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.

Exit 245

James Madison University

Limelight (2008)

3.3

November 1, 2008

Tuning / Blend 3.0
Energy / Intensity 3.7
Innovation / Creativity 3.0
Soloists 3.7
Sound / Production 4.3
Repeat Listenability 3.0
Tracks
1 Canned Heat 4.3
2 Cold as Ice 2.7
3 Lovestoned 3.0
4 Fix You 3.7
5 Faithful 3.7
6 Bless the Broken Road 3.7
7 Open Your Eyes 3.7
8 Feelin' Good 3.0
9 Tonight I Wanna Cry 3.0
10 At Last 3.7
11 All Night Long 3.0
12 The Blower's Daughter 3.0
13 Motown Philly (Exit Style) 3.7

Recorded 2006 – 2008
Total time: 54:34, 13 songs


Tuning / Blend 3
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 3
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 Canned Heat 5
2 Cold as Ice 2
3 Lovestoned 4
4 Fix You 5
5 Faithful 4
6 Bless the Broken Road 4
7 Open Your Eyes 3
8 Feelin' Good 3
9 Tonight I Wanna Cry 3
10 At Last 4
11 All Night Long 3
12 The Blower's Daughter 3
13 Motown Philly (Exit Style) 4

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something ... green? It has worked for brides, and it seems it has worked for JMU's Exit 245 on their latest release, Limelight.

First, the old and new. Just take a glance at the playlist: everything from Snow Patrol and Justin Timberlake to Go West, Lionel Ritchie, and even Ella Fitzgerald. This works both for and against Exit 245. The variety makes things interesting, and there's something for everyone. However, by trying to please everyone, these men may be pleasing no one. It was hard for me to follow the musical flow of such disparate genres, and by the end of the disc it was just overload. Luckily for Exit 245, good arrangements manage to give Limelight at least a modicum of consistency. The two best are Canned Heat and Fix You, easily the best tracks on the album.

As for the something borrowed, Limelight owes a great debt to superb engineering by James Gammon. With each successive listen, I realized more that there's a lot of mediocre singing on this album. Bass is weak and wan. Chords are generally in tune, but the inner parts sometimes don't lock. Descant and soli lines seem especially discordant from the texture of the block. Final constants, especially sibilants, are rarely in unison. Yet, these items are very difficult to notice thanks to expert engineering. Whether it's tucking a part back into the texture, or highlighting something interesting to distract from the mundane, Gammon manages to cover up a lot of mistakes without seeming heavy-handed. Percussion is also great.

And the something green? The cover with the giant lime, of course. I rarely feel the need to comment on liner notes, but Exit 245 consistently has some of the best CD packaging in the collegiate world.

For my perspective, it seems like Exit 245 has a handful of people with the dedication and talent to try to push the group beyond the common collegiate fare. While not perfect, Limelight manages to meet this goal. Following the old bride's adage proved successful for Exit 245. Perhaps they can push that momentum into the honeymoon.


Tuning / Blend 3
Energy / Intensity 3
Innovation / Creativity 3
Soloists 3
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 3
Tracks
1 Canned Heat 4
2 Cold as Ice 3
3 Lovestoned 3
4 Fix You 3
5 Faithful 3
6 Bless the Broken Road 4
7 Open Your Eyes 4
8 Feelin' Good 3
9 Tonight I Wanna Cry 3
10 At Last 3
11 All Night Long 3
12 The Blower's Daughter 3
13 Motown Philly (Exit Style) 3

Sitting squarely in the "Overall, that was just alright." category of a collegiate cappella, Limelight doesn't leave much of an impression. A lack of intensity and a lack of creativity keeps Exit 245 from producing what could have been a more memorable, more engaging, more fresh album. Limelight has received a lot of attention on the award front, and thus I expected a lot more.

One fundamental problem on Limelight is the absence of interesting, evolving arrangements. Justin Timberlake provides a playground for a cappella arrangers, yet we hear incessant "doom, doom doom doom, doom, doom doom" plus wickawicka noises from Exit 245 on most of their Lovestoned. It's certainly needed relief when the song takes a new direction near the end. The repetitive "ba da, da da" underlayer of Cold as Ice gets old fast, too. Motown Philly (Exit Style) is a direct lift from the original with customized shout-outs added in ("Then we started Exit Boys!"), with poor blend and tuning to boot. The Blower's Daughter tries to pull itself out of a flat line, and barely succeeds. And even Fix You, which has a natural build right in the original (making it particularly attractive to a cappella groups), hardly shows new colors, hardly grows intense. Exit 245 needs to focus on making their material stand out, and needs to sing their material with a lot more energy.

On the brighter side, three notable soloists do their part to keep the listener engaged. James Minnix keeps the mood happy and lively on Faithful, keeping the original flavor of the song at the forefront. Mike Harrison gives a tremendous delivery on Bless the Broken Road. As is much discussed in these parts, it's challenging to perform a country cover, but Harrison nails it with an earnest voice and a beautiful tone. Finally, though Fix You never rises to truly exciting levels, Nathaniel Baker's Coldplay-perfect voice adds needed depth.

On the engineering front, James Gammon gives Limelight a cohesive, sparkling sound which suits Exit 245 well. If the next album is another Gammon production, with more thoughtful arrangements that challenge the group to rise to innovative levels, it will certainly fare better than Limelight.


Tuning / Blend 3
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 2
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 2
Tracks
1 Canned Heat 4
2 Cold as Ice 3
3 Lovestoned 2
4 Fix You 3
5 Faithful 4
6 Bless the Broken Road 3
7 Open Your Eyes 4
8 Feelin' Good 3
9 Tonight I Wanna Cry 3
10 At Last 4
11 All Night Long 3
12 The Blower's Daughter 3
13 Motown Philly (Exit Style) 4

Too loud, too busy, too edited, too long. Other than that, Exit 245's newest album, Limelight is pretty solid.

The soloists are fantastic from start to finish, all appropriately matched to their songs. The mixes hit hard and sport plenty of cool effects — Limelight's mix engineer, James Gammon, obviously got to flex his muscles on this project. My only beef with the mixing is that the leads sit too low in the mixes.

The central problem with Limelight is that it is just so distilled. The tuning is so harsh, on both the backs and on the leads, that the humanness and the organic vocal quality are simply absent most of the time. All the rhythms are clean and precise, and the notes are all perfectly in tune, but Exit 245 paid dearly for that precision.

Nearly all the songs on Limelight wholly consume the sonic spectrum from beginning to end. There is no relief, no space, no perspective to be found, other than during breaks between songs.

It doesn't help that many of the songs are boring and indulgently long. Canned Heat, Cold as Ice, Lovestoned, Fix You, Open Your Eyes, Tonight I Wanna Cry, and The Blower's Daughter all suffer from repetitiveness and length, though I really enjoy the build of Open Your Eyes. The backgrounds come across to me rather jejune, uniformly constructed of safe, generic, and mostly ill-suited, syllables.

The shorter, more upbeat songs on LimelightFaithful, At Last, Motown Philly (Exit Style) — grab your attention and keep it all the way through.

Limelight is sonically solid, and would be a good album to throw in on a road trip, but I can't recommend it for the active listener.


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

To purchase this album, visit the group's web site.

×