Total time: 69:39, 18 songs
Recorded 5/96 except Track 8 & 16 10/95
The weird thing about the Bear Necessities is that they
seem to be composed mostly of jocks at the one school that I thought
was immune to such a thing. However, that's neither here nor there.
The other thing about them is they're suffering from a severe tenor
shortage. The only person they have who even approximates one is the
boy they borrowed from the Jabberwocks. But they're still doing a lot
of things right, and not just basic things either, but some of the
more difficult ones. Their timing and pitch, for example, are on most
of the time — only when the soloist is horribly off-key do they
(understandably) get pulled off as well. But most of their
backgrounds are solid, workmanlike jobs that would be the envy of many
a group — they don't seem to have any people that can't pull their
weight, which is impressive in a group of their size. They also
manage to keep their energy up admirably in the studio. In fact I'm
almost amazed that they can make their backgrounds sound as good as
they do with no tenors and no real basses to speak of. I'm sure the
effects that they like to dollop so liberally over the recording help
in that area. But they should get the credit for giving the effects
something to work with, which is more than can be said for many
groups. And furthermore, paradoxically enough, the best track on the
album is live ("Streets of Philadelphia"). Now if
they only had some tenors and a soloist or two, they'd be a group to
reckon with instead of just interesting potential.
Rating: 6 (4.6)
Simply a great album overall. Although this is only my sixth album review since joining RARB, the studio recordings have by far the best production and engineering that I have ever heard on a collegiate album. I find that most collegiate albums have equalization problems in the lower frequencies (especially in the bass vocals) and it's sibilant-city in the high frequencies. There weren't any of these problems on this album that couldn't be found on a professional album as well.
A lot of collegiate groups try to throw a little of everything into an album (a little jazz, a little R&B, a little barbershop) which stifles the flow of the album. There is obviously an older rock influence to the group and that's pretty much what they stuck to in their recordings. Nice to see.
Unfortunately, they could have axed the three live recordings (NOT
the vocal percussion demonstration) and the album would have scored
a higher score. I know groups like to show people that they can sing
in the studio as well as live, but an album is not the place to do that if
the sound quality is going to be inferior in the lives cuts. Show them
that you can sing live, during a LIVE show!
Rating: 7 (7.2)
This album restores my faith in male collegiate a cappella. Why? Because so many other men's groups project the image that they think they're this hottest, sexiest, rocking-est thing alive. If they can sing loudly with halfway decent percussion, they think they've reinvented the wheel. If they can slap together an arrangement of the latest radio hit, they consider that an achievement. What makes this group different is that they have a better attitude. Their collective tongues are planted firmly in their collective cheeks. They are clearly having a fun time performing the material, which has the result that you'll have a fun time listening to it.
Oh sure, it's not perfect. There's some live tracks with
unforgivably poor recording quality. I still don't know why they were
included. A well rendered "Broken Wings" and two
great versions of "Invisible Touch" help make up for
the sad live cuts.
Rating: 7 (5.7)
The Bear Necessities sound pretty decent overall, but their big weaknesses are their soloists and their tendency to let their energy get the better of them.
I got the impression that many of the singers don't have any formal training, or even much previous experience singing — not always a bad thing, but in this case, there are some amateurish sounds coming out of the group. There's a fair amount of struggling from the soloists — at least two or three of the songs should probably been lowered a step or two. There's also lots of belting (OK, yelling) - the group gets sloppy and out of control at times. Also, the falsetto singing generally needs work. Arrangements get a bit formulaic - there are some original ideas, but they're repeated in too many songs.
The group shows promise, but just needs to work on the basics like
intonation, and blend, and learn to keep their energy under control.
Rating: 5 (4.7)
Pervasive pitch problems prevent this album from reaching the casual listener. This is a clearly amateur group and recording, and these guys will take a little time to get on their feet and improve musicality.
That being said, if this is the state of amateur a cappella, the art form has a lot to look forward to. "The Bear Necessities Jam" is full of innovative arrangements, improvisation and other departures from the status quo. And energy! When was the last time you heard a studio album that moved?
