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RARB REVIEW

School: Stanford University
Group: Fleet Street Singers
Album: 50-Minute Fun Break

Total time: 53:37, 16 songs
Recorded 1991-92


Track Listing

  1. Hello, My Baby (7.0)
  2. Ruby Baby (8.6)
  3. The Pharaoh Bop (8.2)
  4. It's a Blue World (7.6)
  5. Since I Fell For You (7.8)
  6. Dat Dere (8.2)
  7. When I Fall in Love (7.4)
  8. Think (8.6)
  9. Wonder Woman (8.0)
  10. Stanford Girl (8.0)
  11. My Funny Valentine (7.4)
  12. You Always Hurt the One You Love (7.6)
  13. Natural Woman (7.4)
  14. Jingle Bells (8.2)
  15. Their Hearts Were Full of Spring (8.0)
  16. Prayer to the God of Partial Credit (8.0)

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. This album was clearly paid careful attention to by a studio. My philosophy of studio recording is generally that a studio should be used to enhance and perfect the original sound of the group, not add odd effects and sounds unachievable on stage (although occasional deviations from this are fine with me). On this album, I was often thinking, "Wow, these guys sure went crazy in the studio" rather than "Wow, what a great sound." When the studio sound is not unnatural, however, it allows for some great balance, nice solos, and smooth fades/entrances. This disc stands out in having seamless backgrounds with nice blend and wonderful volume control. Generally arrangements were very good, as was the singing. My generally high numbers show that I enjoyed this album, but they would have been even higher had the often intrusive recording been more natural (or at least consistent through each song).
    Rating: 8 (7.1)

  2. Of all of the collegiate albums I have heard, this is the one that I would recommend most readily. If I could have only one collegiate album, this would be it. Fleet Street concentrates on harmony and blend, and they deliver that, along with some brilliant originals. Some people could find things that they don't like about the album — no vocal percussion, use of studio effects (though tasteful, I would argue), and for the most part not overly-complex arrangements. But FS consistently puts out quality music, and you never find yourself worrying about whether they will be in key. The album title is the worst I've ever heard of, but the computer generated cover design almost makes up for it. If there were more collegiate albums like this, the world would be a better place.
    Rating: 9 (7.8)

  3. This is technically one of the best albums I've heard from the collegiate scene. They have great traditional music, like Jazz and Barbershop, as well as a few glances at the modern scene, and some originals. It is clear that the individuals in the group are great singers, both from the overall sound, and the excellent soloists. On the downside, I didn't care for some of the strange studio effects on the basses.
    Rating: 9 (7.9)

  4. Their studio engineering work is incredible. Most college groups don't have anywhere near the kind of engineering work that the Fleet Street Singers have. They took advantage of the technology available to improve studio recordings, but used it in places where it fit. It really helped my enjoyment of the music, rather than making me say, "Well, nice try using an effect, but it was pretty cheesy."
    Rating: 8 (7.6)

  5. You'd have to examine this album with an aural microscope to find a pitch or blend problem. Add to that equally good ensemble, enviable dynamic control, and soloists that can wring the most from a line, and you have an album that should be in everyone's collection. Although slanted towards the jazz genre, there is a nice variety of styles through the album, and the three originals are among the strongest tracks.
    Rating: 9 (9.0)


Individual Tracks

  1. Hello, My Baby (7.0)
    1. Big group sound, nice.
      Rating: 7

    2. FS leads off with a live barbershop cut, and they prove that this medium CAN be done effectively with a college-size group. They also show that the rest of the album sounds the way it does because they started with a great group and THEN added "studio magic."
      Rating: 7

    3. Very well done, especially considering it's live Barbershop.
      Rating: 8

    4. Arrangement is rather simple, and with the number of singers they have, it results in a much more choral-like sound. I think it's good for any a cappella group to have barbershop-type arrangements in their repertoire, but for a group of their size, they need to do something more than just 4 or 6 part harmony. The other complaint I have is the fact that it's a live recording. It's actually one of the better live recordings I've heard, and they made a good attempt to keep the levels at the same point of the other tracks so I don't have to adjust the volume on my CD player after the track. In general, however, most college groups don't have a recording system that is sophisticated enough to generate a good live recording that captures all the intricacies of their music. Furthermore, all good college groups do some sort of choreography, at which the crowd laughs/applauds/whatever, and that just comes out as interference in an audio-only recording. We don't get whatever joke was done.

