What follows is a review of the Washington University Greenleafs' album, "Photosynthesis". For those of you who may remember, this is the first effort of the Rec.Music.A-cappella review board. The idea was to have six people with different perspectives on college a cappella review albums to clue potential buyers in as to what's good and what's not. This was reviewed by four people two withdrew because of conflict of interest). Those people are: Ken Purchase, frequent poster on this newsgroup (representing the blue blood of college a-cappella); Jonathan Frome (an non-singer from Amherst College); Elizabeth Popp (currently a member of the U. Penn Quaker Notes) and Alison Berube (an alumni of Brown University's Ursa Minors). My opinions are not represented: what follows is a compilation of the aforementioned reviewers' impressions. The ratings are on a scale of 1-10 (10 is the highest); comments follow. I will include some final comments about this process at the end of the review.
#1: Freedom '90 Rating: 5 Range: 2-8The album begins with this live cut- reviewers were divided sharply between expressing admiration for the increased energy or delivering admonishments for sloppiness. The tape quality was also a detriment.
#2: Love of the Common People Rating: 8.4 Range: 7.5-10An example of how a simple song performed well can be exquisite. Excellent blend and a nice choral sound.
#3: Sweet Dreams Rating: 6.5 Range: 5-8Generally solid, with a noteworthy solo and strong altos. It loses points for minor tuning problems and small idiosynchrasies in the performance that detracted from the overall effect.
#4: I'm Calling You Rating: 7 Range: 6-8A nice ballad that provides a change of pace from the deeper, heavier sound of the first three tracks. Another example of a simple arrangement that is performed very well.
#5: Zombie Jamboree Rating: 2.8 Range: 1-4Generally not liked by the reviewers. Their reasoning: 1) It's overdone; 2) The "Caribbean" accents sounded fake; 3) The performance of this standard arrangement lacked energy; and 4) some pitch problems.
#6: Stay for Awhile Rating: 6.5 Range: 4-9A good rich solo, but some felt the lowest notes were strained. The arrangement was a bit repetitive, but otherwise a good track.
#7: Tainted Love Rating: 4.9 Range: 3.5-6A nice song choice and a good solo. The arrangement was a bit too empty and a little heavy-handed. A solid track.
#8: I'll Set You Free/ In Your Room Rating: 6.5 Range: 5-9Interesting was the operative word: great solo, a neat arrangement, but it is a bit overproduced and the tuning is shaky. Nonetheless, they are to be commended for going out on a limb and trying something different from most college a cappella songs.
#9: Oh L'Amour Rating: 6.3 Range: 5-7A good standard interpretation of this song.
#10: Trash Rating: 6 Range: 6A "cute" song which adds variety to the album. This is not the kind of song that will blow someone away, but it is pleasant, well-tuned and fun.
#11: Change in My Life Rating: 8 Range: 7-9An innovative Country/Western song with rich solos and good vocal percussion. Very nice.
#12: More Than Words Rating: 2.5 Range: 1-3They should have seen this coming: the reviewers blasted the song choice while noting that the arrangement did nothing to change the fact that they all hate the original.
#13: Let The River Run Rating: 6 Range: 3-8Energetic and fun to listen to. Good choral sound and tight cut-offs. Some minor pitch problems.
#14: Vicious Love Rating: 5 Range: 3-7The humor of this song was a nice touch, but the tuning problems were more pronounced and the reviewers found that problematic.
#15: Bohemian Rhapsody Rating: 6.9 Range: 5-9This was recorded with the oft-discussed Wash U. Pikers. It is a valiant effort at a difficult song; an ambitious arrangement. The male soloist does an uncanny impersonation of Freddie Mercury, but perhaps this led to the impression that this was a good novelty rather than a truly exceptional interpretation.
OVERALL: The Greenleafs stack up well with other female collegiate groups.
There are some wonderful songs on this album, and almost all of it is good. Reviewers saw much promise in the Greenleafs- with some more varied arrangements and a focus on what they do best, they could be an excellent a cappella group. The average rating for songs was a 6.6 out of 10. When you consider that a "10" is supposed to represent "one of the best songs you've ever heard by a collegiate group", that is a mark many groups would be hard-pressed to duplicate. But we shall see about that I suppose.
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