Your browser does not support our new site design, so some things might not display or function properly.
We suggest upgrading to Google Chrome, Firefox, or Internet Explorer 9+ for the optimal experience.

Artists in Resonance

University of California, Berkeley

AIR (1998)

3.4

September 13, 1998

Tuning / Blend 3.4
Energy / Intensity 3.4
Innovation / Creativity 3.2
Soloists 3.2
Sound / Production 2.8
Repeat Listenability 3.2
Tracks
1 Thriller 3.4
2 It's Raining Men 4.0
3 Solace of You 3.8
4 Isobel 3.4
5 Big Time 2.6
6 Deep Water (Jade) 3.0
7 Shape of My Heart 2.8
8 Elsewhere 3.4
9 You Don't Know Nothin' 3.2
10 Whoever You Are 3.8
11 Sometimes 3.6
12 Twelve 2.8
13 Finger on the Trigger (Love is in Control) 3.4
14 Whip It 3.4
15 Future Love Paradise 3.0
16 Pulling Mussels From the Shell 3.0
17 Tempted 2.4
18 Weird Science 2.6
19 She Blinded Me with Science 2.6
20 Sexual Healing 3.8
21 Welcome to Paradise 3.4
22 Sweet Child O' Mine 3.8
23 Take Stuff from Work 3.6
24 Freedom '90 2.8
25 Luke 3.0
26 Better Man 3.2
27 Jimmy Olsen's Blues 3.4

Recorded 1996 – 1998
Total time: 73:45, 27 songs


Tuning / Blend 3
Energy / Intensity 3
Innovation / Creativity 3
Soloists 3
Sound / Production 3
Repeat Listenability 3
Tracks
1 Thriller 3
2 It's Raining Men 3
3 Solace of You 4
4 Isobel 3
5 Big Time 3
6 Deep Water (Jade) 3
7 Shape of My Heart 3
8 Elsewhere 5
9 You Don't Know Nothin' 3
10 Whoever You Are 4
11 Sometimes 3
12 Twelve 3
13 Finger on the Trigger (Love is in Control) 3
14 Whip It 3
15 Future Love Paradise 3
16 Pulling Mussels From the Shell 4
17 Tempted 2
18 Weird Science 3
19 She Blinded Me with Science 3
20 Sexual Healing 3
21 Welcome to Paradise 3
22 Sweet Child O' Mine 4
23 Take Stuff from Work 3
24 Freedom '90 3
25 Luke 3
26 Better Man 3
27 Jimmy Olsen's Blues 3

This album lacks snap. It's got laudable diversity, decent soloists, and a number of interesting arrangements. But a "less is more" approach could have pushed the project from mediocre to enjoyable.

The Artists in Resonance arrangers favor big bouncy arrangements with strong jolts of creativity and sprinklings of interesting phrases. But the Artists in Resonance singers do much better on simpler songs, where it sounds like they can hear each other and pay more attention to their music. Example 1: Whip It — busy but pointless, without any of the original crispness, and with all the parts stuck on loud. Example 2: Sexual Healing. It sounds like there's a terrific solo in there somewhere. But it's too much mental effort to sort her out of the jangle, which is too bad because it's arguably the best lead on the album.

Elsewhere is the best track. Nice, cohesive arrangement, different from the standard a cappella treatment of this song. Well-executed, too. I also liked the adaptation of Wherever You Are, that modern rock paean to letting someone cut in front of you. I liked the Squeeze cover of Pulling Mussels from the Shell very much - wish they'd had the sense to leave Tempted out of it. The first song in the medley has energy, and funky simplicity. The second song is mushy and derivative.

The quartet format of Don't Know Nothin' is a nice change from the unremitting big group barrage. The song has great blend, nice swing, and two of the singers also are top-notch soloists. It hits its first problem, however, when they go for a big spiraling jazz chord and miss. This failure to hit the big chord comes up repeatedly throughout the album, across the years. Arrangers should pick up on this — give your troops a break, and don't ask them for a chord they aren't hearing.

AIR has less of the utterly out there creativity of the group's earlier albums. It has more songs that seem mashed together for medley's sake, rather than only when an extra song really adds something.

