Total time: 73:40, 16 songs
Recorded April-August 1996
This album is required listening for any a cappella arranger in specific, and any a cappella fan in general. The arranging style is very cutting edge, in fact, its the signature of OTB's sound. The problem with it is that it all sounds VERY similar back to back straight through an album. The best way to listen to this album for maximum enjoyment are 2-3 tracks at a time so you can listen to the arrangements and go "wow" and not get tired of them.
There's a few minor clunker arrangements, but even the clunkers are listenable.
(You may even like them if you like the original song.) This is a collegiate
a cappella album that holds up on repeat listenings. One interesting thing
is that I found their best tracks to be the live ones...where they just cut
loose and didn't tinker so much with their sound in the studios. I wish
I could see this group live sometime...they are truly one of the top 10
college groups out there, with a sound on par with the professionals.
Rating: 9 (7.8)
The song selection is great. They kept it to the 90's semi-alternative
tunes, and even if one doesn't like these songs, you must give them credit
for a consistent selection which fits the musical style (except for the
out-of-place "Gangsta's Paradise" at the end). This group has a lot of fun
recording — it's obvious. Even though at times there is just too much going on
at once during a song, it's a really solid album. There are no bad
soloists, some are fantastic, and the arrangements are creative and
original. Diction is a problem in lots of the songs, but it's not impeding
on their success with this album. Great college a cappella to listen to.
Rating: 8 (6.9)
This is a mature, carefully crafted, and professionally sung a
cappella album that just happens to rock the rafters. For those of
you who haven't heard an OTB album or at least one of their various
BOCA songs, off the beat specializes in insanely complex arrangements
of mostly "alternative" music. They often use lyrics in the backing
vocals where most groups would use nonsense syllables. The syllables
they do use contribute to the "alternative" sound: lots of "ja" and
"dja." And they can scream their heads off with the best of them.
I have the two OTB albums before this one. The first of those,
Flail, is a classic. One of my favorite discs, period. The follow-up
album was rather disappointing. A few good cuts, but it didn't work
as well as flail. The same elements were there, but the arrangements
and the performances weren't up to snuff. I was scared of this album
since it was the group's first disc since the departure of the musical
director who made Flail so good. I was therefore pleasantly surprised
to hear that this disc was every bit as good as Flail. OTB officially
has staying power.
What makes this particular CD so spiffy is that the group manages to
cover all the parts in the packed arrangements and still get lots of
harmony into the mix. If you're only a jazz, barbershop, or doo wop
fan, this isn't the album for you. Otherwise you need this CD. Even
if you don't normally listen to the artists being covered, don't be
afraid of the track list. Buy the disc, get your best pair of
headphones, and give this a close listen.
Rating: 10 (8.9)
Nice new album from Off the Beat, particularly the first three tracks. The rest of the disc is nice too, but can't compare to the blockbuster quality of the first half-inning. These covers — Alannis Morissette, Peter Gabriel and Joan Osborne — have energy, execution and innovation, reaching out in a way that eludes musicians of many stripes. Osborne's "Saint Theresa" is a very unusual song, and this group exploits that and brings that out without crossing the in-your-face line of trying too hard.
The almost-album-closing cover of Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise" is also in another league. It's serious, it's well done and it goes places most a cappella groups know enough to leave alone. This is dangerous ground, and it's a pleasure to see it traversed so competently.
The rest of the album is pretty much what you'd expect. Alternarock and a
bunch of matching ballads, well enough sung but with very little that
sticks with you. I could listen to "Come Talk to Me" three times in a row
and something new out of it every time — with some of these I felt like
I'd heard it all by the end of the first minute. And most of them are 4
to 5 times that long. This is a great group — all the soloists can
sing, all of the arrangements have texture and for the most part the
backgrounds are smooth and complex in Off the Beat's vaunted vocal
tapestries. The intrusive syllables that characterized them a few
years back have given way to these shifting wordless compositions, and
the syllabification remaining is used to good effect.
Rating: 9 (7.1)
The short-version description of Off the Beat is that they do covers of the
latest alternative music, mimicking the original as closely as possible.
Lots of groups do this adequately, but OtB does it extremely well. One of
their biggest strengths is vocal percussion, which is typically so good
it's really easy to take it for granted. It only really stands out when
it's lacking. The only big things I found lacking were a little extra bass
power would be nice sometimes, and the arrangements were sometimes a little
too busy, so as to be distracting. But among groups that do straight
covers, with little manipulation of the way the original songs go, Off the
Beat could teach a lot of people how it's done. I'll even forgive them for
liking Alanis Morrissette too much. :)
Rating: 8 (7.3)
What got to me first...in a good way...was the soloist. If they wanted the
essence of Alanis, they found it. The arrangment, in a word, rocks...
there's a lot to the background, and some very creative usage of lines from
other songs, especially towards the end. It doesn't QUITE have the drive
of the original during the verses, but they come a LOT closer than most.
