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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.
This is a talented group of men. At times they are virtually
seamless and sound professional. As a group, they have a wide
range of voices, and all voice parts seem to be well-represented.
This keeps every song from sounding alike. The high tenor parts
in the background are notably good, which adds a dimension that some
male groups lack. The Clef Hangers also do some very good vocal
percussion, which enhances almost any song. When they are working
with a good arrangement, this group is fantastic. They only seem
to falter when the arrangement doesn't show off what they can do.
The album starts out great, and then droops a little in the middle
with a couple of lemons (the Clef Hangers should stick to complete
songs and lose the medleys), but they make a great comeback towards
the end. The last few songs are fabulous, and worth the purchase of
the album. This is a wise ordering of songs. Their best songs are
at the beginning and end, so they succeed both at hooking you, and
then at leaving you on a good note (so to speak).
Rating: 8 (7.0)
Good use of vocal percussion, but most of the songs had timing
problems or pitch problems. They attempt a lot of songs that you don't
normally hear done a cappella, and come up with some good arrangements,
but the performance doesn't cut it. I don't know what kind of turnover
in their repertoire they have, but they'd be better off getting a few
songs down perfectly than attempting so many complex arrangements and
doing them sub-par.
Rating: 5 (5.2)
This was a very well done album, with only two songs I would force myself to get up and skip if I were listening to this from end to end. This is a
very good group and I want to hear them live at some point. There is room for
improvement, and they may want to spend more time considering if a track
is good enough to be on an album, but otherwise it makes for a VERY good
recording...and a good listening experience.
Rating: 7 (6.6)
My favorite thing about this album is the variety of different styles of music
and the different textures in the lead voices. I also don't think I've ever
heard a tighter bass section in a collegiate group.
Rating: 7 (7.4)
This album can be summed up in one word: inconsistent. The
Clef Hangers range from poor to superlative on their 1992 release
Safari. The CARA-winning Africa, which won best arrangement, is an a
cappella masterpiece with strong solos, thick chords and innovative
rhythm tracks. Successful innovation is the theme needed to unify
this album. The Clefs push the a cappella envelope, choosing
difficult songs pushing their tenors to new heights and adding new
lines to traditional four and five-part chords. But what is missing
is a feel for the limitations of the group, a sense of how far is too
far in the purely practical terms of the group's vocal strength.
Songs such as (Everything She Does Is) Magic and Come Sail Away
reflect attempts at songs where the group does not have the solo power
to exploit the arrangements.
Rating: 6 (5.6)
This song showcases the large number of voices in the group working
together. The arrangement is great, and is enhanced by the multiple
voices on vocal percussion. The harmony is tight, and the background
has nice blend. It's also nice to hear a non-tenor soloist to kick
off the album.
Bass & drums were very good, but the background vocals were muddy,
and difficult to really distinguish. The drum intros to the refrain were
a bit too strong. The mix and blend on the various vocal harmonies could
have been better also. The song was good and I could listen to it a lot,
but there's still a lot of room for improvement. The lead did a decent
job on the verses.
This was 1993 runner up for CARAS Best Arrangement — Collegiate Male,
so I was expecting great things. To a point, I wasn't disapointed.
The arrangement itself was very textured and rich, with a lot of
things going on at once. This was the first problem I found; it
seemed like it wanted to do too much. There were points where the
business of the song (especially in the verses) got in the way of the
song. It also made the minor tempo and tuning problems in the piece
Some interesting percussion treatment.
What a fantastic arrangement! I especially love the voiced
percussion parts that carry the song through the transitions and
provide a lovely background for the chords. The solos are great,
the background is together — what a way to start off the album! One
change I would have made would have been to mix down the first of
the three soloists on the chorus, but that could be the fault of my
stereo rather than the engineer.
This is a rockin' version of the Beatles' classic. It doesn't sound
like an "oldie" — it's been modernized by the arrangement. It's got
a great opening, good energy, and the soloist is good. It is
strong all around.
They did a little better job on this song. The
background vocals were a little bit clearer, but still a bit muddy. The
mix and blend on the harmony vocals was better.
Tuning, tempo, rhythm, drive all very good. Unfortunately, the
arrangement wasn't very challenging, so the group can make it sound
good with very minimal effort. Still, a very tight recording.
Nice ensemble, good up-tempo feel.
The Intro sounds off-key, but the rest of the song comes
together. The background is depressingly the same,
dynamically and rhythmically. Yes, it's a Beatles song, but the
some dynamics on the background, especially for the upper voice
parts, would improve the song. The solo sounded fine.
This is a pretty, emotional ballad put to a doo wop arrangement.
