Amazin' Blue Review

Discuss our reviews or just talk about any old album.

Amazin' Blue Review

Postby brianhaverkate » Tue Jan 27, 2004 6:03 am

I would like to commend Dave Trendler's recent review of Amazin' Blue's newest album. The review gave me details of what I'm going to hear on the CD if I were to buy it. He bypassed as much opinion and personal preference as he could (i believe, anyways) and gave a solid review of the music itself. I can't remember the last time I read a "review" on RARB that actually reviewed the album. Is it possible to put an end to reviewers comparing groups to their predecessors?? Group turnover rates are extremely high in collegiate a cappella and I believe it's unfair to judge a group by previous album offerings. Thanks Dave!
brianhaverkate
RARB
RARB
 
Posts: 419
Joined: Wed Feb 12, 2003 7:56 am
Location: Detroit, Michigan

Postby jsdiamant » Tue Jan 27, 2004 7:04 am

Many thanks, Brian, for breathing some life into this important but too often moribund section of the forum. I can't help but feel, though, that you're being overly and wantonly harsh, and I think it's because you haven't backed up the sweeping assertions you make. Can you give us a few examples of "reviews" that didn't "review the album" and why exactly you feel that is the case? We all have thick skins here; please pull no punches.

Even without your reply, I have a few points I can make.

-It seems as though you're saying that Dave's review of AB's album contains the amount of musical description that you as a consumer expect, whereas most of our reviews do not. Not having heard the disc, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that AB has enabled that level of description by picking a unique setlist that highlights their strengths and has a unifying vision underneath its diversity. Dave did an excellent job of pinpointing those traits. But what does one say about the legions of college groups out there who are all covering the same stuff in the same way? Detailed musical description seems to me sort of superfluous when you're just writing about the 9 millionth cover of "Insomniac."

-You praise Dave for his bypassing of opinion in his review. Um, hello...reviews ARE opinions. A review without opinion is merely...well...description. I'm not saying Dave's review isn't a review...I don't think he bypassed opinion at all.

-As for your assertion that it isn't fair to compare groups with their past incarnations, I couldn't disagree more. That information is valuable both to the groups themselves and to consumers. Most groups put out albums more than once every four years, and much of the personnel is the same from album to album. Often, the leadership and arrangers are the same. If an album is not up to the standard set by the previous one, groups should know that, so they can know what went wrong and attempt to correct the problems. If an album is a quantum leap above the previous one, groups should know that, so they can pat themselves on the back not just for putting out excellent work but for moving the organization forward from where it was. As for consumers, most a cappella fans have limited budgets. If an album is not worthwhile but you want to point consumers toward an older release from the same group that is a lot better, that is information that the a cappella fan can definitely benefit from.

-And finally, I'd like to point out one of the nifty unwritten RARB rules that you may or may not have noticed. Whenever a group that's been reviewed before sends in another album, we try to have two reviewers who did review the previous album, and one who's never reviewed that group. (That's not always possible, because reviewers leave, but we try to work that way when we can.) That way you get the information about how it stacks up with the group's other work, as well as feedback from someone who's (usually) new to the group. Often their reactions will be quite different.

I hope I have inspired some spirited discussion. Perhaps someone who isn't writing at 10 am after his C-SPAN addiction kept him up until 4 can weigh in more lucidly than I just have. :)

Joshua S. Diamant RARB '02-'05

jsdiamant
 
Posts: 431
Joined: Wed Nov 06, 2002 8:26 pm
Location: Brooklyn, NY

Postby brianhaverkate » Tue Jan 27, 2004 9:23 am

Yes, Josh...... I am being to the point about recent "reviews" of albums.

Guang Ming Easlon wrote.......
Amazin' Blue's latest album, South U. and State, is at most an average offering. It is a step down from Raising the Bar and a far cry from their heydey of BOCA appearances.

I personally could care less about this stuff. Who cares how many times a group's been on BOCA? At most, a group stays exactly the same for 1 year. Groups that stay exactly the same for more than 1 year would not be the norm (at least from my experience). I want to know about the music THIS group recorded. Not how it compares with last year's group. If this were a professional group....ok. Then, there is less and less chance of turnover (although some pro groups and mainstream acts have had complete turnovers before).