To get to the next level, this group needs to sit down and get organized. Sort your ideas. Sort your songs. And sort your disc into sections by lineup, so that we can hear your group's evolution instead of one indistinguishable muddle.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 5
Tracks
1 Thriller 4
2 It's Raining Men 5
3 Solace of You 4
4 Isobel 4
5 Big Time 3
6 Deep Water (Jade) 5
7 Shape of My Heart 3
8 Elsewhere 5
9 You Don't Know Nothin' 3
10 Whoever You Are 5
11 Sometimes 5
12 Twelve 1
13 Finger on the Trigger (Love is in Control) 4
14 Whip It 4
15 Future Love Paradise 5
16 Pulling Mussels From the Shell 5
17 Tempted 3
18 Weird Science 3
19 She Blinded Me with Science 3
20 Sexual Healing 5
21 Welcome to Paradise 5
22 Sweet Child O' Mine 5
23 Take Stuff from Work 5
24 Freedom '90 4
25 Luke 2
26 Better Man 5
27 Jimmy Olsen's Blues 5

I suspect that when the Artists in Resonance are getting ready for a show that you'll never hear them say "Let's blow them away!" They probably say stuff more along the lines of "Let's give them a good performance, watch our tempos, and have a good time up there." They're not aiming for the top, they just want to be GOOD at what they do.

I'm also sure that when they get up on stage that they do such an amazing job of being simply GOOD that it ends up being GREAT! Their newest album is packed with 27 songs, and almost all of them are winners. It's 74 minutes long but it never seems to drag. They picked a great bunch of songs, made some tight arrangements, and then had a blast singing them for you. That's probably what really makes this CD work so well. You can always hear the fun, but you never hear the effort (even their most wailing solos sound easy).

I've been listening to AIR (the group, not the CD) since We Did It With Our Mouths, which I think is their first CD. In many ways, they're still very much the same group. They still have a thing for singing stuff for Sesame Street. (Their cover of the 12 song, the one that went with the pinball cartoon, is the album's only stinker. It should have been funky. Instead it lands somewhere between cute and wimpy.) They still have no fear of singing more than one song by the same artist (Squeeze and Seal get two covers each). They still have top flight female soloists. They're still singing Jimmy Olson's Blues and Sweet Child Of Mine, both of which appeared on earlier albums.

But AIR has grown a lot, too. After their rather disappointing last CD, something happened to them. They used to put out a few duds, some good stuff, and a few real top-notch songs. But this new disc is as solid as they come. The women used to carry the men of the group. (Fortunately, they were up to it.) This CD boast some really stand out performances from the men, especially Jared Young on Seal's Big Water and Gideon Herscher on Pulling Mussels From the Shell.

The solos are generally sung without affectation, but the soloist on Isobel and Welcome to Paradise are purely imitative. I didn't know either of those songs before the CD, but as soon as they started there was no doubt that they were by Bjork and Greenday. On the flip side, AIR once again offers you their highly original version of Sweet Child of Mine, where they take the title literally and sing the Gun's and Roses headbanger as a soft and render ballad.

The group runs into trouble with the double covers. The Seal songs (one of which references the other) are both great. But the Squeeze medley (Pulling Mussels From the Shell and Tempted sung back to back) doesn't fair as well. Mussels is a blast, but the lackluster Tempted suffers by comparison (although it does have a very nice, very fresh, syncopated intro). AIR also plays around with quoting other songs. Mostly it works, as is the case with the Give It Away Now from the Red Hot Chili Peppers that they slip into Take Stuff from Work. But then there's their version of Shape of My Heart. It rather abruptly jumps into Straight to my Heart and just as abruptly jumps back to the original tune. Sure, when they combine both tunes at the end, it works like a charm, but the first appearance of the second song doesn't mesh with anything else going on in the music.

But that's nit-picking. This album is full to the brim with enjoyable co-ed a cappella. It's easily one of the most listenable (not to mention replayable) albums I've heard as a RARB reviewer. I highly recommend it.