These guys are not the Tufts Beelzebubs and they know it, but they sing their hearts out and are not afraid to explore new territory. Any listener of this album should remember that, and appreciate these songs for what they are and what they represent, rather than judging them on pure musicality. I can't speak for everyone, but I know I enjoyed this album for its originality and playful spirit. And I far prefer it to another mediocre collection of standards. Everybody's got to learn sometime, and for the outside observer its much more fun to listen to a group grow up on this kind of music than "Who Wrote the Book of Love".
The Bear Necessities are an up-and-coming group just beginning to
find their feet. If they can keep up the spirit and creativity packed onto
this disc, they've got a lot to look forward to.
Rating: 5 (5.2)
For a group with "way too many members" (as they put it),
they shouldn't be sounding so empty. The arrangement is more-or-less
standard for this song, and (to their credit) they perform it less
amateurishly than many groups I've heard. The massive effects on the
soloist fail to hide his flaws, both tonally and pitch-wise. The
percussion is mildly good although perhaps a little overeager. The
bridge is completely, wildly off, but then they recover. One (bad)
syllable riff is too heavily relied on in the arrangement.
A good uptempo album opener. Great consistent vocal percussion
quality, especially in the piccolo snare sound. The lead vocal is mixed
a little low, but suits the style. Other than that, amazing mix. Great
stereo effects, usually absent in collegiate recordings. The lead vocalist
does a nice job. His rhythm is good and his tuning is even better.
I love Seal and I certainly understand why college
groups are drawn to him, but we all know the results of
any covers never live up to the original. I've pretty
much given up all hopes of hearing a great Seal cover.
Still, this one isn't that bad. I like the bass, I like
the vocalist who shadows the lead on some of the
choruses, I like the background "Crazy"s on the ending.
I really DON'T like the high "oooooh wooooo" siren that
opens the cut.
The tempo is a bit faster than the original, which gives
the tune some extra energy. Some nice building sections.
You get the feeling nobody ever told these guys how the
college-guy-a cappella thing is done. Left to their own devices, they
kinda had to reinvent the wheel on this one, and the result is a very
engaging Seal cover that holds the attention, even if you've heard umpteen
college groups and a few pro groups do this song ad nauseum. They start
out by arranging the beginning part that usually gets cut in the
transition to a cappella, and then move into a percussion driven,
wave-of-sound style background. It's got some hitches in it and a couple
of questionable sections (right after the breakdown comes to mind) but for
the most part survives on rhythm. The percussion is very basic, very loud
and keeps a good beat; the solo plays it straight and does fine, and
overall pitch is a cut above most of what's to come. Kudos also for the
best arrangement and execution of the percussion bridge in any cover of
this I've heard.
This wouldn't be half bad if it weren't for the
soloist and harmony, who oversing to the point that they lose any
semblance of being in tune, let alone sounding at all attractive. It's
too bad, because when the solo relaxes you can hear that his voice is
decent — it has a nice raspy edge to it. Again, the arrangement and
background are tolerable to good (although again suffering from _way_
too many effects) — just get the soloist some voice lessons or
Cool stereo vocal percussion effects to open this
tune. Not as hot a cut as the album opener. The lead
vocalist is good, but tends to sing ever-so-slightly on
the flat side of the notes. Hardly noticeable until the
tenor echo comes in. I'm still very impressed with the
consistent sound quality in the vocal percussion.
I hate Genesis in general, particularly the cheesy
80s stuff, but damn it, this song is in good hands here!
A rocking arrangement. They throw every ounce of energy
at the song, but it doesn't come off as typical "loud =
good" male a cappella — they're clearly having too much
fun to come off as obnoxious. The only problem here is
a simplified breakdown section where all of the lyrics,
naked as they are, sound too clipped.
Another song performed a little on the fast side
- lots of energy, very driving. There's a cool antiphonal section where the
rhythm drops out and the melody is echoed back and forth.
I like the way they put one bass on the bassline by himself. He
can sing it and it gives an interesting texture to the mix, rather than
having a whole section in which half can't hit the notes. This track has
the basic structure of any collegiate a cappella 80's cover, riddled with
pitch problems but enthusiastic. The arrangement takes chances — some,
like the great way the rhythm crashes back in after the breakdown, do
quite well. Others, like "ndada zhoon-tao, zhoon-tao" are a little more
questionable. (That's essentially joon-tow, for those who deal better
with phonetic approximations.)
