Album: Channel 32
Total time: 48:05, 13 songs
This is an impressive debut recording. Extempo is an excellently matched group of four men and one woman. (Is it just me, or is five replacing four as the magic number for a cappella? Must be the vocal percussion . . . ) Mary Jane Jones and Brad Ransom are the two primary leads. His voice leans more toward pop while hers bows toward jazz, but the overall sound of the group always has a hint of both no mater who's singing. The group knows their way around a cover song, but the album is also full of originals. My one complaint with Channel 32 is that Extempo needs to work on their lyric writing skills. Many of the songs can tend to be less than deep or well crafted. In the case of "Every Man (is Everyman)", one of the albums few sour notes, the lyrics are positively trite and spill over with a childish "Feed the World/Why Can't We be Friends" optimism. Fortunately, their music writing is much more mature and I'm sure their lyrics will grow to match the tunes.
On a more positive note, Extempo gives crisp performances of most of the material with some lip smackin' good percussion throughout. The album's highlights include an energetic cover of "Summertime" and the original song "I Remember When" which blends their already catchy pop song with, believe it or not, a fugue.
Channel 32 is produced by Jeff Thatcher. I mention this not
because he's from Rockapella, but because he does a great job with
Extempo. This is one of the best produced a cappella CDs I know.
Rating: 9 (7.6)
A competent enough group, Extempo has some really interesting things
going on at the fringes — the songs that seem like the experiments for them
are the best ones on the album. This says to me that they should take more
risks. The songs that appear to be the mainstream of their repertoire
- jazzy/pop originals that sound a lot like softer
Jacks — are not as interesting in that they don't really break any
new ground, and they're not really good enough to compete with the
existing material. But they definitely have potential, and the songs
that are on are genuinely unique contributions to the genre. They
need to work on their lyrics, though, as they're uniformly cheesy.
Also the bass needs to be boosted on a lot of the songs, as he sounds
very far away and quiet. The percussion needs some effects or
something, as a lot of the time it sounds the tiniest bit lame because
it's too naked. Other than that the background (blend, etc.) sounds
pretty good. A nice debut album that promises more in the future from
Rating: 7 (6.3)
I really enjoyed this album — it doesn't have the slickest production, but the group's focused, exuberant performances, along with some well thought out song choices and pacing made _Channel 32_ a blast to listen to. The group's original compositions are really strong — if anything, I would have liked to hear a couple less covers and a couple more songs written by the group.
My one complaint about the group's sound is that female singer doesn't
always seem to fit in with the rest of the group. She tends to drift
toward a more classical sound, with a lighter tone and more vibrato, which
doesn't match what the men are doing. Also, some of her parts seemed
higher than necessary — even with the guys singing falsetto, at times it
felt like there was a gap between her and the rest of the group. Not a
huge deal (and it seemed to bother me less after repeated listenings), but
something the group can watch out for in future recordings.
Rating: 8 (7.5)
This album is very polished and very professional. I definitely
recommend this effort from Extempo. Vox One look out — with a similar
mix of voices and styles, Extempo is more fun. They are jazzy, they
can hold you with a ballad, and they can rock. One of the things they
do particularly well is vocal "instruments," from electric guitar to
muted trumpet to standing bass, not to mention their rock-solid
percussion. Factor in their perfect blend and balance, and talented
songwriting and arranging, and what you get is one high-quality,
thoroughly enjoyable album.
Rating: 9 (8.0)
the latest extempo album is a blend of contemporary original pop
tunes, some classic rock covers and a couple jazz standards. as i
would expect from a professional group, the songs are performed with
rare pitch & rhythm problems; they're mostly quite solid and
occasionally excellent. what i find relatively interesting is that
the originals on this album are much better than the covers, overall
(the exception being magalenha).
extempo is strong in their delivery, but i often wished that the
soloists would let loose and give me that good ol' fashioned gospel
wailing. i waited for that through the entire album, to no avail.
but listen to every man (is everyman)
& mary mary and
summertime and autumn
leaves & magalenha &
i remember when and you'll hear the
extempo that you love, singing some fresh tracks.
Rating: 8 (6.8)
A kinda-clever tribute to soundchecks. Sadly, it only flirts with the
notion of people's first reaction to them as an a cappella group
("People wonder how we're gonna make the sound . . ."). The brief
bridge where they pull back to just the bass line and layer on the
other voices one at a time is suggestive of a real sound check, but it
could have gone farther. Still, it's a solid, vocal-percussion-driven
tune that serves as a strong album opener.
