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RARB REVIEW

School: Brown University
Group: Brown Derbies
Album: Nightcap

Total time: 49:05, 18 songs
Recorded 1997


Track Listing

  1. THX (5.0)
  2. Who Are You (7.0)
  3. In the House of Stone and Light (7.2)
  4. View to a Kill (5.0)
  5. The Downeaster "Alexa" (7.6)
  6. Break My Stride (7.4)
  7. Telephone Message (Mentos) (6.0)
  8. Better Man (6.4)
  9. American Top 40 (4.5)
  10. Power of Love (4.8)
  11. She's Always a Woman (6.8)
  12. Friends Theme — Live (4.6)
  13. Secret World (6.0)
  14. Kyrie (6.4)
  15. Gummi Intro (3.8)
  16. Gummi Bears Theme (5.2)
  17. Hooked on a Feeling (6.2)
  18. Pride (In the Name of Love) (6.6)

Reviews

Overall

Matt Cohen

I've seen the Derbies live and I think it's safe to say that putting on fun/funny shows is the groups top priority. That's why I was surprised that their latest album showcases some smart arrangements and tight performances. Music may take a back seat in their live shows, but their musicianship shines through on the CD. It's very high quality stuff.

Unfortunately, the album doesn't hold up to repeat listening. Of the 18 tracks, five are novelty introductions and songs (Tracks 1, 7, 9, 15, and 16.) Most are given polished performances and don't interfere with the CD, but when you program the good cuts, you won't be playing these. That brings the count down to 13 listenable tracks. Of those, two don't deserve careful a cappella treatments: Who Are You and the truly unworthy View to a Kill. That leaves 11 songs. Subtract one more for an outright dud — the sluggish She's Always a Woman. We're down to 10 now. The Friends Theme actually makes the song an enjoyable, upbeat pop song, or at least it would if it weren't a live cut. This turns the song into a joke (that isn't funny on CD) that was poorly recorded. So skip that, too. That leaves nine songs out of the original 18. Most of them are well done, but they don't go the extra mile to be really exciting. They're serviceable. If you like the original song, you'll enjoy the cover well enough. Only a handful are true standouts: A reflective interpretation of In the House of Stone and Light, a rocking Better Man, and a perfectly rendered cover of The Downeaster Alexa that hits all the right tragic notes.

In short, this group really knows how to sing. You'll be impressed by the quality. The Derbies arrangements on the throw away novelty bits are more carefully and considerately done than a lot of other group's regular songs! But there are some uninspired song choices. When you add those to the tracks that are only just "well done" but never really exciting, you aren't left with enough reasons to pop this into your CD player. They set their standards pretty high, but their track list doesn't quite live up to them.
Rating: 7 (6.7)

Rebecca Christie

The Brown Derbies' latest effort is on the whole a rather lackluster affair. It's not very good, but neither is it screamingly bad, and that's almost part of its problem. I couldn't make it through more than 8 cuts of this album in any one listen, meaning it took me three tries to come up with something to say about each and every song. It's not that I couldn't bear the stuff, but all the sound sort of runs together with little personality to give it life.

The big surprise on this album was that the two best songs are both Billy Joel ballads, not a historical source of success in the college a cappella market. They're ballads, so the lack of obvious energy is more appropriate. They both have delightful solos, and the backgrounds defy conventional wisdom that slow songs are tougher to tune than upbeat songs with fewer sustained notes.

Structurally this album looks a lot like Down Time, the last Derbies album to come RARB's way. The commercial-cum-phone message skit (first Coke, now Mentos.) The one-hit wonder from the 80s (Tarzan Boy, now Break My Stride). The mangled Peter Gabriel song (In Your Eyes, now Secret World. Which to be fair is just heavily diluted, not mangled like its predecessor.) Even the talking animals theme song (the Muppet Show, now Gummi Bears). With only a little creativity, you could link both albums in toto.

Down Time was a decent little album — it had some nice tunes, a couple of stinkers and a clear picture of who the Derbies were. In allowing the formula to pass unchanged, the spirit has atrophied, and Nightcap feels a lot like they're just going through the motions.
Rating: 5 (4.8)

John Magruder

OK, you want my overall opinions about this album by the Brown Derbies? It is good. It is very good. It is one of those college albums that you find yourself listening to again and again. This is an enjoyable album that was well produced. The group has some good arrangements and a beefy sound (which is not that hard when you have 18 members). They have some kooky humor tracks that make you laugh (but only the first time... they are not that funny), and a good mix of songs. This is certainly an improvement over Hat Trick and Down Time, two earlier Derbies albums.

There are two or three things that bug me about this album as a whole. First thing would be the group's desire to use irritating vowels all of the time. They sing their vowels like they are words, and they do it harshly. This seems to be a tradition with a lot of groups from the East Coast I have heard, especially with groups that have been around for a while. Why, I don't know, but lots of people like it nonetheless. Maybe it's funny or something.

Second thing is their blend. It seems like they don't care much about blending with all of the other voices in the group. This is quite apparent from the preference towards really complex arrangements. This gets the members thinking "I have to sing out MY part" and then you have noisy songs with lots of layers. Some people in the a cappella community think that the best arrangements are the most busy, complex, and obtuse arrangements. Look at UPenn's Off the Beat. Really complex arrangements... they are done really well and with style mind you. But most of the songs they do are lots of noise to me. Cacophonous noise.

Couple the blend with the vowels and you have something that makes me think: "Why the hell did they do that?"

I am sure that these guys are fun to hear live. The way they sing vowels are the kind of nasal sounds that, along with funny faces, make for a laugh a minute a cappella show. On an album, it gets old.

