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RARB REVIEW

School: University of Pennsylvania
Group: Counterparts
Album: Housekeeping

Total time: 39:52, 13 songs
Recorded 1996-97

Ordering Information


Track Listing

  1. Housekeeping (7.0)
  2. One of Us (8.6)
  3. Fast Love (7.0)
  4. Like a Prayer (6.4)
  5. Autumn Leaves (6.8)
  6. Everybody Wants to Rule the World (6.8)
  7. Cosmic Girl (6.8)
  8. Shadowboxer (7.2)
  9. My Lovin' (You're Never Gonna Get It) (6.4)
  10. Stay (6.8)
  11. All of Me (6.2)
  12. I Remember Clifford (5.8)
  13. If It Makes You Happy (7.2)

Reviews

Overall

Matt Cohen

I can sum up the Counterparts' sound in three words: Sleek, sultry, and smart. It's similar to their last CD except that this time around the jazz element doesn't work as well. They have a good sound to sing both pop and jazz, but two of the three jazz songs on this disc are uninspired at best. Only a snazzy version of All of Me is worth your time (and theirs).

The pop songs that make up the bulk of the CD are much more on target. They picked good songs that are just slightly off the beaten track, so the album feels fresher than a lot of college discs. Fiona Apple's Shadowboxer hits all the right notes. The groovy '70s sound of Cosmic Girl gets under your skin like few songs do. And the arresting solo on One of Us (sung by John Stephens) raises the song to a new level.

I have to admit, I'm a little scared — ALL of the arrangements are by Dennis La. What happens when he graduates?

Song Most Likely to Be On Their Next Album: Seeds of Love by Tears for Fears

Song that Ought to Be On Their Next Album: Ain't Nobody's Business If I Do by Fats Waller
Rating: 8 (7.2)

Rebecca Christie

The first time I listened to this disc, I really liked the opening track and the rest of the album struck me as mediocre.

A few months went by between when I first listened to it and the next, when I sat down to write this review. I listened a bit more closely, and really the rest of the album was pretty good. If I'd gotten it a few years ago the song scores would have been through the roof. But it just doesn't grab me.

The arrangements are mostly pretty decent, the soloists credible and some of them good. The whole thing could use more resonant sound, in my book, but that's not the style these days. (And lord knows we've heard enough people go overboard trying for the other extreme.) There aren't many energy songs, and most of the ones that try to fill that role don't, really. Except the first track, One of Us, which kicks butt. The rest of it fades into oblivion. Offhand, I'd say I liked their version of Stay and If It Makes You Happy (two songs which I've never cared for, by the way, but you take what you can get.) And their version of Shadowboxer is worth a listen. (All these are ballads — there are some interesting things in the uptunes, but they don't do enough.) Otherwise it all blends together, though if you isolate most parts of it, they don't do too badly.

This is a very serious sort of album — I didn't have much funny to say about it, and it's clear they took their work seriously and worked hard. I want more fun out of a disc.
Rating: 7 (6.9)

Ben Tritle

The Penn Counterparts have done something with this CD that I have been yearning for with most of the other CDs I've reviewed: they made me feel like they meant and believed what they were singing. Rather than sounding glassy-eyed (if you can imagine that), they took almost each track by the clefs and said "I don't care if you were someone else's song, you're mine now".

A lot of times, a CD can get mired by production choices, be it song order or simply who sings the solo. Save for one case, I had no argument with order, or soloist. In fact, even with the one choice I questioned, it still sounded like it was meant for her to sing, as did all the other songs. This CD is a treasure to have, and should be considered for every CARA come 1998. It richly deserves recognition for an excellent effort.
Rating: 9 (7.8)

Randi Sherman

It wasn't until after I wrote this review (or until I wrote the overview) did I know that the first track was selected for BOCA. It changed my perspective a little bit on the group, but I don't want to skew any opinions. The Counterparts have a fantastic jazzy repertoire, but their more modern music is lacking a bit of creativity. The basses and percussion, for the most part, carry the importance in their arrangements. Some soloists are strong, some need work, but all are worthy of the solos they do. Overall, the Counterparts are a strong a cappella group driven by jazzy standards and creative takes on the most modern tunes.
Rating: 6 (5.8)

Benjamin Stevens

The Counterparts are a thirteen-member mixed group from the University of Pennsylvania. In Housekeeping they have put together a very listenable group of songs, making the most of their easy blend and jazzy character. Not all of their song choices seem initially appropriate given the group's basic sound, but by plowing ahead they leave '80s rip-offs behind and coat each morsel with a jazzy-candy-coating of their own. Thus they have a surprising range of tunes but a limited range of expression.

