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Everyday People

Stanford University

2648 West Grand Blvd (1998)

4.8

September 13, 1998

Tuning / Blend 4.0
Energy / Intensity 4.8
Innovation / Creativity 4.0
Soloists 5.0
Sound / Production 4.6
Repeat Listenability 4.8
Tracks
1 You Make Me Wanna 4.2
2 I Heard It Through the Grapevine 5.0
3 Fantasy 4.2
4 Hard to Say I'm Sorry 4.2
5 Grandma's Hands 3.8
6 Together Again 4.0
7 Tell Me 4.4
8 Hopeless 3.8
9 You're All I Need to Get By 4.8
10 Blues in the Night 4.0
11 The Love You Save 4.0
12 I'll Be There 4.4
13 Seasons of Love 4.2
14 Thank You 4.8

Recorded 1997 – 1998
Total time: 45:57, 14 songs


Tuning / Blend 3
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 5
Tracks
1 You Make Me Wanna 3
2 I Heard It Through the Grapevine 5
3 Fantasy 4
4 Hard to Say I'm Sorry 3
5 Grandma's Hands 3
6 Together Again 3
7 Tell Me 4
8 Hopeless 3
9 You're All I Need to Get By 5
10 Blues in the Night 4
11 The Love You Save 4
12 I'll Be There 4
13 Seasons of Love 4
14 Thank You 4

True confession time: I'm awful glad I listened to this disc more than once before sitting down to write. It grew on me a lot, and a collegiate disc that becomes more interesting on second and third listen is a rare commodity indeed.

The only truly outstanding thing about this album are the professional quality (better than many professionals) liner notes. Designer Adrian Khactu never will lack for well-paying graphic design work in major publications. I could write a whole review raving about them — tasteful, hip, elegant — but I won't, because the music isn't half bad either. For the most part, the songs are interesting and together they create a very pleasant mood.

Soloists provide some of the best entertainment on the album. Two of the best soloists from Wail, Everyday People's last disc, are back and in great form. The aptly named Crystal McCreary turns in a lovely version of Mariah Carey's I'll Be There. I have always adored her voice — clear, smooth, rich, unaffected. Osi Imeokparia knocks herself out with I Heard It Through the Grapevine. She seems to have deepened and smoothed out her tone a bit since the last disc and the results are terrific.

I didn't fall in love with any of the tracks on this disc. Some of them have a slight flatness about them, characteristic of most slightly substandard R&B. But there are no lemons, and no songs that have been overdone by everyone else. A surprise favorite was You're All I Need to Get By, a cut anchored by some nice ensemble singing. I liked the mix of soloists on the closing cut, Boyz II Men's Thank You, and the heavy percussion gave nice contrast to the rest of the disc. Also a nice surprise, the lightweight tunes, like Janet Jackson's Together Again, head toward catchy instead of cloying on multiple listens, a nice surprise.

Congrats to Everyday People for a truly good product. I think it's got much more crossover potential than most a cappella discs - you don't have to be "into" music without instruments to get this music. You do have to like soulful classics or modern R&B, but for many of us that's a no-brainer.


Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 You Make Me Wanna 5
2 I Heard It Through the Grapevine 5
3 Fantasy 3
4 Hard to Say I'm Sorry 4
5 Grandma's Hands 4
6 Together Again 4
7 Tell Me 4
8 Hopeless 4
9 You're All I Need to Get By 5
10 Blues in the Night 4
11 The Love You Save 3
12 I'll Be There 4
13 Seasons of Love 4
14 Thank You 5

With RARB's new rating system, there's not as much room for shades of grey as there used to be. I wavered between giving Everyday People's 2648 West Grand Blvd a 4 or a 5 overall; I thought about it, and chose the 5. They earned it.

This album is not a perfect album, which is why I wouldn't have given it a 10 (or probably even a 9) on the old scale. It is, however, an excellent album, or at least way better than plain old good, which rightfully earns it a 5. The factor that makes EP's latest release greater than the whole of its parts is the determination, enthusiasm, drive, love, and pure soul that they display on every single track.