Tuning / Blend 3
Energy / Intensity 3
Innovation / Creativity 3
Soloists 3
Sound / Production 2
Repeat Listenability 3
Tracks
1 Thriller 3
2 It's Raining Men 4
3 Solace of You 3
4 Isobel 4
5 Big Time 2
6 Deep Water (Jade) 1
7 Shape of My Heart 3
8 Elsewhere 3
9 You Don't Know Nothin' 4
10 Whoever You Are 3
11 Sometimes 3
12 Twelve 2
13 Finger on the Trigger (Love is in Control) 4
14 Whip It 3
15 Future Love Paradise 2
16 Pulling Mussels From the Shell 1
17 Tempted 1
18 Weird Science 2
19 She Blinded Me with Science 1
20 Sexual Healing 3
21 Welcome to Paradise 3
22 Sweet Child O' Mine 2
23 Take Stuff from Work 4
24 Freedom '90 2
25 Luke 4
26 Better Man 2
27 Jimmy Olsen's Blues 3

Now this is a lot of a cappella! AIR by the Artists In Resonance is a collection of songs that clocks in at just under 74 minutes, with 27 (!) tracks. This is a big album to swallow in one sitting (unless you are a BIG AIR fan).

But enough about how long it is... how good is it? Honestly, it's not a bad listen for a college group. There are a number of fun and interesting songs on board, some "interesting-like-a-blind-date" kind of songs, and a few others that make you go "Hmmmm...". There are no big stinkers on the album, but you can bet there are a few that could have been left off. However, since this is a 10th anniversary album, they felt it necessary to cram in as many songs as possible. Interestingly, they only go back to fall of '96 for their retrospect.

The Artists have decent blend and tuning, but there are some problems here and there. The sound production is spotty throughout. There are a few occasions where the balance of parts is all messed up. The arrangements are (on average) energetic and inventive, but are not always executed as well as I imagine they should have been. Though, I really did not like the arrangement of Deep Water (Jade) by Seal... just left the song sounding sloppy and weak. The arrangement of Freedom '90 (that perennial a cappella fave!) really sounds discombobulated.

A couple of songs I really could have done without include the two medleys. One is a Squeeze medley of Tempted and Pulling Mussels.... It really sounds weird. So does the medley of Weird Science and She Blinded Me with Science. Unless you have to hear these, skip them.

A couple of songs I liked were Luke, a comical Star Wars reference sung to the tune Lump by the Presidents of the United States. Cute.

This is not a great album, but not a bad one either. Would I recommend buying it? Eh, you'll find something you like, lots you can tolerate, and some you can't stand. Is this worth your $12? Only you can decide that one. If you like the AIR, go ahead. If you don't know the AIR, spend it on something else... like a haircut.


Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 3
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 3
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 3
Tracks
1 Thriller 4
2 It's Raining Men 4
3 Solace of You 4
4 Isobel 3
5 Big Time 3
6 Deep Water (Jade) 3
7 Shape of My Heart 3
8 Elsewhere 2
9 You Don't Know Nothin' 3
10 Whoever You Are 3
11 Sometimes 3
12 Twelve 3
13 Finger on the Trigger (Love is in Control) 3
14 Whip It 3
15 Future Love Paradise 3
16 Pulling Mussels From the Shell 2
17 Tempted 2
18 Weird Science 2
19 She Blinded Me with Science 3
20 Sexual Healing 4
21 Welcome to Paradise 3
22 Sweet Child O' Mine 4
23 Take Stuff from Work 3
24 Freedom '90 3
25 Luke 4
26 Better Man 4
27 Jimmy Olsen's Blues 4

Wow... this is the 3rd album I've gotten to review from AIR, and well, not much changes with them overall. They have these moments of abject creativity.. whether with a song choice that seems totally off the wall, or an innovative way to make an arrangement work for them... and sometimes this creativity pays off, and sometimes it doesn't. I've found that this is the case yet again with AIR.