Though I was shocked by their nerve at daring to cover the
House Jacks in the first place, and skeptical of their attempting to
credit one of their own with the arrangement, I must say that they
proved me wrong — they actually altered the original, and not entirely
for the worse. They bring out some of the nicer chords and keep the
percussion, etc. of the original. They could have sung it quite a bit
more sensitively though, and at one point the bass is horribly out of
tune, but otherwise it's a nice effort. The solo is not up to snuff,
of course, being almost there but not quite.
Pretty good tuning at the beginning of the song. Nice sound production.
The vocal percussion production pales in comparison to the first two cuts
on the album. The first soloist needs to work on his pitch integrity on
some of the longer notes. The second soloist comes in right out-of-tune,
but gets on-key after only about a bar or so. The background are
reasonably tuneful and well mixed.
Why oh why cover a song that's already a cappella? And the House
Jacks, nonetheless. That takes balls. Well, they aren't at that
level of singing, but they don't embarrass themselves either. The
only thing they have to add to this track is that they have a lot more
voices to throw at it, which allows them to have some bigger harmonies
on the choruses, particularly at the end. If you haven't heard the
original, you'll enjoy the cover (except for an ill advised and
indulgent improv from the lead). But for pete sakes, go get yourself
a copy of "Naked Noise" while you still can!
The opening choral section isn't quite in tune (same with
ending) — also, the group is yelling a bit. There's a bit of peculiar
sounding falsetto from the soloist on the intro — almost like a weird muted
trumpet sound. Some of the percussion is a bit labored. The chord changes
on this one reminded of me of "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday."
(I don't know if that's good or bad, they just did.)
We knew it was coming. The House Jacks' future hit single "Gone"
has long been a favorite of pro groups looking for easily transcribable
material who think they're too cool to sing Boyz II Men and the Do It A
Cappella soundtrack. Now it's invaded the college circuit, and at least
the Bear Necessities can say they were first. Initial solo does well,
second two are on the wimpy side; Chaikin imitator is quite credible, as
befits his alma mater. As for the background, those extended, high chords
are a bitch to tune, but it probably was a good crowd-pleaser.
The opening percussion is good, but then the whole
background comes in at once underwater and out of tune. They recover
for the most part, but the bass is intermittently on and off
throughout the song. This track would also be ever so much nicer if we
could hear the solo at all. I can't tell if he's trying to cover up
his own vocal flaws or the cheesy lyrics that Sarah McLachlan is known
for. The chorus is nice though, and the mood of this song is a nice
departure for them. Ends awfully abruptly.
The song is built around a series of percussive sounds. Interesting.
Unfortunately, these sounds are mixed a little loud and drown out the
lead vocal in the verses. Aside from that, a neat arrangement.
Where the hell is the lead? He's lost somewhere in the mix. I know
he's singing because I can hear him on the choruses when he has some
people to harmonize with. But where is he the rest of the time? This
strikes me as a song that could do without the vocal percussion.
Some very corny and mechanical vocal percussion start
this one off. The soloist gets lost a bit in the mix, and a falsetto
doubling of the melody doesn't blend well at all. The song doesn't really
build up to anything in particular — it just repeats for a while and then
This is a bitchin' song, I can see why they attempted it.
Unfortunately, it's tough to cover, and tougher for a group that has a
very weak falsetto presence to begin with. On the up side, the "n-na,
n-na" cascades that go over the chords are a nice touch, and the final two
measures of scat and rhythm work very nicely.
It's a good thing that they told us that
this was a live track — we never would have guessed. The godawful
sound and (from the sound of it) about three female audience members
shrieking wouldn't have given it away or anything. What we can hear of
the background is not pleasant, nor is the main soloist who growls
unconvincingly throughout the song. The second soloist is decent and
does some good things, but the guitar solo is entirely egregious and
they should have known better.
This cut is one of four live tunes on the album. Unfortunately, the sound
is not even close to the studio work on this album. Very unfortunate.
Recording live is a totally different situation than recording in the studio.
This particular songs sounds like I'm at a Bear Necessities concert and
listening from the men's washroom. Muffled, echo, low-end noises
(someone kicking a mic stand?). The tuning suffers in this song as well
more in the background vocals than in the lead though.