Again, blend is very nice. Dynamics could have been sharper: much of the album has a muted, mezzo-piano sound. Even when the group should open up and slam the harmonies on the choruses . . . they don't. I would also have liked the soloists to be stronger, just more solo: all too often they fall into the harmonies and are never heard from again.

So! A good thing to have, with however a monotone singularity of style. Mix it up with some other groups, more upbeat, and you'll have a great time.
Rating: 7 (6.5)


Individual Tracks

  1. Housekeeping (7.0)
    Matt Cohen

    There's some breaking glass (which sounds familiar — it must be either from Billy Joel's Glass Houses or the same sound effects CD I use) followed by an electronically distorted count down. Basically, it works as a lead in to track one. The only small trouble with it is that the break between Track One and Track Two comes a little early — when you play just the second track, you can hear the fade out of the intro.
    Rating: 7

    Rebecca Christie

    Hey, a studio intro that is short, snappy and non-irritating. Novelty. And it leads into a great song.
    Rating: none

    Ben Tritle

    Not worth scoring-really not worth mentioning either.
    Rating: none

    Randi Sherman


    Rating: none

    Benjamin Stevens

    A five second throwaway. Why not use some engineering for effects in the songs themselves? Skip this silly stuff.
    Rating: none

  2. One of Us (8.6)
    Matt Cohen

    Well, the intro is drawn out and dull and should have been cut. The lead makes the bit about people phoning God (the Pope, to be exact) sound silly. But who cares! This song rules! Forget the intro. Once soloist John R. Stephens starts singing, it's a whole new ball game! First off, there's the nice surprise of hearing a coed group give a women's solo to a guy (usually, it's the other way around). But the novelty value aside, John's rich voice brings this song to life. He finds things in the lyrics that Joan Osborn never did. Osborn delivered the whole song with detached irony. John, on the other hand, invests himself in the material. Sure, it still has a offbeat, rhetorical quality, but suddenly lines like "Would you want to see if seeing meant that you would have to believe" have MEANING. You can sense the crisis of non-faith, of suddenly having to believe in something so dramatically larger than yourself. Okay, so his talent for making this song sound significant makes the more playful lines (basically, the one about the pope calling God) sound silly (in a bad way). But they save themselves by tossing in a SOULFUL coda.
    Rating: 10

    Rebecca Christie

    This is a nice track. It sounds better loud. Giving the solo to John R. Stephens was a great move — too bad it's the only time we get to hear him sing out on this disc. Takes a song that has been played so often its become almost as trite as the Go-Gos, slows it down, adds a hint of soul and a respectable amount of improv. Great cover, with the interpretation that phrase implies. (And no I haven't heard TAFKAP do his version and this could be a straight-up imitation of that. But it's not the tired Joan Osborne version, which is what matters to me.)
    Rating: 9

    Ben Tritle

    A very subtle opening that, if you didn't read the track listings, you would never have known that it was this Joan Osborne number. In actuality, this sounds like a cover of a cover done by The Artist (or Prince, or TAFKAP; whatever flavor he's known by). So, while it's not COMPLETELY original in its arrangement, there are too many things that went right with this arrangement. John Stephens' solo is what I've been looking for as having heart. There was true emotion put into it. The women's parts had an incredible layered texture underneath the solo. I even liked the subtle doubling of the refrain by the baritone. The only fault I had with this is that there were no liner notes to go with the words in the bridge. It sounds incredible. You want an opening? You got an opening!!
    Rating: 10

    Randi Sherman

    It's not often that you hear an a cappella group take a really popular song and completely re-do it so it sounds very little like the original. Kudos to the Counterparts for doing this. When the soloist comes in, however, the group loses its tuning. The high "ahs" sound too abrasive and seem responsible for bringing the pitch. Excellent smooth percussion in this song. There's a great breakdown in the middle of the song which leads back into the chorus- really creative and original as well. Overall- this was a good sound and song to begin the album.
    Rating: 7