Despite all of these things, I like it. It deserves some good press... but not too much. ;) The Derbies may not be the best thing in college a cappella, like some people insist, but with this album you realize that they are definitely worth hearing over many other groups out there.
Rating: 8 (6.6)

Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

i always used to like the brown derbies; my college group sang with them a couple times at various shows around new england. they were fun and everybody in the audience was left wanting more and that kind of stuff. but for some reason that feeling is lost on this cd for me. they attempt to recapture their live performance in a few ways, with a live track thrown in and some of their comedy things in there as well, which is cool, and i respect the fact that they are trying to recapture that live thing, but somehow the humor and the coolness is lost in the translation to the digital media. i'm not at the show, i'm not gonna laugh at a group of guys doing the friends theme, especially when i can't see what everybody's laughing at. the gummi bears theme was probably a riot in a live situation. but these things just don't work on a cd, unfortunately. there are a couple studio tracks on this album that stand out, notably in the house of stone and light and she's always a woman, but there were some decisions made about percussion and mixing that i question. overall the soloists were quite bland, to be frank, a problem not with the derbies in particular but with much of college a cappella in general (people trying to sing things they wish they could sing, rather than things they should be singing, i guess). arrangements were usually pretty interesting and NOT the usual fare, but somehow lacked that final element of asskickingness that is required to bring a good arrangement to life. anyway, in general i wasn't as impressed as i was expecting to be.
Rating: 4 (4.4)

Ben Tritle

The Brown Derbies ring in after some absence with this gem of a CD that hits hard with musical excellence early on. Unfortunately for me, the first tracks were SO good, by the time the second half rolled around, it just didn't sustain the same bang, mostly because of a really cruddy Huey Lewis cover. The Derbies follow a fairly simple formula: two Billy Joel tracks, a Peter Gabriel track, a Pearl Jam track, and a telephone message based on a popular commercial (You think I'm joking? Look at their last CD). Intersperse other outstanding tracks in between those and you'll have a great CD. Technically, the Derbies have their act together. From solo to background, start to finish, save for one track, they obviously knew what they were doing. Shame they didn't know the same when doing the humor tracks as they tended to fall flat. Despite that, I still think it's a must have.
Rating: 9 (7.0)


Individual Tracks

  1. THX (5.0)
    Matt Cohen

    A quick opener. It's a pretty accurate impersonation of the THX sound check/demo. It's short, clever, appropriate, and well done. You won't mind listening to it every time you pop it in. How many novelty intros can you say THAT about?
    Rating: 8

    Rebecca Christie

    Hrm. This seems like it needs more tuning and polish. I mean, the whole point is that THX is this great digital technology thing, and the vocals here sound decidedly analog. Maybe a good live gag, but why record imprecisely a gag which depends on technical sophistication? (Making it obviously bad might have been a different strategy, but they sound too serious to have thought of that.)
    Rating: 2

    John Magruder

    You hear this in the movie theaters loaded with the THX sound system. This nasal buzz resolves to the requisite chord pretty well. It does not quite stay there though, wavering a little bit. Oh well.
    Rating: 6

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    kinda cool. not really a song, just the thx thing. neatoburrito.
    Rating: none

    Ben Tritle

    Cute idea...wears thin.
    Rating: 4

  2. Who Are You (7.0)
    Matt Cohen

    This track opens with lots of "bip-ums" and "ip-ops". It's extremely original, but not very listenable. It's not easily accessible, which makes it a bad choice for the first song. Maybe they should have moved it to later on the disc. After the intro, it gets better. It's kind of a vintage Beelzebubs song. The lead has good timing, but in the end, it never really ROCKS.
    Rating: 6

    Rebecca Christie

    Finally, a group that remembers this is a rock song. I've heard so many wimpy a cappella renditions, all of which seem to miss the underlying point — The Who is a rock band, not a cross between Styx and Crosby, Stills and Nash. I also very much like the texturing at the beginning, which is excellently arranged and executed.

    Having said that, the main body of the song needs some serious energy. The solo is on the right track, but I can't blame him for sounding a little out of it with a background that is so, well, there. It kind of reminds me of road noise. The four-voice cascade breakdown is too choral for me, but the solo comes back in and saves the day. You go, Adam Arian.
    Rating: 6

    John Magruder

    The Who. Classic song. Given some star treatment here with this arrangement. A powerful sound that grabs your attention with some neat sounds in an interesting intro. I did not recognize it at first, but when the boys all of the sudden resolved into the "who are you" background, I thought: "Cool". That it is. Really good beat and a sound that is rich. This is a damn good arrangement with the kind of evolution from beginning to end that is really great for a power song like this. Percussion that drives, but does not run you over. A soloist that gives his all. I really think this is the best song on the album. But don't worry. They did not blow their whole wad all at once.
    Rating: 9

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    this song starts out great, really cool arrangement by evan schiff i think, but as soon as the soloist comes in you remember why collegiate a cappella is as cheesy and bland and white and wussy as it is. the group sounds really good behind him, but he's just white and he can't help it. percussion SOUNDS good, but doesn't really groove. good pitch, and, again, cool sounds, but just misses the mark in terms of the daltreyish wailing stuff.
    Rating: 4

    Ben Tritle

    What can I say about this track? If you want to start off with a heavy hitter, this would be it. I loved EVERYTHING about this track. Evan Schiff's arrangement had my attention from the first note. Adam Arlan's solo was powerful. Whenever I talk about the backing being too powerful, this is what I'm listening for in the end, because the balance was there. Percussion was perfect. Wow.
    Rating: 10