They seem to have all the right tools... a small group that in general sings well, the capabilities of vocal percussion, solid, competent basses, the kinds of things a cappella groups generally like (and the kinds of things many groups I've heard desperately need)...but it only pays off sometimes. The most glaring instance is the "medley" of Weird Science/She Blinded Me with Science that is listed as two tracks. (A side note: Why did they list medleys as two separate tracks a lot of the time?) I saw this and thought "What a kick ass idea" (in fact, I borrowed the idea, but not the arrangement, for a group I did this summer). However, the execution was lacking... I felt the bass was a poor choice for a soloist on Weird Science.. it just didn't gel with the song, and the arrangement seemed very... fake, for lack of a better term... very obviously a cappella in its choice of syllables and in the way the sound was presented that reminded me constantly that I was listening to a singing group, and not a vocal band. With all the innovations in arranging that people have done, all the ideas floating around, and the vocal talent that AIR has, I expected better.

That's pretty much the watchword for this album... innovative concepts, fairly good to mediocre presentation of said concepts. However, most of everything is sung fairly well... I just don't feel that some of the soloists work for the song, or that the arrangements work as well as they could. Call it a thumb in the middle for the most part.


Tuning / Blend 2
Energy / Intensity 3
Innovation / Creativity 2
Soloists 3
Sound / Production 1
Repeat Listenability 2
Tracks
1 Thriller 3
2 It's Raining Men 4
3 Solace of You 4
4 Isobel 3
5 Big Time 2
6 Deep Water (Jade) 3
7 Shape of My Heart 2
8 Elsewhere 2
9 You Don't Know Nothin' 3
10 Whoever You Are 4
11 Sometimes 4
12 Twelve 5
13 Finger on the Trigger (Love is in Control) 3
14 Whip It 4
15 Future Love Paradise 2
16 Pulling Mussels From the Shell 3
17 Tempted 4
18 Weird Science 3
19 She Blinded Me with Science 3
20 Sexual Healing 4
21 Welcome to Paradise 3
22 Sweet Child O' Mine 4
23 Take Stuff from Work 3
24 Freedom '90 2
25 Luke 2
26 Better Man 2
27 Jimmy Olsen's Blues 2

Most collegiate a cappella CDs have about 14-17 tracks on them. The Artists in Resonance decided to pack in 27 tracks, not all of which I felt deserved to appear on the CD. Many songs sounded as if they were put on the CD to add overall minutes. In particular, the overall problems with this album are that there are too many women and not enough powerful low voices and men to carry some of the arrangements. This produced way too many off balance tracks, and the recording itself sounded too tinny and bright. Many times I felt like I was listening to an all female group with the occasional male voice thrown in.

The CD is a compilation of 4 versions of the group, ranging over a two-year period. However, there's one bass? Is that normal for several tracks where there are 13-14 people? Several soloists get drowned out in the recording, particularly on the second track. There aren't any soloists who will blow you away on the CD, but there are definitely some solid voices. It's unfortunate that the mundane arrangements and overhaul of sopranos often overpower soloists.

As far as the arrangements go, there are simply too many songs with a walking bass line and EVERY other voice part is singing on the same syllable in the same rhythm. A bit more vocal percussion could have helped as well. That brought down the repeat listening score quite a bit. Another problem is unsettled chords. For example, Sarah McLaughin's song Elsewhere has some terrible chords in the "holding out holding in" part of the verse. I was surprised they let it on the CD.

The good songs? Those would be the ones where the Artists in Resonance exhibit their wonderful sense of humor. Track #12 is titled Twelve and is a folk-traditional; it's actually the 1-2-3-4-5 song from Sesame Street that we all know. Sweet Child of Mine is taken from its Guns 'n' Roses roots and made into a ballad, and it's one of the few ballads on the CD. To me, that was an accomplishment, because many a cappella groups need to strengthen the amount of upbeat repertoire that they have.

I wouldn't tell anyone to rush out and purchase this CD, but the group has a lot of potential. This compilation album celebrating 10 years of the group's existence was put together a little too quickly, the arrangements were a little weak and lacked substance, and the recording quality brought down many songs that could potentially be good. Wait for their next album; I have a feeling it'll be a noticeable, pleasant improvement.


How To Get Your Work Reviewed

To have your album (2 or more tracks) reviewed by RARB, please email us with your name, group name and album title. You will receive a response with information on how to register your album in our system.

To have your digital single reviewed by RARB, please fill out our online singles registration form.

×

Ordering Information

See their web site for ordering information.

×