Total time: 39:29, 16 songs
This mixed group shines on vocal jazz material. The voices are well-suited
to it, and the arrangers seem to have a special place in their heart for
it. They're somewhat less successful on high-energy rock and pop;
something's missing in the Blood, Guts and Naked Fire department when they
try a real rocker. When they stick to other, less demanding pop (i.e. for
the second half of the album), they do sound great. For such a relatively
young group (5 years old), this is a good effort overall.
Rating: 6 (6.5)
I don't know which bothers me more about this album, the problems with the execution, or the lack of inspiration in the song choices and arranging.
The sound of the group is generally muddy, caused by murky, sloppily sung arrangements, and a dull sounding recording. They also fall into the trap many big college groups run into: the sound is often very choral — too much vibrato, too dark of a sound, and overdone enunciation. The men are barely audible in some songs. The soloists? To be completely honest, I generally didn't notice them all that much. The group is just sloppy, having numerous problems with pitch, timing, etc.
Aside from the performance problems, the album is just
plain mundane — even if all of the songs were performed
flawlessly, we'd still be left with a dull end result. I can't
say there's anything on here that I haven't heard before. The
song choices are unoriginal, as are the arrangements (90% of the
background parts are "Doo."). There is no conception of style -
the group doesn't seem to know the difference between jazz, pop,
or classical music. "Swing" and "Groove" don't seem to be in
their vocabulary. Their repertoire is way too ballad heavy — the
group seems to enjoy hearing themselves sustain chords endlessly.
And on the up-tempo numbers, there is no energy. Overall, I found
the album a dreary and tedious experience.
Rating: 3 (3.2)
For the most part this group is very laid back with a breathy sound, yet some surprisingly avant garde arrangements. A lot of the songs combine a jazz-choral style with breathy alternapop solos a la Jill Sobiol or Deep Blue Something. It's a strange mix, but in a lot of places it works. Because of the sophistication of their arrangements (not all of which work, but still) I guess I would have expected more precision and a tighter sound — for most of the songs the four parts sound all ok by themselves, but they never really came together as a chord even though they're being sung at the same time and in the same rhythms. They make good use of this split effect at times, putting the men low on a two note chord and the women playing over top. For the most part when they try to overcome this it backfires, plus the women sound vibratoey, overambitious and not quite in tune. But twice on the album it all comes together and they really stand out: the last chorus for Take A Chance on Me and How High the Moon.
There are some really neat a cappella ideas in this album;
unfortunately the execution isn't good enough to show them
off, and I'm at a loss as to how to explain how it could be
fixed. Most of the time when something is well-executed, it
becomes pleasant and innocuous and nice (in the genuine sense
of the word and not its other implications) but fails to
inspire. A pity, because there are some really worthwhile
arrangements in there, with all sorts of rhythmic and harmonic
overlays that fill in the sound and make more parts or vocal
Rating: 6 (6.3)
This album contains an easily recognizable set of songs
from several musical eras, to appeal to a variety of tastes.
What they really could use is a no-holds-barred, rocking,
foot-tapping song. Overall, Uptown Vocal does some nice work
on this album. They are still a little rough around the
edges; in particular their group entrances and group exits
tend to get a little sloppy. But they have the potential to
be very good if they tighten up a bit.
Rating: 6 (6.6)
A nice try by a young group, this cd shows their potential
but unfortunately fails to develop it as much as it could.
This is partially due to the recording quality, which is poor
to awful, in most cases sounding completely unproduced, with
people all over the place in space, some sounding really far
away from the microphones and some closer, but no one really
jumping out at you. One nice thing about this group, however,
is that they don't oversing; as a result the women have a nice
delicate sound without being weak, whereas other co-ed groups
I've heard the women tend to blast. Another is that when their
arrangers are on they have some good ideas, most of which the
group can't quite carry out, but I give them credit for coming
up with them nonetheless.