The transition section was very very sweet stuff. Excellent track.
Ok, ok, it's on BOCA 3. It can't be bad. The soloist is excellent,
and the vocal percussion is nothing short of professional. The arrangement
is amazing, and somehow they work a chorus of NIN "Head Like a Hole" into
the song very subtly. The song has a very rich quality to it, the tempo
is excellent, and no voice part sticks out at all. I can't think of
anything bad to say about this song, so it definitely deserved the 10.
Okay, I lied. I said in a prior review that Mixed Company's version of this song was about as good as you were likely to hear. Well, this one tops that version with a superior lead vocalist and arrangement. Off the Beat opens the album on the right foot with some wicked percussion. Great echoes in the "instrumental" bridge. Pay close attention to the subtle soprano part. What really adds the requisite anger (and makes this arrangement kick butt in general) is the men screaming their heads off in the background under the last chorus. This is a fine example of how Off the Beat excels at using lyrics instead of conventional a cappella syllables.
Nothing against Mixed Company. Their "Why Should I Cry for You" is
still unbeatable. And this time I mean it. Really.
This cover of the only Alannis Morrissette song I've ever liked begins
with a sensual solo backed by only a light rhythm. It then oozes into the
song, a nice enough bridge melting into a layered chorus that suddenly
makes me realize that this song is gonna rock. Soloist Alex Jarige is at
her best on the verses, when she translates Alannis' grating into
something much more powerful; the background is at their best on the
choruses when rising and falling lines propel the melody (which more or
less stays in one place). This track is heavily produced; I prefer vocal
edginess to electronic, but I guess they figured a mix would work for
them. The studio definitely helped the percussion — their drum people
don't have a great range of sounds, but they are well-placed and generally
Let me preface this by saying that I am not a big fan of Alanis
Morrissette, so an album with two Alanis covers might be a bad idea for me
to be reviewing. Too late! So I will go on to say that the soloist is a
pleasant surprise — she sounds just like Alanis and yet she doesn't feel
the need to punctuate her singing with that annoying gasping/yelping thing
that Alanis does. She gets extra points right there. From this opening
track I see that this is a well-produced album — in a good way, meaning
that I don't have to get past the quality of the recording to comment on
the actual singing. The arrangement is heavily textured, but due to the
quality of the recording it is distinct, not muddled. The background has
the effect of a wall of sound broken up at points for dramatic impact. And
I liked the NIN quotation toward the end — Trent Reznor is even more angry
than Alanis, and it adds a little interest to the song.
The arrangement really evokes the worldmusic feel that Gabriel tends to
pride himself....although it is a different feel than the original. That's
OK, 'cause this feel works very well for a cappella. One thing OTB is
excellent at is evoking the emotion from the music...I wish I had a buck
for every group out there I've heard that just sings the notes and doesn't
add anything to the endless covers that they sing. OTB doesn't do that
here, and it's refreshing. The rest of the arrangment is vintage OTB.
Great ethereal quality to the beginning of this song with a huge dynamic
crescendo. Once again, the percussionist, Dan J, is amazing. He really
carries many of the tunes on this album. I already love Peter Gabriel,
because some of his music is calling to be performed a cappella. The
soloist drags a little bit tempo-wise, and the whole piece isn't too
consistent rhythmically. The bass "dum-de-dum" doesn't really fit the style
of the song, because it's too weighty, and they're a little flat throughout
the piece. The female who sings over the soloist could've been louder.
Another great arrangement with not too many confusing soloists, but the
overall sound is a little brassy.
I've been waiting for a college group to cover this one for a while,
and I can tell you why in two words: Sinead O'Connor. Peter Gabriel
wrote some great harmonies into this song for her to sing and they're
all lovingly duplicated here. Okay, I was kind of hoping for them to
do even more harmony on the leads than they do, but there's still
plenty going on here. The arrangement is a little clumsy in the
beginning, but in exchange for that you get an emotional and ever so
slightly raspy vocalist born to sing Gabriel-esq music. Plus a cool
chanted section (I won't even hazard a guess at what language it's in)
that lurked in the background of the original recording comes front
and center in this cover.
Peter Gabriel has a wonderful knack for creating uplifting music without
being cloying. Off the Beat captures that feeling, with an arrangement
by Dan Jurow that balances mood, simplicity and texture; it really moves
throughout the song. Even though the melody is often the same, you never
feel like you're stuck in the same place through almost 6 minutes. Once
again drums are used to good effect in the chorus, which is where the
complexity really comes in. The arrangement breathes in the verses, you
can hear the different parts — just a great mix. Foreign language bit is
very good, with harmony over a very light skeleton and a kickass bass
drone. Solo takes a listen or two to appreciate. He's no Peter
Gabriel, but really does a pretty good job, styling as much as he dares
without losing it.
