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RARB REVIEW

School: Brigham Young University
Group: Vocal Point
Album: If Rocks Could Sing...

Ordering Information

Total time: 26:30, 9 songs
Recorded 1992


Track Listing

  1. Working in a Coal Mine (5.8)
  2. Love Cats (6.8)
  3. Sing, Sing, Sing (6.4)
  4. Sinners (6.0)
  5. Wishing Well (5.4)
  6. Hodja (5.8)
  7. Trinidad (6.8)
  8. Tuxedo Junction (4.8)
  9. The Sesame Street Theme Song (6.4)

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. These guys sound like they have a lot of fun and they have reasonably good voices and arrangements. Some of the songs have a lot of swingy energy that is a joy to listen to. The small group format works to their advantage most of the time, but they don't milk it nearly enough. Full chords with one-on-a-part have an incredible crispness you just can't get in a bigger group and are a really fun sound, and the few times they get really complex the interwoven patterns are great. Singing your own part brings a lot of experience holding it against other stuff and they should exploit it more. Vocal percussion is a non-entity on this album; I think that might help with focus on some songs. For the most part, the songs are well-chosen and fun, although there are the usual tuning problems, etc. I really enjoyed the absence of "standard" songs/arrs. and the likeable but less heard repertoire. The arrangements are a little sparse, however, and the one bass sounds like a bari who can sing low, not a properly resonant bass if that makes any sense. Still, I think overall its a pretty good album.
    Rating: 7 (6.4)

  2. This group is strong as a whole. They are very good at choral harmony, and have a wide vocal range within the group. They have strong voices in both low and high ranges, which makes for a full sound. Their arrangements are generally good; movement in the background makes for interesting listening. Vocal Point tackles a variety of musical styles, from swing to calypso to spiritual. Their song choices are great — it is nice to hear a collection of songs that is not your average mix of college a cappella pop/doo wop standards. In the few places where it appears, the vocal percussion is good, but they should use it more often. Another area in which this group is lacking is dynamics. There is little or no change in dynamics within any song, or from song to song. While this doesn't really detract from the music, more use of dynamics would add another dimension. Overall, the sound is consistently solid and full, and If Rocks Could Sing... is an enjoyable listen.
    Rating: 7 (6.6)

  3. This album is solid, although short (only 9 tunes). Vocal Point has some quite good soloists. One unusual aspect of their arrangements is that on several tunes, the basses were very high, relatively speaking. I could hit the bass lines and I'm a tenor. Pushing the basses down might have given a fuller sound to some tunes. Vocal Point has a good variety of different kinds of songs on this album. In some cases, singing could have been tighter or crisper in backgrounds. They are good singers, however, and usually have good high energy.
    Rating: 7 (6.6)

  4. Let's not mince words: this is not a very good album. Arguably the best thing on the album is the jam of "Wipe Out" at the very end that is not listed on the album. The recording quality is not very high, the production is extremely raw, and the mistakes are glaring. I wanted desperately to be able to say that, well, the energy really makes up for the deficiencies, but it just isn't true. I was not able to enjoy this album because of how shaky it is musically. There are some good elements at times, but they don't put more than 30 seconds at a time together that "WORKS".
    Rating: 4 (4.1)

  5. These guys are great with their jazz work, but are mediocre, or worse, when they try any other musical style. The non-announced blurbs/outtakes in between numbers and at the end of the tape seem very sophomorish, although they might have thought them funny at the time. All in all, this isn't an album I can honestly say I recommend, because there isn't enough good work on there to constitute a good ALBUM review. MY suggestion would be to stick with the jazz, because that's what they do best.
    Rating: 6 (6.4)


Individual Tracks

  1. Working in a Coal Mine (5.8)
    1. Interesting beginning. This is a fun song; it's got a cool swing to it. The tenor in the background and the twang to the lead on the chorus add some fun. It's not the most polished, but it gives it a sort of improv feel. I wish the percussion were more comprehensive — it energizes the song when it's present.
      Rating: 8

