth mention here, as is the background blend.
    Rating: 7

  13. Kodachrome (7.4)
    John Magruder

    This song is fun and boisterous. No question. Tuning suffers from going so hard at the whole thing. Dynamics are not needed here. What is needed is a better arrangement. The thing I noticed the most was when the song really needs to have the driving beat, it slows down. When it can slow down, it speeds up. Odd ending... not bad, just odd. I did not feel it fit.
    Rating: 6

    Shawn Pearce

    Fun solo....this was somewhat of an imaginative arrangement...kind of a big band/country mesh. I can imagine this was a hoot live. The tuning suffers sometimes, and it doesn't seem that they had full control of the tempo, but it was a fun arrangement to listen to.
    Rating: 7

    Rebecca Christie

    Oh, this is very them. A neat li'l country solo, some glee-clubby energy, heaviness works okay (surprising, given the original, but hey) and the arrangement has pickup. I like it.
    Rating: 7

    Matt Cohen

    A fun cover that merrily bounces along. There's a strange tempo change where the track suddenly seems to drag. For the best idea of what this track sounds like, pop in the Blenders (if you got 'em) and listen to their country and western send up of "Don't Worry, Be Happy." The same kind of harmonies, the same general tone.
    Rating: 8

    Ben Tritle

    Felt like a country version of a Paul Simon classic. Sperandio's arrangement deserves award consideration. A chair-dancing delight. There were a couple intonation problems, but who cares? Easily the best song on the album
    Rating: 9

  14. Loch Lomond (7.0)
    John Magruder

    The classic Scottish tune with a classic arrangement by Vaughn Williams. That is worth mentioning, because the sound of the song is just noticeably different. The overall sound suffers a bit though, due to the usual problems with the Clefs.
    Rating: 5

    Shawn Pearce

    Very pretty....again, you like it or you don't.
    Rating: 8 (5 if you don't like traditional choral songs)

    Rebecca Christie

    It takes balls for a college amateur group to tackle a serious choral arrangement. This isn't quite at Fleet Street's Ave Maria level, but it's quite pretty and has a classy soloist in Dave Sperandio. The wordless background is smooth and well-tuned, and comes together pretty well on the choruses. Arrangement is by Ralph Vaughn Williams, and it's beautiful.
    Rating: 9

    Matt Cohen

    I never knew where "You'll take the high road, and I'll take the low road . . . " came from before. Anyway, the lead has a hearty brogue. It gives the song character without ever being overdone, so it never sounds like someone doing a bad accent. Not the most stirring song in the world, but you can't beat the blend. If you like traditional melodies, then you'll like this. Otherwise, it isn't going to turn you into a convert.
    Rating: 7

    Ben Tritle

    A choral piece that puts Sperandio well into the soloist's seat instead. Unfortunately it is a technical masterpiece devoid of emotional inflection.
    Rating: 6

  15. Faithfully (7.2)
    John Magruder

    This song sounds good. The soloist has a strong voice, that only occasionally sounds like it can't handle the highest notes. The arrangement makes the whole song sound somber and a bit atmospheric, rather than the thoughtful, hopeful, then triumphant sound that the original has. Not bad though.
    Rating: 7

    Shawn Pearce

    This group seems to love doing these sappy love ballads (I gather they're popular with the ladies...). Good arrangement. Vocalist is trying a little too hard to be the overblown 80's power pop singer, but it's kinda cute in a way.
    Rating: 7

    Rebecca Christie

    If memory serves me, this is a Journey song. I like this country version of it much better. Solo strains in good country fashion and I don't mean that in a bad way. The duet/trio are very pretty.
    Rating: 8

    Matt Cohen

    This group has really great leads. Lots of 'em. This song is another fine example. He doesn't hold anything back — he takes the material head on. And he never sounds strained. And his voice has real character, so he doesn't sound like every other male soloist out there. This track will leave you wanting more.
    Rating: 9

    Ben Tritle

    Greg Poarch had a definite vision with this song. He sings it beautifully. Shame the group didn't share in that vision; even the percussion was less than intense.
    Rating: 5

