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RARB Review

School: Brown University
Group: Brown Derbies
Album: Hat Trick

Recorded 1992


  1. Brown Sheep
  2. Please, Please Tell Me Now
  3. Road To Nowhere
  4. Love Potion #9
  5. Wonderful Tonight
  6. Boogie Down
  7. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
  8. No Reply
  9. Centerfold
  10. Can't You Hear Me Knockin'
  11. A Little Respect
  12. Against All Odds
  13. Love The One You're With
  14. Changes
  15. Hungry Like The Wolf
  16. Brown-Eyed Girl
  17. Black or White
  18. Chapel Steps

Brown Sheep

(Track #1 is listed as "Brown Sheep", but not everyone put a rating to it... reaction was mixed, from "That voice thing was so cool!" to "Stupid intro")

Please, Please Tell Me Now

Rating: 7.5
Range: 7-8

(Actual title: "Is There Something I Should Know?")

"Pretty tight, good soloist, and lots of energy. The chorus is especially good. The arrangement is very interesting to the ear, but sounds slightly thin on the verses...I like the sound effects, too."

"Very Cool, with interesting effects, thought the basses are a bit loud"

"Derbies open with this upbeat song with a great solo from Rick Cusick. Solid background parts."

"The ensemble in the staccato background is outstanding and the solo strong...The opening chords sounded slightly jagged to me...likely it was a vowel-matching problem."

Road To Nowhere

Rating: 5.8
Range: 5-6

"The beautiful blend in the choral opening carried through the background of the rest of the song. The ensemble was very good despite a difficult background figure."

"Good solo, but after an interesting intro, the song seemed to go nowhere."

"Very pretty and tight during the choral beginning. I liked the chord changes. Solid, but not amazingly exciting — and a little too long."

"Kind of a tedious arrangement to listen to."

Love Potion #9

Rating: 7.3
Range: 5-9

"Nice to hear this song with this dark kind of sound — I finally feel like I understand it. Backing parts keep saying 'Serve it up, drink it down' during the whole song, which gets old fast."

"A very creative arrangement, but it suffers from serious rhythmic problems."

"I love this arrangement, reminiscent of Take 6. The driving bass line is excellent. The tempo seems just slightly too fast for the soloist's comfort. The background figure is very cool."

" *Great* soloist. Tight, interesting arrangement. This song is a good example of the Derbies' doing songs I haven't heard done by a lot of groups, which is one of the things I like about this album."

Wonderful Tonight

Rating: 5.8
Range: 3-7

"I can't stand this song, and I don't think this is a particularly good arrangement of it. I also got the feeling they were relying on mixing to make them sound like they were blending."

"Very nice overall feel. It seems like twilight. The solo is very nice. The basses do a great job with the slight pitch blends and tone..., however a few of the parts in the bass seem very unimaginative and boring."

"Another one of those decent arrangements of slow songs, just sing the background on 'do' and 'ah', mild tuning and balance problems."

"Very true to the original recording. The delicate handling of the lead is quite nice, and the basses spend most of their time singing in their sweet spot. Unfortunately, they scrape bottom in a very exposed place."

Boogie Down

Rating: 8.0
Range: all 8's

"This is an excellent arrangement (a definite candidate for a 1994 CARA). The song has an interesting series of textures and very high energy level, especially for a studio recording. The soloists are particularly good, and good dynamic control balances the various parts quite well. This is my favorite piece on the album."

"I loved the beginning, and the scat is very good. The group is VERY tight here."

"Great Intro! The song really jams, though it needs a little infusion of soul."

"Wow. The beginning is amazing — a jazzy jazz with everybody locking in a catch pattern. I would've loved to hear this WITHOUT words, and just let them scat through more patterns. What they do with it is good though. A definite step above most collegiate jazz efforts."

I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For

Rating: 6.3
Range: 4-7

"I had trouble not comparing this to the Bubs' version — and found it lacking. If they were trying to sound like the original, they failed; and if they were trying to be innovative, it was unconvincing."

"Nice solo, busy background with a tenor part that doesn't seem to fit, but that makes it more interesting. The highlight is the minimal soulful solo work towards the end."

"A complex arrangement, in terms of number of voices, in the style of the original. Perhaps too much so, as the development in subsequent verses is overwhelmed by the repetitive 1/16 note figures until the final verse. The basses have trouble matching pitch on their highest unisons."

"Fun, and it really moves."

No Reply

Rating: 6.8
Range: 5-8

"Nothing wrong with it — just didn't catch my ear very much."

"Well done, but an uninteresting song."

"An arrangement in the style of the Beatles' version, with an outstanding, very non-Beatles', lead."

"With all the playfulness and energy of the original. Very solid, no surprises, with the exception of some nice scatting by the solo in between his words on the chorus. Very bad taste in arranging for a finishing jazz chord — yuck!"


Rating: 7.3
Range: 7-8

"Soloist mixed a little low. Same energy as original, though it doesn't sound as full."

"Interesting background figuration and a good lead. Something seems to be missing, but I'm not sure what. Apart from the bass line, the harmony seems to be just a little too clinical for the lyrics."

"Energetic; tiny pitch problems."

"Great soloist, good arrangement, and LOTS of energy, which is a must on this song."