A cute enough song, if a little too Bobs-like, with the bass
riff from "Day Tripper", but the lyrics try too hard to be clever without
succeeding. Also suffers in comparison to the House Jacks' far superior sound-
check song. The singing isn't bad but Mary, on her section of the solo,
sometimes gets perilously close to being off-key, not to mention over-powering
the mic (something that probably could have been easily fixed).
The lyrics are a bit corny in spots, but it's
generally a clever idea for a song (and an appropriate way to open an
album). There's a wordless section, in which one of the men adds a
falsetto harmony on top of the soprano line (great blend), as well as a
stop-time interlude with a cool bass solo.
This first original song is a nice introduction to the group. It is
solid and steady, and makes me want to hear more.
how come every pro or semi pro group has a song called sound check about
singing a cappella music live and how they don't instruments and stuff?
this is just an observation, not necessarily bad. the obviously borrowed
day tripper bass line is very cool, gives the listener something to grab a
hold of right off the bat. tight percussion, tight little background licks
as well (wa ka dip bow). this song never really lets loose, i kept waiting
for the big screaming wail by soloists bob ahlander & mary jane jones and
was disappointed by its absence.
This is a potent soundscape — lots of spooky breathing and some serious
bass. Good music to pop into your disc man if you want to go running
at night (preferably a foggy night on a poorly lit road.) It's a
shame the lyrics are so trite. The basic point is that we're all
people, each and every one, so why can't we all live in peace with
each other? Good grief . . .
A decent song but a little bit boring — the background never
changes. The solo is fine and interesting enough, but it doesn't really make
up for the background. Ending is too abrupt.
The dark sound and mood (and minor key)
perfectly match the lyrics — an exploration of man's difficulty in getting
along with each other. A sort of samba feel in the bass and backgrounds
propel the song along, although the singing sounds a bit frantic in spots.
Interesting use of an exhale sound as a percussive element.
This track is also an original piece. A wonderful song with a social
opens with a cool & sexy breathing overdub which runs throughout. this is
a really really really good song, as a song, you know? written by bob
ahlander, this song benefits from a great moving bass line (a la bobby
mcferrin) & a sweet solo by mary, in addition to the fact that it's catchy.
all the ingredients of a good song. this song was written perfectly for
extempo, i feel, playing to all the group's strengths. beauty. party.
This is not a tribute to Mary Jane Jones, Extempo's lone female
vocalist (although such a tribute wouldn't be uncalled for). The
lyrics are actually an expansion of "Mary Had a Little Lamb." If they
had approached this material with an "Aren't we clever?" attitude,
this track would have bombed. Instead of striving to be clever,
Extempo's goal is to have fun. And it works.
Once I got over my disappointment at the fact that this
_isn't_ the great Monkees song of the same name, I liked this song well
enough. It is again very Bobsesque, with a little soft-focus House Jacks
thrown in for good measure, particularly the bass (when you can hear him).
But it's catchy enough and although the lyrics aren't fabulous, they're
serviceable. The solo, though, has an unfortunate tendency to sound like the
lead singer of Journey being beaten about the head on the chorus, which is
not pleasant, although he is fine on the rest of the song.
A straight-ahead pop tune with beat-box vocal
percussion, this tune has clever use of nursery rhymes in the lyrics. A
few unexpected twists in the chord progression keep things interesting.
The first thing about this song that really grabbed me was the
phenomenal percussion. Clever lyrics as well as the good beat. Blend
is great — it is hard to pick out individual voices.
i like this one too, although it's a little long. but FUCK this guy can
sing high. amazing. if the song's gonna be this long, the lead (brad
ransom, tenor, who wrote the tune) needs to go a little nuts toward the
last quarter. we've heard the melody, we know it, we like it, now get down
& wail like we know you can. a little looser, babe. still, this is
another catchy extempo adult christian contemporary poppy groovy original.
This optimistic ballad is a well placed break from the vocal
percussion of the first tracks. The lyrics aren't grabbing, but the
bridge section, with Mary Jane Jones singing some jazz riffs under Brad
Ransom's leads, gives the song some urgency.
_Really_ cheesy lyrics mar this soft ballad which is mostly
very Top 40, Boys-II-Men style, but there are some interesting touches to
the arrangement, like the female line on the beginning of the chorus, and
the almost classic rock sound of the part right before the bridge. The solo
is unremarkable. Overall it isn't too bad, but it could have been much
A few nice harmonies, (I liked the bridge, which goes
into minor), but otherwise this ballad is a little on the bland side. The
handclap section at the end was a bit schmaltzy — it's supposed to be the
big finish (with "choir" sounding backgrounds and a key change), but the
overall sound isn't big enough.