She continued.......
The group has pretty good arrangements, though sometimes they are a little busy, like More Than Words. The group also has great song choice. With the exception of a few tracks, Amazin' Blue chooses very interesting music. But if a group chooses to do songs people don't know, the songs must kick ass. Unfortunately, there is little ass-kicking going on in this album.

How are the arrangements too busy? Give me details. When does good music get thought of as non-ass kicking just because you don't know the song? I'd rather hear a good version of a song I've never heard before, rather than an average version of a song I already know. What merits a song to be ass-kicking?

Jevan Soo wrote....
Rule #4: Thou Shalt Not Put The Star-Spangled Banner on Your Album. Rule #5: Thou Shalt Most Definitely Not OPEN Your Album With The Banner.

Say's who? Am I really going to criticize a group for what songs they put on their album? It's THEIR album for a reason. It's their perogative to put whatever songs they want on it without fearing a backlash from a reviewer.

Jevan Soo goes on......
Enough said. Sadly, South U. and State is an exceedingly average album that wouldn't ruffle my feathers if I weren't so aware of what the group was capable of in the past. Even diehard fans should skip this one in the hopes that Amazin' Blue will regain their footing next time around.

Again, I don't care what the group has done in the past. South U. and State should stand on its own. I want to know what the disc sounds like. What's good? What's bad? What's average? I want details about the music. Timbre, tuning, blend, balance, soloists, arrangement structure, pitch accuracy, does it make the listener feel something, energy, breathing, does the group accurately reflect the style of the song, do the soloists understand what they are singing about, etc.

Tell me all of this, and then be done with it. Don't tell me what I should and shouldn't put on my album. Don't compare me with groups of the same name, who I've never met. Evaluate me for me. That's all I ask.

The reviews I quoted from gave some decent feedback, but failed to elaborate on it. They barely scratch the surface of what's going on with these albums.
brianhaverkate
RARB
RARB
 
Posts: 419
Joined: Wed Feb 12, 2003 7:56 am
Location: Detroit, Michigan

Postby singyourheart » Tue Jan 27, 2004 10:19 am

jdiamant wrote:We all have thick skins here; please pull no punches.


the rarb reviewers? perhaps so. but all who are part of rarb? less so.
singyourheart
 
Posts: 217
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2004 10:03 am

Postby singyourheart » Tue Jan 27, 2004 10:24 am

yahtzeealum wrote:Jevan Soo wrote....
Rule #4: Thou Shalt Not Put The Star-Spangled Banner on Your Album. Rule #5: Thou Shalt Most Definitely Not OPEN Your Album With The Banner.

Say's who? Am I really going to criticize a group for what songs they put on their album? It's THEIR album for a reason. It's their perogative to put whatever songs they want on it without fearing a backlash from a reviewer.


says jevan. just ask the grains of time.
singyourheart
 
Posts: 217
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2004 10:03 am

Thanks

Postby davetrendler » Tue Jan 27, 2004 11:07 am

Thanks for the compliment, Brian!

I try to pump a lot of detail into my reviews for the benefit of the group as well as a cappella fans, and it's nice that it gets noticed.

Dave
davetrendler
RARB
RARB
 
Posts: 336
Joined: Wed Oct 30, 2002 2:30 pm
Location: Boulder, CO

Postby seth » Tue Jan 27, 2004 12:22 pm

yahtzeealum wrote:I want to know about the music THIS group recorded. Not how it compares with last year's group.


I think the comparison is there not to praise or condemn a group for how they compare to their predecessors, but to provide a reference point, to help describe what this group recorded to readers who are familiar with the group's past work.