Rating: 3 (3.6)
The fact that they use this snippet to frame the album
indicates further to me their heart is with the jazz
side of things. It sounds pretty good, with a nice solo
scat. My only comment is that I wish they'd done a
whole version of this song, not just a snippet. Ah,
well. Always leave 'em wanting more, I guess...
We only get half of the melody on this one? Well, I
guess it's supposed to be some kind of Intro thing. The
opening note starts off out of tune, so right off the
bat, your ear is trying to find something to grab onto.
The backgrounds are positively spartan — simplicity can
be a good thing, but this arrangement is just naked.
(Oh, and it was written by Duke Ellington and Billy
Strayhorn, not just Ellington as listed in the liner
Real horns are better than fake horns in part because of
their tuning imprecision, I know. But this is a little
more than people have in mind — the whole thing just
doesn't sound in tune.
Given the group name and album title, this is a cute
idea for an opener. It is brief and gets the point
A little snippet — okay, but nothing to write home
about. Repeated at the end, inexplicably so because
it's exactly the same, and it didn't get more exciting
in the interim.
Parts of this song have the necessary energy to
approximate the original, but on the whole I'm pretty
unsatisfied. There's an interesting jazz-chord intro
that works pretty well. The soloist has a weird reverb
on her that doesn't do it for me, and she doesn't have
the desperate sound that I think a Melissa Etheridge
song calls for. Not the best choice to open an album;
maybe "Good Lovin'" or "Night & Day" would have been
This is one of those songs where the intro has nothing
to do with the song that follows: the beginning sounds
like a bad Manhattan Transfer knockoff, which is
followed by a bland pop song. Was the original really
done by Melissa Etheridge? You'd never guess from this
anemic arrangement. The recording is kind of nasty, too
— the soloist's voice distorts in some of the louder
Jazz intro with madrigal accent is a little weird, again
doesn't sound quite in tune. From there it sounds
pretty good, but it's a wee bit fast. The solo has a
good tone like the Melissa Etheridge, but no emotion.
This is a problem, I think. Background does a good job
of coming across as more complex and more full than it
This is a great choice of song. Unfortunately, the
beginning is really weak, but the song vastly improves once
the group picks up the regular tempo. The arrangement is
good, the performance could be tighter.
Beginning is ridiculous and unnecessary, but then it
breaks into an overly busy and strange arrangement of
"ba-bap-ba"'s which is somewhat helped by the decent
percussion. Soloist sounds like the verses are too low
for her; she proceeds to quaver, rush and blare through
Being used to both the hyperactive McFerrin version and the rockin'
original, this threw me off at first but I grew to like it. This has more
of an easy groove instead of an urgent feel. The soloist has a nice lazy
sound while also having an edge in his voice that sounds great. The
background syllables need a little work; "bah doo bah" doesn't always sound
natural for the notes & rhythms being sung. Also, the pause and spoken "One
two three" seemed thrown in instead of being the climax of the song. Maybe
a bigger crescendo right before it and a longer pause?
The delivery is almost clinically precise — it's like
listening to a synthesizer piece that's had all of the human feel quantized
out of it. This is about as square and bland as you can get — it's that
"King's Singers trying to do Rock'n'Roll" kind of sound.
This is actually kind of cool, in a strange
surrealist sort of way. I mean, no soul, syncopation or
anything, but the new rhythm and occasional locked jazz
chord give it a trendy, alterna-feel that surprisingly
This song has a good tempo and good energy, but
the arrangement is too pretty to carry the punch that this
song really needs.
Starts out slightly underpace and only gets slower,
with a choral and completely rhythmless arrangement (I
mean, I know it's the Rascals, but c'mon, people!), only
the chorus slightly amuses with exceedingly high female
echoes. Solo seems to think that he's auditioning for
the Allman brothers (i.e., excessively country).
Even though otherwise it's an okay version, I can't get past the tuning
problems in the accompaniment figure at the beginning (and every time the
figure comes back). The soloist also doesn't have the fire of Annie Lennox,
which this song really calls for. I found myself wishing for a more energy
and precision throughout.