EP has mastered the art of R&B a cappella — the album's title appropriately refers to the Detroit street address of Hitsville, USA, the recording studio that was home to Motown — but to stop the description there places the group into a far narrower niche than the range they actually display on the album: gospel, jazz/blues, Broadway (well, Rent), classic Motown, and contemporary R&B all make an appearance. Everyday People infuses each of the songs and styles with the individual feel they need, all the while keeping a steady groove running throughout the album.

EP's greatest strength on this album is their soloists — they range from good to excellent. Another nice touch is their frequent use of several different soloists on a song (notably on Blues in the Night, Together Again, and Thank You)- it changes things up for the listener and keeps it interesting, while building a real "group" feel by featuring several members on a single track. And yet, with all of the solo talent they have, when the group needs a big, blendy sound in the background, they can do that too. Couple the soloists with high-quality vocal percussion and a bass line that includes "sub-woofer" Kimball Bighorse, and you'd barely need to do more than throw a few chords on top and still have a great groove. Sometimes they basically do just this (letting the soloist shine, usually), but often they do more - other arrangements are more interesting and complex, layered and really, really full.

There are flaws — there are a few spots where pitch and tuning seem to be a little bit tentative, if not completely off. The Earth, Wind, and Fire track, Fantasy, has a real coolness to it, but for much of the song it seems a bit thin, and I just want more. And while the members of EP are able to step out of soloist mode and blend into the background, it is in their most choral moments when they are at their most unremarkable.

Finally, there are two less musical elements that stand out about this album. First, Everyday People manages to keep their song list down to 14 tracks (relatively concise by collegiate a cappella standards!), which is further shortened by the average track length — just over 3 minutes — making for a varied and easy-to-listen-to recording. The other standout element is the incredible CD packaging. 24 glossy pages of EP in their ultra-chic glory, with bios, song info, and photos galore — I'd make some sort of snarky comment about their hip poses in the photos, if I had any illusions that I were any cooler they are. Truth is, if I had the funding for a 24-page glossy CD booklet, I'd only hope I could come up with something that looked as swanky as the insert to 2648 West Grand Blvd.


Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 3
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 5
Tracks
1 You Make Me Wanna 4
2 I Heard It Through the Grapevine 5
3 Fantasy 4
4 Hard to Say I'm Sorry 5
5 Grandma's Hands 5
6 Together Again 4
7 Tell Me 5
8 Hopeless 4
9 You're All I Need to Get By 5
10 Blues in the Night 4
11 The Love You Save 4
12 I'll Be There 5
13 Seasons of Love 5
14 Thank You 5

R&B, Pop and Dance form the backbone of Everyday People's funky, groovy 2648 West Grand Blvd. Take a minute. Look at the song list. If you like the songs, go buy this album. It's that simple. You don't even need to read on.

Ok so you're sticking with me. How tenacious of you. Here are some of the details. Only the "large group sound" clues the listener to the collegiate status of these groovalicious and soulful singers. The "soul-o-ists" are the rare combination of believable and radio-ready. The percussion, while not particularly inspiring is solid enough to keep the groove going throughout. And the production is just tasty suh-weet: crisp EQ, full reverbs, excellent mix. The only production fault I found was with the ending fade- outs. A few seem slightly awkward, slightly sudden, but this is not a major detractor from enjoying this very listenable album.

I preferred many of EP's arrangements to the original versions. The arrangements tend towards the harmonically sparse, considering EP's numerous ranks. They focus instead on exposing the well-delivered melodic lines. Mostly this Spartan sound is effective, but every now and then the arrangements seemed to crave a few missing harmonies.

On a strange note, starting with song 9 the remaining tracks on the CD are significantly quieter. Whether this is a mastering error, a problem with just my CD or an act of God, I do not know. Fear not however, after many hours of experimentation I have discovered a solution: turn up the volume on the stereo.