I don't think I've ever heard the original song. Here's a case where the
soloist is trying to sound like the original singer, Peter Gabriel, and it
doesn't work. (Nobody sounds like Peter Gabriel.) It wouldn't bother me if
he just went ahead and did it in his own way, because I have nothing
against his singing otherwise, but I get this feeling like he's trying to
be PG and it just doesn't quite work. The chorus and last verse go better
when he's joined by a female singer, and I don't notice it enough. The
arrangement also does a good job creating a different mood during the
African chant part. Same wall of sound effect — it pretty much continues
for the whole disc.
Very inspired use of syllables here, as opposed to actual spoken words,
like a lot of the songs have. Very skillful execution of the mixed
meter, something a lot of groups don't manage to carry off. A little less
emotion here than others, but it seems to be executed a bit more crisply,
and the original feel of the song is invoked, even if emotion isn't here
as much as it is in the other songs.
Never heard this song, and I don't know if the soloist's "grinding" in
her voice is how it's performed, but sometimes it makes it hard to
understand her lyrics, but she maintains a professional sound. The
recording of this song is a little gritty, and it keeps the song from
sounding very clean. The soloist becomes a little "lost" in the sopranos
during the chorus. The syllables "bo-day-do" are original and work well
without using harsh consonants. Occasionally the louder dynamics press the
pitch a little flat, but this is a minor detail that happens once or twice.
It's the good Joan Osborne song. OTB serves up a suitably breathy and
haunting performance. Very ambient. I like the explosive choruses.
Nice rhythm and a refreshingly vocal sound open this Joan Osborne
cover. Off the Beat is excellent at turning their backgrounds into
these vibratoless, blended chords that sound so much like instruments;
it's not exactly a choral effect here, but it sounds like people.
Solo to me sounds a little like Brandi — I like her styling but at
times wish she'd sink a little more voice into it. Many of the lower
notes breathily growl out, replacing rather than augmenting the pitch
that ought to be there. But the overall product shows she put a lot
of work into it and came out pretty good. As the song progresses the
background goes back to the tapestry effect they use so effectively,
but I liked that the beginning was sung into being. Another nice Dan
The bass intro seems a little out of place until the other parts come in.
The background parts are arranged in such a cacophony of syllables that I
feel like there's a hidden message in there that I'm supposed to decode.
Sometimes it's just enough variety in syllables, but other times it crosses
over into sensory overload. The ending seemed a little too abrupt for me,
even with the dramatic swell. The soloist seems to be scraping the bottom
of her range in a couple of parts, but for the rest of the song she does a
good job of fitting the feel of the song without doing a full-out Joan
One of three tracks that are recorded live at a venue, non-stop, warts and
all, rather than recorded and produced in a studio. It loses very little.
This is actually, one of the better tracks on the album...good soloist,
great arrangement, great background...and without the studio effects,
even. They manage strong dynamics here as well, which is cool, considering
they are doing the dynamics, not their soundboard.
Ok guys. You spend the time and money to record a CD, so DON'T start a
song with two people coughing. Even though the director counts off, you
could've edited that out. It's really tacky and probably avoidable. The
beginning sounds out of tune and takes a while to settle. Natalie
Merchant's voice is hard to imitate, and the soloist does it wonderfully.
The chorus is way too loud. One shouldn't have to adjust the stereo all
that much when listening to a CD. Great percussion again, this time by
someone else, but it's really consistent. I think the group needed to back
up "volume-wise" because it's not pleasant to listen to when they sound like
A small beef: the brief bit of coughing and other audience noises at
the beginning of this cut makes the album a little less of a coherent
album and more of a collection of separate songs. But by the time the
clapping at the end of this song comes around, you've long since
forgotten that you're listening to a live cut. The recording is that
good. The vocals are that clear. The performance is that flawless.
This is what a live recording can and should sound like. In other
news, the duet vocalist (played by Annie Lennox in the original but
uncredited here) is the real "value added" component of this version.
Ok, I'm bored now. Elapsed time: 20 seconds. Solo doesn't make it in until
just before the minute mark. She's got a great Chrissie Hynde quality -
Pam Beecroft uses abrasion as a real strength. Also un-Merchant like is a
rock song chorus that I like a lot. Short but sweet, hits about 1:45.
Second chorus has a pretty, and pretty bland, voice doing the overlay,
which knocks out the rock song effect. Ok, at 3:45 the instrumental bridge
almost takes the song somewhere, but there's not a whole lot to work with
and pitchiness creeps into the experimental. That's the problem with
Natalie Merchant — the music to song-length ratio is rarely high enough to
hold my attention, even though there's nothing. I gave them an extra point
for being a quality live track — I bet the bridge took a lot of work to
polish like that.
I like the intro with male voices — for the first 30 seconds or so it's a
"guess what it is" sort of thing. And this live performance certainly holds
its own against the production on the studio tracks — they're obviously not
hiding too many flaws on the more highly produced tracks. When they come in
on the chorus ("have I been blind") they are huge — a great change in mood!