    Benjamin Stevens

    I happen not to like this song. I do like this rendition of it, once it has edged past the beginning and the tuning has locked on. One thing to notice right away, one of my favorite things about this group: they sing together, seamlessly. Like a family. Brrr. The soloist is appropriate for this song, sort of soulful but more reflective. Nice shimmery build-ups into the chorus. Light percussion keeps it going but doesn't come across cheesy.
    Rating: 7

  3. Fast Love (7.0)
    Matt Cohen

    What is it about a cappella that makes George Michael sound so darn good? Maybe it's that it authenticates his soul and makes him more human. It's only a matter of time before BOCA does a CD of nothing but George Michael covers! And I'm sure this slice of breathy, '70s influenced soul music will fit in nicely. It's a bit too thin at times but even that shortcoming lends the track a laid back groove. This song is a good example of how the Counterparts pick good pop songs that are still off the beaten path. They're not especially obscure, but chances are this album will expose you to some new music.
    Rating: 7

    Rebecca Christie

    Not as engaging a song as the one that precedes it. It's an r&b-ish song, one of those numbers without a strong hook or melody that sort of blends in on itself. Bass/percussion has a nice groove to it, and their sound quality is decent too. The women are thin, and flatten out a bit on the long notes, but when they get a moving line with a few words they do well and blend well. Effects at the very end would not be my choice.
    Rating: 6

    Ben Tritle

    Nice transition in the CD from a hard soulful arrangement, to this silky R&B number from George Michael. This has a quiet cool about it. The harmonies in the back don't overtake Gabe Aherne's solo which is sung almost as a monologue; it's that easygoing. This track doesn't hit you over the head with every well-arranged part yet you can appreciate every part with the effortless blend that goes on here. Didn't really need the studio tweaking that it got, but it certainly didn't upset the apple cart here.
    Rating: 9

    Randi Sherman

    Great 'ethereal' sound to the beginning of this song. No one sounds like they're pushing or oversinging, which I noticed a lot of groups do. When a group of men are singing on the words with the soloist, they seem to rush it. This song is really jazzy, and the soloist has a lot of soul. It's a comfort to hear someone not push, and simply express the words of the song. The arrangement really reflects what the song is about; fast love. It's sexy.
    Rating: 8

    Benjamin Stevens

    Emotive beginning, losing some force as the song continues. I don't like the "oo-oo, baby-baby"'s. While well sung, it has the sound of cheap porn, and musically seems just to end when tired of itself. The solo line is scattered, although the soloist does his best with it. Still, a fine blend . . . perhaps too smooth . . . I can't really gauge the effect the group is going for here.
    Rating: 5

  4. Like a Prayer (6.4)
    Matt Cohen

    The arrangement never gets too complicated but the harmonies and the overall sound still nice and thick. If only there was a bit more screaming. The backing vocals don't wail enough (although they sort of pick up at the end.) The dynamics do build, but you still wish they'd push them a bit farther. You know the group can do it (just listen to the backing vox on Everybody Wants to Rule the World for proof). If only they cut loose on this, it might have been in the same class as the Amalgamates' Man in the Mirror.
    Rating: 7

    Rebecca Christie

    My favorite part of this arrangement is the unvoiced percussion line that grooves along through it. It's slower than we associate with this song, it's smooth and varied, not just a 2-4 drum kick. Nice. The rest of the song is straight and kinda boring, though the arrangement tries to freshen it up in places — credit uniarranger Dennis B. La. Nice "soul duet" (as they call it) toward the end too. Intro with just the ladies sounds nice, and I do like the movement "it's like an angel." Otherwise it sounds like it's trying to be a Janet Jackson song — maybe better than Madonna, but still not gonna send me spinning.
    Rating: 7