Can't You Hear Me Knockin'

Rating: 6.0
Range: 5-8

"Okay. Again, no musical problems, but this song just didn't catch my ear all that much. The bridge was cool, though, with some good percussion. The few times the Derbies do use much percussion on this album, it's excellent. I wish they would have used more."

"Fun and exciting, with blend/balance problems."

"A percussion break in the middle provides a nice change of feel. The background once again shows a tendency to swamp the lead at times."

"Pretty standard. Nice latin beat in the bridge. Repetitive verse pattern, in the original song, gets old."

A Little Respect

Rating: 6.3
Range: 4-7

"Great song choice. The Derbies' arrangers try to replace some of the syllable patterns with word phrases, which is effective in creating texture."

"Nice treatment of background figures. The backgrounds tend to overwhelm the lead again, but I'm not convinced this is a bad thing here."

"The soloist is kind of thin on the high notes. The arrangement is very innovative, but it got annoying after a while."

"Really moves, but it's repetitive."

Against All Odds

Rating: 7.8
Range: 7-9

"Very pretty slow song. The soloist could have been mixed a little louder against the back-up."

"A nice job making this (boring) original a tiny bit more interesting."

"This arrangement is very faithful to the original in style and feel. The blend is rich and beautiful, anchored by basses that are well within their most effective range."

"Beautiful imitative arrangement with all of the feel of the original. Soloist doesn't have enough soul and 'oomph'."

Love The One You're With

Rating: 7.3
Range: 7-8

"GREAT HARMONIES. Not crazy about the bass line."

"Another arrangement in the style of the original, fast out of the chute with a bit of metric strangeness during the bridge between chorus and verse. Still, good overall."

"OK solo, killer tenors. Rest is very standard of this song."

"Very energetic, really rocks. Minor tuning problems."


Rating: 7.3
Range: 7-8

"Nice job, kinda cool solo."

"Soloists tendency to speak his solo is annoying, but the rest of this is great — best version I've heard of this song."

"I was thinking that this was a really boring song until they got to the 'ch-ch-ch-changes' part, which translates wonderfully to a cappella. Also a little long."

"Faithful to the original. The solo voice is quite distinct, for a change, with good styling, but once again with a tendency to short-change the high notes."

Hungry Like The Wolf

Rating: 7.5
Range: 7-8

"A tricky arrangement with lots of 1/16-note background figures and syncopation, but carried off very well with outstanding ensemble."

"Energy, pace is about twice as fast as any other song on this ambum, though the chorus isn't as full as the verses. 'Woman's' moans near the end are pathetic."

"I love hearing Duran Duran a cappella. Could stand to be a little tighter, but very catchy."

"Yet another exciting song from these guys!"

Brown-Eyed Girl

Rating: 5.5
Range: 3-7

"Sorry. I hate this song, too."

"I'm real tired of this song now. This is a pretty good version of it with a good strong fade-out ending."

"Blend between bass voices, especially in upper range, was frequently less than perfect. The syncopated part of the chorus was a bit iffy for lack of accenting. Interesting Latin percussion effects pop up from time to time."

"Not the most interesting version I've heard, but a decent rendition of this time-honored a cappella classic."

Black or White

Rating: 8.0
Range: all 8's

"Very solid. Lots of energy. Good percussion and an unusual a cappella arrangement which is appealing as well."

"Very Cool. Cool song choice, cool arrangement!"

"Great character in the lead voice; vocal percussion used very well throughout the piece. Nice blend in the bass voices on a fast-moving line. The transition into and out of the rap bridge could hardly have been smoother."

"Daring song choice and the Derbies handle it OK, though I'd like it heavier. The soloist, Rick Cusick, is great, and the middle rap section kicks butt."

Chapel Steps

Rating: 5.3
Range: 4-8

"A traditional choral-style arrangement of a traditional Brown tune. The balance, blend, and diction are excellent, but there are several noticeable occasions when various voices can be heard sneaking up on their proper pitches."

"Nice choral traditional Brown song. Nothing exciting."

"Ick. Tuning."

"It's interesting that collegiate groups often do better on hard songs than easy songs (see Black or White). This traditional song is lackluster. Slight chord-locking problems in middle parts. This would be a good song to rearrange."

Average track score: 6.8

Overall Comments

"An excellent production, well performed and engineered. Their blend, ensemble, and diction, are excellent and their arrnagements are uniformly strong. It sometimes seems that the soloists are so used to blending into the sound of the group that they have difficulty stepping out of the ensemble to take the lead."

"A well-sung album overall. Seems to lack the excitement and energy in emotion ewehn singing. Very little percussion overall."

"I'm not that crazy about their choices of songs. While there are some very solid, catchy numbers that I really enjoyed, I just got bored, especially on the second side (of the tape). This is a very tight pitch problems on the whole album. I would say that if you like the individual songs on this album, which are varied but run a little toward the classic rock end of things, go for it."

"I really like the energy these guys have. Much of their disc comprises complex fast-moving arrnagements, very high in energy. Some songs may get a little repetitive, but it's still a fun album to listen to. The mixing is not all that good, both in that the album has somewhat of a 'raw' sound, and in that the basses are consistently mixed too loud. Nonetheless, I went out and bought my own copy after reviewing it, so I think it's a keeper. It does have the distinct advantage of not having any 'slugs' on it."

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