This might be good if it weren't a low quality live recording.
The recording quality is just horrible — it
sounds like the group is way on the other side of a gymnasium singing
without any mics. The arrangement is way too poppy sounding for my tastes
- sounds like the group reused the background parts from You Can Call Me Al
or something. I had a tough time figuring out what the soloists were
trying to do — they're mostly just yelling (moaning?...caterwauling?...)
and they can't seem to decide what style they're trying to do. And the
scat solo is just dismal.
Nice percussion intro — I wish it had kept up through the
beginning and maintained a larger presence in the rest of the song, though
I fault poor marking for some of that. This is of the "one mike 10 feet in
front of the arch" variety of concert recording, and it doesn't really
help their cause. The song is on the whole very shouty and not a great
repeat listen for those of us who weren't there. I question its inclusion,
particularly since this song is so much lower-quality than the rest of the
The beginning starts out quite well, if a
little bit strange for this song, with some pulsing robotic
percussion, until the solo comes in. His actual voice isn't at all
horrendous, being one of those watery Euro-sounding baritones
appropriate for a New Order understudy, but he sounds like he's he's
trying to fill a giant hall rather than singing into a studio
mike. And then, to add insult to injury, the background promptly
becomes monotonous and generically-syllabled ("bow") for the entire
rest of the song.
The album needed a strong tune to follow Track 5, and this was just the
song. Really powerful vocal percussion opens the song along with cool
arpeggio-like background vocals. The lead is pretty strong on this cut.
There are some intonation problems in the background, but hardly
Again, a quality, high energy performance (although
the percussion is starting to hurt my ears). I'm not
sure what possessed them to cover this song, but they
pull it off. I like the duet sections.
I just didn't like the opening intro — it's
too polite for a rock (or even pop) song. Backgrounds are very static (the
tune is repetitive and generally too long). Basses sound muddy in spots.
There's an odd countoff from the soloist in the middle of the song (what's
he counting off, and why "one, two, one?").
Great intro here — the percussion sounds very polished and the
sequential voicings at the beginning and end are excellently timed and
tuned. Choruses come together well. Verses are weaker, and as a whole the
arrangement seems a bit empty. Solo is really pretty decent — he's at his
best when he lets it out and lets his voice get some rasp and some color,
but I can support his decision to keep a lid on it at times in favor of
more pitch control. Coming back in from the live track production seems
The question this song raised in my mind, namely,
"Have the Bear Necessities found a genuine tenor amid
their massive ranks?" is unfortunately proven false.
Why do they choose songs that go this agonizingly high
when they have to yelp them out? Although the solo's
actually not bad on the verses, it's hard to enjoy them
when one is dreading the chorus. The background is also
not as atmospheric as they'd like it to be, but that's
more the fault of the musical director than the arranger.
Really nice arrangement. The lead vocalist needs intonation work
especially on his pitch integrity. The background vocals are great
and well mixed. Bass and vocal percussion is excellent as well.
The moody intro takes too long to get started, but
once it gets rolling, there's a great solo, cool
percussion (mostly brushes and cymbals), and a bass
section that really holds the whole thing together. As
the track fades out, the soloist comes back at full
volume. Very surprising. Very effective.
Other than an interesting ending, this one just
didn't do much for me. I guess it's adequately arranged and performed, but
it was too predictable to get me excited.
Rhythm overlays in the intro set the stage for the arrangement -
complex, but not too busy. The held chords again are very tough to get in
tune and don't quite make it. Solo does a nice job — he has good tone, and
if he has a tendency to drift out of key at times, he keeps straining to
an absolute minimum, and this is a higher-than-heck solo line. He's backed
by a nice descending echo in the chorus. Here they do a good job of muting
percussion to fit the song, something Ice Cream didn't quite manage.
Solo talks his way through the song,
and the background is unexpectedly empty. He also gets faster and
faster as the song progresses. Clapping to disguise the solo's
inability to do the high part of the chorus, while cute in the
abstract, doesn't work. Overall not worth the space on the album.
Like the first live cut on this album, sounds quality poor, but this
one doesn't seem as bad as Track 5. According to the liner notes
this was recorded at a different hall than Hard To Handle. Perhaps
the acoustics aren't as bad in this setting. There is more presence
to the background vocals. The lead is adequate considering the
circumstances. The arrangement is pretty boring and repetitive.