I don't like the little "wadda wadda" riff very much — it's kind of
distracting and too busy, distracting from a relatively seamless sound. The
soloist gets points for not trying to sound like Natalie Merchant (another
who just can't be imitated) but she doesn't really strike me very much
otherwise. I did really like the harmony part on the chorus a lot though.
Really good intro...maybe I'm just a sucker for a "gale force" kind of
opening, but this has it. The percussionists in this group are really
good...they're not the virtuosos of an Andrew Chaikin or a Jeff Thacher,
but they serve their purpose, and they drive the song without being
intrusive. An excellent interpretation of the rock song. The one
fall point is that the soloist tries TOO hard to sound like Live's
lead singer and pulls himself into weird tonal directions doing so..
but it's a minor point.
This group knows their percussion, except that it gets rushed a little
bit by the rest of the group. TEMPO! It runs away again in this song. The
soloist needs some serious work on his diction, and it sounds too much like
a bunch of vowels. He doesn't sound like he's paying attention to what he's
saying, either. The sopranos are too bright in the song compared to
everyone else. Nice echo effect they added in editing.
I don't listen to Live (the group, that is). Not my cup of tea. But
this wailer of a song gets my interest up anyway, mostly because of
the lead vocals. Huge, loud harmonies make this the perfect type of
song to play for one of your unenlightened friends who still thinks a
cappella is wussy.
Gets a nice score because Off the Beat is such a quality group.
Personally, though, I'll skip this track whenever I play the disc. Solo is
in tune and blandly alternarock; his tone quality . Background is very 80s
sounding, with a fast poppy drum track and female ya-ya-yas in the back
ground. Nice soprano work, by the way. Moves smartly along in a most
interminable way — 4:57 is a long time for a song with such a small number
of chords to choose from.
Standard disclaimer: I'm not a big Live fan either (I know I'm from PA and
I'm supposed to love them and all, but...). The feeling I got from this
song was that it was supposed to have a driving force, but instead it came
off feeling frantic. This made it seem overly busy, and the syllables of
the accompaniment were so fast that sometimes it seems they didn't have
enough time to spit them out. The soloist was right for this Live song, and
he does a really good job of covering the challenging range of the song.
Two Alanis songs on the same album? I just find it amazing that they
have two different soloists that can do Alanis. The arrangement was
neat, but I felt it was a little TOO busy. It evoked the feel, but the
arrangement, for the first time so far, got in the way of the song and
the soloist; it seemed too much "Hey, look at this cool arrangement"
rather than "Listen to this really cool song." But (and I'll probably
get flamed for saying this) mediocre OTB (at least on this album) is
better than the best that a lot of groups have to offer.
Ok, so I know all the words to this song, too. I was amazed at how the
blend of the duet during the chorus sounds just like the recording, except
for the absence of a few Canadian pronunciations. (Not meant to be mean)
I think because the other Alanis Morrissette song was much stronger, they
shouldn't have done two by the same artist. Yes, this is a slow song, but
the mushy vowels make it drag even more. When the soloist says "And isn't
it ironic, don't you think?" towards the end of the song, the backup is
singing words that aren't understood. If a group isn't using syllables,
they should make sure the words are audible and clear.
A much more natural choice for an a cappella cover than You Oughta
Know. The harmonies on the choruses (which rock a lot more than you'd
expect them too) are bright and engaging. The lyrics-as-backing
vocals are subtle to the extreme. Another winner.
This song suffers from comparison to You Oughta Know, and would not have
been that great on its own. I felt like every single singer on this track
knew that this was not as good a song — there's less energy, less attack
(which adds so much to already good tuning). The solo dances around the
pitch so she can do her Alannis styling, and her lighter tone comes up
short to the subtle swank of the other number.
This is more Alanis than I really think is necessary on one disc. Don't
even get me started on what other great female alternative vocalists they
could have covered. In this case the soloist falls prey to imitating all of
Alanis' affected vocal tics. She is dead-on Alanis during the chorus, but I
didn't really find her that pleasant to listen to. The arrangement provides
a nice platform for the solo, though some of the consonants during the
quieter parts distract from the solo. If I were going to drop one of the
Alanis songs, it would probably be this one.
The best way for me to know when a song execution works is if they take a
song I really HATE and can actually get me to enjoy their rendition of it.
This is one of those cases. The arrangement is really superlative....
a good slow build, and a sweet hook when everything hit. Soloist evokes
the Gallagher brothers without getting into a fist fight to do it. And
the fact that this song, to me, is better than the original source material
is strengthened that this was another live, sing it straight through track.
Some minor rhythmic problems, unfortunately, doesn't allow the 10.
Again, problems with the live recording! Should've just started where
the song starts. We didn't need to hear the pitch, someone clear their
throat, and everyone humming their pitch. The soloist seems to be speaking
more than singing. He's got a very nasal quality, and although that may
just be the sound of his voice, he needed to open up the vowels a little
more. But it's the great percussionist in the group. The tempo is a little
shaky again in the song. The sopranos that sing the words underneath the
soloist are really whiny. (Sorry, can't think of a better word.) It's a
creative arrangement, but too much is going on and it sounds almost like
they were singing into a tin can.