The beginning of this one is so exposed -
two singers, with virtually no reverb; very risky, and it's just not solid
enough here. I didn't like the harmonization of the melody at the
beginning, or the fact that the melody started out with a male voice, then
switched to female. The arrangement alternates between sections that are
overly sparse and overly cluttered.
Kudos for not rushing this one. The jazz-inspired arrangement does
little for me, and the solo has occasional glimpses of extreme
niftiness but mostly comes up short. She's at her best when she uses
a smooth, full head voice, but most of the time she tries to push into
a light chest voice that I think is misguided. Actually, I take half
of that back about the arrangement. I've heard a lot of versions of
this song and this one has some way cool ideas in it, but the
execution isn't there and I question whether it would sound good as a
whole if it was.
Overall, this cover is pretty wimpy. The soloist has a
very nice voice, pretty and clear, but could be much stronger.
The background tends to fade out in order not to overpower
Soloist has a lovely limpid voice — she's the
only person I've ever heard on this song who is not only not annoying to
listen to but actually enjoyable, even though she is too slow throughout the
entire song. However, points are deducted for the arranger choosing to leave
out the climactic "woo-yeah" part on the chorus. Arrangement is nice,
particularly in the beginning (although it becomes weird and murmury on
the bridge), but they are unfortunately unable to nail the notes. The choice
of a horribly out of tune male to sing the key title echo was a very bad move.
A fair number of chords here and there aren't quite in tune, which is a bit
jarring. Aside from that, this is a very pleasant arrangement with a good
Oh, sorry. That should be "_Caaahnt_
Help Falling in Love." This has to be one of the most drippy,
self-indulgent performances I've ever heard. The song is a borderline
snoozer to start with, but this arrangement pushes it way into drowsy
territory, with its glacial tempo. The group's operatic sound and
ostentatious diction make the song sound completely pompous.
This sounds like a not quite up-to-snuff English choir. Accent and all.
"Con't" help falling? In New York? The group sounds disjointed — all
four parts are solid enough, but the chords don't lock, they don't sound
This is a soft and soothing group number. The group
blends well on this one, with good dynamics. There
are a couple of voices, however, that anticipate each
entrance too much.
They have some _really_ nice chords here, but the
arrangement would be better served if their blend were
better, and if they didn't enunciate so oddly. The
bridge is overly quavery on the women's part, but
overall this is actually a fairly interesting idea for
This one doesn't work for me. The arranger tried to mix other Simon &
Garfunkel songs in amongst the verses, which wouldn't normally turn me off,
but the transitions are awfully abrupt. In addition, the rhythms of the
inserted songs don't all fit where the arranger put them; for instance,
"Are you going to Scarborough Fair" requires three extra beats to be put in
between two lines of a verse. This just disrupts the flow of the song for
me. Some of the insertions work, but often they either don't fit well or
the singers cut off the last note unnecessarily abruptly.
If this arrangement didn't have all the extra beats in it, it would have
been quite nice.
Having the backgrounds made up of fragments from
other Simon & Garfunkel songs is a creative idea, but many of the songs
used are quite a stretch. The overall effect is very choppy and only
distracts the listener from the original song.
This sounds pretty good, though I actually could have gone for a
little faster tempo. Good job arranging the guitar chords for voices.
Ooh, though, I don't care at all for the miscellaneous Paul Simon song
snippets that flood the background. A) they're misplaced and ruin the
mood and B) half of them don't rhythmically fit. I know it's a long
song, but I could have used it straight. I liked the choral effect
with the sopranos high on the "and the sign flashed out its warning"
verse — maybe they could have done more with that through the
framework of the actual song.
I like the song choice and I like the performance, and
I love the arrangement, with short samples of many Simon
and Garfunkel songs interspersed. Very clever, and it works.
The two male voices blend quite nicely.