That's definitely not too much to ask, considering that this funky album had me crankin the tunes up anyway.


Tuning / Blend 4
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 5
Tracks
1 You Make Me Wanna 5
2 I Heard It Through the Grapevine 5
3 Fantasy 5
4 Hard to Say I'm Sorry 4
5 Grandma's Hands 4
6 Together Again 5
7 Tell Me 5
8 Hopeless 5
9 You're All I Need to Get By 5
10 Blues in the Night 4
11 The Love You Save 5
12 I'll Be There 4
13 Seasons of Love 5
14 Thank You 5

What more can one say about the nation's finest collegiate R&B a cappella group that hasn't already been said? Everyday People, once again, have picked an eclectic group of R&B songs and polished them to a professional level. When I saw that the album started with the recent hit You Make me Wanna by Usher, I instantly knew that they were taking old classics (Heard it Through the Grapevine) and mixing them with the most current R&B trends.

Someone asked on a newsgroup about any if there were any collegiate groups out there that weren't "...wussappella" and this is definitely one of them. The album consists of creative arrangements that don't use the same, conventional syllables all the way through, fantastic soloists (some of which are ready to go "pro"), and an intensity that is heard throughout each song. I can picture the group in the studio; having a ball, all sharing the passion of singing, and simply enjoying each others' company.

Of course, every artist has room for improvement. What I would like to suggest to the group is that there are a few minor intonation problems in some songs. For example; the beginning of Janet Jackson's Together Again has one woman singing the first line of the first verse by herself without accompaniment. The group then begins the song almost a half step sharper. For the rest of the album, there are occasional high soprano notes are sharp, and there are a few melodic lines in some parts that go out of tune. We're really talking "minor" problems here.

This album is a MUST, even if you don't like R&B. You'll find yourself blown away by how much songs sound like full instrumentations, and how soloists interpret songs with fervor. This isn't only one of the finest a cappella groups with a focus on R&B, it's one of the finest a cappella groups overall. This CD will stay in your stereo for a while on repeat.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 5
Tracks
1 You Make Me Wanna 4
2 I Heard It Through the Grapevine 5
3 Fantasy 5
4 Hard to Say I'm Sorry 5
5 Grandma's Hands 3
6 Together Again 4
7 Tell Me 4
8 Hopeless 3
9 You're All I Need to Get By 4
10 Blues in the Night 4
11 The Love You Save 4
12 I'll Be There 5
13 Seasons of Love 3
14 Thank You 5

In a word: "wow". "Swank" comes close, too.

This oddly-titled album shows that even Californians (granted, temporary ones) can have both heart and soul. The large cast of Everyday People (spread out over two years of singing on this album) has put together a collection of songs which proves several things at once: collegiate musicality can be every bit as focused and intense as professional; "a cappella" need not equal nor even seem similar to "doo wop"; there is a gold mine of a cappella-ready music waiting to be discovered, if only groups would give up on New Wave and Sarah McLachlan.

One of the most striking aspects of this album is the feel, a solidity to the individual members' efforts which edges their efforts past a cappella and into seamless music. Blend is fantastic and interpretation is powerfully sincere. Everything on this album sounds integrated: Everyday People loves to sing and they sing together. Their blend is aided by understated vocal percussion, driving beat more often than showy spitting.

Contributing to the feel is the uncommon selection of songs: rock, soul and R&B are all well-represented, with the bubblegum left at the door. Each soloist rises to the challenge so well one would think them professionals: these guys have soul and it's in your face. On all sides the sound is full and mature.

2648 West Grand Blvd is cutting-edge: not avant-garde (no atonalities, animal noises or anything like that here), but innovative, drawing on these singers' huge reservoir of talent to give life to some sadly-neglected music. As said, this is heart and soul. Listen up, and learn what a cappella can do.


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