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RARB REVIEW

School: Brown University
Group: The Chattertocks
Album: Take It To The Bridge

Total time: 62:22, 17 songs
Recorded May 1996 — February 1997

Ordering Information


Track Listing

  1. No More I Love You's (6.6)
  2. Mad About You (6.8)
  3. Elsewhere (8.0)
  4. Alphabet Street (7.8)
  5. Thriller (5.6)
  6. As I Lay Me Down (6.2)
  7. Ode To My Family (5.6)
  8. One More Try (8.2)
  9. Killing Me Softly (7.0)
  10. Human Nature (7.6)
  11. Open Arms (6.4)
  12. Give Me One Reason (7.2)
  13. And So It Goes (5.6)
  14. K. Billy Supersound (9.0)
  15. Little Green Bag (7.0)
  16. Pie Jesu (6.6)
  17. My Funny Valentine (5.8)

Reviews

Overall

Sarah Andrews Cook

Women's a cappella groups take note — the Chattertocks are women to look up to. This album has a lot of things to recommend it, and the few weaker spots seem to result mostly from lack of focus and not any major flaws that need correcting.

To begin with, this album is great in terms of its liner notes and the obvious thought that went into song order. For each song we get the names of the soloist, arranger, and any other significant parts that stand out (e.g. the strato-sax in Mad About You, trio in As I Lay Me Down, and even regular harmony parts). This is really nice because you can really see who does what in the group. The insert has a group shot, candids, and individual pictures of each member. This seems minor, but it's really helpful when you're trying to get a feel for the group as a whole. As far as the song order, the first 12 tracks are pop songs of the '80s and '90s (and they're really varied ones from various genres), and the last five (really four) songs are a more eclectic group of older tunes and more choral arrangements. This works so much better than if the oddball songs were interspersed among the others, and of course it helps that they do a good job on pretty much every type of tune. The high quality, in the end, is what really makes the album a cohesive whole.

There are really not any significantly weak areas within the Chattertocks, but there are several especially strong spots. The alto II's are a terrific asset — their range goes quite low which allows the group as a whole a larger range as well. There are only three of them, but they make their presence known, in the arrangements, solos, and bass sound. In addition, this is a group that takes advantage of their size (16 members) to do a bang-up job with percussion. On at least one song (where I was counting) there were three people on percussion parts, and they regularly used two on a lot of tracks. Plenty of male and co-ed groups could learn a lesson from the Chattertocks here. And the percussion was really interesting! They know how to mix it up for greatest effect.

They also have a great degree of versatility. The tracks on this album are really varied, and in every case they carried it off. This includes quality soloists, of which they have many. This said, where the Chattertocks really excel are in the more R&B-oriented, soulful songs — Alphabet Street, Thriller, One More Try, Give Me One Reason. They have the soul to do these songs really well, unlike a lot of a cappella groups. In any case, this album is really high quality — the sound, the recording, the whole package.
Rating: 8 (7.2)

Matt Cohen

This disc is a fine collection of sometimes tasty and almost always tastefully done covers. The Chattertocks are putting out better material than their male counterparts, The Jabberwocks. The percussion is solid and the group is blessed with a rather good bass section for a women's group. At their worst, they turn out a dull song or two. But they never actually get BAD. At their best, they can turn rather plain song into a truly emotional experience (such as One More Try and Open Arms.) My main complaint is that the Chattertocks should be doing more upbeat material — they tend to find their own niche when doing upbeat and bouncy tunes like Alphabet Street or at least brightly sung arrangements like their cover of Human Nature. The album seems to be calling out for more fun and fresh material.
Rating: 8 (7.3)

Randi Sherman

Low voices, low voices, low voices. This is the outstanding, unbelievable element of the Chattertocks which sets them apart from all other all-female a cappella groups that I've ever heard (including my own group!). The group has a huge range of notes which they utilize in many of the songs, and when backing up a strong solo voice, they run off with a great end result of a full sound and use of the 18 voices on the CD. They also have some really creative percussion lines that set solid rhythms and a good ground to the song (as in As I Lay Me Down). However, there are two basic problems with this album. The syllable "ah" is used too excessively, and if it were a good syllable for them, I'd let it slide. But, it is the root of many pitch problems (they never go sharp, only flat) and it adds heaviness to many pieces. They have an eclectic choice of songs without any extremely upbeat ones, but the bulk is contemporary '90s tunes. Even though there are some low scores, this is a well-recorded album with some great soloists, some good soloists, but no bad ones. The order of songs should've been different, because the second half (after track 10) is all slow.
Rating: 7 (6.5)

Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

the chattertocks are one of the best female a cappella groups around. their group is fortunate enough to have several real musicians heavily involved, arranging, soloing, music directing. and they have soloists of many different varieties, the pop stuff, the opera stuff, the more rockin stuff. the arrangements are uniformly good, some better than others but there's a modicum of quality throughout; mostly full and interesting and complementary to the usually high quality soloist. the selection of tunes on this album is excellent as well, surveying the pop music world from sting to sarah mclachlan to prince to the cranberries to the fugees to billy joel, etc. they also throw in a couple tunes toward the end which i thought were some of the best, an old '50s rocker and an andrew lloyd webber operatic version of pie jesu. very very nice stuff, and very well performed. this group is cool. they've got style, they're their own thing, and they sing real good. party down. yes sir. go buy it and take some lessons.
Rating: 7 (6.2)