The solo is smooth, and has a nice falsetto. He could even have used
it more without overdoing it. The blend in the background is very
good. I thought this one might be overly sappy, but I was pleasantly
surprised at how much I liked it. Well done.
I couldn't understand the lead vocals at first. The background vocals were solid, but they just overwhelmed the lead's
voice because of where it fit into the song's range. This could have been
fixed with better mixing. The arrangement of this one was much better than
the previous two tracks.
VERY GOOD jazz-pop representation. Tristan's voice as a soloist is
very silky smooth and fits the song well. The background also solidly
lifts the soloist into the spotlight, as a background should be able to
do. The "bump and grind" style ending executed well
Slow jazz swing arrangement of this standard. Really nice blend in the
background, and the lead is quite good.
The background is too loud, but for the most part together. Some of
the jazz chords are a little questionable. The soloist is a
trip — he reminds me of the guy in the Blow Monkeys who sings "You
Don't Own Me" on the Dirty Dancing soundtrack. It can take getting
used to, but he sounds good. Some lovely ornaments sneak in there,
Hmmm...a clever, if somewhat cheezy medley of a bunch of "Johnny"
songs. "Johnny B. Goode" is not bad, but the other songs don't
really go with it, and the transitions are weak. This track is
choppy and disjointed — it just doesn't flow well. This is probably
responsible for some tuning problems along the way.
Tuning was way off in the beginning, they just didn't sound confident
on any of their entrances at all. The arrangement was really good, it just
wasn't performed well. They had to be right on with their entrances, and then
turn them off right away, and that didn't happen, leading to muddy background
vocals. I did like the concept behind the song by using both Johnny B. Goode
(Chuck Berry) and Johnny Be Good (Men At Work).
A decent idea not very well done. The opening "Johnny's Theme"
suffers from distinct tuning problems and comes off very flat as a
beginning to what I assume was meant to be a "tour de force". "Johnny
B. Goode" ranks with the Beatles tune earlier as a well-done
performance of a fairly easy arrangement. The transition into "Be
Good Johnny" was weak, due mainly to tuning again. The transitions in
general weren't in tune; granted, it's a general problem with a
cappella about transitions (at least in MY experience), but it's still
distracting. In the end, to my ear, the idea didn't come off well.
Medley of famous "Johnny" Tunes. Each of the individual arrangements is pretty
good, but it often feels like more of a splicing than a medley. Bet this is a
good live number.
The Johnny Carson intro is really funny. The Johnny B. Goode that
follows is not. The opening "guitar" is in three keys with two
voices, and it doesn't get much better. The "I Only Like Dreaming"
section is nice, and I kinda like the bit with the talking in the
middle. The El DeBarge section is musically awful but I'll bet it
was really hilarious live. This medley is a good example of the
sort of thing really aided by a live recording because the audience
keeps the group psyched and the pitch problems are downplayed.
This is a great arrangement of a beautiful song. The soloist has a
nice voice, and the background is very full. The group uses
appropriate changes in dynamics. It is gentle, but not weak.
And the range of the basses is noteworthy — wow.
For a change, the background vocals were very cool on this song.
They didn't try to go beyond their capabilities for a change, and it really
paid off. The soloist was a tad off on a couple notes, but it didn't
interfere too much with my enjoyment of it.
The opening feel of the song (brooding, haunting) shines through, but the
actual harmony tends to be very muddy as a result. Also, there's not enough
dynamic contrast in the song, and it tends to seem long because of it.
Still, a very good interpretation of the song, and the soloist's voice is a
fairly good mimic of the sound.
This song has an excellent ballad feel. I like the texturing in the
backgrounds, especially in the opening.
This song is at its best when it is at its simplest. During the
crescendos of the solo [such as the section starting with "I don't
want to be tied . . "] when the group tries to swell out of the
background, the result muddies the sound and hides the solo. At
times a little too straight, the solo sounds sincere and is for the
most part successful. At places like "she will listen to me.."
there is lovely diminuendo, but the loud parts seem too busy, so
feel a little overdone. Perhaps putting only one first tenor on the
part with words and have the rest join the chord would smooth it
out but keep the nice dynamics. Two random thoughts: I would not
have mixed the duet during the instrumentals as loud. Also, I loved
the "ohs" throughout the song, especially the ones at the very
end — they make me melt.
A great song choice for the true Billy Joel fan. Unfortunately,
the arrangement is not as interesting as it could be, but the
vocal percussion keeps it going. The solo is ok, but a little
too stiff, and there are a couple of places where the pitch is
not quite on.
Good use of vocal percussion, and they nailed
their background vocals again. I like a lot of the chord spellings in the
arrangement; it kept the song interesting.