Would anyone really care if any of the arrogant lads from Oasis died
of ruptured egos tomorrow? I didn't think so. But I digress. This
is another fine arrangement/performance (and a great live recording).
It just lacks the magic of some of the other tracks. They do a great
job with the material, but maybe it wasn't the best song choice.
Here are some vintage in-your-face syllables: "jum, jum, jadida
jum jum." Glad to know the tradition is still around, even though I think
wordlessness is a nicer trademark. This is a nice little grunger — it
could use more attack, but picks up some after they bring the drums
front-n-center. Like the post-bridge background very much, with a tenor
doing the "jum-jum" thing over the wordless background. Cool. Oh, by the
way, this one is live too. You can tell, but it's a good listen.
Another live one — here they prove they're human by humming after the pitch
pipe. The intro is very tight (so I guess it worked!), but unfortunately I
felt like some of that tightness was lost after the percussion came in. I
think if the "zhum" syllable was more prominent after the change it would
make for more continuity. Also, I keep wanting just a little more "oomph"
from the percussion once it comes in. The soloist never seems to settle in
- he always seems like he's on the verge of shouting.
The big danger with singing Tori a cappella is that her voice is SO distinctive and so necessary for the songs to work that if you don't have a soloist that can invoke Tori when they sing, it tends to make the song flat. Fortunately, OTB could probably find a soloist who could invoke Marilyn Manson if they had to, so that's rarely a problem =) .
Good arrangement...I can't say how much they invoked the original as I've
never heard the original, but the song ebbs and flows quite nicely in
and of itself.
Amazing percussion in the beginning. Didn't sound real at all, but the
disclaimer on the album said they didn't use sequencers or synthesized
sounds. There are a lot of tough chords in this song, and they do them very
well. The soloist was drowned out by the moving "whoa-whoa's" that moved a
step at a time. It's obvious this is the same soloist from the first track,
"You Oughta Know" because she's an excellent performer. The pitch is under
a little bit during some of the transitions, which is a natural tendency for
It would be very easy to screw up the this complex Tori Amos number.
But OTB knows their way around complex arrangements and their cover
comes off as effortless and understated. Impressive work that doesn't
hit you over the head to show you how impressive it is.
Very nice high bit in beginning over the men. The women mid-range "ya"
ostinato is not as in-tune as I would like. The whole middle background
never comes together, making this song less of a success than its peers,
but there are no major gaffes. Liner notes say this is a Tori Amos songs,
which means those slidey two-note repetitions must have been from clear
succinct piano keys in the original. Oh well. I like the solo; she has a
great quality to her voice that sounds like Jewel except when she gets
really open, when she's like Tori without quite the abrasion.
Here's an unusual case where the intro seems a little shaky, but it falls
into a nice groove once the entire wall of sound is in place. The solo is a
tori sound-alike, but very natural about it rather than forced. The
percussion is great — it's worth commenting on because it fits so well in
most of OtB's songs that when it is at all lacking (like Wonderwall) is the
only time it really sticks out.
I have to preface this by saying that I find Counting Crows HIGHLY overrated.
That having been said, this song was OK...certainly not among their best,
but not bad either. Unlike the Oasis song, though, it wasn't good enough
to make me forget that I dislike Counting Crows. Add to the fact that
by OTB standards the arrangement is kinda pedestrian pulls up a rare
This is the first song where I think the group didn't use all of the
voices all at once. Great dissonant chords in the song. The percussion is
good, but I realize that it's starting to sound pretty similar to a lot of
the other songs. The song is a little weak in the bass department; their
sound isn't clear basically because it's too low for them. I think that
they should have stuck to syllables a little longer in sections of the
song, because by the time you get used to hearing them, they're gone.
There's too many changes, but the climatic ending is great, where everyone
drops out and the arrangement is minimized.
OTB covered "Mr. Jones" on one of their previous albums (Flail) and it
didn't seem like a natural choice for the conversion to a cappella.
Good, but not at the same quality as their best material. Anna
Begins, on the other hand, works perfectly a cappella (lots of
built-in harmony). And its somber tones fit perfectly into OTB's
musical pallet. The highlight is the "rain falls down" in the backing
vox (it starts fairly faintly and slowly builds each time they sing it
until it swells to glorious proportions). The crescendo makes the
surprisingly moving "Am I in love?" that closes the track that much
Pitch on this suffers — because of the layering in the background it's
tough to describe how, but it doesn't sound right. Nothing in this song
really catches my ear enough to write about it. There are better songs,
and better Counting Crows songs.