A beautifully written and beautifully performed love song. The
tenderness in the soloist's voice conveys the emotion contained in the
another original by brad, not nearly as good as mary mary. i was surprised
to hear pitch problems during the too-long intro and throughout this song
in the solo and backups. the mix of this song also suffered, the claps
sound like they're in a little box, almost synthetic, like the ones on a
tr808 set. this song is just a song, it's music that really doesn't come
alive, doesn't have a life of its own. it's a skipper.
The percussion on this album (produced by Rockapella's resident beat
box Jeff Thatcher) is top notch. It is ironic then that I'll be
pointing to this song as a prime example of how to do a high power
arrangement without relying on percussion (or using it at all, for
that mater) for a long time to come. Mary soars on the lead vocals,
but the real winner here is bass Lowell Stewart. He isn't the lowest
you've ever heard, but that isn't what being a good bass is about
anyway. What makes Lowell so good on this arrangement is the absolute
precision he sings the percussive slap-bass line with.
An interesting take on this beginning-to-be-overdone song,
on which no else has deviated from the standard version by as much as a jot.
They could have gone even farther with it, particularly the solo, who could
have improvised a little more. She also again has a slight tendency to lose
control when singing out, which is unattractive-sounding. The scats are
fairly good but not outstanding. Overall a nice version that really makes the
song their own.
A groovin' rock'n'roll version of the Gershwin
standard. There's a nice harmonization of the melody the second time
around, and some great solos, particularly the first one. The bass sings
some great fills. However, on his improv solo, I wish he would have
worried less about accurately mimicking an instrument and just let the
Though this is not usually one of my favorites, it is nice to hear it
performed with some life! The arrangement is wonderful — it won me
over. Also notable are the great "instrumental" solos.
i heard extempo perform this live, and loved it. tons of energy off the
top, a powerful chesty solo by mary, cool groovin backup parts, great
running jazz bass lines strategically placed through the tune. a total
crowd pleaser. mary does some great improv on the melody for the second
time through, after the admirable solos by bob dave & brad.
This song, with it's quote from "Magic Bus", suggests that Extempo may
be able to offer listeners a taste of the magic The Blenders used to
have before they got instruments and lost their sense of humor.
Unfortunately, after the "Magic Bus" interlude it goes into an
unnecessarily long section of sound effects — radio tuners, sirens,
spoken word. . . Then, as it starts fading out, it suddenly launches
back into "Magic Carpet Ride." Good song, bad production.
Overly clean rendition of a song that is _really_
hard to do _a cappella_ and have it be at all interesting. I like the
interpolation of "Magic Bus" — in fact that makes it clear that they
should have done the opposite (a cover of "Magic Bus" with "Magic Carpet
Ride" thrown in). The other problem with the song is the solo, who sounds
enough like the original to be uninteresting but not just enough like him
to be an impersonation. They should have let Mary sing it or something -
just to be _different_.
A bit of a cheesy song choice — they make it
fun and high-energy, but I would rather have heard them put the effort into
an original or something more obscure. Lots of flangey high "weaow" sounds
and goofy sound effects (subliminal voices, backward sounds) are fun,
A tight cover. The bass is infectious, the percussion solid, and the
sound effects impressive.
this starts with a really cool effect of something that sounds like a
24-track tape being shuttled by hand with the play heads on. cooly.
however, when it kicks into this classic rock cover, it seems to lack any
kind of really originality in the arrangement (until the magic bus
allusion), and it doesn't really rock as well as the original. just kinda
blah. more cool tape shuttling effects after the magic bus allusion, but
then returns to just another cover. also, i felt like the whole song was
buried under a world of effects, to the point that we lost the punch that
may have existed after tracking.
Well, the lyric writing isn't too sappy, I'll give it that. The basic
idea is that the everything is going well for the singer, but he'd
rather be unhappy. Interesting concept, but with all the distortion
and the spoken lyrics it comes off as being forced. The percussion
slams, but you don't get any real angst, pain, anger, or genuine
rebellion from this.
This is one original that is genuinely original-sounding,
despite some slight House Jacks influence, mostly due to the lead's cool
voice and delivery. Over what is basically a drum loop (mixed way up) and
slightly twittery background, he growls and talks his way through lyrics
which would be cheesy were they done any other way. Plus the distortion
effect on him works well. The only part I'm not so fond of is the very end
which is double-time and makes the rest seem like a joke. This song basically
kicks ass — there should be more like it/by him on this album.