    2. This is a good arrangement, with lots going on in the background, but it is a little sloppy, and there are some tuning problems. The basses are great, though.
      Rating: 5

    3. Good energy, unison soloists good. The verse parts between the "workin' in a coal mine" sung in a growly style that didn't really appeal to me. Arrangement what you'd expect. Basses solid, but a darker tone might have been achieved.
      Rating: 6

    4. This is an energetic but extremely loose recording. The leads have some fun with it, but the pitches are all over the place. The use of hi hat vocal percussion is effective, but the fact that it cuts in and out is annoying.
      Rating: 4

    5. Technically, this piece is very sound....good ranges, nice texture among the voices, nice clear tone. The total package, however, seems a bit TOO even.....not enough of an attitude behind the song. It sounds like a glee club singing it, rather than a rock band. The song is also very repetitive, and the beginning and end are kinda cutesy.
      Rating: 6

  2. Love Cats (6.8)
    1. The tenors have some really nifty little bits during the bridge and chorus. The arr. is a little empty at times and the one bass sounds a bit lonely and repetitive doing his thing. The solo does a good job coordinating chest voice and falsetto and sounds like he could slink appropriately live. I like the hissing. Nice scat bit at the ends, for both coordinating parts as well as the solo.
      Rating: 7

    2. What a groovy tune! The solo is light and smooth — perfect for this song. Good sound effects, too.
      Rating: 8

    3. Soloist has a nice light tone that works well with the song, phrasing is natural. Tenor "horn stings" done well. I felt the basses were slightly too prominent in the arrangement.
      Rating: 7

    4. Again, it is clear that If Rocks Could Sing... was recorded on a shoestring budget. This is an interesting arrangement. The upper parts had me tapping my toes with their "beedle-y-dee" rhythm. Unfortunately, the bass line did not jibe with the upper parts for me. Tracy Hall delivers a performance loaded with personality on the lead.
      Rating: 5

    5. Nice jazzy feel.....the production on the tape here is a little too heavy....the lead can't be heard over the background. The cat growls are really cheesy here, although the song seems to have gone the cheesy route... I've never heard the original, but I doubt it was this happy sounding if the Cure did it first......the blend and intonation of the background are VERY good, though. CHEESY ending.....
      Rating: 7

  3. Sing, Sing, Sing (6.4)
    1. I sure hope they had some appropriately peppy choreography to go with this sugary forties song. It has a fun feel, but could use a little fleshing out — the harmony is a little sparse for a song about singing. I like the end chord a lot; too bad the full sound doesn't show up more often.
      Rating: 7

    2. This song got me snapping my fingers. A good arrangement of a difficult song, with lots of movement and energy. The only problem is that the tempo is hard to keep up, and the result is that it is somewhat inconsistent.
      Rating: 6

    3. A vocalese version of the famous song. Upbeat and energetic. Great ending, but the song just didn't do it for me. Arrangement is interesting, singing is solid but could be cleaner.
      Rating: 7

    4. This has the same feel as the oft-performed 'Istanbul'. It doesn't have the comic value of 'Istanbul', however, and so it gets rather tiresome. Like the first two tracks, this song suffers when the bass is exposed. Great finish!
      Rating: 4

    5. This is the kind of music that suits a group like this well....very harmonically tight, makes use of the bass range and vocal style.... EXCELLENT vocal trumpet. After a while, the background becomes too much solid noise. Overall, though, a really tight song.
      Rating: 8

  4. Sinners (6.0)
    1. White. very white. To be properly performed, the song needs a certain dignity and understanding of the atmosphere involved that seems to be missing in the rendition of these likeable college kids. The solo obviously spent a lot of time on his intonation and does a valiant job, but the feeling is just missing; it's like a baseball game without a ball. (Imagine a whole field, fans, diving catches, slides and stolen bases but without that integral little detail.) I like the "wa — hoos" towards the end.
      Rating: 5