    Ben Tritle

    An often-arranged track; starts out slowly, as if in prayer, but the words seem too choppy when dragged out in that fashion. In a bit of studio editing, Denise Sandole duets with herself (I know it's used in music today, but come on, there are six other women in the group, let someone else have a turn). Not that her efforts are bad, quite the contrary. It's well sung. I especially liked the choral feel about half way through. It's about here that I noticed the Counterparts liked to be subtle with their percussion. Sounded nice, but the basses were too subtle in trying to set the beat. Enchanting as it was, it didn't quite meet the first two songs' quality, yet it is still quite good.
    Rating: 7

    Randi Sherman

    This one isn't that strong, and I won't let my usual "start with the nice stuff" get in the way. The soloist sounds flat and stays at the same dynamic level throughout the song. Some of the "ahs" underneath the slow soloist are really out of tune. Something about the percussion and the bass line reminds me too much of "One of Us" and the two songs should be separated more in the album. I wasn't too impressed with this song because of tuning. The entire song doesn't really go out of tune, but way too many of the chords take too long to settle to be a really solid tune for the Counterparts.
    Rating: 4

    Benjamin Stevens

    Excellent choice! What I said generally applies very much here: the group takes a song that could simply be cheese overdone '80s schlock and tells it to you in their own words. I am convinced by the backing voices, and by the percussion. Engineering again, however: the whole thing sounds muted; am I listening to a group sing in one of those anechoic chambers? An honest tenderness to the soloist rounds it out. Good!
    Rating: 7

  5. Autumn Leaves (6.8)
    Matt Cohen

    The counterparts do jazz well. Unlike most pop groups singing the occasional jazz standard, it never seems like a token effort. But at least in this case, it does seem rather passionless and dull. The solo is solid, the backing vocals (daaah) are competent, the light percussion adds a little life to the affair, but it doesn't add up to anything. A rather unengaging song choice from a group that's normally adept at picking songs.
    Rating: 5

    Rebecca Christie

    The intro highlights the thin sound of the women — I would wish for a fuller sound, more on top of the pitch. The tune overall has a nice ballroom feel to it, from a cha-cha to fox trot and back again. Solo is quite pleasant.
    Rating: 6

    Ben Tritle

    A definite departure for this CD, it starts slow, then picks up with a bossa nova type beat. It definitely shows breadth of repertoire that the Counterparts can so ably transition between top 40 and R&B to jazz. I don't normally appreciate jazz like this, since I found it to be in somewhat of a Prozac state in comparison, but I also think it is quite good for its style. Well done.
    Rating: 7

    Randi Sherman

    This song has a very professional sound to it for many reasons. The arrangement, the soloist, the vowels and syllables chosen, the dynamics, and the balance between voice parts. They're all great. Even though they "cheat" and use some kind of woodblock, it's O.K. in my book.
    Rating: 10

    Benjamin Stevens

    Jazz all the way through, and here the group shows its true colors. They sound born to sing such music, with a soloist very reminiscent of some of the greats; this makes me wish they had sung "Mack the Knife". Nice percussive effects, moving beyond the typical pfft and doosht with some realistic other sounds. A progressive loosening of the mood but not the musicality keeps it interesting.
    Rating: 6

  6. Everybody Wants to Rule the World (6.8)
    Matt Cohen

    Dennis La does some great arrangements, to be certain. It's a bit disappointing when he finally steps up to the plate to take a solo. His voice is on the thin side, particularly on the first verse or two. As the arrangement builds energy (and volume), this becomes less of a distraction, mostly because the group puts their all into singing the backing vox. Check out the "da da!"s that punctuate the arrangement. It shouldn't be an effective syllable to drive a crescendo with, but they attack the notes and really sell them. It's that extra bit of energy that's missing from the otherwise superior "Like a Prayer."
    Rating: 7

    Rebecca Christie

    Soprano thinness on the opening ooh highlights exactly what was bothering me about the previous number; it crops up periodically in this song. Once the song heads into the main riff, it's not so bad — maybe because the alto line becomes the dominant female line. The men have a lovely sound, very round and constant, that rings. This album needs more resonance, overall. I also like the tenor accent on the choruses. They also get a point for not being as annoying as the tears for fears original — their smoothness appeals to me even as it loses something from the original.
    Rating: 6