Another faint live recording. The loudest thing on this track is the
screaming crown and the periodic clapping (from the group).
Although recording quality is a bit
better than track 5, it's still not quite up to par. Handclaps overwhelm
the voices, and balance is all over the place. Also, there are what sounds
like two or three young women in the audience who keep screaming for no
particular reason. The soloist...I guess this is kind of a cop-out, but
the only way I can describe him is to say that he sounds "nerdy." I guess
he just doesn't sell the lyrics like Prince does.
This time the live recording helps them on the pitch side,
muting rather than emphasizing any pitch problems. This sounds like it
was a blast, from the dead-on "whoo-hoos" to the solo to the overall
charisma. The occasional well-timed audience screaming is fun too.
Finally, a soloist who's not
oversinging! He starts out nice and soft, and he actually has a
pretty voice, very smooth and resonant, but he gets warbly when he
tries to push it. But then I always like the soloist on this song -
it seems to bring out an attractive sound on almost anyone. The
background is decent but confused at times, particularly the chorus,
where someone comes in very loudly for no apparent reason, unless it's
to cover the soloist's part.
A really soothing and smooth lead vocal, which is mixed low, but it
suits the song. Other than that. A great cut. Well sung by both
lead and background vocalists. Great vocal percussion and well
produced and engineered.
Say what you will — the Dream Academy wrote a great
little song. A lot of groups have tried this one and it
really ought to work like a charm, but I've yet to be
blown away. This version doesn't do it for me either.
The background harmonies that make this song a natural
cover are stuck a little too far in the background. The
arrangement does have some inventive turns to it, but
the performance is a little clumsy on the first half of
the song. The solo is all right, though.
Very slow and lifeless. The falsetto
parts in the backgrounds are much too classical sounding, and an ascending
countermelody sticks way out — it's too loud, and the part itself is
strange. Weak ending, too.
Standard interpretation II: this time, with innovations like
"zoo-pa-doo-wa doo" on the main riff, it's a bit like reinventing a
fifth wheel. Lotsa pitch problems, few surprises. Solo and one of the
falsetto overlays are nice points. The last chorus and transition to
the end moves better and sounds better than the rest of the song.
Otherwise it's a sleeper.
The percussion-plus-random-noises department of this
song is nice, but the solo is Mr. No Cigar from "Gone", which is
unfortunate (for many reasons, but particularly) because he's
obviously trying. Especially on the chorus, where we are shown yet
again that a screaming bari is no substitute for a true tenor. The
rest of the arrangement is also standard, but performed energetically
enough for ten groups. Though they could use some serious attention
to dynamics, the solo on the chorus is the only fatal flaw.
A pretty crazy background containing some pretty
quirky hiccup-like sounds. Sonicly, a very FULL chorus.
The lead vocal is adequate during the versus
(overennunciates), but is great during the choruses. I
mean GREAT, and the harmony is bang on!
Another Holy Grail of college a cappella — often sought, never found.
This isn't a masterwork, but it's the closest I've heard the mythic
version that must be out there somewhere. They certainly don't skimp
on spirit and harmony, but the vocal percussion is a bit too much at
time and the "instrumental" solo (they bill it as a "pan flute") is
feeble. They do a good job covering their track with a big finish.
Some nice guica sounds, although the jungle effects go a
little overboard toward the end. The first soloist sounds like it's too
low for him, second soloist sounds like it's too high. There are some
mediocre syllable choices in the backgrounds, and the scat solo toward the
end is buried in the mix (which is maybe not a bad thing in this case).
I like the hip-hop groove that pushes this one. It
opens with a two- and four-driven beat, then it moves to sort
of a house/jungle beat with pitched accents. Opening with a
solo percussion line is beginning to get gimmicky, but it
works well enough in many cases that I have a hard time
getting to annoyed. Rhythm saves this from being another
humdrum Toto cover — it has aspects of that, but falls a cut
above much of what's out there.
These sort of things tend to annoy me — what is the
point of them, really? To show off your oh-so-excellent
percussion skills? Well, unless they're really _that_
impressive (and they almost never are), the whole trend
should just die immediately if not sooner. This example
is no exception to the rule.
