University of Pennsylvania
Group: Off the Beat
Album: Where's the Band?
Total time: 64:33, 15 songs.
Tracks 4, 8, 11, 14 recorded 1991
Tracks 2, 5, 9, 15 recorded 1992
Tracks 1, 3, 6, 7, 10, 12, 13 recorded 1993
- Freedom '90 (7.8)
- Would I Lie to You (6.6)
- Under The Bridge (7.2)
- Don't Leave Me This Way (5.6)
- Like A Prayer (6.8)
- One (7.8)
- I Can't Make You Love Me (6.6)
- Black Coffee In Bed (6.0)
- Don't You Forget About Me (5.8)
- Walking on Broken Glass (5.8)
- Life in One Day (4.8)
- Africa (6.4)
- Boys of Summer (8.3)
- Love Shack (4.8)
- Jack and Diane (5.4)
This album was reviewed by five members of
. In this compilation, their comments are
always listed in a consistent order. Thus, for each song (and in the
"overall" section), all comments numbered "1" are from the same
reviewer, as are those numbered "2", etc.
- BLARING!!! They are so loud that it's painful at
times. If they would just tone it down a little, especially on
the choruses, they could avoid the "wall of sound" effect they
often suffer from — you can't hear the more interesting things
in the background because they're drowned out by the rest of it
blasting. All their arrangements sound alike (despite the fact
that this album features songs from the past three years of Off
the Beat), a weird mix of choral and pop/rock sounds, with
choppy, rushed basslines and choir-like singing above them,
with somewhat arbitrary percussion. For the most part they have
strong and clear voices though, particularly the women. Their
soloists share a general tendency to make up for a lack of
emotion with sheer volume, and so several songs which have the
potential to be quite good if the solo was more expressive are
merely all right. They would be greatly improved by the
addition of another bass or two. With a few exceptions, the
songs get progressively better chronologically, with the ones
from '91 being the worst and those from '93 the best. Their
song choices get a little repetitive in ' that they're all
pop/rock/alternative, and — especially with the choral sound
they often have — it might be nice to hear them try a different
kind of music. Overall this album is decent, with some songs
that have innovative arrangements and good soloists, and some
that have weak and/or annoying solos and cluttered and
Rating: 6 (4.8)
- As the CAN mentioned, you can definitely see a progression in
this group from year to year — the newer songs are very tight,
excellent percussion and soloists, and multi-layered complex
arrangements. If you like mixed groups and like pop songs,
this album is for you. I look forward to hearing their next
Rating: 7 (6.3)
- Blend and ensemble are wonderful; dynamic control is also good;
occasional intonation glitches are confined to the highest
registers. The soloists are uniformly outstanding — expressive
and dynamic. Off the Beat seems to prefer imitative
arrangements. They have enough voices to cover the original
instrumentation pretty faithfully, but after awhile I find this
sort arrangement becomes a bit too predictable. Do the Basses
ever sing anything other than "dm-dm-dm"?
Rating: 8 (7.5)
- These folks are good when they're good. More than a couple of
the songs on the album really stand out as greats (note they
got a CARA
award for one). Among the rest, there are some good songs, and
some real klunkers. I give them some points for originality,
and points for some good arrangements, and points for some plain
Rating: 7 (6.6)
- There was one very annoying thing about this album.... The
majority of the arrangements were FAR too busy, almost as if
they were out to impress those knowledgeable in a cappella on
how well they can sing complex arrangements. But in things
like "Broken Glass" it's almost too
much, and their better stuff is simple stuff like
"Jack and Diane" (with
"Boys" being the exceptions) On the
whole, though, I can see why this album won the
Rating: 8 (6.7)
Would I Lie to You (6.6)
- Freedom '90 (7.8)
- A song I would not have thought would work a cappella,
but does surprisingly well. The percussion is the best
on this entire album, and very nice in
general. Arrangement more coherent and less busy than
theirs often are, interesting/good use of trios and
echoing the soloist, however somewhat wimpy choice of
syllables ('doo-dit'). The solo is pretty good, in parts
better than the original (but that says more about
George Michael than Off the Beat). The bassline isn't
low enough to be really effective. Incredibly long, but
it works better than many of the others because the
- Excellent solo, interesting arrangement. Unique
percussion at the beginning is drowned out when the
voices come in. Great lead-off track.