    Ben Tritle

    I originally saw this on the track list and I worried because it was one I really wanted to see a group do, would I like it? Yes. The opening deserved the little tweaking in the studio it got, made for a solid opening. When I first heard the verse and chorus, I was taken aback, it was as driving as I remembered. After further review, I saw it as a forlorn track that really tugged at my '80s childhood heart strings. I really liked Dennis La's solo and the driving background vocals. I wish they would credit the arrangers, because this is the fourth time that I felt they should take a bow. [Ed. note: Dennis La is credited as having arranged all of the songs on the album.] Only problem for me were the need for the scat, pretty as it was. Just seemed out of place. Start to finish, another excellent track.
    Rating: 9

    Randi Sherman

    I was impressed by the beginning of this song until the soloist got lost in the shuffle around the bridge. The engineer obviously didn't catch this, or maybe it was the effect they were looking for. Although there aren't any major flaws in this song, the soloist was a little boring. He never seemed to sing to his full capacity, almost as if he were holding back for a particular section. An a cappella song can be musically great but still make a listener uninterested.
    Rating: 5

    Benjamin Stevens

    The '80s rears its ugly head! As usual, the Counterpoints give us their own take on the music, rendering it in their own terms: shimmering bell-tones in the backing voices, syncopated higher voices, light VP. Again, though, I could ask for stronger renditions of the choruses. A nice change in the backing voices from "dum" to "dah" to text. The bridge is a little shallow, and the song seems to take longer than it should.
    Rating: 7

  7. Cosmic Girl (6.8)
    Matt Cohen

    Fun, fun, fun! A pop tune that feels April-fresh despite the retro '70s groove! Wow. Go Jameriqui! Go Counterparts! This is what happens when you do a good job of matching the song to the group covering it. Check out the bass line. Check out the cool "robot" solos. Check out the killer leads vocals by Tracy Greenberger. Ignore the fact that gender-switching the solo makes no sense because, in the end, it makes no difference. This song kicks booty!
    Rating: 10

    Rebecca Christie

    Disco. Neat. Not as well executed as the other stuff — sounds pitchy throughout, but it starts with nice energy. I'm much more interested in hearing it, which should count for something. It's really a shame that the energy fades away as the song progresses. I don't know the original at all, but I like that a female solo is singing about this wonderful woman (who's line is sung by a man), though after the first verse she loses 'tude. Oh, and the Madonna "Lucky Star" overlay is just wimpy. Really wimpy. Needs some snaps and some style, but so does the whole song.
    Rating: 6

    Ben Tritle

    OK, first thing: I have a problem with the choice of soloist, or more appropriately the gender. Tracy Greenberger does an admirable job, but having seen Jamiroquai originate it and listening to the lyrics, it just didn't make editorial/directorial sense. In the end, I liked the track too much to let that get in the way. The "bops" at the beginning were a bit hokey, but thankfully soon gone and replaced by the intricate background. Arranger? Who is it? Well done. EXCEPT why is it tainted by Madonna's Lucky StarÂ…this track would've stood up on it's own quite well without the Material Girl tainting the Cosmic Girl. Lost a point for that.
    Rating: 7

    Randi Sherman

    The important parts in this song are the basses, the percussion, and the soloist. Everything else isn't confident or important enough. Some of the transitions are rough and almost sound as if they were edited together. There's a cute addition of the Madonna song "Lucky Star" which has a great play on words. "She's just a cosmic girl living in another galaxy." The best part of this song is that certain sounds, like the soprano "bwoo" really imitate 'cosmic' sounds.
    Rating: 5

    Benjamin Stevens

    This makes me think of surrealist films from the '80s, with the soloist almost narrating over the trippy other voices. Finally I can hear the bass doing his grumbly bass thing, and overall dynamics have much improved, with an actual dynamic! Some uncertainties in tuning during the bridges? The careful use of different syllables for different voices gives a solid impression of different instruments. The final minute or so is a little too same-old, just drifting on.
    Rating: 6

  8. Shadowboxer (7.2)
    Matt Cohen

    Soloist Maria Demaio does a great job of swaggering her way through this song. She knows she doesn't have to belt the whole thing to be emotional. She has a special talent for being totally relaxed, even casual with the material, almost as if she were totally detached from the song. Almost, but not quite. Her breathy voice (breathy in the GOOD way) reveals the emotions underneath. The only downside to her solo is that her diction tends to take a back seat to the overall tone of the song.
    Rating: 9