      Overall: Would have been a good choice for an opening track if it wasn't live.
      Rating: 5

    5. A live cut of the barbershop classic. Excellent traditional presentation, with a bit of comic relief for the appreciative audience.
      Rating: 8

  2. Ruby Baby (8.6)
    1. Smooth. I love this song. Some nice chord voicings in the arrangement. The scat solo sounded odd. They apparently used doubling (repeating a sound after a very short delay) or added a delayed echo effect to this singer. It didn't work for me. Basses are getting a good electric bass sound.
      Rating: 9

    2. Lush jazz chords with bite where it's needed. Good solo is helped by neat effects. Throw in a scat by Alex Camp, and you've got a great track. Cheezy ending, though.
      Rating: 8

    3. Slick and well done, with a nice sense of style.
      Rating: 9

    4. Much better arrangement than the first track. They really took advantage of the number of voices they had available without creating that choral group sound. The engineering in this piece is really what makes it stand out. They split the backup voices between the two channels, with some panning done between channels in a very subtle manner. The best effect was done on the lead vocal. They placed the lead in both channels, with a slight delay between the right and left channel that's really only noticeable with headphones. It creates a much fuller sound from a single voice. Their use of modulations and key changes were very well done, and not telegraphed. There was a nice scat done by a high tenor near the end which was well done. It stopped right before it became grating.

      Overall: Really shows off their engineering skills.
      Rating: 8

    5. Excellent, jazzy arrangement. Control is outstanding. I particularly like the tense vocal line overlaying the laid-back accompaniment.
      Rating: 9

  3. The Pharaoh Bop (8.2)
    1. Well sung, but I didn't care too much for the "humorous" dialogue. Not clever enough IMHO to justify inclusion (remember, people will have to listen to these jokes every time they listen to the song).
      Rating: 7

    2. A FS original. Combine clever lyrics, fabulous writing, and good arranging, solo, and effects, and you've got a winner. A song from Egypt that really moves.
      Rating: 9

    3. Cute sound effects, a little silly, but well done.
      Rating: 8

    4. Once again, the arrangement was very good. The number of accompanying voices varied greatly over the course of the song, so I didn't become bored with it. This is one song that was definitely written to be performed live, and the humor in it would be much more obvious in a live performance. They did a good job of making up for it with their engineering, however.

      Overall: Shows they have talent with originals, too, but really to be seen live, not heard on an album.
      Rating: 7

    5. First of 3 originals. Liberal use of engineering tricks in the opening, but it's a fun opening for a fun song. A funky blues underlies this little gem. Listen to it VERY carefully, at least twice.
      Rating: 10

  4. It's a Blue World (7.6)
    1. Nicely sung ballad.
      Rating: 7

    2. The Ivy sound takes a tour to California. Classy rendition of this old standard. FS's care and feeling keep you from noticing that the arrangement is very standard.
      Rating: 8

    3. A pretty slow song that makes me feel like I'm in a nightclub of the 70's.
      Rating: 8

    4. A nice pretty ballad, but as is their biggest problem on these barbershop style pieces, they just have too many voices. Their entrances were a bit rough at the beginning. There were too many long held out notes for a group of their size. The use of the high tenor part in the later parts of the song sent a glimmer of hope out, but then the song ended. It was a good piece, they just really need to take advantage of all the voices they have. I just pictured 15 guys in a line singing this song, and it didn't capture the emotion in could have.