Karl Schroeder

The Chattertocks have a great blend for a group of 18 voices. With a powerhouse low alto section, not once did I find myself wishing they had a guy to sing bass. The percussion, though frequent, was both tastefully done and — like the rest of the album — mixed to what felt like an appropriate volume. Nice production work — levels, effects, and reverb were all utilized sparingly. Although the choice of material was pretty predictable (some of these, like No More I Love You's, Elsewhere, and As I Lay Me Down seem to be almost standards for this year's female college groups), the arrangements fit the group, and most were performed quite well. I only noticed a few tuning problems on the whole album, and most of the soloists had a good feel for each particular song and style. Occasionally the group falls into a style which is more "churchy", where they seem to lose the feel and the emotional "oomph" when striving for great tuning, and a couple of the voices are obviously younger singers who need another year or two under the belt to hold their own with the other voices. The upper-class voices are strong, and their arrangements are skillful, so that points to a good future for the group — provided, of course, that they pass on some tidbits before they graduate!
Rating: 7 (6.8)


Individual Tracks

  1. No More I Love You's (6.6)
    Sarah Andrews Cook

    This track is a good example of what's to come. The Chattertocks create a wall of sound, broken up by some interesting moving parts that create some variety. The solo is appropriate and high quality, and though it doesn't really sound like Annie Lennox, this just adds to the overall effect. The well-done low-alto/"bass" part and percussion, which stand out throughout the album, work well here.
    Rating: 8

    Matt Cohen

    Well, I'm not sick of hearing covers of this song. Not yet anyway. I am, however, sick of seeing liner notes that credit this song to Annie Lennox. This is NOT an Annie Lennox tune! The whole POINT of Medusa was that it was nothing but cover songs! Credit the original artist! Anyway, pet peeves aside, This is a good spin on the tune. The backing vocals do tend to be a bit too prim and baroque (they're very deliberately going for that sound) but the little girl's spoken word voice overs are cool. I suspect some of the other reviewers might not like the spoken section, but even if you're the sort of person to be bugged by that sort of thing, you still can't argue with the little laugh she has.
    Rating: 7

    Randi Sherman

    Here's a song that already doesn't do wonders for me. It's too overdone by female (and mixed) a cappella groups, so it already puts a heavy weight on how well it's performed. The introduction percussion is pretty good, but the recording quality sounds like they're singing into a blanket. Great soloist except for occasionally going flat. Some of the chord changes aren't smoothed out between parts, (with moving "ah" syllables out of tune) and I think the repetition in the song isn't a great starter for a CD.
    Rating: 6

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    this is ok. some of the best percussion i've heard from a female group in a long time, not cheesy somehow, actually sounds like percussion rather than "doom doom doom" at a really high pitch. there're some wrong chords in this arrangement, there's a really really strange interlude where somebody comes in and talks over the group, there's a lot of pitchiness all over the track, and the lead is a little broadway for my taste. overall however, the arrangement is interesting and the song sounds pretty good.
    Rating: 5

    Karl Schroeder

    A nice opener — nice solo, good blend, well-mixed levels, and pretty good tuning. Julie Maurin '98 does a remarkable job with the solo; she's got a great feeling for the song, and she presents it with conviction. I did notice a few tuning problems with the background voices, but only in a couple spots. The spoken elements in the bridge were a nice touch, too.
    Rating: 7

  2. Mad About You (6.8)
    Sarah Andrews Cook

    This is a Sting song I've never heard the original of. The arrangement is busy but not too busy, probably because everyone is crisp so it doesn't get muddy. The strato-sax instrumental part adds a lot of interest to the tune, because otherwise the verses pretty much follow one after the other without much variation from one another. The soloist has a nice voice, but pretty much follows in the pattern of the verses. To say it plods along is too harsh for something with an otherwise cool sound, but it's more repetitive than a lot of the tracks on the album.
    Rating: 7

    Matt Cohen

    The percussion sounds a little tinny when it first comes in, but it's quickly fleshed out by some fresh throaty sounds (the effect is somewhere between a bongo and wood blocks). It helps keep this stagnant Sting tune interesting to listen to. That and the nice alto leads. Gwooosh . . .
    Rating: 7

    Randi Sherman

    This song has an incredibly clean beginning until the high soprano comes in. The syllable chosen doesn't match the song at all! She sounds like she's trying to sing an aria over the Sting tune, and even if it's in the original, it's way too squeaky. I really like the percussion in this song, but at times it's too "in your face" and I'd like to hear the chord changes more. Then again, the chords aren't that smooth, so maybe it's better this way. Soloist has a nice quality to her voice, but she's boring to listen to.
    Rating: 6

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    excellent percussion on this one, little 808 toms all over the place, really nice. a couple rhythm problems here and there, and i'm not a huge fan of this soloist, but the arrangement is also very nice; interesting parts that could've been made much more interesting by the use of some syllables besides doo, bah, bop, and ah. the soprano sax solo also leaves much to be desired (i would've either arranged it for the group or ditched it altogether), not much you can do with it by giving it to one person and leaving them to struggle alone...
    Rating: 7

    Karl Schroeder

    A nice arrangement, though I think the percussionists could have either tried some other sounds or just been mixed a tiny bit lower. The soloist here ('99) carries the song well and will be a strong voice in the group for the next couple years. I go back and forth on the "strato-saxophone" solo: usually I really like it, but at times (about one out of five listens) it's a bit much. A nice tune, and thanks to the group for realizing that arrangements don't need to include the chorus again and again.
    Rating: 7

