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Note-Oriety

James Madison University

Fusion (2005)

3.0

Reviews By Jevan Soo, TeKay, and Sean Dargie

October 19, 2006

Tuning / Blend 4.0
Energy / Intensity 3.0
Innovation / Creativity 2.7
Soloists 3.3
Sound / Production 3.3
Repeat Listenability 2.7
Tracks
1 My Lovin' 3.0
2 Wrong Impression 3.0
3 Possession 3.0
4 Before Me and You 3.3
5 My Immortal 4.0
6 U2 Medley 3.0
7 Two Points for Honesty 3.3
8 Because the Night 3.3
9 Shook Me All Night Long 3.0
10 Wild Horses 4.0
11 Hot Stuff 3.0

Recorded 2003 – 2004
Total time: 39:28, 11 songs


Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 3
Innovation / Creativity 3
Soloists 3
Sound / Production 3
Repeat Listenability 3
Tracks
1 My Lovin' 3
2 Wrong Impression 3
3 Possession 3
4 Before Me and You 3
5 My Immortal 5
6 U2 Medley 3
7 Two Points for Honesty 3
8 Because the Night 3
9 Shook Me All Night Long 3
10 Wild Horses 5
11 Hot Stuff 3

JMU Note-oriety's Fusion reads like a most prototypical female collegiate album. Well-tread tracklist of En Vogue, Natalie Imbruglia, and Sarah McLachlan — check. Listless medley of some '80s-'90s phenomena (e.g., Madonna, Mariah, Whitney, Michael Jackson, and here U2) — check. Treble-heavy mix that skimps on bass and beats — check. "Nice" soloists in way over their heads (e.g., Shook Me All Night Long, Hot Stuff) — check. And so on ...

But the jaded listener who reads that first paragraph and skips onward would miss the sparkle in the back of the mine. Talk about diamonds in the rough; buried among the coal nuggets are two ballads of exceptional beauty. Note-oriety revitalizes the overdone My Immortal and Wild Horses with crystalline, dissonant treatments that capitalize on rather than compensate for the soprano leanings of an all-female group. The confidence and emotion the group infuses into these tracksn had me staring at my iTunes in disbelief; it was if a wholly different ensemble now beckoned me through the earphones. Either of those tracks could have (and should have) gone toe-to-toe with any of the recent CARA nominees in the female collegiate category.

To really play with the big girls, Note-oriety will need to up the ante on multiple fronts: solos, production, and arranging being the foremost. But in the meantime, they've got two glittering gems to remind them and us of their potential.


3
Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 3
Innovation / Creativity 2
Soloists 3
Sound / Production 3
Repeat Listenability 2
Tracks
1 My Lovin' 3
2 Wrong Impression 3
3 Possession 3
4 Before Me and You 3
5 My Immortal 3
6 U2 Medley 3
7 Two Points for Honesty 3
8 Because the Night 3
9 Shook Me All Night Long 3
10 Wild Horses 4
11 Hot Stuff 3

Fusion is probably the "sweetest" sounding album that I've heard in a while. Unfortunately, I don't intend for that to sound like a total compliment.

The ladies of Note-oriety have "sweet" voices, their blend is "sweet", the arrangements are "sweet" and the production is "sweet". Even their repertoire features classic "girl group" songs coated in a veneer of crystallized sugar. Everything is pleasing and unassuming.

The whole experience of listening to the album is like eating a cream-cheese frosted cupcake dusted with Splenda® and NutraSweet®. The listener is pleased for the first couple of bites, but then begins to suffer cavity inducing shock. And that's okay. Such a combination of talents makes for a solid recording. Enjoyable, in fact, but nauseating all the same.

The bookending tracks are prime examples. My Lovin' is the quintessential girlpower anthem about women taking control of unhealthy relationships and kicking the vagabond to the curb. Note-oriety's version has the same emotional impact as stubbing your big toe on a chair. A nuisance, but one you'll get over pretty quickly.

Hot Stuff just isn't. The original is infused with Donna Summer's "hooker-on-the-street-taking-no-prisoner's" phase ("She works hard for the money"?), so it's gritty, dirty, sexy, HOT. There is no steam here, more like a warm summer sprinkle.

Fusion is not a recording that even pretends to push the boundaries of collegiate a cappella. Yet, the rich production values and solid musicianship propel the album miles above the dreck that usually comes out of my speakers. Standard fare from a group that I've heard do better live. Just too sweet.


Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 3
Innovation / Creativity 3
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 3
Tracks
1 My Lovin' 3
2 Wrong Impression 3
3 Possession 3
4 Before Me and You 4
5 My Immortal 4
6 U2 Medley 3
7 Two Points for Honesty 4
8 Because the Night 4
9 Shook Me All Night Long 3
10 Wild Horses 3
11 Hot Stuff 3

"Now it's time for a break-down!" "Now it's time for a chorus!" "Now it's time for a big note!" "Now it's time for ballad!".

That's how I felt for most of Note-oriety's Fusion, whose title, on reflection, is an accurate depiction of the album; many different moods and styles were fused together to create one standard of energy and emotion. Sections like the "Pride/In The Name of Love" part of the U2 Medley, the backgrounds of Shook Me All Night Long and the choruses of Possession made me feel like I was listening to "music by numbers": unvaried repetition, often inappropriate smooth timbre, and a general lack of building momentum through phrasing.

The album isn't bad. It's just lukewarm on my excitement scale. Often the soloists successfully embody the emotion and message of the song but are left in the cold by monodynamic and pseudo-apathetic support. Jillian Kelleher rocks out in Shook Me All Night Long and I bet it's great to watch live, but the "dee-a-dot-n-dot-ba-dow" guitar riffs are too sweet and clean to carry her gritty power. The beginning to the third chorus of Possession (3'18") sounds great with everyone dropping out and a thunder-like impact. It sets up the intensity for the final chorus, but the effect is lost when it falls back to the same energy as the rest of the song. The same stumbling block appeared in Wild Horses, where at 3'39" the backgrounds unceremoniously drop out and come back in after a refrain as if nothing had happened. Transitions are intended to mark a progression in the song, not just act as mile markers for its completion.

Moments like Heather Glynn's solo in U2 Medley, Janna Sallade's solo in Two Points for Honesty, the usually gung-ho percussion (even if I don't agree with some of the technique involved) and the aforementioned solo in Shook Me All Night Long make be believe in Note-oriety. I can sense the energy lying dormant in this album, although it's my opinion that they got caught up in being perfect and forgot about being believable.

With a little more attention to phrasing and building intensity rather than just maintaining it, their next album will more along the lines of "now it's time for great song!" "Now it's time for an even better song!" "Now it's time for killer ballad!" "Now it's time for a CD I can't put down!".


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