    Rebecca Christie

    Soloist could be mixed higher — the solo line is clearly the only thing interesting about this song, so let's hear it. Percussion line is boring and a little distracting, overall dynamics are rather nice, more variation than you usually get out of college. (Side note — when the sopranos get a middling high line, they sound better than they have since the opener.) Back to the solo — she's very good and very imitative. Personally, I wish original artist Fiona Apple didn't sound quite so much like she's just smoked a half pack and is singing with Mick Jagger lips, I wish our cover soloist hadn't been quite so true and had morphed that into a more attractive huskiness. But maybe I'm missing the point. By the way, with the minor exception of the final chord, the last chorus is a very nice package.
    Rating: 8

    Ben Tritle

    I'm not familiar with Fiona Apple's work, but I was intrigued by this Jazz Dance type number (at least that's how the arrangement felt). This definitely slows the pace of the CD. Maria Demaio's solo was full of a quiet intensity that could have easily been over or underbalanced with the group; instead it rides the fence skillfully. As a whole, while intriguing it didn't seem as moving as Fast Love did in putting the point across. I liked this track, just not as much.
    Rating: 7

    Randi Sherman

    I like Fiona Apple, but as a cappella? I will admit, I have toyed with the idea of arranging "Criminal" for my all female a cappella group, but Shadowboxer is slow and repetitive. If there were great, funky chords in this song it could've been better, but the music itself (totally disregarding the a cappella group) isn't a powerful song. There wasn't much that the group did in 4 minutes, but the soloist did an excellent song capturing Fiona Apple's style of singing.
    Rating: 4

    Benjamin Stevens

    My first reaction is "soloist is too buried", but she picks it up a little. A slow entrance entices, with a key change announcing something else to happen . . . and it builds . . . oh, wow . . . lush sound on the chorus makes it all worth while. Very full, resplendent use of the twelve voices, the soloist telling her tale. I have a hard time imagining this in concert, but it fills out the disc wonderfully.
    Rating: 8

  9. My Lovin' (You're Never Gonna Get It) (6.4)
    Matt Cohen

    If I had a nickel for every time I said the a song was good except for the intro, or didn't get interesting until the last 30 seconds, well, I'd be able to afford a down payment on a CD. Well, here's a song where the only part that really works is the intro! It starts with the women singing in unison (you know the song) and then a bass comes in with an interesting "hmmmm, hmmmm" line that sounds like the songs engines are just revin' up and ready to go. But it doesn't go anywhere. It's lifeless. The spoken word section ("and now it's time for a breakdown") is so stiff that it actually throws the song into reverse.
    Rating: 5

    Rebecca Christie

    This is a damn hard song to cover, and as such an easy one to criticize. They do much better than usual, but I still feel obliged to pick at it - it's not a song that gives much leeway. Opens nicely, and male accents are really nice (too bad you have to listen for them). The soloists do a decent job, but on the higher parts (the bridges, I think) they fall into the usual sorts of traps — the one gets hooey, the other is better for the song but has a thin tone. But hey, we can't all have Aretha Franklin's range, not even En Vogue. By the first internal chorus the song starts to get old — arranger makes the next verse somewhat interesting, but it can't quite fight the repetition. Ooh, and the breakdown is a too choral, and then the abrupt ending — the intro was the same line, and pulled off much better.
    Rating: 7

    Ben Tritle

    First-WHY? This has been done so many times, in part or in whole, was it necessary to do it AGAIN. (Whew, got that out — on with the review) Opening had a Glee Club feel, like Cheesy-Grin type "Hi, we're the Counterparts" kind of feel. Basses also felt kind of naked (vocally!! Come on now.) Thank goodness it didn't last long. Nice addition of Blackstreet's "No Diggity" into the beginning. It's sung well, but robotically, save for the solos-"No-your-nev-er-gon-na-get-it". It also feels slow, which does detract from the track. Then after the solos, we head back to Cheese-Land. It just felt like they missed the mark and only made an average track here.
    Rating: 5