  3. In the House of Stone and Light (7.2)
    Matt Cohen

    It's not what you'd expect. The lead is extremely sedate. It's not that he's too lame to throw enough passion at it, it's more of a deliberate choice to keep the song sweet and pretty. The problem is when the first instrumental bridge (with all the "baa baa"s) comes in; the energy level jumps dramatically without ever BUILDING to it. The second time the theme comes around, they smoothly work up to it and it pays off. If they had cut the first bridge, it would have been a much more effective track.
    Rating: 7

    Rebecca Christie

    Watered-down, ballady, sweet and blank are the words that jump to my mind. Solo is pretty, pulls out some impressive notes from time to time, and generally sounds way too sweet. The only place the song gets going at all is the instrumental, which is in my view the toughest part of the song to like. The rest of it reminds me of a Richard Marx ballad. I like the chorus arranging toward the end much better than what's usually arranged for this song, but it, too, is really mellow.
    Rating: 6

    John Magruder

    Man! I am soooo tired of hearing this song done by college groups! But... wait. What the heck is this? This is cool! The Derbies take this song and make it something that really ebbs and flows with tension and drama. It is not some attempt at being huge. It is done with a sense of understated tenderness. The transitions are a lot like a tide suddenly washing in and taking you away. The soloist is not great, but neither was Martin Page. The Derbies manage to avoid having a mediocre song build up to one short, overdone ending like so many other groups do. They turned this thing around. I almost like this song now.
    Rating: 8

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    very pretty arrangement by raj patil. beautiful, really. it's funny, i think martin page is the perfect type of song for these guys; his music doesn't require the wailing of the who, but is what it is, very pretty and unthreatening. i'm REALLY liking this arrangement and the performance. some of the guitary kind of stuff in the instrumental part was kind of obnoxious but was mixed low enough to not be too bothersome. after the big wailing high note by the soloist there's a strange rhythmic skip which is unprofessional. the big break where the arrangement tapers to nothing is nice but i question the syllables there (doo wah type stuff). soloist is great through the whole song until the very very end, when he kind of wusses out on the high notes. but i did love his tone until that section. very nice, rides along well atop a cool bed of percussion.
    Rating: 7

    Ben Tritle

    Anne Raugh said in her CAN article about the NCCA: this ballad "provided not only a change of pace, but a chance to show off a piece with changing textures and special vocal effects.". Thanks, Anne, couldn't have said it better myself. It's that subtle intensity that they convey that makes it good. One problem with it: What I liked about the original was its gradual build to this vocal release at the end. It's not here. The first time I heard this track, it infuriated me. I've since seen a therapist and am content with the track at hand, though I wish they had attempted it anyway.
    Rating: 8

  4. View to a Kill (5.0)
    Matt Cohen

    Did they have to do this song? I know it's funny live (they do all sorts of cute James Bond jokes) but it could have been ANY James Bond song and they could have done the same routine. It could have been to Live or Let Die. Hell, they could have done it to the Spies Like Us song! But this song doesn't deserve their time or effort. The chorus, with its "Dance . . . Into the Fire" stuff, is all right. But the verses are a snore. Well sung, but not worth the effort.
    Rating: 5

    Rebecca Christie

    Um, this is the song that blew away NCCA audiences? In the words of that little old lady — where's the beef?! Flimsy. No texture. No energy. Solo gives new meaning to the word white. This is a throwback to the early days of contemporary men's a cappella, with a sort of doo-wop structure, lots of "bows" and "bahs" and the odd echo of words now and there. I am wanting, particularly given the advance press.
    Rating: 4

    John Magruder

    It is the Duran Duran "007" song. It has a good intro with some cool production of echoes and layers. But it degenerates into something rather campy. One of the things that takes it there is the soloist. What possessed them to make him try and sing just like Simon LeBon? Simon had this very unique whine to his voice that really should never be recreated. When you do, it sounds like shit. It is kind of like cloning: the copy is never really as good as the original. Sometimes it is really fucked up. The whine that Rolo Fernandez affects is just too irritating to me to forget... or forgive. The really crass vowels in the 'instrumental' sections are just as ludicrous to my ears. A relatively complex arrangement that unfortunately leaves this sloppy, empty feeling in my ears. These guys sang this song on Good Morning America before the NCCA finals. That was a bad choice. They should have done something richer and more interesting like Who Are You or something wackier like Break My Stride. They may not have sounded so rough at 7am with those songs. Oh well.
    Rating: 5

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    i really like some of the production techniques in this one, echoes, choruses, people in little boxes way back in the left corner of the left speaker and stuff like that. i disliked the syllables in much of this arrangement; there were many rhythmic problems again; the soloist was quite thin and adds little to this straightforward arrangement. another problem with the straightforwardness of the arrangement is the boredom factor which sets in by the time you get to the second verse.
    Rating: 4

    Ben Tritle

    James Bond meets a cappella. I liked the transition from James Bond theme to the actual track. The arrangement is excellent yet again. What I wasn't sold by was the solo; it seemed too mechanical, following too close to rhythm, and possibly too high at the end. All the bases were covered, it just didn't exude typical '80s schmaltz OR personal musical expression. Ah, well. It's still a good track.
    Rating: 7

  5. The Downeaster "Alexa" (7.6)
    Matt Cohen

    Joel Beglieter kicks ass! Billy Joel never sounded so good. This song, about work, family, responsibility, and passion, may come from the album that marked the beginning of the end for Billy Joel, but it's still a damn fine song. And it gets a perfectly executed and well conceived a cappella transfer here. As I said before, Joel's leads are top notch — he makes every word sound poignant and every sad note sounds like it's coming from his soul. The vocal percussion is a perfect example of how to use percussion minimally and effectively — the bass drum never sticks out but it shapes the ambiance of the song. If this doesn't land on the next BOCA disc I'll make a few calls and have Adam Farb's SAT score lowered 10 points.
    Rating: 10