A brief vocal percussion demonstration, just over
two minutes. A neat break for a long album. Although
performed recorded live, it was recorded in a sound
studio for superior sound. Really neat to hear the
talented vocal percussionists solo. Near the end of the
tune, one of the percussionists (gasping for air) says
to the other "I think I want this to end", but I didn't!
A two person percussion jam. It's live (probably in
the studio), but for once it's a clear recording.
Better than the solo from Off the Beat's "Tool Box", but
nowhere near as good as Andrew Chaikin or Jeff Thatcher.
Real rock and roll drum solos have very little reason to
exist in general (for a notable exception pick up Vinx's
first album). The only thing a vocal percussion solo
has going for it is the "Wow-How do they do that?"
factor. Well, it's 1997 and we've heard it before.
They're good, but not worth listening to for 2 minutes.
I wouldn't mind having a long percussive intro to a
song. I wouldn't mind a long percussive interlude in
the middle of a song. I wouldn't even mind an entire
song that was all percussion (like this is), if it was
totally amazing. But it's not.
I like that they followed the back to back
nouveau-standards with an improv. Impromptu jams like
this are what a cappella is all about, and they do
wonders for your style, groove and technique across
the board. This one is fast-paced and reasonably
straight-forward — the hip-hop frills and scratchies
are nice touches. They could use variety in their
bass drum sounds, which get heavy-handed when
prolonged and "boomy" in the wrong way.
Two Phil Collins songs? Well, I suppose it
could be worse — it could be two Don Henley songs. At any rate,
Euro-boy from the unintentionally New Wave U2 cover is back, doing his
best Phil imitation. He actually sounds much better on this song, but
sadly he still hasn't learned how to emote. This is also not as
hideous _a cappella_ as I might have imagined — there's a nice
low-midrange riff going on that propels the song along, at least until
the ill-conceived ending.
A nice percussion (and sparse vocal) introduction. A pretty good lead
vocal, mostly tuneful. Unfortunately the background drifts slightly
and the lead must follow suit.
It may be by Phil Collins, but I've always liked "Take Me Home."
(Having Sting and Peter Gabriel singing backing vocals never hurts.)
An obscurish song and a great choice of material. The soloist
delivers a very Phil Collins-esq performance. The arrangement is a
little cluttered at times but no major damage is done to the song.
The soloist's voice sounds a bit like Phil Collins -
it's hard to tell if the singer is trying to sound like him (and generally
failing) or if he is just has a strange voice. Either way, it's
distracting. Also, he's belting way too much.
This is Phil Collins' trademark, end-of-concert song. The Bear
Necessities capture that perfectly — from the boring drum/solo synth
intro to the solo, who mimics Phil Collins to an astonishing degree.
It then follows that there's nothing that interesting in this song,
and also correspondingly nothing to distract them and their listeners
from their tendency to be a bit out of tune. But bonus points for
sounding like Phil Collins — I've never heard anything like it. I'm
not sure why anyone would bother to work so hard for such a dubious
achievement, but Fritz Darling should get some kind of attention for
The frightening thought that this song brings to
mind is that someone in this group *actually likes* Journey, as I've
certainly never heard this song before. So the fact that it's
incredibly bad isn't at all mitigated by the camp value it could have
had if it were a hit. Such considerations aside, neither the solo nor
the background get anywhere _near_ to redeeming the awfulness of the
actual song. I suppose it's decently executed, but still...
A pretty cool lead vocal with some Steve Perry-like qualities. The
lead does struggle for some of the higher chest voice notes, but who
wouldn't? The background vocals are good (some parts stick out at
times by not suiting the song style) but are mostly tuneful, and as
usual, the vocal percussion is excellent.
The lead comes at this with a horse tenor voice, which actually lends
him a lot of personality. Too bad the backing vocals, particularly on
the instrumental sections that come off of the chorus are goofy
falsettos. The vocal percussion is too crisp — kind of like a drum
machine — and rather out of place here. They throw in some good
harmony on the finish, but it only serves to show you what the
arrangement should have sounded like at the start of the song.