- Interesting vocal/body percussion. I was impressed by
the fact that blend and balance were maintained through
dynamic changes and some fairly long slides. The
2-voice unison which appears in the background near the
end of the song was perfect from entrance to cutoff!
- Very nice
- For a song that is rapidly approaching "Only You" status
as far as covers go... not too shabby :) They do the
majority of the song justice, and the soloist is very
good. My problems with this arrangement...and with
most of the others.. come in generalities at the end
of the review.....I like the song, even though every
group I listen to seems to do it.....
Under The Bridge (7.2)
- Sort of typical of them — the beginning is too loud, the
solo is pretty good, nicely soulful but she's too loud
too, the arrangement is cluttered and sometimes annoying
but parts of it are decent, overall sound is fairly
- Great solo voice, neat idea to have the guys sing
off-beat staccato chords against the rest of the
background. Good energy.
- I wasn't quite convinced of the intonation in the upper
voices in the introductory chords. The arrangement was
a bit busy for my personal preference. It probably
follows the original pretty closely, but the result is
more of a dance-style piece than a concert piece.
- Very powerful, and nicely done.
- This is, IMHO, a really bad song to cover a
cappella....one of my groups did it and I was the
unlucky soul who had to cover vocal percussion....no
human being can reproduce, by himself or themselves, the
fire of the original, and while the arrangement was
inventive, for me at least, a cover has to approach the
sound of the original.
Don't Leave Me This Way (5.6)
- The very beginning of the arrangement works for me, then
it gets a little too choral, but recovers. The bass is
strangely sporadic, as is the percussion. The solo is
trying too hard to sound like Anthony Keidis, but the
chorus is very clean and coherent for this group. I like
this arrangement — for them, it's understated and
- Very good imitative arrangement with excellent use of
alternate syllables like "ching ching cho". Good
soloist. Overall the song is as good as the original.
- Nice, relatively sparse arrangement. The Lead voice
presents and excellent contrast to the background. The
intonation is very occasionally a bit dicey in the upper
- Very creative arrangement, but somehow fails to catch
the spirit of the original.
- A solid arrangement of a very a cappella friendly song.
The soloist manages to get a lot of the feeling behind
the words across, and the background isn't as intrusive
as it is elsewhere....
Like A Prayer (6.8)
- I hate this song. I can't tell if it's the song itself
or their rendition of it, because I don't think I've
ever heard the original, but their arrangement is
certainly annoying and at times unintentionally amusing
(the 'badup-bow's in the chorus). The recording quality
on this song is different than on the rest of the album
— it sounds like they're in a bathroom. David Quart is
more-or-less horrible on his part of the solo; his voice
is weak, nasal and utterly without charm. The
song/arrangement degenerates into chaos at one point,
but then recovers, but things only get worse after the
key change — I can't exactly tell why, possibly pitch
- Solos do a good job and the chorus is catchy, but
otherwise one-dimensional. Mixing (reverb) makes it
- Another dance number. The tightness of the occasional
multi-voiced parts in the background is very impressive;
the intonation in the higher harmony isn't.
- Very energetic
- Not bad....not great either. Again, this really can't
approach the Communards vision, and unless there's a
real original take on a song, it's kinda hard to swallow
a substandard copy. What they do do with the song,
though, is solid.
- The bassline is really choppy and rushed, someone drops
out at the end so that there's only one bass and he
sounds weak by himself, as well as sticking out
horribly. The percussion is actually somewhat inventive,
but seems a little too frenetic for the song because
it's the only part that has any energy. Solo manages to
be at once loud and bored/boring — there's no life to
it. This whole song is like that in that it would be so
much improved by a little energy. Plus it goes on for
_much_ too long.
- Great job with solo, great job with percussion, though
this is again mixed a little too low. Good,
- The opening chords are great despite one or two
precarious chord changes. The change in texture from
introduction to song was very effective. I think I would
have liked this arrangement better if there had been more
acute changes of feel in the rest of the piece, but it's
still a good one.