      Overall: Just another "Yeah it's pretty good song" to toss in. Doesn't stand out.
      Rating: 6

    5. Beautiful, lush arrangement; perfect presentation.
      Rating: 9

  5. Since I Fell For You (7.8)
    1. Solo has very nice tone. Backgrounds smooth.
      Rating: 8

    2. A depressing rendition is effective, not boring. Tight low chords at the end are not muddy, which is a difficult thing to do. Good solo.
      Rating: 7

    3. Another slow song.
      Rating: 7

    4. The arrangement on this piece was better than "It's A Blue World" and incorporated more of their voices, with some good jazz chords. This song, however, really showed the other side of their engineering work. Their engineering is SO crisp, and their chords are SO tight, that the wind up losing the emotion of the piece. It's easy to tell when someone is making dynamic changes because they're written on the arrangement versus dynamic changes because they're "feeling" the piece. Outside of that, the piece was very good, and a definite improvement over the previous ballad.

      Overall: Much better ballad, but still lacking feeling.
      Rating: 7

    5. The solo line is absolutely wonderful. Crystal clear at the top, expressive and full down low.
      Rating: 10

  6. Dat Dere (8.2)
    1. As the solo moves into the chorus, suddenly there's HUGE reverb. Detracts from the song. A light, simple, boppy arrangement. Unusual approach on solo, works quite well for most of the song but the first verse isn't enunciated quite well enough. Didn't like the "nailed" ending.
      Rating: 7

    2. Great solo on a an interesting song. Horridly arranged ending.
      Rating: 7

    3. Some really sweet jazz. Really. Overdone reverb.
      Rating: 9

    4. Now this song made up for the previous two. The engineering was very crisp still, but rather than hindering the lead, they took advantage of his voice and brought out the emotion in it. This song really created a lot of imagery in my mind while listening to it, which is always a plus. I enjoyed the dominance of the bass line in the arrangement with the sporadic insertion of the other parts.

      Overall: For a change, the engineering helped to elicit emotion in this track.
      Rating: 9

    5. Heavily engineered jazz blues. A little too much reverb on the lead voice for me, it began to interfere with the clarity of some of the fast lyrics.
      Rating: 9

  7. When I Fall in Love (7.4)
    1. Arrangement has unusual through-composed sounding rhythm and feel. This is good for a much-sung tune such as this. Another nice big group ballad.
      Rating: 8

    2. Another Ivy sounding song — some solo work but mostly group singing with interesting chord changes. Nice song.
      Rating: 7

    3. Very nice.
      Rating: 8

    4. The introduction of this song is done in a traditional barbershop style, but really did absolutely nothing for me. I've never heard it included in other versions of the song, and emotionally, it didn't do anything to introduce the song. I liked how they brought in the first verse, switching from a barbershop style, to a soloist, it really helped bring out the feeling in the piece, but then they dropped right back into the barbershop refrain which wasn't as crisp as the rest of the song. The bass were too strong, and hampered the emotion of it again. They brought in a soloist again for the second verse, but this was nothing new after the first verse, and didn't add anything. The changes they made to enhance the final refrain added a lot, but the whole thing could have been a lot better had they used a soloist throughout, including the refrain. I liked the ending, though!
      Rating: 6

    5. Choral opening melts into a chordal accompaniment. I'm a little uncomfortable with this arrangement — it seems to hang between barbershop and chorale. Still a beautiful presentation.
      Rating: 8

  8. Think (8.6)
    1. Annoying "wah-wah" sounding intro. You don't often see men's groups going for handclaps for big energy, but they do here and it works. The soloist is nice but sometimes goes for that soul sound and misses, unfortunately (the ends of some phrases are clumsily finished out, some screaming finishes don't fly). Generally quite good, though.
      Rating: 8

    2. Before George Michael's "Freedom '90" there was this motown groove. Adam Camp, who has a unique voice that is never boring to listen to, sings a solo that really rocks on this song that moves so well that I don't even mind the claps.
      Rating: 9