Even with the turnover, college groups have some continuity of sound. Groups usually sound more like themselves of a few years ago than like random other groups, and the group's last album is often an excellent predictor of what the next one will be like, not just in quality, but in style. More importantly, people expect those things to be true, and telling them whether their expectations about the album will be met is a quick way of getting a lot of information across.


yahtzeealum wrote:Am I really going to criticize a group for what songs they put on their album? It's THEIR album for a reason. It's their perogative to put whatever songs they want on it


It was their judgement that was questioned, not their perogative.
seth
Site Admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 667
Joined: Wed Oct 30, 2002 1:56 am
Location: San Francisco, CA

Postby gmwhitley » Tue Jan 27, 2004 1:28 pm

oh yahtzeealum,

you have publicly denounced the sirens and their BOCA appearances (but only for the period i was in the group) and have publicly denounced my arrangements specifically, and now you attack my reviews.

have i ever reviewed any of your pet groups unfavorably? i would just like to know the motivation here. or maybe you're just being honest. good for you.

anyway, i agree with seth. i always try to include a line comparing the album to past albums i have heard from the group as a point of reference. you own "blah" so you will love "blech" which is better, etc.

a busy arrangement is one that has too many things going on in it - clashing vowel sounds, disruptive rhythms and interchanging parts, overly complicated percussion, etc. that detract from the song.

what is ass-kicking? like judge stewart said of obscenity, "i know it when i see it." except i know it when i hear it.

you are comparing apples and oranges. a good version of an unknown song is of course better than an average of a known song.

but an average known song is better than an average unknown song. at least you can sing along at the top of your lungs and drown out the average version. in my opinion. which you don't want in a review. see josh diamant's statement on review.

guang ming

*edited to change rhenquist to stewart. thanks to brian netter for the correction. my fiance, also a chicago law student (and a better one than me) also pointed out the error.
Last edited by gmwhitley on Wed Jan 28, 2004 1:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
guang ming whitley
current mommy/incubator
former rarb reviewer
former underground sounder in chicago
former scales of justicer at chicago law school
former siren at usc
gmwhitley
RARB
RARB
 
Posts: 123
Joined: Wed Oct 30, 2002 3:43 pm
Location: chicago

ok, my turn.

Postby mscheng » Tue Jan 27, 2004 4:24 pm

Hey all. Let me go into this with the disclaimer that I understand it is awkward for me to write on this subject, given that the album and review(ers) in question pertain to the album I helped produce and sang on. I'm not looking for any glory in this; I thought that an additional perspective from an ABer might add another flavor to this already spicy topic.

First of all, as I've read in recent posts, these are only opinions. Can you be objective about music? When it comes to tuning, sure. When it comes to dynamics, sure. When it comes to blend....maybe sure. When it comes to soloists, arrangements, complexity, what "works", less and less so as the list goes on. The further you stray from objectivity, the range of opinions is greater, and in some cases when music becomes much more emotional, there can be a greater disparity between opinions. Therefore, everything on this site, no matter if someone claims to be an expert on it or not, should be taken with ample doses of salt.

Secondly, can I expect 3 reviewers of a thousand potential listeners to hear what I hear when I listen to that album, and to become intimate with that album in only, what is it, 2 weeks to complete the review? I'm not doubting your ability as listeners, but I can't expect it. Can I expect you to know what sweat, stress, late nights, money, time, laughter, love went into this album, into every album? 'Course not. There'd never be enough room to put that in the liner notes, and even if we did, then we risk being cited for tedious liner notes that would detract from our marketability! Yet another opinion. Can I expect you to know that we did Banner in one 4 minute take without stops, all 14 of us standing in the recording studio? No. Should we have told you that before the reviews were submitted? Honestly, I don't know. These details, to us, create meaning, give fulfillment, life, love and credit to our album. Without the full picture of where we've come from in recording, without knowing what we were trying to accomplish outside of the physicality of the CD itself, there's no telling what people will think of our album.

So now having said all that, while I can admit I felt a tightening in my gut reading the recent AB reviews, what more can I say? I asked for your opinion, I got it, and I'm now done with it. No additional information was given with the album to convey the process; all you heard was the outcome, which is only 20% of what it means to us, but we could only give you that 20% to experience. For everyone else out there who feels they were gipped in a review, all that REALLY matters in the end is what you think of your album. If you put more faith in what 3 people think of your album, and let your fans put more faith in that too, maybe the real problem isn't rarb....