    Randi Sherman

    There's a great (and I mean GREAT) beginning to this song with the "never gonna get" repeated. The basses coming in with a cheesy "dum-badum" right after threw me for a loop, but then it settled in after the second time I heard it. This song is the finest example of their arranger's skills. A snippet of "No Diggity" is thrown in several times, only heard by the most attentive ear. (mine, of course included) There are other bits and pieces thrown in that even I couldn't figure out after four or five listens. Definitely one of the best songs on their album, despite a few shaky transitions.
    Rating: 9

    Benjamin Stevens

    Um . . . a little carnivalish in the harmonies, simply too many voices bracketed by unconvincing attempts at soul . . . very scattered. Somehow everyone seems to stand out, especially the bass. In all fairness, the group does it well when they relax into their own sound and forget about the original . . . something they should have remembered during the bridge and the "breakdown", where their easy harmonizing serves to muck up the works. In all, it sounds like an easy listening rendition of the Divas, a lounge act more than a sexy send-off.
    Rating: 6

  10. Stay (6.8)
    Matt Cohen

    It takes so little to make me happy. If you're going to sing someone else's song, you don't have to reinvent it (although that wouldn't hurt). You just have to believe in the song. You have to relate to it on an emotional level. Or you at least have to be a good enough actor to sound like you do. Denise Sandole's solo on this pretty Lisa Loeb cover has sincerity written all over it. If you want proof, just list to what she does with the last "You say . . . stay." You know the one. She changes it slightly to "You say . . . oh baby, stay." "Oh baby" may not sound like a deep lyric, but it speaks volumes here. It makes it her song. The only thing wanting on this version is that the solo and the arrangement could us more drive on the "I turn the radio on" section.
    Rating: 8

    Rebecca Christie

    This is very nice. Beats the Lady Blue version of a few years ago, which won some notice. Solo is light without sounding flat (yay), tempo is slow but it moves. The arrangement shadows the solo nicely. The background is a little drenched in studio effects for my taste.
    Rating: 9

    Ben Tritle

    What sold me on this song was the vocalization of the guitar, or more accurately how it was arranged. The solo seemed slightly mechanical, like she was trying to match it to the beat. It just didn't seem as spontaneous as the original, which was the appeal of the song in the first place for me. Nevertheless, Denise Sandole did manage to keep the song driving right through. The track did seem to slow down in some open spots during the refrain, or what there is of one for this song, not sure if it's arranger error, or temporary vocal let down, either way it was brief. Not a great track, but on the other hand it supports the album well.
    Rating: 7

    Randi Sherman

    Underneath the verse "And I thought what I felt was simple" there are missing notes in the chords which make it seem like an empty arrangement. More notes are added in, but the fullness that the Counterparts have on other songs is missing here. This song, again, is weighted more on the bass and percussion than most a cappella songs should be.
    Rating: 4

    Benjamin Stevens

    Very faithful to the original, almost to a fault in terms of the soloist whose little-girl voice is perhaps too nice. Smooth but boring.
    Rating: 6

  11. All of Me (6.2)
    Matt Cohen

    Here's a solo that totally lacks any sort of emotional commitment to song. Where is the strange mix of desperation, defeat, and devotion that the lyrics call for? Gone. Missing in action. But WHO CARES? The lyrics real job is to be clever and catchy. This is an upbeat reading of this jazz standard and it swings! It's finger snappin' good. It's the only jazz song on this album that really belongs.
    Rating: 7

    Rebecca Christie

    Not as nice as their other big band number. A little too fast, wimpy arrangement, unremarkable solo, though he does sound like a friendly and charismatic guy. Walking bassline sounds nice, though.
    Rating: 5

    Ben Tritle

    The big band classic (or how I remember it). Jazzed up. It's a great track, just too short. Maybe it was done too fast, because I really liked Sloan Alexander's interpretation of the melody. Everything was there, I just wish more of it was there.
    Rating: 8

    Randi Sherman

    The soloist has a vibrato that pulls down his pitch. It's common, but it should have been caught in recording. He drops the ends of his words and phrases. Something as simple as snapping helps this song move along and keeps your foot tapping. The song, in my perspective, borders "ultra cheesy" when the soloist sings "Come back" and the women speak/shout "come back." But, this song still has a fun, lively feel.
    Rating: 5