  3. Elsewhere (8.0)
    Sarah Andrews Cook

    Ok, so my favorite musical artist is Sarah McLachlan (and no, it's not because we share a name). Just thought I'd get that out of the way, since it may come up again (you know, she has a new album out - Surfacing). Anyway, I'm a big fan. (I mean really big. Ask me anything. Anything at all — I can answer it. Seen her six times. I already have tickets for two more shows in my grubby little hands. Ok, so I have no life...) That may bias me toward her songs, but against people who do them poorly. Well, the Chattertocks pass with flying colors. This is a cool song for a women's group to do because it is really a woman's coming-of-age song. The soloist sings with a lot of feeling, in her own way and not trying to really imitate Sarah, which is cool. The background is really liquid, with chords flowing into each other, some of which are nice and chewy. And (unlike UPenn's Off the Beat who for some unexplainable reason chose to use no percussion at all on this song) the percussion here is appropriate to the quiet mood of the song, and is nice and varied from section to section. Nice ending, too.
    Rating: 9

    Matt Cohen

    Much like the original song, the lead vocals stay so close to the backing sounds that they sound like they're trying to hide. The leads aren't getting lost. They're just tend to be extremely laid back. When they do get passionate, they are tightly tied to harmony sections. Either way, the focus stays on the song, not the singer. And they harmonies are grabbing, so it all works out in the end.
    Rating: 8

    Randi Sherman

    Great dissonant chords for the intro in this song, and each person holds pitch very well. The soloist sounds a lot like Sarah McLachlan which is a good thing, but she needs a little more expression. Amazing bass line in the song, and it's hard to believe this is an all female group, because there is a heavy richness to this tune. There are some spaces where everyone breathes which need to be filled, even though some are intentional. A few minor rhythmic adjustments in the percussion are rough, but the moving "ah" chords move more smoothly than the previous tunes.
    Rating: 8

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    good pitch on this one, and amanda's solo and arrangement are really really good. again the percussion works for me. the alto ii's in this song are basically baritones. it's pretty intense.
    Rating: 7

    Karl Schroeder

    Nice opening chords! Lovely treatment of the solo — great feeling and a nice job switching between mellow and gutsy emotions. Percussion is thankfully subtle, and the background chords are tuned nicely. A nice arrangement that is carried completely by the soloist. Very pretty.
    Rating: 8

  4. Alphabet Street (7.8)
    Sarah Andrews Cook

    The percussion intro to this was really cool. At the beginning, some of the background parts seem almost a little too square for the funkiness of the song, but they ease into the groove. In contrast, the solo seemed almost a little too affected at times, but I bet it comes off better live. It's a fun song though, which is something that seems to be a priority for the Chattertocks — musical integrity with a good dose of fun.
    Rating: 7

    Matt Cohen

    This is what the Chattertocks are all about. This Prince song is the perfect song choice for them. It's up-beat and alternative and playful. It makes you kinda wish there were more upbeat songs on this disc. (Top Secret Note to Chattertocks — Art-stay istening-lay o-tay a-ay oup-gray alled-cay "Oi-pay Og-day Ondering-pay". Articularly-pay eir-thay irst-fay oo-tay iscs-day. Our-yay up-cay of-ay ea-tay: art-smay, beat-offay, nd-aay beat-upay.)
    Rating: 10

    Randi Sherman

    The first time I listened to this I was so bored. Then, the second time I really, really liked this song. The arrangement is far from typical for an all female a cappella group. The beginning percussion is some of the best stuff on the album. Simply put — it has a great beat and an even better "kick" to it. Once again, the basses (or alto II section) amaze me. The "yeah yeah's" move really well, and the bah bahs (even though I don't like the syllable) keep great rhythm with the simple high hat.
    Rating: 9

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    this is a sweet little arrangement with tons of nice percussion, it also features some syllables other than doo, which is a welcome change. yeahs, wohs, etc. leave it to prince to give you a lot to work with for your arrangement. the solo's alright, coulda been a little more intense for my taste. this anitra brooks does some nice arranging, i gotta say, and that's what makes this track.
    Rating: 7

    Karl Schroeder

    This one reminds me of The Blenders, with its "yeah, yeah" backups and well-planned percussion. I could've used more of the quirky Prince soul from the soloist, however — I find myself enjoying the alto basslines, backup rhythms, and "come on" into the chorus more than the solo itself.
    Rating: 6

  5. Thriller (5.6)
    Sarah Andrews Cook

    Oh yeah! It takes a lot of guts and an unconventional mindset to do this song, and the Chattertocks just take it on and don't look back. I can only imagine them live, singing and doing the monster dance moves from the video (so if they don't do this, please don't tell me and ruin my mental image!). This is a song of epic proportions, and just because of its length a few problems slip in, but not enough to make a difference in the enjoyment of the song. The biggest one is a quite noticeable flattening during the Vincent Price part. But that speaking part is enough to make up for it — pulling off a convincing spoken-word part is hard to do but Anitra does it with style. Overshadows the soloist actually, who has a few of the problems of being overly affected as seen in the last song, but not enough to detract from the fun. Well, they were Prince and Michael Jackson songs to begin with, so maybe I should cut them some slack.
    Rating: 8