One last thing: doesn't mean i want to let the reviewers completely "off the hook". I'm sure that all the reviewers understand they have a responsibility in these reviews, since they're not just dealing with people's music but people's emotions. I guess I thought the reviews were a bit harsh, but I can't decide if that's more objective or subjective. Since the reviews are like interactions between people over music, I just say, everyone has a responsibility to those they are interacting with to be careful with their words. We are none of us the gurus of a cappella.

Brian, I want to thank you for submitting your opinion on this matter. The reviews are hard to read, I know. What to do?
Marie Cheng
Amazin' Blue '00-'02
AB Biz '01-'02
mscheng
 
Posts: 8
Joined: Thu Nov 20, 2003 11:11 am
Location: Westminster, CO

Re: ok, my turn.

Postby builtlikeahippo » Tue Jan 27, 2004 4:45 pm

mscheng wrote: Can I expect you to know what sweat, stress, late nights, money, time, laughter, love went into this album, into every album? 'Course not. There'd never be enough room to put that in the liner notes, and even if we did, then we risk being cited for tedious liner notes that would detract from our marketability! Yet another opinion. Can I expect you to know that we did Banner in one 4 minute take without stops, all 14 of us standing in the recording studio? No. Should we have told you that before the reviews were submitted? Honestly, I don't know. These details, to us, create meaning, give fulfillment, life, love and credit to our album. Without the full picture of where we've come from in recording, without knowing what we were trying to accomplish outside of the physicality of the CD itself, there's no telling what people will think of our album.


I haven't heard the latest AB album... but I think anyone can appreciate the effort the group put into recording the album, or anyone recording almost any album for that matter. But as a listener, or particularly as a "reviewer", what difference should it make to me if you spent a million hours on it? If you spent 2 hours on it and it sounded good, then I would give you a good review. If you spent a million hours and I didn't like the sound, I would give you a bad review... if I was a reviewer, wouldn't that be my responsibility?
builtlikeahippo
 
Posts: 22
Joined: Tue Nov 18, 2003 9:37 am

i hear that

Postby mscheng » Tue Jan 27, 2004 7:31 pm

-hippo,

that's my point, though i perhaps hadn't worded it properly. i don't expect you to know any of that, and so i don't expect any of that to play into the review- you're just reviewing what you hear, and i respect that.
Marie Cheng
Amazin' Blue '00-'02
AB Biz '01-'02
mscheng
 
Posts: 8
Joined: Thu Nov 20, 2003 11:11 am
Location: Westminster, CO

Postby rlanen » Sun Feb 08, 2004 10:07 pm

One thing that to my suprise no one told Brian is that his reasoning is basically flawed; you say you wanna hear about the current group and their album. But in reality, for most groups, when they release an album, many (if not most) songs have been recorded in past years, when their group had a different composition. Unless you're OTB or a filthy rich East Coast Group (no offense, honestly!), a group will not release a CD per year; even Amazin' Blue, who are a very financially stable group, "only" release a CD once every other year. I happen to know most of the people on the disc in question, and I can tell you that probably about half the people that are in AB right now are not on this disc (but, will be on the next, by which release time many of them will have left the group in turn). So, you make a viable point if you'd say that you want to hear the work reviewed independently (leaving aside how incredibly hard it is to do this non-comparatively!), but what you hear ISN'T the current group either, so your point sort of gets lost there, I think.

-- personal disclaimer: i think all you RARB people are doing a stand-up job, and I truly believe it's much harder than you all get credit for.
-- 'nother personal disclaimer: I really meant no offense to east coast groups; to the best of my (alright, I'll call it) limited knowledge, OTB is the only group that releases a cd per annum. I dragged in the east coast after hearing from a certain (not to be named) east coast a cappella group's business guy their financial figures... figures that are beyond belief for a Midwest A Cappella boy.....
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Roel J.M. van Lanen
ex-dick (of janes),
MD 2002-2003
University of Michigan
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
rlanen
 
Posts: 32
Joined: Sun Feb 08, 2004 8:58 pm
Location: Ann Arbor, MI

Postby brianhaverkate » Mon Feb 09, 2004 5:30 am

Dutchapella wrote.......
One thing that to my suprise no one told Brian is that his reasoning is basically flawed; you say you wanna hear about the current group and their album. But in reality, for most groups, when they release an album, many (if not most) songs have been recorded in past years, when their group had a different composition.