Starts well, but the tempo becomes very erratic as the song goes on.
The group gets a very good drive started with this one, but the soloist
seemed out of his range...the low notes he sung were out of tune and sounded
forced. In general, though, I ENJOYED it, which is what I hinge my ratings
on more than anything.
High-energy arrangement which works really well.
I like this song. The first tenors don't quite blend with the rest
of the ensemble, especially on the really high stuff; the solo has a
few odd spots and there are no dynamics, but there is something
infectious about this song. The hokey beginning, the way-out-there
"hey!" — they make me smile. So sue me
There is nothing that particularly stands out either way with this
song. It's got a good, strong bass line, and it's got a good
beat. The group presents a strong group sound. It is polished and
together. Well done.
The lack of confidence in their entries that they had
in "Johnny" re-appeared here, but not as badly. The train whistle harmonies
were the most noticeable. Their timing was also off considerably at the beginning.
I was told once by my voice teacher that if you're going to do a classic, you
need to do it very well or it won't be perceived as a good performance by a
knowledgable audience. This is the case here. The transitions weren't
clean and the arrangement ended up a bit dull. The tuning, IMHO, is at its
worst here, and there really isn't a reason for it to be.
Traditional jazz swing arrangement. Uncharacteristically uneven ensemble in
this number, though, but it still has a good feel.
Happy standard. As usual, the first tenors are strident, the bass
could be crisper, and the focus of the chord could _definitely_
stand to shift from the first tenors to the middle voices, which
often get lost.
Wonderful Arrangement. The overall sound is very true to the
original. The electric guitar imitation is excellent, as is the
high harmony. The solo is steady and smooth, and some of the notes
hit by the low bass are amazing. The various background parts are
working well together in this one.
Gag. I'm sorry, but I really can't stand it when people
try to imitate a wailing electric guitar. I've sung this song before, and
we never tried to imitate Clapton's guitar, because whenever we did, it sounded
awful. Just sing the notes with a normal vocal timbre and they could have
had a nice song.
First question — who's murdering the cat at the beginning of the song?
As the perpetrator of many a bad guitar vocal....be careful of that.
The soloist is in fine voice, but the background is generally overbearing,
especially in the beginning. The guitar solo, again, sounds like a cat being
murdered by Axl Rose...a pet peeve of mine simply because I've done it and
I hate doing it.
Nice instrumental effects; good lead but the background tends to overwhelm it.
This song doesn't do much for me. The soloist has a sweet voice and
some of the background obbligatos are nice, but the twangy "guitar"
falsettos ruin it for me. I do like the rhythmic baritone part
hidden behind the main background, but the main chords just don't
come together or really blend.
Another great song choice, but it just doesn't seem to come together.
The solo strains and can't quite reach some of those high notes. He
is not helped much by a pretty boring arrangement. I think more
energy would help this one, and the addition of some percussion may
pick it up.
The lead was too overpowering, and a little off. The song
was high in his register. The background
harmonies weren't crisp again. The arrangement was good once again, just not
performed as well as it could have been.
GOOD solo here — very reminiscent of the original. This is a song for people
to do the "Risky Business" Dance Around the House in your Underwear (tm) to.
My only nits are that this song could've used a grooving vocal percussionist
and a little more attention to the rhythm, but otherwise it was great.
Great lead. The background sounds very unbalanced to me, but I think this
might actually be in the mixing — the middle voices are there but they're
being lost somewhere between the highly-reverbed basses and the high background
which naturally cuts.
Sloppy — the background on this one never quite comes
together. The backing duet on the 2nd verse is good but pitch
problems interrupt. The first tenors especially have trouble
keeping the pitch on the background measures with complicated
rhythms that sit on one note. The bridge needs help — I can't put
my finger on it, but it doesn't sound right. The soloist puts forth
valiant effort, but the song is too ambitious for the strength of
his voice. The breaks into falsetto were just not successful. I do
think a stronger obbligato on the chorus could have improved things
a little bit.
This seems to be a popular choice for male a-cappella groups, and this
version is not bad. The deep voice of the soloist is a nice change
of pace, but his heavy voice quality tends to drag a bit. This may
be emphasized by the bottom-heavy recording, as he sounds better with
the bass lowered and the treble turned up on the player.
The arrangement was just so low. It was good, and true to the
original, but just didn't have the spirit and the emotion that the original
did. I can't put my finger on why this was the case, because everything was
solid. Perhaps just speeding it up a little would have fixed it.
An over-arranged song; the beginning is FAR too busy, and the ending should
have been as busy as the beginning, but seems to slow down due to a lack of
energy. The tuning, however, was good, and the lead comes off like a
bad lounge singer — which WORKS for this song
Nice blend! and another stellar lead. I also like some of the extra figuring
in the background.