    Matt Cohen

    This took real balls to do. The original was corny and bombastic. They run the serious risk of unintentionally exposing this song as the goofy affair that it is. And for the most part, they manage to avoid looking foolish. You also have to give them points for doing the whole song, Vincent Price "rap" included. Not only does it not spoil the song, it actually comes off well. A noteworthy feat considering that most groups can't do the spoken bits of songs without sounding like really bad high school actors. Anitra Brooks, who does most of the spoken bits on this disc, gets a bit goofy and over the top at the end, but she's got a great evil laugh.
    Rating: 7

    Randi Sherman

    The "owwwwws" of the ghosts in this song get a little carried away in the beginning, and they start to sound like warm-up exercises. The bass line once again dominates, and the chorus of "thrillers" sound really great. Where was the little "bridge" to the song? They just skipped it. The backup during the "Vincent Price" solo goes way out of tune. Way out. The biggest problem with this song? The soloist. She has a really nice voice, and I don't want to criticize the method of choosing soloists for songs, but she has no sense of "thriller" or terror in her voice. It's too pretty for this song, and she sounds like she needs to swallow or something. The style of this Michael Jackson classic was attempted with the background, but she (even though she sings in tune and well) sounds nothing like the rest of the piece.
    Rating: 4

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    some pitch problems at the start, and some strange rhythmic problems throughout. alto ii's (basses) rock this one. again not a huge fan of the soloist, but diggin' the arrangement. it's filled with all the good stuff, all the cool little lines from the jackson version. somehow the chattertocks are the only female group that's figured out how not to sound lame doing percussion. i was really liking the production, too (all the effects and reverbs and screams and stuff), until i got to the vincent price section when i felt like i heard an EDIT! aagh! this section also falls quite flat (pitch-wise) and where's the bridge? "night creatures crawling..."? that's my favorite part, and it was completely left out of the chattertocks' arrangement.
    Rating: 4

    Karl Schroeder

    Nice percussion, and a great use of the low altos on bass. Although the soloist seems to have mastered Michael's little quirky vocal effects, it's obvious that she's one of the younger voices in the group. Nice tuning, but simply a young voice without the "let it rip" approach this song needs. And those are by far the nicest, cutest sounding ghouls I have ever heard! Too sweet overall, not scary enough. But a pretty darn good Vincent Price laugh at the end...
    Rating: 5

  6. As I Lay Me Down (6.2)
    Sarah Andrews Cook

    They follow up such a unique thing with this Sophie B. tune, which every a cappella group seems to want to do a version of. The parts of this version that stand out from the others are the stellar percussion and the cool chorus where the group drops out, leaving the percussion under the soloist and a trio of harmonists (have I mentioned I like their percussion? And is harmonist a word?) Aside from having heard this tune a few too many times, this is a pretty good version of it.
    Rating: 7

    Matt Cohen

    Here's how to tell this version apart from other covers in a blind taste test:

    • It's thicker and deeper than most
    • It's got these cool, aquatic, percussive-bass sounds that percolate through the arrangement.

    Rating: 8
    Randi Sherman

    The beginning chords aren't settled, but once into the chorus, it sounds much better. The deep percussion gives a "laying down to sleep" which I really like. On the chorus the root of the chord is missing, and even though this is often acceptable in an arrangement, here it leaves the sound very hollow and empty. The Chattertocks like using "ah" for moving chords, but they don't seem to realize that specific vowels pulls their pitch down almost every time. Switching from "doo" to "ah" makes it more interesting, but the backup in this song needs more dynamic variation and forward motion. The chords just sit and sometimes overpower the solo.
    Rating: 5

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    more nice percussion, but unfortunately it's on one of the most overdone songs in women's collegiate a cappella. for the most part i've been enjoying the chattertocks' selections, good variety and pretty much in one direction, the poppy thang. competent solo, but i have to take exception to this one. it's a bored tune. the arrangement's got some good moments, but most of these are taken from the original recording. there's a problem in the percussion, sometimes it's swung, sometimes not, and there's some really bad pitchy moments once we reach about halfway and thereafter.
    Rating: 5

    Karl Schroeder

    This one gets a bit too high for the soloist at times, but for the most part she does a pretty good job. Another apparent "song of the year" for female collegiate groups to perform; the arrangement is pretty straightforward and uneventful. A couple minor tuning problems, but nice dynamics and "I got hope"s.
    Rating: 6

  7. Ode To My Family (5.6)
    Sarah Andrews Cook

    This is a pretty imitative version of this song, down to a dead-on Dolores O'Riordan impression by the soloist. The arrangement is a big sea of "doo"s, with a few "ah"s thrown in for good measure. I could have used more of something like the diy-yi-diy-yi-diy-yi part (most noticeable leading into each verse but it continues throughout most of it, pretty much covered up in the choruses) to break things up a bit. Instead they add a few weird rhythms into the "doo"s toward the end which are just distracting more than anything.
    Rating: 6

    Matt Cohen

    It's breathy and unassuming. It ought to be bold and arresting.
    Rating: 6

    Randi Sherman

    I'm picky about beginnings, and I have no idea what happened to their first chord! At first I thought it was just the percussion, but soon realized that it's a mess. The soloist has mastered the vowels for the lead singer of the Cranberries (can't remember her name) but it's done very well. The infamous "doo"s and "ah"s are back. Come on girls, you are a creative group, so do something new. This isn't a great song to do a cappella because it's so repetitive. The best part about this song is the range of pitch. There is an excellent balance of low, middle, and high voice blending, even though the descant line of the sopranos sticks out a little bit.
    Rating: 5