- Good, and it really moves, though the bassline is
- EXCELLENT arrangement.....this is one of the
best on the album. Lots of power, and some very
imaginative backgrounds..."Diggin' Madonna" indeed!!!!!
I Can't Make You Love Me (6.6)
- The song starts out pretty much as one would expect an a
cappella rendition of this song to sound in that it just
imitates without conveying the real emotional power of
the original. The solo is pretty good but would be so
much more powerful if it were subtler and more
sensitive, as well as more varied in terms of feeling
and tone. The arrangement improves markedly on the first
chorus, with cool soprano lines and trios echoing off of
the solo. Neat insertion of "With or Without You" and
"Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" in the
background. The end is interesting and effective but the
suddenly isolated percussion is only distracting.
- Great arrangement, great studio mix, good soloist, good
integrated perc, good tuning and blend. Like many of
otb's songs, this one keeps getting better as the song
progresses. May be the best song on the album.
- My favorite parts of this one were the vocal percussion
and the ending.
- Great, except weak in some places
- This song is exactly what I'm talking about when
discussing how an arrangement or performance of a song
should GRIP you......the arrangement nearly
surpasses the original as far as sheer power and emotion
goes, and the final push at the end sends shivers down
Black Coffee In Bed (6.0)
- The percussion in this one is much more subtle, and
works much better. Arrangement too stop-and-go for this
song. Solo is nice and sensitive yet soulful. This song
gets kind of boring after about half its (again
ridiculously long) length. I'm not sure that this song
works a cappella anyway, and they didn't convince
me. Suddenly towards the end they all start blasting in
near unison, then (thankfully) pull back, and the ending
is actually quite nice, the solo very sweet.
- Great song choice, good soloist. This one can really
grab at the heartstrings. Excellent use of dynamics.
- The gentle handling of background and lead are lovely.
- Good, but didn't thrill me.
- The 6 is because technically it's done very well...good
dynamic control. Personally, though, I don't care for
Don't You Forget About Me (5.8)
- Seems sort of rushed, arrangement mediocre-to-weak,
sounds again like they only have one bass. Solo okay but
overly brassy for the song. Overall somehow
unappealing. Weird contrast between the choral
background sound and the poppy soloist.
- If you've heard this done a cappella before, there are
no surprises. Arrangement and soloist are both pretty
- A well-performed piece, but it lacks excitement and
consequently falls a bit flat.
- This is the opposite of #7....I
LOVE the song personally, but this is a fairly
simple arrangement by the standards of what I've heard
elsewhere on this disc......kinda bland.
Walking on Broken Glass (5.8)
- Arrangement is occasionally interesting (some dynamics)
and the usual choppy bass line is almost smoothed over
by the held notes of the other parts. Solo is all right
but not particularly well done. The percussion fades in
and out of the mix, seeming random and not quite
effective. The sopranos are so high on the chorus that
they sound sort of stupid. As a whole it doesn't stand
out as being more than tolerable.
- Soloist ok, though flat in a coupla places. Energy
level sagging, but picks up by the end.
- The usual thing, with some nice changes in feel
- doesn't have "that mood" the original did
- This is a perfect example of a performance not measuring
up to the original. There was so much that could have
been done to enhance this, but it escaped. On a good
note, though, the soloist was
Life in One Day (4.8)
- The beginning is nice, but then it gets weird with
unnecessarily dramatic crescendos, in general though
the arrangement is pretty good, at times a little too
blaring. Also their use of the background echoing sounds
inappropriate when they're saying things like "bleed,
bleed, bleed". The solo is relatively strong — she
handles the extreme lows and highs of the song easily,
however with a little more sensitivity it would be
amazing instead of merely good. I think this song works
better than "Would I Lie to You?"
and that two Annie Lennox songs on the same album is
- This is one of those songs like Yes' "Leave It" — doesn't
seem to translate well (at least imitatively)
energy-wise. Solo ok, very good middle section.
- Some annoyingly persistent intonation problems in the
introduction and an arrangement which sounds
uncomfortable to sing were working against this one.