Interesting arrangement with again some nice
chords, and echoing other Paul Simon songs, some of which work ("59th
Bridge Street Song (Feeling Groovy)" and "Slip Sliding Away" are quite good)
and others which flop miserably ("Me 'n' Julio"). Again the soloists have
strange and inappropriate timing and enunciation. I give the group credit,
though, for trying to pull this off.
Strong soloist, serviceable arrangement, no tuning problems, smooth blend
on the jazz chords... this is the kind of music this group does best.
Impressive, frankly. If I were to wish for more, I'd want more interesting
stuff in the background, but you know, the soloist carries the song just
fine without it. Thumbs up.
Wow, we're talking new heights in cheese here. I
actually laughed at some of the background parts,
they're so cliché. The soloist is simply
annoying, and the rest is, well...it's got about as much
soul as Howdy Doody. The group doesn't really seem like
they understand what jazz is supposed to sound like (see
comments for track 15).
Nice, mellow background, interesting but subtle and quite together.
Too bad it's got that solo — she does odd shadings that don't work,
is a bit off-pitch in the first verse and has overall the wrong
coloring for a solo that spends so much time on one note.
What stands out in this song is obviously the soloist.
She has strength and substance and handles the song well.
The song is jazzy, but that one note that dominates it gets old
after a while. The background arrangement is a bit thin, but
maybe it sounds that way in comparison to the strength of
Soloist's voice starts to become unbearable after about
the third line — it sounds too much the same, no matter what she's _supposed_
to be doing. She also doesn't quite have enough control for this song. We
all know that it's nice to have someone in your group who sounds like a
forties jazz chanteuse, but if she isn't _that_ stellar, there's really no
need to foist her on us for an entire song. Background is so quiet that they
might as well be completely inaudible, but what I can hear sounds nice.
A bit too much reverb on the soloist. He's got a good voice for this; not a
Billy Joel knockoff at all, but with an edge of his own that fits nicely
here. Background is a smidgen sloppy in spots, and says "doo" a few dozen
times too many (feel free to suggest a syllable change to your director
here or there, folks!), but all in all, pretty nice.
Not quite as pompous sounding as track five
(probably due to the fact that most of the group is singing "Doo" for the
entire song — and it's kinda hard to over-enunciate "doo"), but
approximately as slow. The backgrounds are almost all half notes. If
you're looking for the musical equivalent of watching paint dry, this is it.
Solo has that Rembrandts alternasound that can have
some cool moments but in others sounds like (and
probably is) vocal weakness. He does a good job with
what he's got. Background basic, nice.
I love the arrangement of this song, and the group
performs it with nice blend and nice balance. Also a
very nice performance by the soloist — smooth and
emotional. Well done.
Very weird beginning that I can't make heads or
tails of. Then the soloist comes in — at times he's
amateurish-sounding, for the most part he's tolerable,
but he doesn't sing it with the amount of sincere
emotion you need to make this (cheesy) song work.
Arrangement is fine when they just do the plain soft
chords, but when they try to get fancy it backfires,
sounding too crowded. The end is both rushed and forced.
The complex rhythm in the background isn't always together (especially in
the first few measures). The first soloist doesn't have the oomph of an
Indigo Girl, but when the second soloist comes in the energy picks up.
Occasional tuning problems in the background show through (e.g. at
1:42-1:45). On the plus side, the energy of the song does come through, and
arrangement recalls the original pretty well.
The soloist misses her very first note! What's
with that? Guys, you were only eight seconds into the song — was it too
much trouble to go back and fix that? The second soloist has a really
harsh, nasal sound. The group has trouble keeping the intricate rhythms
locked together. Honestly, I'm getting really sick of hearing this song
done a cappella (although this isn't the worst arrangement I've heard).
Very Jill Sobiol first solo, light, airy, never bears down. Good arr
for first verse, chorus. Bridge after first chorus icky: overcrowded
and overbearing, vibratoey. Second verse continues this trend, with a
muppety second solo who should have been left as an obbligato. Third
verse nice again. Nice bits sound great in contrast to that middle
stuff, but by itself I guess it would have been bland. Hm. Great ending!