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    that cranberries tune where she talks about how her father "liked" her or something. the soloist is a little weak in parts, faltering on pitches and strength, but does the little irish cranberry crack thing pretty well and in general has a pleasant sound. a nice arrangment with too many "doo"s and too many pitch problems.
    Rating: 5

    Karl Schroeder

    An adventurous choice, to cover a tune that relies mainly on the Delores O'Riordan's little vocal flip. There really doesn't seem to be much else to the song itself, so it would be hard to make it very gripping. A couple tuning problems between soloist and backup (mostly when it's low in her range), but nice light percussion and dynamics.
    Rating: 6

  8. One More Try (8.2)
    Sarah Andrews Cook

    For a group with so many good-to-excellent soloists, this one really stands out. Anitra (of Vincent Price fame) has a really warm, rich, great low alto sound, and makes this solo her own. The arrangement seems more soulful than the original, ex-Wham English-guy sound of George Michael. I'm only a little distracted by some breathing issues in the background "ooh"s — I can hear people drop out and come back in when they're trying to create a continuous sound. But the background really showcases the solo (oh look! — Anitra arranged it herself. Hmm...) with enough variety to keep it interesting and some strategically placed echo/harmony parts. This is a really long song (over six minutes!), but sort of like sitting through the English Patient, you don't really notice until you look at your watch right near the end.
    Rating: 8

    Matt Cohen

    It's by George Michael — the one about the "teacher". A good song choice for the group. The lead singer (alto Anitra Brooks) comes at this with a the sort of passionate solo normally reserved for "Natural Women". passionate solo. She deserves a CARA nomination for her work on this song.
    Rating: 9

    Randi Sherman

    This has to be the woman in the group who does all the amazing bass lines, because her low C is incredibly solid. She sings this song with a great deal of emotion and holds the simple harmonies in the right direction. I really enjoy listening to her voice, because it has a lot of character to it in such a basic arrangement. Since the song is percussion and voices shifting chords together (and not much else) they need to be more confident and in tune with the chord changes. I wish that they hadn't switched to "ahs" because it weighted down the song and brought the pitch down. However, other than the few unsettled chords, this is a strong piece for the Chattertocks.
    Rating: 8

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    here's anitra brooks' swan song, it seems. this girl has got it goin'. there aren't too many singers in college a cappella that i give two shits about. their solos, while they might be good, aren't the kind that you'd ever want to hear again and again and which could survive on the radio. anitra's got one of those voices. it's a voice that's a. really good, pitchwise and all that, b. has a unique personality, and c. has a real passion, a real range, real love. in addition to that, her arrangement is at once beautiful, moving, and an excellent backdrop to her powerful lead. unfortunately i feel that the group wavers around a really solid pitch center throughout, and isn't as big and thick as they could have been recorded. but i didn't really care, 'cause anitra rocks. anitra! you rock. thanks.
    Rating: 8

    Karl Schroeder

    One of the strongest voices in the group, Anitra Brooks '97, does a fantastic job with this solo. The reverb and levels on the backup give the piece a nice far away sound, and the bass line is carried nicely too. Good use of dynamics overall, and even a couple little issues (tuning? vowels?) in the chorus don't make a dent in the quality of the soloist's delivery.
    Rating: 8

  9. Killing Me Softly (7.0)
    Sarah Andrews Cook

    This tune uses the appropriately funky percussion that we've come to expect from the Chattertocks. They use their numbers to create a gospel choir-y sound in the harmonies which can get really full, notably on the la la part during the bridge. There's a nice cycle to the song, with the solo singing alone over the percussion during the verses, then filling in the background sound on the choruses, then going back to the sparser sound. This is a group that is not in a hurry but takes their time and gets into a groove. Several of their songs are pretty long (over 5 minutes), and I don't really notice because they always get where they're going in a cool way.
    Rating: 9

    Matt Cohen

    I heard the other day that this song isn't by Roberta Flack. Flack was covering another artist. Which makes the Fugees version a cover of a cover song. And this version then becomes a cover of a cover of a cover. Anyway, this version is one of the better versions based on the Fugees. It's got an inviting intro that they follow up with some smooth spoken stuff over the percussion. It sounds a bit thin when they put the lead vocalist out there with no harmony but lots of percussion under her. And the group harmonies on the "la" syllable sound a bit silly even though the chords are effective. Other than that, this is well done.
    Rating: 7

    Randi Sherman

    Here come the great low voices again, especially for the speaking in the beginning of the song. The chords underneath the "strumming my pain" part sound like there are some fundamental notes missing. The balance isn't very clear, and here they have a very odd sound to the recording quality. It becomes apparent who is standing in front of what mic, or where they are located. It doesn't blend. When they all sing on the words, it sounds too much like an all female chorus and not a '90s rap tune; they need a darker vowel scheme and overall sound, which they have done on other songs. The percussion is very solid. But, kudos to the group for picking a song that I would think would really challenge an all female group.
    Rating: 5

