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RARB REVIEW

School: University of Pennsylvania
Group: Counterparts
Type: Mixed
Album: Straight Ahead

Total time: 47:20, 17 songs
Tracks 5, 7, 9 recorded 1992
All other tracks recorded 1993


Ordering and Contact Information


Track Listing

  1. Promises (7.6)
  2. Ten Minutes 'Till the Savages Come (8.2)
  3. Route 66 (6.2)
  4. Mercy Street (7.8)
  5. I've Got a Right (7.2)
  6. The Man With the Child In His Eyes (5.6)
  7. Heavenly (5.8)
  8. Tuxedo Junction (7.0)
  9. Walk Between the Raindrops (6.8)
  10. If I Were a Bell (6.6)
  11. Misty (6.8)
  12. Strike Up the Band (6.4)
  13. Fever (6.8)
  14. Fly Me to the Moon (7.2)
  15. I've Got a Crush on You (6.4)
  16. We Are In Love (6.6)
  17. Get Here (6.6)

Reviews

This album was reviewed by five members of RARB. In this compilation, their comments are always listed in a consistent order. Thus, for each song (and in the "overall" section), all comments numbered "1" are from the same reviewer, as are those numbered "2", etc.

Overall

  1. There are a lot of good things on this album, yet a LOT of the pieces sound like one another......it may seem more apparent than on a rock cover album because it all seems like be-bop, 40's era jazz, the heyday of vocal jazz. I would have liked to see more fusion, hard bop, etc, and for a vocal jazz group, this is the FIRST time I heard virtually no scat singing.....odd indeed. What they do they do VERY well, and the brief forays away from bebop shine like a star....I feel they're talented enough to want to consider broadening out a bit.
    Rating: 7 (7.0)

  2. If you're looking for a gift for an older relative's birthday, this album is perfect (or, of course, if you like old jazz standards). There are no holes in this album, and the Counterparts have a very nice sound, but their repertoire will make it difficult to be huge with their fellow students and will make it easy for them to sing for older crowds. While the bass section seemed kinda weak, the group has some great voices and fabulous blending.
    Rating: 7 (6.7)

  3. It's nice to hear a college-level student-run jazz group that actually sings jazz with a bit of jazz style and decently in tune. Most groups fall flat on their faces when they try a jazz song.

    Overall some of the better COED jazz I've ever heard out of a college group. In the slower songs, these folks really have a feel for what jazz should really sound like stylistically. In some of the others, though, there are minor technical and stylistic problems. It's great to hear a coed jazz album with less than 5 Manhattan Transfer tunes. Some really cool and uncommon stuff, although more variety would have been nice — then again consistency is good.
    Rating: 8 (7.3)

  4. They sound like they were lifted straight out of the forties or something, but they do what they do quite well — jazz songs. They have a nice confidence in their sound that translates well, especially on the solos. For the most part they have really nice voices — some of the women are great, but the men are relatively weak. They blend pretty well, especially the sopranos. This album is fun to listen to in small doses, but after a while it gets really old, especially since most of the songs sound the same and are arranged in the exact same way. The one song on here that's from past 1960 shows that they could do more pop songs or at least some other kind of song than jazz, which would be refreshing. There are too many songs on this album that sound like filler, but the good ones are pretty good.
    Rating: 7 (5.5)

  5. The Counterparts have an obvious preference for classic big-band numbers, and they do these well. Blend and balance are generally very good. The leads are uniformly good, and often outstanding. Ensemble precision is also quite good, but there are frequent times when I would prefer to hear just intonation in the background, where the Counterparts seem to be determined to use equal temperament.
    Rating: 8 (7.3)


Individual Tracks

  1. Promises (7.6)
    1. Good rhythmic opening, although the samba the song shifts to mid-way is borderline cheese. The rhythmic quality also gets very muddy as the song wears on. Good soloist, excellent tuning.
      Rating: 8

    2. Good mature solo sound, she's really in control. Good, tough, interesting arrangement, tons of stuff going on, all of it with great intonation. One of the album's best cuts.
      Rating: 8

    3. Nice feel, nice solo, some tuning problems
      Rating: 8

    4. This arrangement starts out nicely. Seema Desai has a great voice — perfectly suited to this kind of song, and it sounds really easy/natural for her (despite consistently missing the highest notes). She even makes the song less annoying than it would be otherwise. The arrangement gets really cluttered at the end, but otherwise it's not bad — I like this song.
      Rating: 8