    Rebecca Christie

    Hey, this is a real ballad, and you know what? It works really well. Lovely solo by Joel Begleiter, and the background's calm blend is for once totally appropriate. This is a nice song that doesn't make it off the B-side of Stormfront very often, and the Derbies do it up right.
    Rating: 8

    John Magruder

    A pretty amazing Billy Joel song, in my opinion. The Derbies take this song and give it a smooth sea to sail upon. The original has a strong driving beat that really gives you the sense of the power and the rhythm of the ocean, and the waves crashing over the prow of the boat. This arrangement does not have that, and I really missed it. The original makes you feel like the storyteller is standing tall on the bridge of the ship with the sea spray flying in his face as he drives the ship on into the storm, determined. This arrangement takes the captain and shows him bobbing on a calm sea, all alone on the deck, mending an empty net as the sun goes down behind him. The almost ethereal, misty sound that this arrangement imparts is not inferior to the original, just different. It is a good song, with a good soloist who actually sounds like Billy Joel every now and then (good job, Joel Begleiter). The group blends half-way decently in this song too. This song is a winner, and leaves an impression, right to the end, as you watch the captain get back behind the wheel and sail on into a stiff wind.
    Rating: 8

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    more derby rhythm problems, another derby soloist with no power or thickness (he's also mixed low and his volume jumps up and down all the time, an unfortunate mixing problem). percussion lacks the boomy bass that they could've achieved and has NO groove. the arrangement otherwise is quite pretty and choral, nice thick chords, but certainly does not support the limited percussion in establishing a groove. there are some incorrect chord changes in various spots, but i suppose that's not critical. well, yeah it is...
    Rating: 3

    Ben Tritle

    The solo that was lacking in the previous track is more than evident here. By this track, I found it really hard to start critiquing this CD, since to me there is so little to pick on. The background arrangement is subtle yet drives the track just as well. The studio mixing also helped.
    Rating: 9

  6. Break My Stride (7.4)
    Matt Cohen

    An odd early 80s gem that, probably not coincidentally, opens with a line about sailing. Cute segue. For the most part, it's a little too light and tinny. There's too much percussion and not enough harmony. At least until the end when they start clapping, boost the energy, throw in some seriously fun harmony, and give the sucker some bass while they're at it. It's the tone the arrangement should have had from the start.
    Rating: 7

    Rebecca Christie

    The opening sounds like it needs some edges, like a good spy movie soundtrack or a Bobs rock cover. But then the real song kicks in, and you recognize it as one of those vaguely calypso '80s songs. It's a cute little song, with a neat ending (hark — some studio processing!) and catchy breakdown. Only it needs to slow down a tad and go find some attitude. As it is, it sounds like an insipid sitcom theme song.
    Rating: 5

    John Magruder

    This song is well done, and done with a bit of a sense of humor. The fun beat and chorus really make you sing along, and the harsh, nasal vowels are just goofy enough for you to see that they were having fun during the twangy instrumental parts. Cute and fun... and well done.
    Rating: 7

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    cool ugly noises, another winner of an arrangement from raj patil, and a solid solo by the same. percussion here is pretty good. feel! it's got the feel! finally... and really good pitch too, really tight trios and stuff. something weird is that the claps in the breakdown sound like it's turning into a gospel tune, which it's not, and when the basses kick back in for the groove, the drums don't, kind of an unfortunate choice. but otherwise, this is the best so far.
    Rating: 8

    Ben Tritle

    That's it, I'm hanging up this reviewing thing. It is increasingly infuriating to criticize a CD I find so little fault with. Raj Patil arranged AND took the solo (did he cater, too?). Meet me at the next track, I'm too busy tapping my foot to this one.
    Rating: 10

  7. Telephone Message (Mentos) (6.0)
    Matt Cohen

    "Mentos — the Message Taker!" It's funny and its surprisingly full arrangement is well sung. But that's not enough for this song — it has to work as an actual answering machine. I put it on my machine for a couple of weeks. Before I had my first incoming call, it was already giving me problems. Like many other people, my answering machine has a 30 second limit. This song is about five seconds too long. It took me a while to find a way to cut off the first few seconds without making it sound choppy. I only got one caller who wanted to know where I got the message from. Most callers seemed bored by it. Several pointed out that you couldn't understand a lot of lyrics (it's a full arrangement and it gets a bit muddy over the phone). Two frequent callers actually hated it. One caller called it "disturbing" (by which he meant that he finds the Mentos ads to be creepy, so I'll assume he found this to be funny). Anyway, it has technical problems and didn't get the warmest reaction in the world from callers.
    Rating: 6

    Rebecca Christie

    Mentos commercials are more fun when they are warped, twisted or way out there, like those free advertising postcards you see in restaurant dispensers. The only part of this I like is the "Mentos — der Messagetaker" tag at the end. The rest is too normal.
    Rating: 4

    John Magruder

    Some skit that the Derbies did in their shows, I am sure. Take a simple telephone message and do it to the Mentos theme. It is funny for a while. I would love to know how many answering machines end up with this as the outgoing message after this album really gets around.
    Rating: 7

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    uh, this is kinda funny, a silly little arrangement of a mentos ad. but i don't think it was necessary to stick this on the album. there's fucking 18 tracks! we don't need a 30 second joke. save it for the concert, dudes.
    Rating: none

    Ben Tritle

    The Derbies' continued message parodies takes this gem of a Mentos tune and puts even more sugar on it...cute, but maybe too cute.
    Rating: 7