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    the fugees version. expecting to hate this: so far so good, nice percussion, again. a really strong solo by janice patacsil (music director '96'97), especially in the bridge, she totally turns it up at that point. another strong soloist second only so far to the inimitable anitra. the little backup things (one time, two times) get a little tiresome, but amazingly aren't terribly cheesy as i would've expected. of course, the little guitar thing that opens the verses is kind of obnoxious, but i'm not sure how i'd've approached that in order to avoid the cheese... the performance by the group is pretty tight on this one. diggin it. nice simple arrangement.
    Rating: 7

    Karl Schroeder

    Hip-hop is a different approach than is found on the rest of the CD, so that's a nice change in itself. A pretty adept version of the Fugees' version of the song. Nice work by the soloist; it's a good melody for her, and she does a great job with it. There's a nit for me to pick with the liner notes — look it up, ladies. The Fugees did not write this song. I know you're doing their version, but I hate to see anymore people confused by this one and where it came from.
    Rating: 7

  10. Human Nature (7.6)
    Sarah Andrews Cook

    This is one of the more repetitive songs on this album, each verse pretty much going where the last one did and in the same way. The most interesting and varied sound is in the chorus, but each time it comes up it is pretty much the same. The solo is nice, and the ending is pretty cool — they seem to be pretty good at putting a convincing and memorable stopping point to each song. But otherwise this one doesn't really stand out.
    Rating: 6

    Matt Cohen

    This is a Much smarter song choice than Thriller. The percussion is soft, all brushes and shakers, and the tight vocals are high and sweet. It all ads up to a great overall sound.
    Rating: 9

    Randi Sherman

    Two Michael Jackson songs — I think they should have stuck to one, because a bulk of the album is '90s tunes, which both of these aren't. However, here the soloist has a much better song in comparison to the original, and it's not important to always match the quality of the original performer, especially if that is not what the group is aiming for. Finally, a really great syllable for the group: "zap". I'm really impressed with the "za-za-do" line that the soprano does, because it blends right into the rest of the background.
    Rating: 9

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    bad pitch opens this one. the shaker gets a little abrasive after a little while. a good arrangement with some jazz syllables (zop, bah-e-ya) in there. the backups seem to drown the soloist in the choruses, but the performance by the group is solid and huge. definitely dig the end as all the parts slowly disappear, but this track seems to lack the overall chillin' groove of the original, which is unfortunate. taking it a little slower might've helped it affect a little more powerfully.
    Rating: 6

    Karl Schroeder

    A strong soloist, original arrangement, and interesting yet tactful percussion make this one really work well. The soloist does a great job carrying the tune, and she's supported well by the rest of the group. If you wanted to get super-critical, you could listen intently for the first soprano line and try to figure out if it's slightly sharp or slightly flat, but I enjoyed the song too much to do that, and you probably will too.
    Rating: 8

  11. Open Arms (6.4)
    Sarah Andrews Cook

    I'm not really sure why anyone would want to sing a version of this song. I mean, I owned my share of Journey records as a kid, but I don't really talk too much about it publicly. It's a nice enough arrangement, it actually may be as good an arrangement as you might find of this song, and yet it still doesn't interest me. That and a few weird harmonies that I can't quite figure out whether they were written that way or whether it's a tuning thing (I'm guessing it's the former, since they're consistently in pretty good tune, but it still doesn't fit) make this my least favorite track on this album.
    Rating: 5

    Matt Cohen

    A guys group would have killed this. (Hell, guys groups HAVE killed this.) Journey was good, but they are corny in retrospect. But the soloist comes at this material with a light touch and a very sincere and credible performance that instantly de-stigmatizes the song. There are no dramatic changes, but the lead (Janice Patacsil) still makes it seem like a whole new song.
    Rating: 9

    Randi Sherman

    What a slow, boring song for an a cappella group to do, and they slow the tempo down even more! The "ah"s definitely don't do justice to a woman who has a great solo voice for this song. With such a lack of rhythm in this song (compared to the others on the album), it gets really old to listen to after one verse. They do make some changes from one chorus to another, but the changes don't make the piece any more exciting. The things that prevent this from getting a very low score are a good soloist and the fact that they are relatively in tune during the entire song.
    Rating: 4

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    the old journey power ballad. what a fucking great tune. janice, again, really strong and strident on the solo. i can't explain to you enough how strongly i feel that an a cappella group just cannot rise above mediocrity without strong soloists. the group's got to be made of virtually nothing but. anyway... janice arranged this as well, and it's a competent arrangement, but leaves a little to be desired in terms of building intensity at the big parts and mellowing out in the small parts. but shit! janice doesn't graduate 'til '99. she's got time. we've got time.
    Rating: 7

    Karl Schroeder

    Quite a good solo, even though it's a Journey tune! A choral arrangement, but hey — what else could you do with it? The effect, though, is similar to that of the King's Singers doing Beatles tunes - you have to wonder if the style gets in the way of the piece itself.
    Rating: 7

  12. Give Me One Reason (7.2)
    Sarah Andrews Cook

    There are a lot of cool things about this arrangement. The song is just 12-bar blues, and done too close to the original it could easily slip into repetition. Luckily, the Chattertocks do lots of fun stuff here. First of all, the percussion uses all the funny sounds you liked to make as a kid — pops, ahs, tsts, and that cool clicking sound you make pulling your tongue down from the roof of your mouth. The background parts get changed every verse or two so you don't get bored, and they never come too far forward, leaving the relatively sparse open sound of the original intact. There is a guitar interlude, but it works because it's evoking a guitar sound more than trying to imitate one. The only thing that grates on my nerves a little after a while is the guitar-y syllables that go throughout (sort of bearn-bearn-nearn). As long as enough other stuff is going on it's ok.
    Rating: 8