    3. Good, but needs an infusion of soul.
      Rating: 8

    4. I liked this track a lot, except for one thing! White men shouldn't sing gospel. The bass line was very solid, the engineering was great, and they made great use of the other voices in back up parts with additional lyrics. They did a really good job utilizing the many voices they have, and the white boy did do as good as job as could be expected of a white boy. :) If they had Aretha come in and do a guest lead, it would have been perfect.
      Rating: 9

    5. Great rock-gospel lead and a wonderful change in feel.
      Rating: 9

  9. Wonder Woman (8.0)
    1. I wonder what this sounds like on stage (i.e. without effects). Great high energy. Soloist pulls off ridiculous cheesy lyrics.
      Rating: 8

    2. Great solo, a little weak on the words "Wonder Woman", otherwise good backing.
      Rating: 7

    3. Kinda cool, nothing to bowl me over.
      Rating: 7

    4. Were it not the Wonder Woman theme song, I would say this one of the best track on the whole album. The lead was perfect, the occasional introduction of a harmony on the lead was well-placed and right in synch with the lead. I couldn't tell with the engineering whether the bass beat was someone slapping their chest or an actual bass drum, but it didn't matter.
      Rating: 9 (I had to deduct something just for it being the Wonder Woman theme song.)

    5. Best version of this I've ever heard, due at least in part to some very liberal engineering. Still, there's no faking the voices.
      Rating: 9

  10. Stanford Girl (8.0)
    1. Good original.
      Rating: 8

    2. A FS original. Great solo, clever words and good jazzy writing about being in love with a beautiful brain.
      Rating: 8

    3. Good original jazz, though repetitive.
      Rating: 8

    4. This song was meant to have a nice blues feel, but it fell short. As with a lot of originals, I think they just bit off more than they could chew. The lyrics were a little too complex to really be ear-catching. The rhymes and wording were forced at times, and annunciated too much. The arrangement started out okay but got a lot better as the song went along. I think that was mainly due to me forgetting about listening to the lyrics and just enjoying the music.
      Rating: 7

    5. The second original. A jazz-swing lamentation about the difficulties in establishing a relationship with a yuppy-to-be. Would have been an excellent candidate for a CARA.
      Rating: 9

  11. My Funny Valentine (7.4)
    1. Again, very smooth. Soloist straighter than a King's Singer, a jazzier approach might have worked better. Arrangement matches. Both nice, though. Well sung.
      Rating: 7

    2. This track grows on you more each time you hear it. Beautiful rendition with a classical-sounding soloist. Unfortunate cheezy ending.
      Rating: 7

    3. Too damn slow and depressing.
      Rating: 6

    4. Excellent choice of lead voices on this one, he did a really good job in capturing the "prose" which the song started out with. The transition to the refrain was a bit strong. The fact that the song was arranged in 1982 was noticeable, as the backing vocals were a little bit simple, but I think this was a good thing, as it allowed the lead vocalist to bring more emotion into his part. They used a lot of arpeggiated chords, sometimes very crisply, and sometimes... well, it went from crispy to soggy. Overall, it was solid. Once again, their engineering was excellent.
      Rating: 8

    5. The velvet-smooth lead here makes a good contrast to the active, arpeggiated background.
      Rating: 9

  12. You Always Hurt the One You Love (7.6)
    1. OK, this is where I draw the line. I realize that they are probably paying homage to Spike Jones but.... I didn't enjoy this studio mish-mash remix splice effects thing. It includes radio dialogue bits, simulated tuner problems etc. I give it a 5 because the sung parts are fine.
      Rating: 5

    2. Fabulous studio gimmicks are incredible, but the song itself is pretty ordinary. Still, quite a unique track.
      Rating: 7

    3. Definitely original
      Rating: 7

    4. Now this is a fun song! They definitely show what can be done with good studio engineering. From the old shallow, tinny phonograph at the beginning to the soap opera insert in the middle of the song to machine gunner in the background, I laughed throughout this song. I want to see them do it live, though. :)
      Rating: 10