While this is a good song choice, the tempo seems
to speed up after the song starts. The first soloist is light and
easy, then the second soloist comes on too strong in
comparison. But they do even out as the song progresses,
and overall, it is not bad.
First soloist has a nice voice, although she's a
little unsure of herself, the low harmony is nice but when the second soloist
takes over the melody, she overcompensates by attempting to be brash and
failing. Arrangement mildly horrific, and certainly loses points for losing
the main riff of the song in the background, the "na na na na na na" part.
Loses it towards the end — they should have quit while they were ahead.
Disappointing in that the chords don't seem to be the original CSN chords;
they don't seem to have as many suspensions as they should. I do like the
arranger's concept of just the vocals carrying the song minus all
accompaniment. The rhythmic changes from the original didn't always make
sense to me; I would have preferred strict adherence to the original's
rhythms given the big changes made to the other aspects of the song.
Another ballad taken way too seriously. Guys,
just because you can sound pretty on long sustained notes, that doesn't
make it interesting. This one basically covers the same ground as tracks
five and eight again.
I like this one. Suits their voices very well. I
also applaud their decision to let this one mostly well
enough alone and not really screw with the song
Solid choral number. Good use of dynamics and nice
harmony. Group entrances could use some work, and the
silent gaps leave me hanging, even if only for a second.
Standard arrangement (there is basically only one
thing one can do with this song, and it _has_ been done to death)
distinguished only by weird timing/enunciation choices. Not badly sung,
however, but penalties for severe lack of originality.
Aha! More vocal jazz! Live, even! The women shine on this one; strong,
strong stuff. A couple of not-quite-simultaneous cutoffs on this one (e.g.
"cottage") are the ONLY things I could find wrong (big deal). Great job!
Opening soloist sounds like she's trying
to do a Minnie Mouse impression — very shrill and shaky (with some major
pitch problems). Actually, the whole song is piercing and warbly. Some of
the voice leading is pretty nice, but the phrasing kind of ruins it. One
of the better arrangements, but one of the weaker performances.
There's that vibratoey, not quite in tune jazz woman again with an all
over the place intro. She must have just not recorded well — to give
her the benefit of the doubt I can see how she'd sound better live.
Women only choral/jazz thing that just doesn't sound right
The first live cut on the album, and another old song.
Rich harmony, but the soprano voice stands out. The song
is sung with feeling and energy.
Soloist is gratingly over-vibratoed, but luckily
short-lived. Blend is terrible on this song (probably because it's a live
track) — I can hear the ex-soloist sticking out throughout the entire song.
This is pop they handle well; it doesn't require screaming or wild abandon,
just good singing. The walking rhythm in the background is suitably catchy,
and the male & female soloists sound very good together. Some of Paul
Simon's syncopation in the lyrics seems to have been "straightened", but I
admit it's pretty hard to keep up with Simon in that department. Quite good
on the whole, and it has a fine sparse ending to boot.
OK, Paul Simon is pretty cool, but two of his
songs on the same album? Normally I'd complain about an arrangement this
conventional, but I guess I'll take conventional over problematic. On many
groups' albums, this would be filler, but on this one, it has more energy
and less problems than most of the other songs.
Very laid back, almost calypso-rhythmed version, although not sung
calypsoey. Nice arrangement, decent solos and acceptable tuning, very
light presentation, sound seems to float almost. I like. I do wish
the two solos had taken some risks with the bridge in the middle —
there's so much going on there in the original and they sing it _so_
straight. This is ironic given Uptown Vocal's pattern of rhythmically
interesting arrangements, and given the fact that their background
does a great job of working with a repetitive guitar hook from the
This is really a great song, and here it is arranged
really well. The background is light and energetic, and the
song keeps moving. It got me dancing along. Great working
together as a group on this one.