Lovely soloist. The background is a little heavy, especially during
the choruses. The intro is nice, as is the obbligato, but the
arpeggios into the chorus are a little shaky. Overall a nice song,
made by the soloist.
Nice to hear a bit of variation in the syllables used in the
background, and the blend is very nice. The arrangement of the
song is dull, though, and it is sung too straight. The rap section
in the middle is lame — they should have just stuck to the song.
This song had the same problem as Kiss The Girl. Everything
was solid, it just dragged. Spruce up the arrangement, or up the tempo or
something. The "breakdown/rap" in the middle just bothered me.
Worst song on the album; it's overdone as it is, and this particular rendition
just does not work for me. The tag at the end was fairly amusing, but it
didn't save this song
Well-done traditional arrangement. I like the tasteful use of percussion here.
Another happy standard. Not much to pick on in the main body of this
song, but not much to set it apart either. The breakdown in the
middle of the song is an interesting idea and would be a pleasure in
a live concert, but doesn't do it for me on the album. Ditto for the
ending. The soloist could use an infusion of soul, but does a
An unusual song choice — I've never heard this done a-cappella. It
has never been one of my favorite songs, but I like their rendition.
It is well sung. The arrangement is simple, but it seems appropriate
for the song, and the soloist's smooth voice and style carry it
I didn't like the arrangement at all. The attempt at using
broken chords failed. The chord spelling didn't flow together, I just heard
individual voices going "do, do, do" at various pitches. There were plenty
of opportunities for harmony vocals, and they didn't use them.
BEAUTIFUL lead, and the song follows suit. This isn't
something I would've thought of for a cappella, but it's WONDERFUL!
Only nits are some minor tuning difficulties and the bass lead-ins after
the chorus (Can you say cheesy?), but otherwise, very well done.
The Kenny Loggins song, not the traditional Irish ballad. An outstanding
lead, but the background tuning is unusually shaky.
A nice arrangement, though.
Schmaltzy. The background is weak on the third verse, and I don't
understand the sudden speedup into the third chorus. Not too much
else specifically to pick on, but the song doesn't really do it for
This medley would have been better if it were just "Monday, Monday."
The transition to "California Dreaming" is rough, and the soloist
on that song is a little too screamy. "Monday, Monday" is good,
but as a medley, this one is weak.
Monday, Monday- Needed to be sped up considerably.
California Dreaming- I didn't like the lead's voice, it was a bit too nasal
for my tastes. After this, they went back to Monday, Monday to finish, which
I didn't understand.
SLOW!!!! REALLY SLOW!!!!! As much as I've commented on over-arranging on this
album, this is an example of something that was under-arranged. It goes
nowhere, and ends up to be very boring.
Once again more of a juxtapositioning than a medley, but I like the (mostly
Monday, Monday: The solo and background are for the most part
good. The solo sounds very right for the song, something the Clefs
at times have trouble with. The ensemble parts are shakier and have
some pitch problems, especially the last few bars before the
transition. California Dreamin': The solo is a little too 80's for
the piece, with his quick vibrato and slight rasp. Not the cleanest
song, but not bad.
The good, strong solo carries this song off well. Nice arrangement;
lots of movement in the background and some percussion keep it
from dragging. The harmony is tight, as is usual for this group,
and the effects towards the end of the song are cool. This is
a pretty song.
Along with my comments for "Wonderful Tonight," add on
imitating Dennis De Young's keyboard work. It just flat out shouldn't be
done. I admire these guys for trying this song, but it didn't work.
The arrangement is fantastic.
Unfortunately, the performance doesn't measure up. The tuning and rhythmic
errors are glaring because of the intricacy of the arrangement. Still,
I LOVED this song and was glad to hear it, and in general was well
Excellent lead, good background treatment. I like the subtle changes in feel
as the slow section progresses; the payoff at the chorus is not quite there,
Nice try but no cigar. The solo is too broadway (even more so than
Dennis DeYoung's admittedly showtune voice) and doesn't have the
high notes. The piano chords are too high for the voices
involved. The synth section in the middle of the song is excellent,
and the percussion is well done throughout. But the "angel"
verses are just not there, and neither are the choruses. To give
the Clefs credit, this is an amazingly ambitious song. They did as
good a job as could be expected, but the job is just too big.
This song is boppy, but boring. Overall, the sound is good, with
tight harmony and nice blend. The basses are strong and consistent.
The background supports the soloist well, but the soloist sounds
as if he is working too hard.
