liz_marcs (liz_marcs) wrote,

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Music from the Cube: What Am I Listening To Today?

I figure that that I might as well go all-A Cappella for this Music from the Cube post.

Today, I offer you the Grammy Award-winning The Bobs, a professional A Cappella group, and the Best of Collage A Cappella, which is like the minor leagues for would-be vocalists looking to make it big as professionals.

The Bobs, Sing the Songs of... Rating=$$
[Support the Artist, Artist's Official Web Site]
How I Got This CD: Bought used in New Hampshire.

The San Francisco-based The Bobs sole Grammy win came from a track off this CD (their cover of 'Helter Skelter,' if you're curious). Previous CDs by The Bobs generally mixed up humorous original compositions and fantastically arranged cover songs. This CD is all cover songs, all the time. Normally, this wouldn't be a bad thing, except that this time the usually fantastic arrangements are...a little less than fantastic.

I'll be blunt here: I'm not a fan of this CD. I like The Bobs in general, but this...well, I wasn't happy with it after I bought it. Years after buying it, I'm still in the camp of "meh" to "annoyed." I know other A Cappella fans will probably seriously disagree with me on this one (hell, the Grammys disagree with me on this one), but this CD is not good.

That said, here are some half-way decent sample tracks if you want to try it out.

If you only download one track, download the cover of Jimmy Cliff's 'Sittin' In Limbo.' The track itself is lovely and the minimalist vocal arrangements really work for this one. I would put it side-by-side with the original very easily (and I do like the original). In fact, I had bought this CD simply on the strength of this one track, that's how good it is. As I mentioned above, it was a mistake, but at the time I bought it buying the whole CD was the only way you could get your hands on individual tracks...unless you had someone make you a mixtape. At the time, I was the only person I knew who was into A Cappella, hence my investment in this CD.

As for the other tracks, 'Come Together' is a solid cover of the Beatles classic using a a rather simple arrangement that at least is evocative of the original. 'Fever,' a song right out of the ol' American standards songbook, is definitely one of the better tracks on the CD and worth downloading if you like A Cappella in general. Although Fever was originally recorded Little Willie John back in 1956, The Bobs are definitely pulling from Peggy Lee's 1958 recording, so I credited her. "Good Lovin'" is...competent, and probably one of the less annoying tracks on the CD.

Sample Song Downloads: Come Together (Beatles Cover), Fever (Peggy Lee Cover), Good Lovin' (Young Rascals Cover) , Sittin' In Limbo (Jimmy Cliff Cover)

You can download all files from the project page by clicking here.

Best of College A Cappella 2002 Rating=$$$
[Support the Artists]
How I Got This CD: Purchased with employee discount during my Bordersverse daze.

Varsity Vocals, an international organization that supports high school and collegiate A Cappella groups, is responsible for releasing The Best of College A Cappella (BOCA) compilations on an annual basis (they also support competitions and musical education programs).

The character of each compilation CD varies greatly from one year to the next, much of it depending on the general trends in musical tastes in the collegiate A Cappella circuits, the judges choosing the tracks for the CD for that year, as well as a thousand other unnameable things.

For example, this CD is a fairly laid-back affair, due in large part to the groups' cover song choices. As expected of any "best of" compilation CD, the vocals are top-notch and the groups have put together some solid arrangements. However, my one big complaint about this CD is that the groups adhere a little too closely to the originals, rather than take chances with the material. To put it bluntly, this BOCA CD is not going to win new fans for collegiate A Cappella (or just A Cappella in general). However, if you're already a fan, it's worth getting your hands on teh CD.

Overall, this is a good choice if you're looking for background music while working on intellectually taxing stuff, but there's nothing here that'll get the blood pumping if you want something more energenetic.

In the downloads below, my favorite track is the cover of Kreviazuk's 'Eve,' with its soaring vocals (Please, someone so desperately needs to make a S6 Buffy vid using this very song). 'Drive Me Crazy' (Ed. — I have no idea what this is a cover of.) is probably the most energetic of the tracks offered here. 'Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover' is actually frighteningly close to Hawkins's original, so much so that you realize that there was probably less instrumentation in the original version than you thought. 'Everything You Want' is also a nice cover, and a slightly more interesting to listen to than 'Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover.' Then again, it could be because 'Everything You Want' is a slightly more interesting song to begin with.

Sample Song Downloads: Drive Me Crazy — University Of Southern California SoCal VoCals, Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover (Sophie B. Hawkins Cover) — Claremont College Shades, Everything You Want (Vertical Horizon Cover) — University Of Michigan Dicks & Janes, Eve (Chantal Kreviazuk Cover) — Duke University Out Of The Blue

You can download all files from the project page by clicking here.

Best of College A Cappella 2006 Rating=$$$
[Support the Artists]
How I Got This CD: Purchased at the 2006 Harmony Sweepstakes Regionals at Tufts University at the urging of ponders_life.

This CD is slightly better than the 2002 disc, if only because the tracks seem to have more energy, the vocal arrangements are more interesting, and because the cover songs are simply better quality. Yes, there are some groups that hew pretty close to the original, but there are definitely a few groups who were willing to take a few chances. For this one, I actually did have a harder time narrowing down the sample tracks to four.

In short, this BOCA annual might be a better choice if you're looking to introducing your nay-saying buddies to the wonders of A Cappella.

To be honest, IMHO, all of the tracks included here are certainly worth the download, albeit for different reasons. I especially like 'Mystify/Atrete,' primarily because of the lovely vocal arrangement, but also because the MIT Resonance slips in a little bilingual action that's missing in the original. 'My Happy Ending' and 'Something Like That' hew fairly close to the original songs, but they are excellent performances in and of themselves. 'So Cold' features a fantastic arrangement that really brings out the creepy in the lyrics. It helps that the lead singer for the University of Pennsylvania Off The Beat sounds terrifyingly like a young, post-Genesis Peter Gabriel.

Sample Song Downloads: My Happy Ending (Avril Lavigne Cover) — University Of North Carolina Loreleis, Something Like That (Tim McGraw Cover) — University Of Oregon On The Rocks, So Cold (Breaking Benjamin Cover) — University Of Pennsylvania Off The Beat, Mystify/Atrevete (Chenoa Cover) — MIT Resonance

You can download all files from the project page by clicking here.


To find previous thumbnail reviews, go to the Review Index.

After the donwload links expire, you can listen to streaming MP3 files linked with reviews at my Vox shadow blog for media.


Rating system:
None = Avoid at all cost. Worth cutting your ears off to avoid if someone threatens to play it for you. When faced with even the threat of its cellophane-wrapped presence, your best option is to RUN AWAY! RUN AWAY!

$= If you stumble across it for cheap in a used bin, it might, maybe, perhaps could be worth the buy, but only if you need a cheap coaster for your cold drinks or a cool-looking frisbee.

$$= You might want to give this CD/artist a try, but only if the sample track tickles your fancy. Don't bother buying this one new because the good tunes you'd get out of this one ain't worth that kind of money.

$$$ = Worth looking for on a casual basis and maybe even buying new, but no big rush.

$$$$ = Definitely worth having in the ol' CD collection and definitely worth buying new, but don't re-arrange your personal "must have" list to get your hands on it.

$$$$$ = Why haven't you bought this CD yet? Go. This is a "Want. Take. Have." situation because you so want this.

The management would love it if you comment, especially if you download any of the sample tracks.

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Tags: music: download, music: music from the cube, music: review

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