Even more badly recorded than the rest of the
album, it sounds like the song hasn't even really started yet, even in the
middle. Arrangement also lacking, sounding very choppy and all over the
place, particularly on the chorus which needs to rock a little, whereas here
it just sounds slightly louder and less in control. Completely wrecks the
point of the entire song which is the beautiful harmony in the verses, by
changing the top line much for the worse and singing it too much in chest
Oh, dear. Abba. I still don't understand the need of groups to go for
really cheesy Bee Gees or Abba pop, but you know, they actually do this
rather well! The lead women are really strong on this. My main nitpick is
that the background must be having a hell of a time saying 'take a chance
take a chance take a chance' at this speed. While I understand the urge to
keep relevant words as the accompaniment figure, I think the background
would have sounded less frantic/strained if they'd had some other syllable
or if the song were slower.
I don't have any big complaints about this one, I
just think the original is a really stupid song. This arrangement reminded
me of the Lone Ranger theme (I guess that's kind of inherent in the song,
but it's accentuated here). The spoken lines are ridiculous; they're SO
corny. At least the group finally has a little energy.
I like this song. Even when performed with some
pitch problems, it still puts me in a good mood. That
weird alternative-yet-choral sound does quite well on
the chorus. And I really like the solo, particularly
when she backs off and digs in to this rich smooth
sound. Very nice job with ending "a cappella" last
chorus — quite tight, good voices, great blend,
everything you could want from this song. Too bad they
only snapped into that for the end, but the rest was ok
and they deserve a good rating.
This song moves. Good tempo, and kept up well,
without rushing through it. This is a fun song, and the group
obviously has fun with it. Nice solos.
Completely static and boring arrangement, the women
soloists almost rescue it but in the end fail to muster enough chutzpah to pull
it off. Low soloist is particularly nice but we can hardly hear her. Their
rhythm also gets off in several places.
Who cares how this song stacks up musically? It's live comedy! Am I going
to look for musical problems? No way. Hilarious. 'Nuff said.
This one's actually kinda funny (although I
didn't find it nearly as funny as the audience they performed for. I don't
know, maybe the group was dancing around or something). Basically, all of
the payoff is in the lyrics — the music is just a simple melody over some
This is pretty amusing, and musically good except for the ending
chord, where enthusiasm and laid-backness has undone the tuning.
Quite understandable in a live number like this.
Great bassline, great oompa rhythm This song is
light and funny. Very entertaining, and recorded live, which
really adds to this particular song.
Actually pretty funny. The singing is only
tolerable, but I'm sure it's better than Denis Leary's.
They get the timing right for the most part, though, and
it works better than most comedy bits on collegiate a
Not quite perfect; some chords aren't quite locked at the beginning and the
very end, but that's about the only problem. Very nice lively scat section
in the middle based on Charlie Parker's "Ornithology". Nice arrangement
overall, well executed, with a strong soloist.
Starts out sounding like a ballad, then a
"high-hat" part comes in...and it sounds like a ballad with a high-hat
behind it. The lack of a walking bass line or other rhythmic action places
this arrangement closer to Easy Listening than to Jazz. The tune finally
picks up when they go into Bird's "Ornithology" at the end, although the
soloists don't seem to have much of a grasp of what syllables to use for
Ooh, this is nice — the women are full but not
vibratoey, and the group sounds more linked, less
breathy, and overall stronger. Even that soprano who so
annoyed me in A-Train and
Night & Day turns in a
good performance; it all comes together for this song.
I don't get it, but I'm sure as hell not complaining.
Very nice job, guys.
Yet another old song. Beautiful harmony and very
effective percussion in the first half. Scat section is good, but
could use a little more variety in syllable used. A nice
showcase of the group's choral work.
Pretty standard arrangement of the first half,
relatively well sung though, the women have a nice blend. Some
microphone noise is obtrusive. The second half is pretty good
although the soloist rushes a little, and leans a little on her
vibrato when she doesn't need to. Not bad, however.
See track one.
I guess we never get to hear the rest of the head on
this one. It's just a verbatim repeat of
track one (you can tell from the
out-of-tune opening note). Not a strong ending for the
album (or a strong beginning, for that matter).
See track one.