  16. Stardust (5.8)
    John Magruder

    This old jazz tune just does not sound that great. The arrangement is just too halting for the tuning that this group has. The group is not that expressive, and their balance is spotty. Honestly, the brightest moments are when the soloists sing their tiny snippets. The late Brad King had such a rich, smooth voice, and Dave Sperandio really matched him in expressiveness. These guys stand out as little vocal gems. And the song has the best ending of any of the songs on the album.
    Rating: 6

    Shawn Pearce

    Very nice,slow,close harmony jazz. Not remarkable, but solidly done. Decent soloist.
    Rating: 7

    Rebecca Christie

    The Clefs give this a good effort, but they don't have the clarity to pull off true vocal jazz. These sorts of chords don't leave room for fuzz, and the guys can't pull it together enough to gel. But it's a pretty song. Solos are nice — Brad turns in some sweet little accents, and it's always a pleasure to hear Sperandio sing.
    Rating: 6

    Matt Cohen

    This is very well sung, but the music itself isn't bound to be interesting to you. There are moments when the song shifts from a choral arrangement to having a real soloist. When the lead is singing over the rest of the group, the song picks up some life, but there isn't enough of that in the arrangement and it comes too late into the song to keep you listening.
    Rating: 6

    Ben Tritle

    What didn't I like? Tuning errors within single parts, misplaced dynamics, one-line solos that didn't showcase individual talent or move the song forward. All in all a plodding song.
    Rating: 4

  17. Fresh (7.2)
    John Magruder

    Who was it who did this? DeBarge? I am not sure, and since I can't check in the liner notes, I will have to wait until someone tells me. This song is fun, but plagued with the usual. Tuning suffers (especially in the tenors), and the balance is not quite there. but still not a bad song. A pretty typical collegiate arrangement, with lots of things going on in the background to add lots of texture. A good arrangement, really. A decent ending, too.
    Rating: 6

    Shawn Pearce

    This group seems to be fascinated with Paul Simon, James Taylor, and Kool and the Gang...how about "Jungle Boogie", guys. The arrangement is really cool, the soloist really works, and they gather enough percussion to make it work....again, it could really blow the doors off of a place, but this is pretty solid.
    Rating: 8

    Rebecca Christie

    This needs just a little extra snap to come together. It moves along, solo is nice to listen to, but there's no crispness, like they couldn't quite get the energy together. The "fresh, fresh" accents by the group are the best example of this — they need more dynamic. Misc. notes: The baritones have a lovely little "da-da-da-da" smooth bit before one of the choruses that comes together well, the first tenors get raspy on their highest notes, and the bass line at the end bounces quite oddly through sides of headphones.
    Rating: 7

    Matt Cohen

    Another steady arrangement with rock solid leads. A great song choice. There's a nice breakdown section that builds back up to a fuller arrangement. It isn't predictable and keeps the song, well, fresh.
    Rating: 8

    Ben Tritle

    The Clefs break their own mold with this Kool and the Gang number that really rescued the last third of this CD. Fiscus arrangement could've done more dynamically, but from song choice to soloist, it was loads of fun, and does expand on their desire to be a little more soulful.
    Rating: 7

  18. That Lonesome Road (6.2)
    John Magruder

    The balance and the group's tendency to blat their notes make this tender song suffer more than it had to. The guys were trying to sing so quietly and sensitively, that their support was weakened when it was really needed. A shame too. What could have been a very tender, subtle ending to the album, to me just missed the target.
    Rating: 6

    Shawn Pearce

    The Kings Singers version. VERY well done.
    Rating: 8

    Rebecca Christie

    And so we come full circle, back to the glee-clubby a cappella standard. Of course, James Taylor is a Chapel Hill native, so that gives it an even better excuse. Tenors sound a little pitchy on the "never feel sorry for yourself..." line. This is very much a large group of men singing and sounding just fine — it won't stick in your head, but it's pretty and fills its expected role just fine.
    Rating: 6

    Matt Cohen

    Well, this is dull. Sorry, it is. The magic of the original had a lot to do with James Taylor's voice. He could make the phone book sound good, in my humble opinion. (And I'm not even really a fan.) He had a way of making the song come alive. The lead here is good, but he can't make this song fly. They do try to speed up the arrangement part way through. It helps, but not much. This is not a good way to end to this album.
    Rating: 5

    Ben Tritle

    A standard arrangement that is nice to listen to but is far from special, even to the uninspired solo. Nice to listen to again, but don't analyze.
    Rating: 6

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