    Benjamin Stevens

    Easy swing, with a smooth bari on lead, ably aided by his band. Nice also in that it is short, making its point and letting something else have a go.
    Rating: 6

  12. I Remember Clifford (5.8)
    Matt Cohen

    In a word: Forgettable. A Manhattan Transfer style blending on an unengaging melody. Did they already cover all the good jazz songs out there?
    Rating: 5

    Rebecca Christie

    A nice ballad — takes too long to figure out where it's going. But I applaud them for picking something a little less conventional — most of this repertoire is the height of accessibility. I find the production stuff masks the singing more than I'd like, and I think it could be a little lighter. But there are some nice chords here, no pitch problems that really get on my nerves.
    Rating: 6

    Ben Tritle

    A heartfelt remembrance of a childhood friend, or lost relative perhaps. It would've been a great ballad, if not for the overbalanced responses of the women to Dennis La's lines. This falls into a sort of jazz that I appreciate far more than Autumn Leaves, and it comes off well. A beautiful track that is a nice transition from the upbeat "All of Me" before it.
    Rating: 8

    Randi Sherman

    The soloist and accompanying background have a pattern throughout this song. He sings a line, and they repeat the words. The phrases that are repeated by the background are sloppy in pitch and rhythm, and they don't have any expression. I think this is a weak arrangement, alternating women singing with men. Even though there are intriguing dissonant chords, the dynamics within the voice parts aren't even, so it sounds like the sopranos have an important part backed up by everyone else. A fair song, but nothing sparkling like other ones on the album.
    Rating: 3

    Benjamin Stevens

    Very emotive, very touching. A sweetness in the solo is met by the group's typically smooth backing, melting together for a sad ballad. A change of mood occurs early on, the harmonies jazzing up a good deal, the bass walking his way around. Still, very focused and effective.
    Rating: 7

  13. If It Makes You Happy (7.2)
    Matt Cohen

    They had a really great idea. They sing the first verse in somber tones, as if it were an alternative song from the "Life-sucks-and-I-just-don't-care" school of alternative music. Then, when they hit the line, "Okay, I made this up" they shift to the significantly more upbeat (but still a bit dreary) spirit of the song. It's like they're saying, "Just kidding. We're not that depressed. We were just posing." There's even a subtle laugh in there. It's very interesting. But the idea ultimately doesn't work because of a clumsy transition between the first verse and the rest of the song. The tempo sort of slurs up to speed.
    Rating: 7

    Rebecca Christie

    When the fast tempo comes in, the song gets going really nicely. Energy, nice solo, decent arrangement — almost makes me forget I've never liked this song. The end of the song is arranged very well. Good job keeping the intensity up. Not my choice to end the album, (too much the momentum building ballad, not the leave in a good mood track) but a nice cut.
    Rating: 8

    Ben Tritle

    Like Track #2, it starts out in a way that you would never have known it was this Sheryl Crow tune. Starting with Ty Stiklorius on something akin to an alcoholic daze, it never lets on that it's going to pick up in speed, intensity, and pride. The arrangement AGAIN goes uncredited when it's owner should be wearing a tag saying "I did this, and gosh darn it, it made ME happy". I got chills at every transition and how easy the Counterparts were able to move through this track without getting bogged down in balancing problems. This CD ends exactly as it begins: Topnotch.
    Rating: 9

    Randi Sherman

    How interesting and ear-catching (if that's a word) to have a ballad arrangement of this song. It seems more like an Indigo Girls song. But, as soon as the soloist hits the words "Ok- I made this up" it picks up to the regular tempo. It was better before the tempo pickup. The chords that the sopranos/altos sing are in need of a tune-up. Right on the word "bad" the chord is, well, bad. The soloist does a good interpretation, but it seemed like she had a frog in her throat on many notes. When one realizes how monotonous Cheryl Crow's song is, you're thankful that the group had a new approach to the beginning.
    Rating: 5

    Benjamin Stevens

    I love the ease of sound this group can produce, harmony without apparent effort. This song opens in full flush of that, a gentle lead-in to the unfortunately shrill force of the song proper. The soloist is more in her element upstairs than down, letting go just in time for the other voices to slam in around her. Still, the group has a hard time with any driving feel, ending up instead with something more like a game show theme mode.
    Rating: 7




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