    Matt Cohen

    Cool percussion. Great soloist (Anitra Brooks again.) But guitar impersonation only reminds you that you're not listening to real blues musicians, just some college kids.
    Rating: 6

    Randi Sherman

    Great, great introduction to this song, and it gets even better as soon as the soloist comes in with her rich, voice. Ah, the same woman from "One More Try". She is a great asset to this group and brings her songs to life. The "beeaw" syllable in the background emulates a guitar really well, and the light "oohs" that come in give the song fullness. Again, they switch to an "ah" sound, and I think the group hasn't realized how many times they use this, and how many times it pulls the pitch and sound of a song down. Solid percussion that is well balanced with the rest of the singers, and the guitar solo, even though a little rushed, are great.
    Rating: 8

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    anitra sings the solo, she's bad to the bone, although when she lands at the ends of her phrases on the root and vibratos out, it's kinda weird and broadway-ey. but she's also the only reason that i didn't get bored by the end; the arrangement is fine, but needed some kind of change, some kind of building, something different to carry us from verse to verse to verse to motherfuckingverse. the only way to succeed with a repetitive blues tune, in my mind, is to go nuts with the arrangement, and this is pretty staid.
    Rating: 6

    Karl Schroeder

    Anitra is back with another well-sung solo, on top of a great arrangement. The percussion is interesting, but the fills between verses drew my ear away from whatever else was going on. Even though I cringed when I saw "guitar solo" in the liner notes, it was done well and just long enough. The soloist does a nice job dealing with a song that basically is in ABABABABABAB format.
    Rating: 8

  13. And So It Goes (5.6)
    Sarah Andrews Cook

    Here begins the "Now for something completely different" portion of the album. This is a King's Singers arrangement of a Billy Joel song. It shows off the versatility of the group pretty well - they're very tight here, very crisp on their entrances and cutoffs. Dynamics and dramatic pauses are used to good effect. Interestingly, the solos here didn't seem to measure up to the more choral aspects of the song. And they went flat, but I didn't notice until I tracked back to the beginning and heard the original key, so I don't see it as too significant.
    Rating: 7

    Matt Cohen

    This works best when it's a choral arrangement. When the various soloists come in, the rest of the group shifts into a less than exciting "oooo" mode of singing. It doesn't exactly flatter the soloists either. But listen to it for the choral work (and check out the phat "bass" lurking in the mix!)
    Rating: 6

    Randi Sherman

    The one arrangement the group didn't do, and boy — it sure is obvious. This sounds nothing like the rest of their songs whatsoever, even though it is a beautiful song. I could not believe the low voices again, because a low G below low C is unheard of for most women. I would have liked more dynamics in a song where every chord moves together. The first soloist brings the pitch down, but it remains steady until the third soloist comes in. She needs to suppress her vibrato for the color of this piece. They do, in fact, maintain a good balance, and this is a ballad that holds well simply for the beauty of the piece.
    Rating: 5

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    this is a kings' singers arrangement. FUCK! the fucking low altos hit a LOW G! like a bass style g! holy shit! i was really pretty much digging this until the soloists started coming in. it was just unexpected and mixed wrong and pitch begins to drift flat at this point (an amazing thing, since the low altos are then singing f#). anyway, this is a truly beautiful, beautiful song the way billy joel does it, and this just wasn't for me. moments were nice, but they were few and far between. also, the mix was just plain not right: eq on the "doo"s enhanced the d's too much, and the solo sections were all over the place.
    Rating: 3

    Karl Schroeder

    The King's Singers' arrangement of the Billy Joel song (Thank you for proper liner notes). Two more young nervous soloists, one that's too low, and a couple nicely done. The 'Tocks put forth a nice treatment of this arrangement; good tuning, nice blend, and holding the suspensions just long enough.
    Rating: 7

  14. K. Billy Supersound (9.0)
    Sarah Andrews Cook

    A really short Steven Wright spoken track, just an intro to the next song.
    Rating: none

    Matt Cohen

    It's the intro to the next song. It's credited as being a Steven Wright creation. I don't get it. It's nice that they gave it its own cut, although it's so short it wouldn't detract from your enjoyment of "Little Green Bag" had it been on the same track. Overall, it doesn't add anything to the album for me.
    Rating: none

    Randi Sherman

    I don't know where this came from, but her low voice is great, and the fact that it's a separate track from the next song is perfect. You can skip it, but it's so short I don't know why anyone would want to.
    Rating: 9

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    this is from the soundtrack to reservoir dogs? i think. anitra can speak low. neato... this is an intro to the next track...
    Rating: none

    Karl Schroeder

    [Not reviewed]
    Rating: none

  15. Little Green Bag (7.0)
    Sarah Andrews Cook

    This song has a fun, cool retro sound to it. It sounds like it should be on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack. It's driven along by prominent bass and percussion parts and a nice varied background sound of "doo"s, "ooh"s and "ah"s, with some "shoo-be-doo"s thrown in for good a cappella fun. I can't really discern all the words in the solo, but she seems to have the right attitude. Just a fun little song.
    Rating: 7