Hey — it's Live sings Counting Crows! No, but really, I was really
surprised to read that this wasn't the soloist from the Live song, because
he sounds so much like the guy from Live. I like the beginning, with long
stretches of sound, a feel that is continued pretty much throughout with
longer syllables. I was glad they didn't busy it up too much, because the
arrangement really fits the feel of the song. The final "Am I in love" from
the women seemed out of place — if they're going to go for strict imitation
of songs, stuff like this can fizzle. They seemed to take the last word
away from the soloist.
EXCELLENT opening. I never heard of this song until this album, and I
was hooked from the opening chords. I like hearing baritone/bass
solos, as there are too few in a cappella today. Everyone wants
to sing HIGH or REALLY LOW, and there's nothing for the middle
ground. Again, this is a live, straight-thru track, yet it's as
together, if not more so, than many of the studio tracks. Fun
arrangement, slinks around like a 60's sex kitten.
I'm not going to make another comment about the start of the song that
they perform live. Sure, the audience wants to hear them talk, but unless
it's important to the album, it's not important to those listening. Great
octave jumping in the beginning of the song, and the "gregorian chant" style
in the beginning sets the style really well. Again, if they're using words,
I want to know what they're saying. The repetitious bass line sticks out,
but if that's how the chords proceed, they can't do much.
See? You can have a bass sing solo on something other than "60 Minute
The spoken intro takes a bit to get to the point; I don't think it's
interesting enough to merit its length and inclusion. Song rocks, though.
It's live, it grooves, and the women make a really tough "ha" line sound
easy. Bridge seems to drag a bit. I've never heard the song before, but
it's a good way to give the spotlight to a low bari. And it's open — I
appreciate the space in the song/arrangement as much as the cuteness of
the song and what they have going on in it. Rescues me from balladitis.
The opening is awesome, imitating the sort of electronic buzz from the
actual song. I don't really like the frantic octaves from the women that
immediately follow it though. The simplicity of the first verse was cool,
but then the treble part coming out of the right channel got pretty
annoying. The percussion is just right, but I want the bass to be a little
more noticeable. I think this song is a really good try at a tricky sort of
song — sort of electronic and fuzzy guitars — but it doesn't quite pull it
all the way off.
Man, I'm starting to get a little tired of heaping the praise on these guys..
but it's hard for me to find flaws with what they're doing. This song
in particular does a good job of mirroring Etheridge's passion when she
sing, both in the solo and in the background. Vocal Percussion drags behind
the group a little. But overall, good track.
Oooh's that the sopranos come in on are out of tune, and they stay that
way most of the song. This is a pretty simple arrangement, but the same
percussion returns of "doom-doom-pfffff" which is hard to describe with
words. The soloist doesn't do much dynamically. They have really clean
transitions in this song, but overall, each part sticks out and they don't
really sound like they are listening to each other at all. The song is too
bright and needs more bass and alto.
An emotional lead vocalist, an arrangement that builds around a nice
soprano/tenor part (following what was formally the guitar part on the
verses), and a great song choice. What's wrong with this track? Not
one damn thing, that's what. Check out the "obsession, possession" in
the backing vox. And you don't want to miss the lead screaming
"Nobody aches!" on the bridge or giving just the right amount of rasp
to a drawn out "rock" (on "electrify and rock you").
Nice tone can't hide the fact that this solo is consistently flat.
Background is good — mellow, but good — but this is a front-and-center
solo song, and this solo gets grating as the song goes out. Pity, because
she starts out with the edged smooth quality of mid-career Annie Lennox
(e.g. Thorn In My Side). She loses her pitch first, then adds serious husk
like Etheridge, but it doesn't help until the last chorus when she can
play with the chorus a little. I like the groove on the middle verse,
when the women waft all over a nice rhythm section and a good foundation
from the boys.
Here's another soloist (like the one in St. Theresa) who picks up on the
feel of the song without directly imitating the original. During the chorus
I feel like I'm getting sensory overload — how many parts _are_ there? I
feel like there's an alto part in there that I should be hearing better and
I'm just not getting it. The verses are like a welcome respite from all
that busy-ness, though the constant "like the way-ay-ah" does get a little
Thank you very much for not trying to emulate Popper's harmonica....it still
moves without it, and not too many people can truly do it. However, that
plus doesn't counteract the minuses....this is the first track where I can
truly say the soloist doesn't fit the song...now this happens often in
collegiate a cappella, but on this album it REALLY sticks out. And the
style of arranging that OTB uses doesn't seem to fit in this song like it
does the others. And the really fast singing section on the 3rd verse
doesn't invoke Popper as much as it does Rufus Xavier Sasparilla from
Are they singing words or syllables in the beginning? There's too much
going on syllabically. The soloist has a great, clear voice, but it's not
much along the lines of emotion. On the chorus, the back-ups who sing the
words aren't together, and they need to be louder than the rest of the
group. I think throughout the whole song, too much is going on and it takes
too much attention away from the soloist, except for the "Suck it in suck it
in." where he doesn't even do it at first. The basses are really messy at
this part, and maybe they should've backed off.