The lead vocal sounds very sinister singing in the low
register with some distortion effects. This tune is medium tempo with a
heavy beat and funky wah-guitar type backgrounds. I liked the fast ending,
although the fact that it doesn't really seem to take the tempo at which
it's counted off is a bit disorienting.
The deep, gravelly solo on this track contrasts nicely with the
upper register background parts, and heavy, driving percussion
rounds out this unique original. Catchy ending.
by dave boyce, the percussionist. one of the things i usually love about
extempo, the licks in the background, fail for me here. solo's ok,
effected with some distortion or mid-range eq or something. i find the
guitar-y whiney stuff which is prevalent all over the song to be nothing
more than kinda obnoxious. as soon as i heard the double time part, i just
thought, "no." sorry.
It's slow jazz of the boring variety until the lead
starts echoing lines off of a great vocal trumpet.
After that the arrangement takes on a new life. Lowell
does a great impersonation of an upright bass and Mary
shows off her jazzy side. When it returns back to the
main melody, it actually swings. If only you can stay
awake through the first minute. . .
A more-or-less basic jazz song, this is pretty,
particularly the understated solo and pointillist chords, but again
they lose something when they speed up. The percussion on that section
is rather terrible — he should stick to drum loops, because his high hat
leaves much to be desired. But I like the arrangement on the second half,
with trumpet-like middle parts, and the slow-down is nicely managed.
I was just waiting for this song to kick into
double time — it finally happened, but it seemed like it took forever to
get there. The "trumpet" sound used in the improv is done all right, but
it has been so overused by groups lately it has become cliché
(the fact that the improv is corny and stereotypical doesn't help).
Also, the swung hi-hat rhythms are very square, with more of an accent
on one and three than two and four. The transition back to the slow
tempo at the end is abrupt and awkward, with overly heavy triplet
Soft and gentle, the feel of this song is emphasized by its
positioning after "bluegreen." The understated "standing bass"
provides a wonderful backbone to the song. Effective and well-
executed tempo changes.
actually, this is a pleasure to hear after
bluegreen. just when i felt like effects and pop
non-sensibility were getting this album down, i find
this jazz standard very relaxing and pleasurable.
wonderful bass sound and line. nice little trumpet
solo, as well (i usually HATE that stuff), and a great
great great bass solo. lovin' it. nice solo by brad
over this jazzer.
A cover of the original song, not of the Fugees
remake. The backing vocals are as simple as can be.
Basically, they stay out of Mary's way and let the song
The timing of this cover is unfortunate, as it was
probably written long before the Fugees came out with
their version, so (through no fault of their own)
Extempo looks stodgy singing a more-or-less straight
cover of the original. This is not helped by the
soloist's rather classical treatment of the song, either
— which I would have disliked even if I had never heard
Lauryn Hill's style. In fact, even though this is not
at all a terrible rendition, it's not really good enough
to pull its own weight.
I hate to say this, but this song really sounds
like a mediocre college group. It's nice, but it's mostly soft, sustained
chords drenched in reverb. And the female soloist doesn't bring anything
special to her interpretation.
This track is full of tight , precise entrances and cutoffs. At the
same time strong and emotional, Mary's voice is a pleasure to listen
considering the roberta flack original and last year's monster smash hit
cover by the fugees, hearing extempo do their mellow "doo doo doo" version
(and considering they have a very GOOD vocal percussionist IN THE GROUP,
who was completely absent from this track), they were LITERALLY killing me
SOFTLY with their song. shit! probably popular para los parents.
The distinctive guitar twang from the U2 original sounds a bit silly
here ("diddle liddle liddle liddle"), but this version is all about
the choruses which, with some nice harmonizing on the lead vocal,
An interesting arrangement is marred by
the solo, whose sound is simply too soft and unfocused-sounding to pull of
this song. He tries to make up for this by adding his own parts, but it
doesn't really cut it. The guitar solo imitation is not as egregious as
it could have been, and I still like the rest of the arrangement, although
the percussion is hard to take seriously.
An adequate, though not particularly
imaginative version of the U2 song. Some of the wordless riffs are a bit
operatic sounding. Otherwise, it's well done, just fairly predictable.
The excellent arrangement helps to make this a high-quality
cover. At times the background parts get complicated or difficult,
and are extremely well done.
the thing that people love about this song is one thing, and his name is
bono. he wails. he screams. he's sexy. he's got cool sunglasses. he
doesn't have a last name. and he's not a wuss in front of a microphone.
brad's lucky he can sing so high, but unfortunately he doesn't have the
passion, the raw pleading LOVE. bono sounds like he's crying, in pain, in
agony; brad's effortless gliding on these high notes, although impressive,
is just not right for this angst filled pop rocker. i'm not even gonna
touch the guitar solo thing.
