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Auf die Ohren (2001)


August 12, 2002

Tuning / Blend 5.0
Energy / Intensity 4.7
Innovation / Creativity 4.3
Soloists 4.0
Sound / Production 5.0
Repeat Listenability 4.0
1 Der Sammler 4.0
2 Barbiepuppen 4.0
3 Schlaflied 4.7
4 Domina 4.7
5 Gib ein Stück von Dir 4.3
6 Think Tank 4.3
7 My Angel 4.7
8 Siebter Himmel 4.0
9 Marlene 4.7
10 Sofa No. 2 4.0
11 Medlenium 3.7
12 Marlene (Marathonmix) 4.3
13 Schlaflied (Marathonmix) 4.3
14 Siebter Himmel (Bösenberghofmix) 4.0

Recorded 2001
Total time: 53:50, 14 songs

Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 5
1 Der Sammler 4
2 Barbiepuppen 4
3 Schlaflied 5
4 Domina 5
5 Gib ein Stück von Dir 4
6 Think Tank 5
7 My Angel 5
8 Siebter Himmel 4
9 Marlene 5
10 Sofa No. 2 5
11 Medlenium 4
12 Marlene (Marathonmix) 5
13 Schlaflied (Marathonmix) 5
14 Siebter Himmel (Bösenberghofmix) 4

Recipe for Maybebop: start with a helping and a half of Die Prinzen's quirky, toe-tappingly contagious energy, stir in the creamy smoothness of The Blenders, add a pinch of the New York Voices' scatting, season with the air-tight production values of Canada's Cadence; serve over sweet melodies. And be certain to serve hot.

I don't speak a word of German, and Maybebop does not include translations for ethnocentric Americans. This makes interpretation a bit harder to judge. But, even without the three English language tracks, the music was completely enjoyable, even in gibberish (i.e. any language I don't speak). I even entertain the fantasy that somehow, sufficient repetition of the disc will result in my waking up fluent. (Fluent in what? Germans imitating Americans imitating Brits imitating Americans...)

Purists beware: a few tracks have non-a cappella percussion and a number use sampling/synth techniques even on the upper voices. But for a cappella-heads, there's plenty of "mundperkussion" (VP), including a guest appearance by The House Jacks' own VP extraordinaire, Wes Carroll. (If you think about it, you'll see that The House Jacks are, in fact, the David Hasselhoffs of a cappella: both based in California, both eerily handsome, both beloved by the German people...Coincidence? You be the judge.)

The medley of American pop songs, Medlenium is a bit sophomoric and a few of the songs are too sickly sweet for my tastes, but the energy, musicality and production values keep the scores sky high on Maybebop's latest. Plus, there is a great shortage of a cappella CDs that you can actually dance to. Thankfully, Maybebop is part of the solution. Another triumph of German engineering.

Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 4
1 Der Sammler 5
2 Barbiepuppen 5
3 Schlaflied 5
4 Domina 5
5 Gib ein Stück von Dir 5
6 Think Tank 5
7 My Angel 5
8 Siebter Himmel 5
9 Marlene 5
10 Sofa No. 2 4
11 Medlenium 5
12 Marlene (Marathonmix) 5
13 Schlaflied (Marathonmix) 5
14 Siebter Himmel (Bösenberghofmix) 5

I can't help but smile as I listen to this album. Even though I can't understand a word they are saying on most of the tracks, even though I can't read the liner notes, I love Maybebop and their album Auf die Ohren.

These guys are fantastic. They are also funny. There is a hysterical vocal solo by Nils in Der Sammler. The soloist totally knows he is hamming it up, as he nearly starts laughing and ends with a rousing roar! There is another great solo by Olli during Domina. Maybebop's harmonies are tight; their blend is superb; their production is flawless and appropriate. Their arranging is simple, yet pleasant and interesting. This is good music, period, language barrier or not. I'm sitting here entranced by an album that I can't even understand.

Along with some great vocal percussion, the group utilizes a real drum set and various other percussive instruments, which gives their sound a really neat texture. Maybebop sounds like a band. They also employ Wes Carroll as guest VP on My Angel.

Their soloists all have amazing, gorgeous voices. This is an incredibly talented group of people, and this album reflects that to the max.

I can picture these guys on a stage somewhere in Germany driving the ladies crazy. Their offbeat feel is reflected in the bright orange artwork and goofy group photo with each guy facing a different way (one backwards). They are cool, yet fun and silly at the same time.

My favorite tracks are the English language tracks, including the mind-blowing Think Tank, the beautiful original My Angel, and track 11, the medley of Say My Name, Bye Bye Bye, Music and Smooth. Medley transitions are often difficult to do, and while the group handles the song skillfully, the songs are so different there is a bit of a jolt as the song changes.

I also enjoyed the remixes, which added musical instruments that funkified the last three tracks of the disk.

I don't care if you don't speak German. This is a superlative album and I can't emphasize any more how good it really is. Spread the international love and buy a copy of Auf die Ohren.

Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 3
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 3
1 Der Sammler 3
2 Barbiepuppen 3
3 Schlaflied 4
4 Domina 4
5 Gib ein Stück von Dir 4
6 Think Tank 3
7 My Angel 4
8 Siebter Himmel 3
9 Marlene 4
10 Sofa No. 2 3
11 Medlenium 2
12 Marlene (Marathonmix) 3
13 Schlaflied (Marathonmix) 3
14 Siebter Himmel (Bösenberghofmix) 3

Strong voices with excellent tuning and blend, interesting harmonies, and arrangements sung with energy and enthusiasm. A slick, glossy disc cover and liner notes (OK, not essential, but aesthetics always help). Why don't I want to listen to this CD again?

Maybebop is clearly capable; even in their less pleasing tracks, I was always impressed by the quality of their block singing. The "hey na na na" opening in Schlaflied and the great chords of its chorus show Maybebop at its best: catchy harmonies and hooks, a sparkly and tightly tuned sound, and an upbeat and energetic performance.

So it's unfortunate that I can't really recommend Auf die Ohren that strongly. It's not really because of the language barrier. As I've noticed with a few other foreign a cappella albums, the songs in Maybebop's native German are inevitably stronger and more fun to listen to than their English ones. It's more about things like Medlenium, a painful compilation of American pop songs with no rhyme or reason as to their selection. While I was impressed by the quality of the live track, the utter lack of soul or grit here left me wanting a lot more. And while there were some nice moments, for every Schlaflied there was a corresponding Siebter Himmel or Think Tank — darker, less coherent songs which fails to jibe with the energy of the group.

I was also disappointed by the mixes at the end of the CD. One would think the nation that originated house techno would have come up with better remixes for the catchy tracks than just layering instrumental bass, percussion and synthesizer over the original. Maybebop has the right idea on a lot of the inputs that add to a great CD, but they'll have to go back to the studio again to make one.

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