Okay, a brief history of OTB: I heard a tape of them back when I was in school. They were a strong coed group (if a little stiff). They liked the 80s. They did a notable version of Erasure's "I Just Can't Get Enough" and a fun "Take Me to the River." They had some comedy bits. They had a sense of humor. The next time I heard them was Flail, an album that, in my opinion, redefined college a cappella as much as the Beelzebubs had on Foster Street. It found a way to sincerely do "alternative" music and showed what a complex but artful arrangement is all about.
I'm not saying I want OTB to start doing 80s music or comedy again,
but they do tend to be exceedingly dark. Hook shows that they can
still sing more upbeat music (albeit with some biting lyrics).
Normally Blues Traveler covers don't work because a good Blues
Traveler song depends on the unearthly harmonica playing. But Hook
doesn't need that. It instead relies on the rapid fire lyrics in the
bridge. OTB delivers them breathlessly and with razor sharp diction.
Greg Kwiat brings a clarion voice to the leads and the group matches
him with bright harmonies. With apologies to John Popper, it's an
improvement on the original.
Solo is to be commended on the way he sings the words — it's the way he
sings the notes that doesn't grab me. No faults with his tuning, but the
melody isn't crisp, which is what this song needs. Given that Off the Beat
has such great altos, and given that I heard this song effectively done by
the UNC Loreleis, I am left wanting. I think the alto/soprano duet doing
the main instrumental hook throughout is very well conceived, clear over
the rest of the voices, but I wish they were more evenly balanced. The
alto is louder. Bridge is not really up to standard; I like the way they
simplified it for a verse after and then dropped everyone back in, nicely
Ba-da-bah? This group uses syllables I've never even _thought_ of before on
other songs, then uses this bland one so prominently here? The background
is very drone-y, almost overpowering the soloist on the verses. I think a
song this quirky could use something quirkier in the arrangement. Though it
was much more surprising and fun to hear the female voices doing the
quick-talking part before the soloist comes in on it. On the first part of
the song, the soloist was adequate but not outstanding, but when he came in
on the second part (quick-talking part — what do you call it anyway?) he
really stood out, even if he seemed to lose a couple of words. And again
with the women getting the last word at the end — that's an arranging quirk
I'm not way into.
Finally...a McLachlan song other than "Possession". I didn't notice
until I heard this song, but this is the one truly slow ballad on the
album...the other ballads have too much business in the arrangements for
them to seem slow. VERY powerfully sung by the vocalists, and the pace
of the song..and the relative simplicity of the arrangement...is a good switch
of momentum from the rest of the album, and it really grabs the attention.
My whole campus seems to like Sarah McLachlan, so I've heard this song
almost every day coming from someone's room. It was great that they slowed
it down a little bit to fit their style of the arrangement. The "zhoom"
syllable is really effective, and it's a great ballad, even if it's the only
true ballad on the CD. The syncopation of all the parts is clear, on time,
and sharp, which makes this song simple and powerful.
This would be powerful and involving stuff on any album, but here it
also serves as an Oasis from all the vocal percussion and pyrotechnics
that define the rest of the disc. It gives the listener a chance to
breath. A rich alto soloist finds all the right emotional notes in
this Sarah McLachlan song.
This is a pretty, faithful rendition of Sarah McLachlan's
"Elsewhere", from the Fumbling Towards Ecstasy album. But as McLachlan
shows on her Freedom Sessions disc, it's a song that can be so much more.
Off the Beat does it very slowly, very simply — not that it sounds easy,
but it's not very ornamented, like a well-made designer suit. I like the
difference in mood between it and the other song. I guess I feel it could
have more bite to it, not just be a melancholy melody, but they do pretty
good. Tenors don't have the best blend/tuning here — they stick out in
various spots throughout.
Disclaimer: Sarah McLachlan is my favorite singer, hands down. So my only
comment on the soloist is that she did it better than I could, she was
fine, actually she was really good considering she wasn't Sarah. But my
biggest gripe with this song was that there was no percussion! Why? They
didn't otherwise really depart from the original version of the song, so I
don't see why they left that out. Every time the verse led into the chorus,
and then the chorus back into the verse, I was waiting for them to break out
into percussion. It's frustrating, because otherwise this was a really good
version of a great song. Oh well.
Ehhh...average song. There isn't much that the group can do to rescue this
one. Very boring, and too reminiscent of "Soul to Squeeze" to really send
I think they placed this song in a bad place on the CD. It's relatively
slow, and it's right after the one ballad on the CD. Should've gone
somewhere else. That same percussion returns from previous songs of
"doom-doom-pffff" which is now not as creative as it seemed 10 tracks ago.
When there's a transition into the bridge, it sounds really out of tune, and
I know that's not how the song goes. It's not really polished, and parts
stick out again from time to time.
OTB moves back to more familiar ground with this Weezer cover. Great
execution of a song that doesn't really deserve the quality
performance it's getting here.