Kind of lifeless (and too slow) — the energy keeps
dying out. An "instrumental" riff sounds like the singer is trying to
imitate some sort of exotic bird. This one left me pretty much bored.
I strongly question the taste of anyone who genuinely likes
Journey, but I have to give them high marks for the job they do on
this one. The solo is great — I mean, he sounds at least as good as
the guy in Journey, he's got that style absolutely nailed. The
background arrangement is very quiet and controlled — a shock to find
after listening to the bulk of this album. It's in pretty good tune,
too. I think their secret was to keep the rhythm simple and also have
everybody change pitches on a regular basis — it's these parts that
sit on one note that can be harder to keep in tune.
Overly repetitive background and slightly
cartoonish soloist who sometimes goes spectacularly off make this song
hard to take seriously. Bad syllables ("doo wa da") and unnecessary
effects are noticeable, although one 'guitar' part is slightly
improved by being distorted. Double- time percussion is also a bad
idea. Overall not as successful as it could be, although at times the
mood is there.
A good lead vocal (same lead vocalist at track 1). Definitely a
talented baritone voice. Mixed a little light. The background
vocals in the chorus were a little boring. Other than some slight
background intonation problems, an all-round good cut.
Again, I'd like less percussion and more harmony, but the basses are
back to give this song a fuller sound than "Faithfully." Still, the
group doesn't throw enough energy or harmony at this song until the
Another song that sounds fine, but just doesn't
add anything to the original at all. Some raspy sounds out of the soloist
- he doesn't keep a consistent style or sound throughout the song.
Solo's pretty good on this one — you go, Jake George. I liked
your duet on the U2 song, too. Otherwise, this one is on the quiet
side. It's mellow enough to be quite listenable, but for the Bear
Necessities, mellow often means underenthused and therefore undertuned.
Percussion is a bit heavy-handed and a little ahead of the gang, but
that could just be the energy differential.
Strange treatment of the beginning, like a slow
doo-wop song, then it settles into a fairly workmanlike background,
the percussion sounding as if someone fell asleep at the drum-machine,
coupled with a truly painful solo. He's all over the place,
amateurish, warbling and reaching for notes (and failing to come
anywhere close), etc., etc. — I'm sure you can imagine, should you
choose to subject yourself to such torture. The background is
(understandably) not as into it as they usually are, and the result
Great bass vocal presence during the song, but especially during the
introduction. A nice arrangement, but perhaps taken a few beats per
minutes too slow, as it tends to drag at times. The lead vocalist
tends to lose pitch integrity on baritone notes, but really shines on
the higher ones.
I think they're serious about this one. If you don't recognize this
song, you won't start laughing (for nostalgia's sake) until the
chorus. Oddly, this song gets started on the right foot (they totally
invest themselves in the material) but the chorus, which should boost
the energy, is lacking the oomph that makes the better songs on this
A particularly weak soloist on this one — he gets
shaky, and can't keep the high notes in tune (sometimes doesn't even make
it all the way up there in the first place). At times, it almost sounds
like he's in pain. The arrangement is very corny and square — some of the
background parts sound like they'd be more at home in a Sousa march.
Ah, I catch on to the pattern now — they stuffed all the
rock-ballads here at the end. Judged on its own merits, this one
sounds like one of those 70s rock ballads (Come Sail Away, anybody?)
where you were never sure whether it was a slow-dance or a fast-dance
song in the junior high school gym. It's not bad for one of those;
like its immediate predecessor, mellow means listenable, if
underenthused and undertuned. Of course, this used to be a much
faster, upbeat "inspiration song" a la Boston, but I never liked it
enough to mourn its absence now. Ooh, tuning in the "a cappella"
bridge section is truly painful. But mercifully it's not too long, and
it snaps a bit back when the drums and bass return. For some reason,
the drums on this sound like they came from inside a roller skating
This is actually quite a good song
choice, although their treatment of it is a little choral at times,
but they do get the mood and the slow-train percussion right, and the
solo doesn't entirely wreck it. The sound quality on this song is 100
times better than on the other live tracks, in fact, it's the best
I've ever heard for a collegiate live song. Quite an impressive
performance — they even nail the dynamics, although things threaten to
get out of control at one point. By far the best song on the album.
If they were smart, they would have let it end there.