    5. The smooth, easy female lead on this song is excellent. I also like the uptempo feel of this piece. The background tends to sound a bit muddy, but it might be too much reverb on a line which contains staccato figuration. There are occasional patches of questionable intonation.
      Rating: 6

  2. Ten Minutes 'Till the Savages Come (8.2)
    1. INCREDIBLE harmonic blend and tuning on this one. Very slinky, laid-back jazz feel, the kind of jazz I love to listen to. Very reminiscent of the Transfer song it's based on.
      Rating: 9

    2. The sultry sounds of the soloist set the tone for this lush jazz song, the only problems occurring when the two lead voices sing the same notes and occasionally are not perfectly together. Great background blend.
      Rating: 8

    3. Nice soloists, basses are too loud.
      Rating: 8

    4. I actually like this song a lot more than I thought I would, the arrangement is nice and coherent (and appropriately _calm_), the first soloist is good, the other one falters at times and has slight pitch problems.
      Rating: 8

    5. A velvety smooth jazz blues number. Excellent control and feel, and once again the duet female leads are easy, yet precise.
      Rating: 8

  3. Route 66 (6.2)
    1. Ehh....pretty generic as jazz arrangements go...nothing new or exciting was brought to the song. Some good tradeoff between the men and the women... and four of those six points were again for the incredible sense of pitch these guys have.
      Rating: 6

    2. Singing is fine, but this usual (boring) way you usually hear vocal jazz choirs sing.
      Rating: 6

    3. Really didn't have the feel of the original.
      Rating: 6

    4. Sounds like a Nickelodeon commercial — if done even the slightest bit tongue in cheek it would be pretty funny, but as it is it's just sort of ridiculous, and makes them sound as if they're literally stuck in the 50's. However, having said that, it's not badly done - if you like this sort of thing. Since I don't, I give it a 6.
      Rating: 6

    5. Fairly standard arrangement in the classic style. Solid performance, but it feels uninspired.
      Rating: 7

  4. Mercy Street (7.8)
    1. WOW....perfect example of all the good things about studio a cappella. Good vocal effects throughout the song backing up the music......Some of the real high notes, in soloist and background, sound really strained, but that's a minor complication at best.....I have to wonder how this sounds live.
      Rating: 9

    2. The Counterparts show with this song that their jazz repertoire is because of choice, not because of an inability to do pop. Heavy on reverb, but it is good for this song, sounding spacious and not muddy. Solo tenor and bass do a great job with the octave melody. The arrangement is good, and all of the singing is flawless.
      Rating: 8

    3. Cool arrangement, though it had minor technical problems.
      Rating: 7

    4. Way rushed, arrangement not bad — nice soprano line, overall sound is not quite haunting enough (might be if slowed down), solo sounds echoed but not in a good way - too well enunciated. Doesn't have quite enough pop sensibility, doesn't sound _intimate_ enough for the feeling of this song. It almost works though.
      Rating: 7

    5. Well-engineered studio piece, faithful to the original arrangement in sound and feel.
      Rating: 8

  5. I've Got a Right (7.2)
    1. This is my weakness as a reviewer....I'm a sucker for a good right hook! As in song hook....WOW!!! The soloist was perfect for this song, as she conveyed the right amount of sassiness with a sliver of anger in the delivery. Good shout chords in the beginning....really gets you by the....heart.... I'm impressed with the rhythmic groove it builds without an ounce of vocal percussion in the song until about 2/3 of the way through. Easily my favorite song on the album.
      Rating: 10

    2. Great soloist, neat song with a great chorus. Rhythm in the beginning verse is a little hard to follow.
      Rating: 7

    3. Really sharp
      Rating: 9

    4. I have grown to hate this song — the verses aren't bad, but the random instrumental parts are really annoying. The arrangement is kind of weird — not quite coherent. Background is really loud at times, but the solo is okay, although sort of blared out without that much feeling. The bridge is somewhat better, but the moaning in the background is horrifying.
      Rating: 3

    5. Soulful (female) lead. Once again the background sounds muddy. I'm beginning to suspect that this is because they're using equal temperament intonation (although "Mercy Street" seemed to be in just intonation).
      Rating: 7