- Decently done, but annoying
- A song that is RAPIDLY reaching overcovered
status, and a really annoying one to boot. I dislike
the song so much that I truly feel I cannot give an
objective rating to the performance...sorry :)
- The beginning sounds discombobulated, the arrangement in
general is haphazard and not very well thought out. Solo
sort of weak in a vaguely over-enunciated and quavery
way. The use of studio effects on one voice is glaringly
obvious and (I think) unnecessary. The percussion in the
end is not integrated well with the song at all. Blend
is particularly bad on this song.
- Nice solo voice, but overall rendition is too dead
especially for a Howard Jones song. Couple
- A welcome change in feel from most of the rest of the
- Weak, with tuning problems
- It was OK...not great....but OK...Fun song, but not much
can really be done with it.
Boys of Summer (8.3)
- Arrangement overly choral in the beginning, and
generally not well suited to the song, although it has
interesting aspects, namely the nice soprano line in the
verses. Solo is overdone and unattractive. Severe
blaring on chorus, near the end the song deteriorates
into confusion, then recovers.
- During the verses, the upper womens parts to an
excellent job with blending and tone, and they handle
the middle guitar section with ease (not an easy thing).
Very good lead ins to the chorus.
- Best recording I've heard of this. The arrangement
contains a couple of new ideas, and the energy level is
higher than it generally is for this piece.
- A bit hokey
- My god........this opening came out of
NOWHERE!!!!! GREAT way to start the
song....would've LOVED to have been in
the audience for this one. And unlike the last
version, these guys had the testicular fortitude to try
the instrument section :) :) :). Overall, a
Love Shack (4.8)
- The percussion in the beginning is well done. Their
style of arranging suits this song, especially since
they don't rush it. A song that I would never have
thought would be good a cappella, but they make me
believe it. Arrangement gets a little busy on the
chorus, but they pull back for the verses. I like the
solo a lot — the flat tone of her voice suits the song
well, and she almost speaks the last word of each
line. It's very sensitively done, and I like it that
it's sung by a woman even though they (obviously) could
have had a man sing it. Her voice sounds better than Don
Henley's (again, that's not saying much). This and
are my two favorite songs on this album.
- Amazing effects and mixdown for the vocal percussion,
group does a good job in bringing across the mood in
this imitative arrangement.
- I like the sense of control throughout this piece — the
background which is held back under the verses but
doesn't allow the intensity to flag, until it breaks
through on the chorus.
- nifty percussion, singing could be a tiny bit stronger.
- The only reason this didn't get a 10 is my ambivalence
towards the song itself. Everything else is
EXQUISITE....beyond words....Makes me
wonder why the album didn't end here....
Jack and Diane (5.4)
- This song is so incredibly annoying that I can't imagine
anyone wanting to do it a cappella in the first place,
but this is also a particularly irritating version of
the song. The arrangement is both screechy and
boring. The solo is campy but in a sort of unconvincing
way; it also changes style and accent unpredictably. At
points the women in the background are blasting so
loudly that it hurts my throat to listen to them. They
don't blend very well at all on this song. Overall this
song does not work in so many different ways that it's
impossible to give it anything higher than a 1.
- An ok performance of an ok arrangement of a song that I
can no longer stand.
- I really like the lead, here.
- Good here, it must kick ass live!
- This arrangement is pathetic...no verve, no life, no
drive. And the fill stuff is just TOO
WEIRD......I didn't like this one at all....
- The beginning is mildly interesting, and the single bass
actually works in this part — perhaps because it is
(un)intentionally amusing. Then the arrangement becomes
overly choral again, so much so that the solo sounds
ridiculously rock-like against it, and the solo is
pretty much imitative of John Cougar Mellencamp
anyway. The bridge towards the end is slightly more
interesting (despite the clapping out of synch at one
point) but this is not a particularly exciting rendition
of a not exactly made-for-acappella song in the first
- A boring performance of a boring arrangement of a great
song that they basically ruined. The one exception is
an excellent solo. Why end a good album on such a
- Once again, excellent control of dynamics, blend and
feel throughout this piece.
- Not! Major tuning problems, and everything about this
version is annoying.
- Good, simple powerchord arrangement that really hammers
a point home...although I HATED the way
they ended it.....:)