  8. Better Man (6.4)
    Matt Cohen

    This relatively laid back Pearl Jam song would end up on a BOCA if it weren't for the fact that it was arranged by Derbies Alumni Adam Farb, who has too much class to put one of his own songs on his compilations. The Derbies are okay on the quiet intro, but they really kick when the song starts to rock about halfway through.
    Rating: 8

    Rebecca Christie

    Pitch on this one — solo and background, particularly the chorus ooh melody — is a lot worse than usual. The guitar noises are hard to tune also; the ahs behind the voices are much better, light and smooth like whipped margarine. The solo is rather bland on the verses. He gets his attitude up for the chorus, but goes consistently flat on the top note of the phrase. It's not high, and makes for lousy styling. Halfway through the song, it suddenly picks up and tries to go rock, but then it settles down to rocky-ballad. Derby alum Adam Farb's arrangement is very nicely textured, but the whole thing fails to move me. When Pearl Jam does this song it has pathos. This just has a melody.
    Rating: 4

    John Magruder

    Here is a Pearl Jam song that graced the air waves of thousands of radio stations and the CD players of many a home stereo. This song as done by the Derbies is a little bit of a cappella mastery. This song was made for a large group like the Derbies. Hell, this arrangement was made for the Derbies by their most famous (or as famous as he can get) alum, Adam Farb. Well, he has a winner with this arrangement. It is a smart, snappy arrangement that moves from quiet drama to driving emotion with skill and grace. I love the part where they move into the last chorus from the soloist and his echo. The move... well, moves me. The soloist does a good job, but occasionally tries to affect the thick, rich, and unique sound of Eddie Vedder's voice. When he does, it just does not quite work. Just another voice that nobody should try to imitate. But this song does not lose points for that. It is really good, and you should like it. Hats off to the Derbies (past and present) for this one.
    Rating: 8

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    can't hear the solo at the beginning, and he's on the flat side the whole time, although i'm sure the chicks dig the thickness (as do i, but you know, not in that way...) and gruff of his voice, but he leaves me wanting the passion which should be making him scream once the drums really kick. he's like a watered down heineken; good stock, but not the real thing. scream, motherfucker, scream! feel the fucking pain! i disagree with the breakdown after the first chorus, and i can't stand when the soloist goes up and changes the melody. really don't get this part, ruins the feel for me. the slowing down thing at the end of the tune was kinda neat, but i felt like the syllable choice was again inappropriate.
    Rating: 4

    Ben Tritle

    Pearl Jam grunge meets a cappella, again. It does sap most of the raw grunge that fueled the original, but the track does stand on its own quite well. Another fine solo effort. The arrangement is not only well done, but it is performed nicely.
    Rating: 8

  9. American Top 40 (4.5)
    Matt Cohen

    It's a Casey Casem intro to "The Power of Love." The impersonation is lackluster (the secret to a good Casey Casem impersonation is remembering that he was the voice of Robin on the Superfriends) but the script nails his patter dead on. And it's a very appropriate intro for the next track, given the period it came from.
    Rating: 7

    Rebecca Christie

    Well, this was dead on. It's Casey, it's bland, you want to switch to another radio station. But bonus points for realism.
    Rating: 5

    John Magruder

    Hello, I'm Casey Kasem, And this is really campy. The person only sounded mildly like Casey, and maybe that is a good thing. I did not laugh, and no one who heard this laughed either. We also all groaned when we heard the lead-in for the next song. You will groan too. This was just unnecessary filler.
    Rating: 4

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    another piece of comedy bullshit. i appreciate that the derbies want to recapture their live shows on the cd, but well, whatever. i actually didn't mind this from a kind of pulp fiction, reservoir dogs soundtrack technique.
    Rating: none

    Ben Tritle

    Does NOT sound like Casey Kasem, is not funny...ah, I feel whole again, as this just really doesn't help things (could've just left this out).
    Rating: 2

  10. Power of Love (4.8)
    Matt Cohen

    This doesn't live up to its own potential. Too much of the arrangement leans on the percussion like a crutch. The song itself, like all Huey Lewis songs, was about the simple pop-power you could get out of a basic straight-ahead rock set up and simple chord structures. It's not surprising that this cover is at its best when it's at its simplest. They should have stuck to the spirit of the song and done a back to basics arrangement where they just focus all their energy on belting out simple harmonies (not unlike Huey and friends do when they sing a cappella). As it stands, much of the arrangement is unengaging.
    Rating: 7

    Rebecca Christie

    I try not to question song choice too often, but really, why do this? It's not too bad as things go, not too great, but I would never listen to it even if it were a masterpiece of imitative a cappella. Solo is Mr. White Boy 80s Garage Band guy. Background is full of "bow"s and the bass bums along true to form.
    Rating: 5

    John Magruder

    Huey Lewis to the Max! Whiny vowels to the max in the background! No Blend in the background, either. But by this point in the album you should have gotten used to this. It is fun. The whiny, nasal sounds actually sort of work in this song. I am sure that this is especially entertaining when seen and heard live. Especially the crazy little chaotic guitar ending. It is fun, and that's more than good enough.
    Rating: 7

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    another weak solo mixed low and thin. not loving this patil arrangement. whatever whatever whatever whatever whatever. lots of bahs and ahs and annoying guitar sounds and rhythm problems. wussy wussy wussy wussy.
    Rating: 2