Great percussion of the non-vocal variety.
According to the liner notes, it's all done on a
circular saw blade, some ball point pens, and other
junk, but the sound is surprisingly musical. That saw
blade has a xylophone-clear sound to it. It's all very
well mixed with the vocal percussion and, oh yeah, some
tight singing on this world music track.
The other really good song on the album, again
because it's the least derivative — Vocal Sampling
notwithstanding. The percussion does it for me,
especially when the song kicks in and it starts to sound
like Captain Beefheart. It's also nice and loud, and
(probably because of this) has a great groove. The
solos and the words in general sound good, particularly
the fast parts, although the key change is so invisible
that it makes me nervous.
This festive foreign language number (Portuguese, I
would guess?) features lots of thumpy, driving
percussion (triangle and other "real" instruments).
Great dancing, partying flavor.
This song really rocks. Great rich harmonies,
foot-stomping percussion, and sung in Spanish.
this is the best cover on the album. a carlinhos
brown tune, with bob on lead, actually, this is probably
the best track on the whole disc. it rocks. it gets
better and better as it goes along, and it's funny,
because it's not a cappella and i don't give a shit!
it's a rocker! check 'em out! they're doing really
fast spanish lyrics in tight harmony with super tight
rhythm over HUGE rhythm tracks, it's like a total party
on your stereo. the song is made by the percussion bed,
accomplished with part vocal percussion and part
ballpoint pens, screwdrivers, cardboard boxes, circular
saw blade, half-inch tape reels, and some other shit,
but the vocals match the groove perfectly. this track
is enjoyably different from the rest of the album, and
you can feel the fun they had recording it.
So pure, it floats! A great original! The lyrics
are simple, but well crafted. The charming hook comes
in the form of little afterthoughts at the end of lines
(for example "Together side by side we go, WHO KNOWS".)
The hook recurs in the verses instead of the chorus,
which keeps this song gliding along. There's an
ingenious fugue section that strangely fits right in
with this pop song.
Another Bobs-like background, this one in particular
sounds just like "Rainbird" (complete with Joe Bob's vocal delivery on the
solo), which is probably why I like it. The lyrics could use some help, but
they're barely there against the soft arrangement. The descant is nice, but
the fadeout is way too abrupt, though — it breaks the mood.
A nice 'n' easy jazz waltz — it's refreshing to
hear something like this as a rhythmic change of pace instead of another
ballad. A contrapuntal section recalls the swinging arrangements of Bach
done by groups like Singers Unlimited.
Light and refreshing. I love the "fugue" in this
song — very original and flows nicely back into the tune.
nice. bob sounds very smooth on another of his
originals. the fugue in the middle is written well, but
performed with some mediocrity, unfortunately. but the
mood of the song is pleasant, and it glides along with
the aid of lowell's ever-solid bass track. he's cool.
they're all cool. i love 'em. i do. i really like
this track, and bob's writing in general.
If the Contemporary A cappella Newsletter ever did a
pictorial on "The Reviewers of RARB" and if I was
subsequently chosen as the centerfold model, I would
have to list religious music as one of my big "turn
offs". But, that aside, this musical treatment of
"Blessed are the meek . . . " has a simple appeal. It
comes off as sounding like the long lost a cappella
number from "Godspell". The only real problems are that
Bob and Mary each sing the number almost all of the way
through, so it's a bit too long and there's also too
much echo throughout.
An original spiritual. The main solo has a slightly
interesting tone, but the arrangement gets old fast — it
doesn't change, and the chords, while nicely crunchy at
times, aren't that spellbinding. The whole song sounds
like it's about to break out, but it never does. They
should have at least done a call-and-response with the
male and female soloists.
A slow gospel number — personally, I was ready for
some hand clapping and foot stomping, but they didn't
kick into an up-tempo jam like I had hoped. The
reverb/delay they used has an awful lot of high end -
F's and S's really jumped out in the echo, which I found
distracting. Generally a nice track, although I would
have preferred a more energetic ending to the album.
A light spiritual, simple and repetitive. The style of the music
reflects the simplicity of the message.
this is the most overtly religious of the songs,
another bob ahlander original adapted from the new
testament. it's basically a gospel thang. solid.
i'd've loved a percussion track to have entered
somewhere after the first verse. somebody just wail!
please! get off! get down! jump off the altar and get
down on your knees and get down with the spirit of the
southern baptist gospel tradition that r&b was
founded on! get up!