The background vocals were very busy. With as many guys as
they have in their group, they need to all be right on, or it's going to get
muddy. The high harmonies were weak.
A well performed, cute song. Understood, this is one of their signature
tunes, so it SHOULD be well done for an album, but still.....
Vaguely reminiscent of the Beach Boys. Not bad, but the background never
quite matches the energy and conviction of the lead.
Solo enthusiastic, maybe a little too so. Again, the first tenors
sound out of place somehow. The big chords on open syllables sound
off, a common problem on the album.
There is a lot going on in this full, interesting arrangement. It
is well sung, with good energy. Good use of dynamics, building to
the chorus. Again, the blend is good. Overall, a solid rendition
of this song.
Contrary to "Wonderful Tonight" and
"Come Sail Away," they actually did a decent job with this song. The lead's
falsetto was pretty weak, but good high tenors are hard to come by. The
harmony vocal could have been a lot better.
One of the things I believe is that if you cover a Sting/Police song, you
either NEED to have a soloist good enough to make you forget how Sting sounds
or you need a soloist that sounds like Sting. This has neither. The
soloist has no power in the upper range and the choruses suffer for it.
The background, however, sounds wonderful, and the arrangement is solid
Intricate arrangement well done. I like the energy in this number and the
use of vocal percussion. There is a slight tendency for the background to
cover the lead at the chorus.
No one can sound like Sting. No one should try. The intro and first
verse are nice, but the chorus and bridges exceed the soloists's
ability and the backgrounds here seem to be in a different key from
the solo. The "e-oh"s are not together with themselves or anything
else, and the solo's offkey adlibs at the end prevent the song from
salvaging any of its good qualities.
Great song choice, and a great arrangement. Smooth harmony and
good blend are once again notable in the background, and in this
one, the high voice parts are especially good. The harmony added
to the solo line is also good. The whole thing works, as a result
of the group working well together.
I didn't like the "echoing vocals" in the second verse.
This song has a lot of potential, and I've heard better arrangements. Their
timing isn't perfect, as with most of their songs, and for this song to work,
that timing is critical. If a note is held out too long, or not attacked
strongly, it just doesn't work. The blend on the harmony on verse 3 could
have been better, too.
This would have been wonderful....if I hadn't heard Danny's Song five tracks
prior. As it is, it's too similar to the former to break any new ground.
This doesn't take away how WELL the song was performed, and as a musician,
I found it very moving...I just would've saved it for the next album.
I really hate this song, but a well-sung tune is a well-sung tune. There are
also some interesting background figures that make this arrangement even a bit
better than the original tune.
Nice effort. The solo sounds good — a little strained on the
verses, but clear on the choruses which are higher. GO figure. The
flute obbligato is excellent, but the high tenors underneath it are
too strident and detract from the instrumental sections.
This is my favorite track on the album (but it has some close
competitors). It rocks. It moves. The cutoffs are tight, the
claps are on, and the full choral sound the group achieves is great.
The blend is seamless. The solo is good, the background is good,
and the percussion, dynamics, and energy are all there. This
is how this fun song should sound.
I couldn't make out the lead vocals very well, but the arrangement
was pretty cool.
FUN, FUN, FUN!!!!!!!!! It had a great beat, and you can dance to it.
Bouncy rock-type number pretty well done. Bet it's a better concert piece.
This is a nice, goofy song. The first tenors don't sound on during
the verse, but the the verse, but the choruses are fun and the
soloist has a nice voice, though I would have mixed him louder
This is a surprisingly good arrangement of a really good song. I
didn't think that this song would translate well to a-cappella, but
it works because it is not a strictly imitative arrangement. It is
still a pretty ballad, but the unexpected percussion helps to keep
it moving. The solos are smooth, and the sound is full.
They did a good job on the verses in keeping the feeling
of the original James Taylor song, but the refrain just didn't sound right
at all. There were plenty of pitch problems, and the soloists tended to have
too much of a trained voice sound, rather than a nice soothing folk voice.
Their signature....as it should be. Harmonies, rhythm, dynamics....all
exemplary. One would hope this was their last song recorded, as it might
have made for a very moving moment for the group.
Pretty ballad. I like the switching leads, but the percussion strikes me as a
This song embodies the spirit of Safari: inconsistent. The dueted
choruses are not good at all. The first soloist is
okay. The percussion is particularly nice, and I love the soloist
who sings the verse with "geese in flight and dogs that bite"
segment. The second and third soloists of the song are both good but
very different — I would not have put them back to back. I like the
second better for pitch and tone etc., but the 3rd sounds more like
JT. The background is well done and stays interesting, but those
darned dueted choruses keep the song from achieving true success.