    Ben Tritle

    Just when all hope was lost for my new reviewing career, this clunker comes along and saves it. I was hoping the album would not fall into the "at least one track" syndrome, but I guess everyone is susceptible. Where to start: the song is driven by a heavy bass which is not to be found here, possibly because the basses just aren't that deep here. The solo, which should be that rock/soul combo, is instead a grunge/techno combo. The arrangement seems mechanical as well. The whole feel of the song just doesn't fit into the album...it probably could do with LOTS of mixing.
    Rating: 3

  11. She's Always a Woman (6.8)
    Matt Cohen

    Unlike track 5, the emotion isn't here. The simple, slowly churning arrangement is appropriate to the song, but it doesn't work without some spirited performances to back it up. The overall sound is sluggish.
    Rating: 5

    Rebecca Christie

    Okay, this particular ballad is one of my favorite Billy Joel songs. And I have to say I like their version of it a lot, though I was quite skeptical of two Billy Joel ballads on the same disk. But this cover has a very different feel than "Alexa", which is a credit to them. (When Billy Joel sings them — well, he's Billy Joel.) They do this one in a light, musical folky version. No chest voice anywhere, some pretty, flowery background lines and a lovely, emotive light solo. The ba-da-da-da-das blur a bit, and "ding-ding-ding" would not be my choice, but in general it works well. Nice warm ending chord, with a little extra bass.
    Rating: 7

    John Magruder

    Here comes a classic Billy Joel ballad. With this song, the Derbies try and show you that they can blend. They still don't blend very well, but they did improve with this song. Though that may be due more to them singing quietly than them actually blending. But they put this song through its tender paces. It is done well, but the blend thing limits the background a bit with those harsh little embellishments and cascading notes in the simple (and rather elegant) arrangement. Nice.
    Rating: 7

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    some more incorrect chord changes. i LIKE the arrangement, however. especially the little running lines in the chorus, and the little flutey stuff is quite nice. soloist is quite good, and doesn't try to sound like billy joel or anything, just has a pleasant and pretty voice atop a sweet bed. diggin' it, except for the occasional pitch problems. the only kind of annoying thing is that you can hear people gasping for breath the whole time, which starts to get aggravating. like it like it like it. kudos to joshua siegel, arranger and soloist.
    Rating: 7

    Ben Tritle

    Very simple opening with a quiet intense solo that slowly gracefully transitions into a nice intricacy and a louder, but still intense, solo. A definite improvement over the previous track. Lie back in the dark and let this track envelop you.
    Rating: 8

  12. Friends Theme — Live (4.6)
    Matt Cohen

    It's a live cut, and from the sounds of it, they're going for laughs. But the arrangement takes the song pretty seriously. If it had been a studio cut, you'd be able to enjoy this song at face value. But since it's distant and cavernous, you can notice that it's spirited and that the harmony is strong, but you won't be affected by it. The laughter only makes you wonder what they're doing. They clearly think the song is laughable, but their arrangement makes it sound pretty good. Or it would have if it hadn't been done live.
    Rating: 6

    Rebecca Christie

    This is one of those memento songs — you know, that the fans love live and want to be on the CD to remind them of the shows. That's fine, and it's sort of a given that a random listener/reviewer is gonna go "whatever". There's only so many "ba! bow"s we feel like hearing in one go.
    Rating: 4

    John Magruder

    I suppose it is de rigeur to have a live track on your album. This is a fun song to do, I suppose, but it also tends to be recorded in a detrimental fashion. This is the case here. The Rembrandts' quintessential '90s TV song done nice and fast and loud and out of balance and sloppy and full of jokes that only the live audience can see or understand that could have been better but could have been a hell of a lot worse makes this just another song on an album with better stuff that you will probably want to listen to instead so don't get too excited.
    Rating: 6

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    kill me. kill me. kill me. kill me. kill me. kill me. kill me. kill me. kill me. kill me. kill me. kill me kill me killemkilemilakmeiflmielkmeilimeklmlkmelkmlim.
    Rating: 1

    Ben Tritle

    The most overplayed theme song in the world, now making its way to college groups around the country. At one time, I, too, thought this would be great a cappella fodder. That was before I heard it on the radio all the time. Nevertheless, it's still a cute arrangement: it captures the mood of the original, and the duet is nice. Not a great track, but listenable.
    Rating: 6

  13. Secret World (6.0)
    Matt Cohen

    This cover definitely has a different feel from the Peter Gabriel version — it's got a lighter and higher sound. There's some nice subtle harmonizing on the lead vocals (which are smart enough to not try to imitate Pete) sprinkled throughout. It's a good song choice and a good arrangement. Unfortunately, there's one section that pushes the lead vocals way too high. ("...In this house of make believe..."). He sounds thin and boyish. It makes the rest of his performance, which is basically faultless, sound like an apology for what came before. It should have been dropped down an octave for him. But it's worth trying to ignore that for the sake of the rest of the song.
    Rating: 7

    Rebecca Christie

    Solo? Solo? Where are you? I can hear a melody, and I assume it has words to it, but he's very blendy. The background is identifiably doing the Peter Gabriel thing, but it sounds a little empty. And the falsetto is not in tune. Intrusive syllables later on "chick chick chada" are less than ideal — mostly 'cause I think "chick" is a lousy choice in almost all cases. As with "Better Man," the first half is the slow part and the second half is the upbeat part, and then it goes slow again. Except this is a more boring arrangement of a more interesting song. As background music, it does fine except for the tenor melody parts. As Peter Gabriel, it is sadly wanting.
    Rating: 4