    Matt Cohen

    This chugs along nicely enough. But it doesn't really get fun until the last leg of the song.
    Rating: 6

    Randi Sherman

    Great beat to this song, but unfortunately, those "ah"s are back. Guess they use it as a trademark? I really like the swinging bass line in this song with the "shaker" percussion. They had a lot of fun with this song, because the energy of the soloist trickles down to the rest of the group. Very clean, solid key change in the middle of the song which is just enough variation for the listener. Without the "ah"s this would have been excellent, but they are a large part of the song.
    Rating: 7

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    fun little arrangement by anitra, cool syllables, shoops and stuff. good groove goin'; heather hunt's solo (m.d. '95-'96) is very appropriate and very very good. word up. yeah. yeah. i like this one. fun and groovin and solid pitches and a good solo and a full arrangement and a different choice of song and yes yes yes. sometimes the ones we think are throwaways turn out to be totally cool...
    Rating: 8

    Karl Schroeder

    Don't ask me why there's a Steven Wright-type intro to this track; I've no idea. I would've left it off, myself — unless there's some inside joke or reference I just don't get. Could be me... Anyway, a good solo, with a mix of '70s groove and latin salsa.
    Rating: 7

  16. Pie Jesu (6.6)
    Sarah Andrews Cook

    This Andrew Lloyd Webber song has the same sort of atmospheric sound as the Billy Joel track, but the background singing just isn't quite as crisp as that one. Here the background is almost entirely "doo"s, and they just don't always line up. The solos here are truly angelic, though. It has a beautiful sound, but is really repetitive from verse to verse.
    Rating: 6

    Matt Cohen

    It's odd that Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote this religious piece, since we all know that Webber is THE ANTI-CHRIST! Seriously folks (and that's not to imply that I wasn't serious about Webber being a hellspawn sent here to torture music lovers) this is well-rendered. I can't think of any recording of any Webber piece that ever sounded so PRETTY. But that doesn't keep the material from dragging.
    Rating: 6

    Randi Sherman

    Broadway finds its way onto the Chattertocks CD. (don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of music theater!) Even though this sounds more classical than Broadway (which is fitting for "Requiem", the musical it's taken from) it still is an odd addition to the CD. The soloist goes out of tune on the high notes, and the harmony is sung with enough confidence. They get better throughout the piece. And the lower harmony is a much better sound as far as balance with the soloist. The "doo"s are boring and just sit on each chord change, but they have a nice soft-loud-soft dynamic to them which adds more style.
    Rating: 6

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    this is the andrew lloyd webber version. this should be interesting... kate matsutani and amanda hawk's solos on this are truly beautiful, but they're mixed a bit too up front and separate from the rest of the group. the arrangement is beautiful as well, although i would've chosen something softer than the harshness of the d's in "doo" for the main syllable in the backups, maybe some hums or something. otherwise cici hunt's (heather's sister?) arrangement is quite nice and moving. somehow this track fits with the rest of the stuff on this album. and talk about choosing a song for your repertoire specifically for a couple of your operatic soloists: good call, good call, good call. wish more groups were that intelligent.
    Rating: 8

    Karl Schroeder

    Ah, yes. Andrew Lloyd Webber's Pie Jesu. The group does a nice job with this one — gently flowing dynamics, good blend, and of course the required two lovely soloists. Maybe a bit more of the reverb on the soloists would've been nice in spots. I think it's just that I've heard this song several dozen times too many. 8 for the soloists, 5 for whoever decided to put this on the album.
    Rating: 7

  17. My Funny Valentine (5.8)
    Sarah Andrews Cook

    The intonation on this one sounds a little funny on this track, and they give off an almost nasal sound in parts. This is a more traditional choir-y arrangement that they do a good job with — very crisp and tight. They do nice things with dynamics, silences, and tempos.
    Rating: 7

    Matt Cohen

    As far as I can tell, they do this song on every album (or at least they did it on the last CD). I guess it's their signature piece. I don't have a problem with doing the same song on every album. But you would think that they would have come up with a better arrangement by now, wouldn't you? This is sometimes glee clubish, sometimes rushed, sometimes Andrews Sisters-esque. But it is never emotionally convincing or even interesting. Maybe they should have ended the CD with a different song — this and Pie Jesu make this disc end not with a bang, but with a wimper.
    Rating: 5

    Randi Sherman

    This is probably a Chattertocks traditional song. Except for some really harsh, bright vowels which sound like they are mocking the tune, this simple song without percussion is well done. The change in tempo is a smart move on the Chattertocks' part, because it would be boring if they hadn't. The biggest problem is that it ends the CD which is extremely anti-climatic.
    Rating: 7

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    uh, ok. this is traditional homophonic old school college a cappella. this one i would've left off, not because they do it badly, they don't, but it doesn't add anything to the disc, and it's not like there aren't already enough tracks. whatever whatever.
    Rating: 6

    Karl Schroeder

    Interesting choice for a closer to the disc. It's definitely a different style than the rest of the disc, so there's that... But the delivery is pretty stiff and cold overall. Come on — it's jazz! I can see the conductor pounding the group through this one, beat after march-like beat. It's too bad; there are chords that could be nice if they'd stop to relish in them (though if you've got 18 singers, add a couple more notes to some of those chords). The arrangement could use a little tweaking, and the performance could use a lot.
    Rating: 4

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