    2. A strong spiritual. The bass part is really there. A nice change of pace, contributing to the wide mix of musical styles mastered by this group.
      Rating: 7

    3. A quartet, which works well. Soloist gets a good soul sound on this gospel/ doo-wopish piece. Arrangement simple doo-wop backup, pacing varies to the song's advantage (it is deliberately varied).
      Rating: 7

    4. This Persuasions tune is performed by a very capable quartet. I found the stylings of the solo a little too much for my taste, but this is altogether a very solid performance.
      Rating: 5

    5. The bass has some SERIOUS range here......very impressive. The problem with this song is what makes the previous song so much fun...it's a song that really doesn't suit the style of the singers. Tuning here is a little hairy, as well.
      Rating: 6

  5. Wishing Well (5.4)
    1. The bass could add a little richness, he's a little too blase about his hummy little part. The arrangement is awfully plain, there's a lot rhythmically going on in the original and the chords in the background don't do enough to carry the song along. The duet is very well done and the solo is pleasant, but the song lacks something. Maybe percussion would add some rhythm.
      Rating: 5

    2. This song has got some good, tight harmonies. The soloist is expressive and well matched to the song, but could use more energy.
      Rating: 6

    3. Some vocal percussion might have given this song a more obvious pace; some percussion often helps slow rock tunes like this. The soloist is very solid and is obviously comfortable with the tune, but sometimes sounds a little underpowered (might have more intensity). Arrangement is good. The guitar "bankh-bankh" stuck out unnecessarily.
      Rating: 8

    4. Bob Ahlander is impressively understated on the solo, but the background of this song fails to carry it. The basses, especially, are scraping the bottom of their range, and it makes for some rather grating notes. This track has some interesting moments, but it doesn't know if it's a R & B song or a jazz track, and the integration of the two disparate styles is not pulled off effectively.
      Rating: 5

    5. The bass beginning sounds more like a sea chantey than the opening to this song.....severe rhythmic problems. The "bank bank" in the middle of the chorus is VERY annoying, as is the high parts later in the song. Overall, a poor, cheesy in a bad way, copy of a decent song
      Rating: 3

  6. Hodja (5.8)
    1. Pitch problems interfere with this one. It has energy and lots of cool little scatty bits including some lovely overlays at the end. The tenor "do-dootndoos" during the chorus are great, and the baritone scat guy is great but the ensemble sounds a little off-key and not together.
      Rating: 7

    2. Great song choice — it gets me going every time. A good arrangement of a difficult song, and overall, it is well done. The soloist strains at times and could use more control, but the background really carries the song. The scat section at the end is impressive.
      Rating: 7

    3. Backgrounds for this tune are good, should be tighter. Some parts seem slightly rushed (bridge, "2-4-6-8"). Throughout, this song was a level below the belting intensity that this song is ideally performed with. This is true of the soloist as well, but he is generally good. Ending was clipped.
      Rating: 6

    4. The oft-covered Todd Rundgren song is performed without Rundgren's quirky, aggressive vibe. Bob Ahlander is singing a little out of his range. The arrangement tries to jazz it up with seventh chords, but the dissonance doesn't seem to add much to the song, and it doesn't go anywhere with the jazz theme. Not Vocal Point's best effort.
      Rating: 3

    5. The soloist swings like a lead block.....he tries too hard to be Todd Rundgren and fails. The background is solid enough, though , and the ensemble work is about as good as they do non-jazz material. Not a bad reading of an a cappella classic, although they didn't HAVE to go on as long as Rundgren did on the album.....
      Rating: 6

  7. Trinidad (6.8)
    1. Good voices, good arrangement, funny lyrics. Pitch problems at the beginning and during the ahs hold the song back. The ahs were well-arranged but the execution is hesitant. In particular, the bass doesn't sound quite in tune with the other parts during the ensemble bits, but he does do a nice job hitting the very low notes. I just wish his tuning was more consistent.
      Rating: 6