    John Magruder

    Peter Gabriel. This song starts out with a great little percussion riff, and goes downhill quickly. The background comes in anemic and with little or no interest. The blend and vowel issue that the Derbies have really goes against them at this point, making things sound messy and loose. Evan Schiff sounds fine singing the solo, but he might have worked a bit more on making sure his fellow singers would make this song really glow with the feeling that the song is supposed to convey. Sorry, but the blend just does not improve at all. The energy picks up where it should, but does not make things much better, when they get a bit out of control. This is how a statue Michelangelo might have looked if he had carved with a chainsaw: You know exactly what it is and that it should be beautiful, but there are nothing but rough-hewn edges.
    Rating: 6

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    wrong chords again! this is beginning to drive me nuts. lotsa bad pitch in this one. the soloist has a strange accent which kicks in occasionally, and he has absolutely no power up high. i actually kinda like the arrangement, but it doesn't really work as a whole without a kickass soloist. the use of words in the background seems forced, and the mix as a whole isn't terribly tight.
    Rating: 4

    Ben Tritle

    A song I'd never heard before and was pleasantly surprised with. Peter Gabriel tunes tend to be overdone in some manner, the percussion, the solo — not in this case. For the most part, the Derbies do best when they let the arranger do the solo as well. It worked at least twice before. Evan Schiff's arrangement gets full credit here, and his solo follows his co-Derbies nicely as well. Not even a smidgen to criticize here, maybe a little more intensity in Evan's solo...that's it.
    Rating: 9

  14. Kyrie (6.4)
    Matt Cohen

    The first verse may make you wonder why the Derbies wanted you to hear yet another cover of this song. The high impact chorus lets you know why. Jeff Falk throws in some good leads, particularly when he's styling over the rest of the group's vamp line on the ending.
    Rating: 8

    Rebecca Christie

    The intro is decidedly a mixed bag. The little dissonance at the end of the riff is subtle and neat, the falsetto that starts it comes on a bit strong. Most puzzling is the solo, who is pushing it so high and thin he almost sounds like he's making fun of the song. He gets better once the intro's over, but it's still unsettling. Basses are lovely when the verse come in and anchor a clean and textured arrangement that stays really nice until the chorus. There the tenor tuning gets the best of them, but it's still not bad. It's just that the verses are so good. (The held "ner" at one point in the second verse is not a great choice, but that's picking at things.) There is percussion throughout which is really nice to hear and adds to the song — most of the other numbers have drums in spots or not at all. Things go well until the "a cappella breakdown," which sounds very separated from what precedes it and shows the high-tenor-tuning problem in full measure, and the song never gets back on its feet.

    That's the play-by-play — overall, Jeff Falk has put together a nice arrangement and has convinced the group to sing it with a little energy, oh so hard to come by in these parts.
    Rating: 6

    John Magruder

    I live this song... when it is done well. I don't like this one. I don't like the arrangement — which lends the song a bouncy rubber ball feeling in the chorus — and I really dislike the harsh vowels and lack of blend. If Secret World suffered from this, this song suffers right along with it. I did not know whether to take these guys seriously or not. This is a serious song, but it only sounds like half of the group took it that way. What a shame.
    Rating: 6

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    many annoying sounds at the start of the groove of this song, but the arrangement begins quite nicely and is performed well. soloist immediately has a childlike quality to his sound, way too pretty for this rocker. i like the percussion groove for the most part, but feel like it's mixed out of place (too loud, then too soft, then missing the whole hihat part...). arrangement is still rocking, and when others join the lead in the chorus it works much better. more mixing problems as the soloist sticks out and then disappears. rhythm problems in the breakdown.
    Rating: 4

    Ben Tritle

    Opening was dodgy, sounded like a cappella police sirens...once you get by that it moves nicely into the arrangement. I just wish the trio had been a little more forceful here. I had to really listen hard for the harmonies in the trio. Again, though, the arranger/solo trick works again. Another worthy track.
    Rating: 8

  15. Gummi Intro (3.8)
    Matt Cohen

    Talk about setting up a straw man! This unfunny intro describing the gummi-bears as an evil force of nature lacks any real satire. Unlike Mentos, gummi bears aren't constantly in your face. The candy is well known and often chewed on, but as characters they're obscure. What's the point?
    Rating: 3

    Rebecca Christie

    Uh, yeah. I guess this is supposed to be funny. I'm just not moved. It reminds me of the Psi Upsilon haunted house my junior year, but without the cool guillotine with the fake gore made with cooked spaghetti. This is a bunch of college guys doing the Transylvania thing. If the actual theme song had bounded into action it might have worked better, but as it is I feel like getting up to look for a beer.
    Rating: 2

    John Magruder

    Not funny, but almost intriguing. This should have been trimmed along with the song it was introducing. Funny live, I imagine, but not here.
    Rating: 4

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    hee hee
    Rating: none

    Ben Tritle

    Cute...not much to say.
    Rating: 6

  16. Gummi Bears Theme (5.2)
    Matt Cohen

    If they're singing this because they think it's funny to put down the gummi bears, they're wrong. Nobody ever really hated them in the first place. If they're singing this because they think it's funny for nostalgic reasons, they're wrong again. Nobody really has fond memories of the gummi bears either. I suspect that's what they were going for. Fortunately, this music is fun in a jokey sort of way (with all its little fanfares) and they do put some serious effort behind it. So you might enjoy this cut. Too bad the intro undermines listening to this ditty for what it is.
    Rating: 6

    Rebecca Christie

    I like the trumpet on the second verse, and the post key-change chorus is lots of fun, with the little ending and all. The first verse is weighted down, with too much emphasis on the 4-4 time. Energy is nowhere, and how can you have gummi bears bouncing here and there and everywhere without energy? But since it picks up I'll give them a decent score, cause I mean, who wouldn't want to get their hands on some Gummiberry juice?
    Rating: 6