  6. The Man With the Child In His Eyes (5.6)
    1. TOO FAST!!!! As I remember, the song was much more haunting than this....this sounds like a Singers Unlimited cover....too "happy". The soloist should be commended for trying her own style instead of imitating Kate Bush.... Unfortunately it doesn't quite fit......LAME, LAME, LAME ending
      Rating: 4

    2. Nice solo. Music is difficult to follow during parts of the verses, but most of the song is very pretty.
      Rating: 6

    3. No comment
      Rating: 7

    4. I still like Seema, but this song is overly cheesy. It just seems sort of pointless, although not blatantly annoying.
      Rating: 5

    5. Some questionable intonation on certain chord changes among the ensemble; the high soprano descant is frequently flat in very exposed places. Also not a particularly good number for showing off a lead voice.
      Rating: 6

  7. Heavenly (5.8)
    1. AAAARRRGGHHHHH!!!! I guess the group must really love the song, otherwise WHY would a group of this talent level do a VERBATIM take of this already oversung song. They perform it flawlessly...but to what aim? They're better than this.
      Rating: 3

    2. Interesting solo voice, background well sung, but no surprises. If you've heard one...
      Rating: 6

    3. Not Harry, but good
      Rating: 8

    4. They arranged this song so that it depends entirely upon the soloist, and if he were less mediocre it would sound nice. That's really the main problem I have with it.
      Rating: 5

    5. The male lead is the best feature of this number, but I also like the arrangement, since it shows some variety and a tiny bit of playfulness. Much of the potential goes unrealized, though, as the ensemble energy level doesn't match the lead's.
      Rating: 7

  8. Tuxedo Junction (7.0)
    1. THANK YOU for not covering the Transfer version of this. This is a good example of a vocal JAZZ ENSEMBLE.....about the equivalent of what most groups do with pop/rock music.
      Rating: 7

    2. Pretty standard arrangement, but very well sung. For the most part, a good rendition of what you'd expect from this song.
      Rating: 7

    3. I'm sick of that song!
      Rating: 7

    4. weird arrangement, but I kind of like it, nice dynamics, the tenors singing the lyrics are too flat and expressionless, the scat sounds like it's being sung by Popeye, the end is cheesy, but otherwise not bad.
      Rating: 7

    5. Standard sort of arrangement. Once again competent, but not remarkable.
      Rating: 7

  9. Walk Between the Raindrops (6.8)
    1. Finger Poppin' Time......there's really nothing different here....it's all excellent, but it's all starting to sound the same.....
      Rating: 7

    2. Another predictable vocal jazz choir song, but again well-sung.
      Rating: 6

    3. No comment
      Rating: 8

    4. talk about cheesy! The solo's not bad, but her voice isn't particularly outstanding. It sounds like they have a million people in the group — it makes this song sound sort of ridiculous.
      Rating: 5

    5. A nice, upbeat swing number. Intonation seems to be just, which is kind of distracting.
      Rating: 8

  10. If I Were a Bell (6.6)
    1. See #9 — very tasteful bass in the beginning.
      Rating: 7

    2. As most of this song is sung by Dan Coleman (music director) and a bass line, it needs a good solo to carry it: enter good solo. While he doesn't blow you away, his voice is just pleasing to listen to.
      Rating: 7

    3. No comment
      Rating: 6

    4. Solo really weak, wavering, can't quite hit the bottom notes, the background/arrangement kind of cute, not a bad scat. This whole song is just kind of cute and cheesy — I would like it more if the solo weren't so lame.
      Rating: 6

    5. Excellent male lead, with an arrangement that alternates between spare and chordal. Balance seems a bit wonky in the choral sections, and pitch is highly questionable on one recurring chord.
      Rating: 7

  11. Misty (6.8)
    1. FINALLY.....a song that isn't primarily vocalist/jazz ensemble. Good ensemble work in the beginning, with some nice rhythmic shifts.
      Rating: 8

    2. Exactly what you expect from this song. Group chord singing for the most part.
      Rating: 6

    3. No comment
      Rating: 8

    4. I don't particularly like this song, and the arrangement is too group-oriented for it — it makes it even more cheesy than it already (inherently) is. The background is not quite together in places. They blend well though. Overall the best thing about this song is its brevity.
      Rating: 4