This is a Weezer song, which means the solo is allowed to sing off-key and
call it styling 'cause it's not his fault. There's one verse where this
happens a lot, and I'm sure it was that way in the original, but it grates
on me. Otherwise I thought this song had some neat ideas. It's got very
nice dynamic motion, a mix of styles in the background, with an
arrangement that brings to mind Soul to Squeeze on the choruses.
I like the first verse — it starts out kind of light and fun, but at 1:15
it gets much bigger than I expect a Weezer song to be. The tuning and
blend, which for OtB are typically good enough that they don't really bear
commenting on, here fade in and out, and are especially shaky in the
staccato women's part during the verses. The soloist has a rough edge that
is just right for this song. And the guy shouting "yeah" during the chorus
is fun too.
The arrangement rocks....they concentrate less on technical proficiency and
more on evoking the sound of the original...meaning it's less busy and
more powerful. The soloist does the best job he can, but still comes
off slightly vanilla...but it's better than many I've heard. I would
have liked to have seen this live to see what they would have done on
stage, but the overall effect is a good way to close the album
Whoa! How does this fit into the "90's alternative" album? It
should've gone with Notorious B.I.G. In any case, it's a good song, but not
good enough to end the album, because it's a bit of a surprise. I wonder if
two people rapped, or if they recorded the soloist's voice twice to make it
sound like an echo and two people. They really don't have the groove that
Coolio and Stevie Wonder (yes, he did the original that Coolio based his
song on) had. Sounds a little more like a chain gang. Because it's such a
repetitive song, it wasn't good for the finale. The ending is good, how
they layer the parts of "Living in a Gangsta's paradise" and "Tell me why
are we so blind to see". The final chorus has a really full sound, and
musically, it's a strong ending, but I simply didn't like the choice.
Rap with gothic backing vocals. One of the biggest sounds I've ever
heard out of an a cappella song. I can't even imagine how many
overdubs they must be doing. Great harmonies. The rap is dead on.
(At first I thought the lead sounded like Weird Al. Then I realized
that the soloist and Weird Al both do impeccable Coolio
impersonations.) Although it's clear from his performance that the
lead totally loves this song, it does sound a little silly when you
remember that these guys all go to Penn! But ignore that and just
listen to that huge sound.
What's great about this is they don't camp it up, they don't do it as a
joke song. This is serious stuff, and they treat it that way and do it up
good. It's got edge, not self-consciousness. They're not the best rappers
in the world, but they don't back down, and the singing is good. Women are
very ethereal over a wonderful bass line that has much more presence than
most everywhere else on the album. Arranger Adam Hellegers knew how to get
a great mix of faithful and when to let vocals do their thing — the
background is reminiscent of Peter Gabriel's Passion. This is original.
Listen to it twice and enjoy something different.
Oh my god! I am totally convinced by this cover. I don't know why I'm
actually surprised I like it so much. If I could change anything , I might
bring the bass and percussion up a notch and drop the "ooh"s back a bit, so
I can blast it on my car's sound system with the windows down this summer.
:) But really, this song is nearly perfect. Really!
I thought this was pretty funny. They took real karaoke and
recorded themselves doing it, one person at a time, and then they clipped
different songs that they did. Of course, it shows no talent of the group
as a whole, but it's creative. Some of the soloists were outright funny,
but others were really just singing as well as they could. The funny part
is some of the songs they picked, like "I've Got The Power" and "When Doves
Cry." It doesn't necessarily add to the album, but it doesn't take away,
either. 6 minutes was a little long, though. Definitely worth listening to
at least once.
It's a mix of the group singing karaoke. They claim in the liner
notes to be "crappy" at karaoke. Some of it is truly crappy. They
rather gleefully (and probably drunkenly) murder "Sucker with No Self
Esteem." Some of it is actually cool. If they don't try to cover
"Hey, Jealousy" on the next disc, well, I'll be disappointed. Anyway,
this is worth one listen, but the mix is jarring and rambles so you'll
regret coming back for seconds. But they at least give it it's own
track instead of tacking it onto the end of Gangsta's Paradise. I
guess the bottom line is that it's good for what it is.
I'm glad they have a really nice recording of this to keep for years, play
for their friends. It'd make a great keepsake. It makes a rotten addition
to an a cappella album, though, particularly for those of us who have no
connection to these people and don't want to listen to them singing over
karaoke over loud instrumental. There's a nice harmony bit around 3:10 of
When Doves Cry over a low-key background that I can live with fine — the
rest of it is one voice over guitars on a buncha pop songs. Next time,
keep it for yourselves, folks.
Cute — once again OtB is human. There's a reason why the Offspring should
never be done karaoke style!
To have your album (2 or more tracks) reviewed by RARB, please fill out our online album registration form.
To have your digital single reviewed by RARB, please fill out our online singles registration form.
Feel free to email us if you have any questions.×