    John Magruder

    Just a bad idea on the part of the people who made the damn cartoon show, and the Derbies for putting this on the album. Maybe the bouncy 'Kyrie' chorus was some kind of foreshadowing for this song. Here the blend and vowel set that the Derbies use come in handy and actually work. I did not want to listen to this whole thing, but oh well. They did it well, all things considered. Like I just said, I imagine it was funny live, but you will skip this two track set most of the time. It just does not keep my interest.
    Rating: 5

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    at least the derbies are faithful to their humor and their devotion to it. i'm sure that they're funny in concert, but somehow the humor of singing the gummi bears theme doesn't translate well to me sitting in my room listening to a cd. it probably does for their families and their fans, but it certainly doesn't earn them new ones. sounds fine. arrangement's fine. soloist's fine.
    Rating: 2

    Ben Tritle

    A sappy sugar filled theme that actually is listenable in this format. A little humor interspersed as well. Could've lost quite a bit if they hadn't treated it seriously, instead it works.
    Rating: 7

  17. Hooked on a Feeling (6.2)
    Matt Cohen

    I keep hearing this being mentioned as the definitive overdone song by male college groups. But, despite my perversely large collection, I've never heard it before. Anyway, this song starts off with a deep "Ooga Chacka" chant, the likes of which I haven't heard since the Nylons sang "Somethin' Bout Cha." Overall, the track is a nice little burst of energy.
    Rating: 7

    Rebecca Christie

    Okay, I am betraying my cultural ignorance here, but my memory does not say that this song is the origin of that "Ooga-chugga, ooga, ooga, ooga chugga" manly-man paean that crops up now and again. Happily my knowledge of either song or mantra is limited to vague familiarity.

    Regardless of what I remember, a heavy, spoken "ooga-chugga" is the dominant phrase in this-here arrangement. It comes in strangely lackluster for such a proud rumble. Then it comes back in after the scat (which by the way is rather nice except at the end when it gets too close to those awful vocal guitar solos) and sticks around, finally displacing the background again.

    When it leaves, we are left relieved, somewhat drained and noting the blandness of a little '80s-y ditty that is cute and passable and more like what I remember of this song. Without any percussion line at all, the strange contrast to the sections with mantra is odd. Kind of like spicy mayonnaise on soggy cornflakes: with is definitely lousy, but without has so little flavor that you almost — but no, without's fine, really, that's okay...
    Rating: 3

    John Magruder

    OK, 18 guys who want to be funny really work for this song. A strong "Ugga-Chakka" section drives this song, and the soloist (Joshua Siegel) sounds great. It's fun. Enjoy.
    Rating: 8

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    now kill me. please kill me. i despise this song more than the fucking rembrandts. ok, i'm sucking up my prejudice quickly: their pitch is fine, the arrangement is nice and moves well, the soloist is appropriate, it's fun, yippee. the 6 is for the people who like this song.
    Rating: 6

    Ben Tritle

    A rockin' tune that hits you from the first "aoogachaga". Josh Siegel's solo drives this tune from beginning to end, even the cadence he takes during the bridge. It's not outstanding, but it's definitely up to the high standard they've carried throughout the CD.
    Rating: 7

  18. Pride (In the Name of Love) (6.6)
    Matt Cohen

    I'm extremely puzzled as to why this has suddenly become an a cappella standard. This arrangement does a good job of getting around the song's biggest problem — the twangy guitar line, which often sounds goofy when other groups try to transcribe it to an a cappella arrangement. The soaring lead vocals make this a solid track, although Better Man or Break My Stride would have made for a stronger closer.
    Rating: 7

    Rebecca Christie

    Bono imitator is really pretty good, down to that little waver on any non-gutbusting extended note. The background is at its best on the verses, when it is mellow, and has some movement. (Tempo is way up, and I think that was a good choice for them.) On the choruses it gets busy and more mediocre. The falsetto tenor stuff is a mess, and the basses get louder without being very bass-like, which is not the best state of affairs. (Dum, dum, diddy dum syllables without the least bit of bassish intonation.) Thanks to their solo and their fine sense of tempo and editing, this is one of the nicer tracks on the album.
    Rating: 6

    John Magruder

    A pretty interesting intro, that unfortunately slides into a bit of a mess. Sloppy rhythm due to an overly busy arrangement, and a harsh blend between the parts takes away from this song. The arrangement also leaves some sections feeling empty, which is surprising considering how busy the backgrounds are. The soloist hits the highest notes, but sounds like he is always on the verge of disaster. Not in the way Bono used to. He used to sound like he was tearing himself apart, body and soul to sing it out. Rolo Fernandez sounds like he is about to fall off the top of a ladder that he is precariously balanced upon. The instrumental sections get way too cacophonous with the style of singing they Derbies do. I have definitely heard better renditions of this monster U2 song. But still, it was pretty good. Certainly a cut above most attempts.
    Rating: 7

    Gabriel Shabbtai Rutman

    soloist is fine on the verses, good i'd say even, but is not as strong on the choruses, which demand precision and tons of confidence. the falsetto parts don't work so well to add any intensity to the tune. percussion lacks hihat, in an obvious way, except during the bridge, where i felt joel begleiter's percussion was quite nice. otherwise the arrangement is suitable, but not amazing by any stretch. a good tune overall, however.
    Rating: 6

    Ben Tritle

    ANOTHER U2 cover. Rolo Fernandez does a nice solo, but it doesn't QUITE have the same soul that I liked about the original. I'm torn by the fact that it's a well done arrangement and the fact that it basically turns the song from a mellow gospel tinged song, and basically makes it into a dance track. In the end, I like the song, but it's definitely not my favorite U2 cover.
    Rating: 7

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