    5. Charming, ensemble arrangement, very well done.
      Rating: 8

  12. Strike Up the Band (6.4)
    1. BORING!!!! VERY basic when compared to the rest of the material on this album. It's solid.....but disappointing.
      Rating: 4

    2. "Let the Drums Roll Out...," not "Jack...." Corny but lively.
      Rating: 7

    3. A little square
      Rating: 6

    4. This song is actually not that bad — it's cute in a very Andrews Sisters way, with the little instrument imitations and such.
      Rating: 7

    5. A bright swing, ensemble arrangement. Ensemble precision is very good here, and the blend and balance excellent.
      Rating: 8

  13. Fever (6.8)
    1. Solid rendition of a classic.......not too BOBSish in the feel, with some GREAT chords throughout.....great showpiece for the bass section (This group has REALLY good basses, I've noticed)
      Rating: 7

    2. Soloists ok, basses sound kinda wimpy. While they sang it right (I think), I didn't really like the title chord that the song seems to revolve around.
      Rating: 6

    3. Great solo, wimpy bassline
      Rating: 8

    4. Arrangement okay but not particularly great, the snapping is sometimes irritatingly off-rhythm, the first solo is slightly off pitch, the second is strikingly weak, the third is nice, but the fourth is the best (she makes it obvious that she should have been singing the whole song). The basses sound like they're either in a different key or up a third from where they should be, throughout the whole song. The end is really lame and contrived.
      Rating: 5

    5. Once again, great balance on close harmony. An excellent vehicle for showing off several female leads; and the dynamics really sell this arrangement.
      Rating: 8

  14. Fly Me to the Moon (7.2)
    1. More basic jazz, with a decent counter-rhythm going on in the background. However, the tuning isn't as tight here.
      Rating: 7

    2. And here's schmultzy club jazz, to round out the bunch. Soloist sounds like her voice is about to cut out, but she hangs in there, and the arrangement and background are lively enough to make the schmultz enjoyable.
      Rating: 7

    3. No comment
      Rating: 7

    4. I like this song, but it would be so much better if the solo were just a little more confident and steady (or if she had a better voice) — she wavers a bit and her voice cracks a few times, although that's not as bad as it sounds. The arrangement is mostly par for the course for them — good in some places and in others just irritating.
      Rating: 8

    5. A standard swing arrangement. Enthusiastically performed, but suffering from the occasional pitch problem in the highest soprano voice.
      Rating: 7

  15. I've Got a Crush on You (6.4)
    1. I LOVE the female soloist, but the male voice comes off as whiney. Again, good backgrounds, but same old same old.
      Rating: 7

    2. This song is one of those that takes you back to the good old days. Two solos: the male has an old movies kind of sound to his voice (nice casting!), the female just has a great voice. Unfortunately most of the melody/words are done by the whole group in an uninspiring way.
      Rating: 6

    3. No comment
      Rating: 7

    4. The male soloist has too ridiculous a voice to take him seriously, the female isn't bad, overall not really a memorable song in any way shape or form.
      Rating: 4

    5. Classic style arrangement, very well done. I like the leads here, as well.
      Rating: 8

  16. We Are In Love (6.6)
    1. GOOD piece......a bit different in the jazz feel than the other numbers.... nice verve to the movement of the music.....It's a more intricate piece, and the group seems to be more into this one than some of the others.
      Rating: 8

    2. I guess Harry's just got me spoiled. Good upbeat effort just doesn't quite fly.
      Rating: 6

    3. No comment
      Rating: 7

    4. Solo weak, arrangement mildly fun, bassline could be so much more interesting. I don't really like this song all that much though.
      Rating: 4

    5. An upbeat, lively arrangement. Ensemble is particularly good here, and intonation in the highest voices is very good.
      Rating: 8

  17. Get Here (6.6)
    1. One of my favorite songs — excellent ebb and flow around the soloist in the background. Soloist sounds good here.....nice ending to the album
      Rating: 8

    2. Very soulful soloist, imitative arrangement, but no real fireworks finale.
      Rating: 7

    3. No comment
      Rating: 8

    4. The solo is really uneven — when it works it's sort of nice, when it doesn't it's really annoying, and more often it doesn't work. I like the song itself, but their rendition of it is far from stellar.
      Rating: 3

    5. Another outstanding (female) lead saves an otherwise boring melody line from becoming completely tedious. The background textures also help a bit, but not enough.
      Rating: 7

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