The last live cut on the album, which has the same quality as Little
Red Corvette (i.e.. not as bad as Hard To Handle). A pretty slow
and musically boring song to begin with, this group does a pretty
good job with it. The best of all the live cuts. A nice lead vocal
fronting some tuneful background vocals. Great full ending.
Despite what you may think this song can really work when
I generally liked this one (and the fact
that it's a fairly recent song). It's nice that the tune builds, but the
group gets out of control and starts yelling toward the end. During the
intro, you can hear someone giving a note on the pitch pipe, which seemed
extremely amateurish to me.
Calm, more-or-less tuned ballady background. Hoo boy, such
excitement. Oh yeah, with a decent percussion intro — though the
pitchpipe just before the voices come in is a new element. (At first I
thought "don't they know that is *not done,* but then I thought hey,
why not. It adds variety, it keeps them from forgetting the pitch and
doesn't distract the mood. So let's hear it for breaking tradition.)
Really it's not bad, but I keep wanting Johnny Cash on the solo and
I'm getting something like Van Morrison without the soul. The highly
overlaid whoa parts are nicely conceived and poorly executed.
Live, sort of comical, Adam Sandler-like performance about how
everyone's butt is the same. And I guess they're mostly right!
Ok, there's not much music to it but I like the phil-ass-ophy
"behind" it (someone stop me please). So, I'll give it a really
high score but I won't include it in the overall grade, ok?
Okay, it probably sounds like sophomoric humor from the title. It is.
But not the way you think. There isn't any inept sexual innuendo.
This song is fun because the lead singer, who's clearly making it up
as he goes along, enjoys saying the word "Butt." Nothing wrong with
that. It's a silly word. Say it. Butt. Butt. Wasn't that fun?
Don't you feel better? Now try praising everyone's butt. Tell
everyone you know that they have a "special" butt. See what I mean?
This is just plain goofy fun. But why, of all the live tracks on this
album, is THIS is the only one where the engineering doesn't suck?
Horribly sung, painfully
unfunny...the soloist can't even get the lyrics right.
Clearly butts are important to them; it's obvious if you read the
liner notes. As sophomoric humor goes, this goes on fairly long, but
does have about five seconds of funny material, which accounts for
the higher than average score for an in-joke track.
Bear-a-oke version: how cute. All it
demonstrates is what we already knew: backgrounds are not the problem
with this group, it's the soloists. Although the (lack of) basses are
cruelly exposed on this version. Not rated as it doesn't really count
as a song. I also wish that they had done the usual and put the
humorous live bit _way_ at the end, instead of right between
"Philadelphia" and this track. Especially since (also per usual) it's
not really that funny.
Identical recording to track 2 on the album but
without the lead vocal for karaoke purposes, so I'll
give it the identical score EXCEPT when I sang the lead
over it, it really stunk (I'm a bass). WAY OUT OF
MY RANGE! Fortunately, I'm not counting this cut in
the overall score!
Rating without my lead: 8
Rating with my lead: 1
It's just track 2 without the lead vocals. This isn't just the
self-pleased bit of cleverness you might expect. For starters, the
song sounds great without the leads (that's NOT a slam on the lead
from track 2, by the way). It really lays the great backing vocals
bare. Plus, it is damn fun to sing along with. Come on — admit it.
Isn't that one of the reasons you like college a cappella? You like
singing along. Sometimes, with the help of the post production studio
in your head, you secretly remove the lead singer's vocals and replace
them with your own superior vocal stylings. We'll, you don't even
have to imagine you're the lead here! Just let it rip! Even if you
keep yer mouth shut, the track still sound great without your help
(with the exception of the one irksome flaw that the first version of
the song had.)
Repeat of track two with no lead
vocal. I suppose it's not a good sign that I preferred this version.
I had fun with this, more than I expected I would. Then again,
I also have been known to have an odd sense of humor. You can sing
along over their energetic percussion and nice little chorus accent,
and then jam with the crew on the breakdown. The background sounds
better tuned than it did on the one with the solo, although I suspect
that's my imagination and the energy contrast with recent songs
helping out. In addition to being a novelty, it's a nice way to pick
the energy up at the end of the album too. After those slow numbers,
you almost forget about the charisma that is their strongest point.