    5. A fun, pseudo-Spike Jones rendition.
      Rating: 9

  13. Natural Woman (7.4)
    1. Kind of a fake soul soloist, he doesn't pull off the slidey runs and thrown out "yeah"s. If you don't have someone that can really pull this off, then just sing it straighter. (It may be possible that he's playing it for laughs but I don't think so). I also didn't like the falsetto accompanist. Backgrounds solid.
      Rating: 6

    2. Good solo, nice song.
      Rating: 7

    3. Cool!
      Rating: 9

    4. Well... it was a great arrangement, and a wonderful version of the song, but I have no idea why a bunch of guys were singing it. If they wanted to get some humor out of it, they should have made it more obvious. For example, I've heard a group from the University of Illinois do Stand By Your Man with the basses singing lead, but doing a horrid falsetto that made everyone laugh. I think this was their intent, especially with the very LOW bass singing the refrain at one point, but outside of two or three glimmers of intentional humor, I would swear they were actually attempting to be serious. Lighten up guys!
      Rating: 7

    5. Baritone lead aside, the gospel feel so closely associated with this song is not quite there in this version. Not quite wholly serious, not obviously a sendup.
      Rating: 8

  14. Jingle Bells (8.2)
    1. This is an unusual arrangement of Jingle Bells, part 50 rock style bass line and part Frankie Valley solo and part doo-wop. I thought it was clever but it wore out its welcome after the first time through the verse/chorus.
      Rating: 6

    2. Interesting jazz arrangement of this Christmas classic with licks from classic rocks songs thrown in for kicks. Nice falsetto solo.
      Rating: 8

    3. A definite new twist, medleyed with My Sharona.
      Rating: 9

    4. I love the arrangement! With the vocal percussion at the beginning and the driving bass line (from something out of Blues Brothers, but I don't remember the song) I never expected Jingle Bells. Someone should tell their lead that men should not be altos. Maybe he had a childhood accident with the hedge trimmer or something. They definitely used him well, though!
      Rating: 9

    5. A medley of styles interpreting the seasonal favorite. On a personal note, I am insanely jealous of the easy high range of the lead.
      Rating: 9

  15. Their Hearts Were Full of Spring (8.0)
    1. This is the weakest ballad on the album. Everything about it was fine.
      Rating: 6

    2. Beautiful and heart-wrenching Ivy style arrangement is one of the best of this style I've ever heard. Of course, FS sings it admirably.
      Rating: 8

    3. And a 9.9 for difficulty, VERY GOOD!
      Rating: 9

    4. Very good change of pace from the last few songs and it showed off their varied talents. The arrangement was a lot better than the other barbershop pieces on the album, mainly because they took advantage of all of the voices and didn't get that choral sound. They sounded like a very polished, traditional college a cappella group.
      Rating: 8

    5. Flawless choral arrangement of a traditional tune.
      Rating: 9

  16. Prayer to the God of Partial Credit (8.0)
    1. A cute, joke gospelish song. Soloist has the right attitude.
      Rating: 7

    2. One of the best collegiate tracks I've ever heard. You can't really ask for more. Alex Camp has a voice that is truly unique and incredible and Kevin Bleyer's voice, while overshadowed is also great. A FS original. Great lyrics, song writing, and a rousing solo.
      Rating: 10

    3. Nice try.
      Rating: 6

    4. I really don't like the lead vocals voice. He's just too whiney, and he hits his "P's" too hard. His little scat near the end of the song was especially annoying. I'd hate to be in the front row of the audience when he sings this song because you'd probably get a shower. The song is really cool. I expected more humor, but they definitely intended it as a get up and dance song, at which they succeeded. I really liked the prayer in the middle of the song, the choice of soloists was well done. If the other lead could have just toned it down a little, it would have been really successful. The slam on Berkeley was nice, a little rivalry is always good between school.
      Rating: 7

    5. The last original. Rock-gospel number with clever lyrics and a rockin' lead.
      Rating: 10

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