    2. I love this song. It is tight, and the calypso style is carried off well. The gimmick is delivered well, too. It's good musically, and it's just fun.
      Rating: 9

    3. A reggae rhythmed story song with cute ending (but you could see it coming a mile away). There is a slight delay in the person doubling the soloist on backup which must be deliberate because it is consistent, but I found the delay annoying. Nice and boppy.
      Rating: 7

    4. Performed by a quintet- this track is a Caribbean jam. I kind of wish they hadn't sung it with the Jamaican accents, but I have to admit that it made me smile. The performance is competent, but nothing to write home about.
      Rating: 5

    5. This was a really cute number....breaking the group down to five cleared up a lot of muddiness in the background. Really funny ending, and some nice harmonic moments.
      Rating: 7

  8. Tuxedo Junction (4.8)
    1. The ornaments on the solo (on words like Birmingham, Alabam) are too forced and don't flow. There are a few nice full sound moments here which play up the strengths of the one on a part format, and the scatting is well done, as elsewhere on the album. Background pitch gets real sketchy at times.
      Rating: 6

    2. This one is weak overall, but they can't all be good. The arrangement is boring, and the solo is less than inspired. It drags and goes on too long. In need of energy.
      Rating: 3

    3. Done slower than most a cappella versions. The soloist has a few qualities that could be improved. The flutter on "Birmingham" and "alabam" were clunky and forced. Also, approach was too straight, and solo mixed too high. Backgrounds were fine, arrangement nothing unusual. (Please, no one record this song again — way overdone).
      Rating: 5

    4. I give Vocal Point credit for attempting to perform a version of Tuxedo Junction that is not the Manhattan Transfer version, but I can't give them much credit, because this track starts as badly as it possibly could. Dave Boyce is OK on the solo, but his scatting is not very interesting, and the bass simply can't sing the pitches, making for some very unpleasant 'chords'.
      Rating: 2

    5. Points for not ripping off Manhattan Transfer in the arrangement.... it sounds like a mixed group doing it, even though we KNOW it's all guys... Very nice harmonic work here, and a good sense of jazz feel.
      Rating: 8

  9. The Sesame Street Theme Song (6.4)
    1. The percussion, bass and melody trio combine to give the song a minimalist jazz form of the song. If Vinx were going to perform the Sesame St. theme song it would sound something like this. I kind of like it, actually, jazz chords and all. The percussion guy is a little rusty from inexperience but isn't bad. The chords are in pretty good tune and have a great blend.
      Rating: 7

    2. Cute song choice — another fun one. An impressive arrangement of a favorite memory. I like the harmony, and the vocal percussion is great. (They should make use of percussion more often). And a great Big Bird imitation by the soloist, to boot.
      Rating: 8

    3. The percussion is well done but he should have been farther from the mike on the high hat — it gets quieter as the song goes on but is just too loud at first. Soloist (and group, usually) get a good childlike quality to their singing, at least until the arrangement takes itself from a straight rendition to a dissonant jazz chord arrangement. I don't like this direction, and not because I don't like jazz. It just doesn't seem to work here. If you want to do a children's song in jazz style, I think it works better if you begin that way and not travel there as the song continues. It is sung fairly well, nonetheless.
      Rating: 6

    4. Cute. The solo has that high 'Muppet' sound in his voice. There are some unpleasant moments in this song, including the very beginning of the song, unfortunately. It turns into a Manhattan Transfer-esque vocal jazz song in the middle, but then reverts back to the cutesy approach.
      Rating: 4

    5. Decent vocal percussion work....high soloists voice can get annoying. Good harmonic work in this piece, but in general kind of a downer to end the album with. The jazz touches do do them credit.
      Rating: 7

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