Good point; and i believe it's a point that supports my argument that groups should not be judged be previous incarnations of the group....or recording projects. Some groups change members every couple weeks, months, semesters, and each year. All the while they are recording material. So, there never is a GROUP to really talk about on the CD, other than the fact that the CD comes under the group's name. In fact, as you state, there are probably 2 groups on each CD. Maybe I was misunderstood with my statement, but....... I meant that I want to hear about what is on the particular CD that is being reviewed, not previous CDs that groups under the same name have recorded. Thanks for clearing that up! :)

Seth wrote......
It was their judgement that was questioned, not their perogative.

Judgement....perogative.... I don't think we should be reviewing the thought process of an album. That's for the group to decide. I believe it's the job of the reviewers to review the music that's there. If someone records Mozart, Eminem, Disney, and the Beach Boys on the same album, I don't believe it's my job to tell them it was a bad decision to do so.

Seth wrote....
Even with the turnover, college groups have some continuity of sound. Groups usually sound more like themselves of a few years ago than like random other groups, and the group's last album is often an excellent predictor of what the next one will be like, not just in quality, but in style.

The most important thing I learned about singing groups while in college, is that 1 person can affect a group drastically for better or worse. 1 voice/attitude can make the difference between a group singing in tune or not, emoting well, singing dynamically and with energy, executing accurate rhythms, etc. Everything affects everything. I think it's incredibly naive to think otherwise. It's also incredibly unfair to tell a group they should sound like previous groups, and it's misleading to tell the public that the album wasn't up to par because they didn't sound like the previous group or album.
Look at Rockapella...... the group took on a whole new character and sound since the departure of Bary Carl. I heard it and saw it with the departure of Sean Altman for Kevin Wright as well. You can't deny that, and I don't think you should compare the two/three incarnations of the groups.

Josh wrote......
But what does one say about the legions of college groups out there who are all covering the same stuff in the same way? Detailed musical description seems to me sort of superfluous when you're just writing about the 9 millionth cover of "Insomniac."

Every version of Insomniac I've heard have been different, and each version has merit. Sure, they may be using the same transcribed arrangement from the BOCA disc, but they are different singers. They have different backgrounds, different talents, different timbres, different singing styles,......... There's plenty to write about. Let's not jump to conclusions that everyone knows Insomniac either. What if someone's never heard the song, but reads your review and finds out the song is "overdone" and they pass over it. Although I haven't heard a group sing Insomniac better (as a collective whole) than the Virginia Gentlemen, there is much to be gained from other versions. Steering groups and fans away from the a cappella standards is the wrong message. Let's embrace what makes a cappella great.


Josh wrote.......
-You praise Dave for his bypassing of opinion in his review. Um, hello...reviews ARE opinions. A review without opinion is merely...well...description. I'm not saying Dave's review isn't a review...I don't think he bypassed opinion at all.

No, opinion and bias can never be side-stepped altogether. Everything you think and say is a result of your previous experiences. Maybe we should re-think what the purpose of a review is. I don't believe the current state of reviews on RARB, Rolling Stone, and wherever else are doing a service to the groups or the consumers at all. It seems they only serve to cut down what we all enjoy, whether it be music, movies, etc. I think there are more ways to evaluate media without sacrificing the integrity of the reviewers themselves.
As a teacher, there are hundreds of ways I could express the same idea to a student. It's my job as a teacher to find a way to express myself that's honest and to the point, yet doesn't cut them down for making a mistake or build them up too high for achieving the task at hand. I want to find a way to express myself so the student understands what they did or did not acheive, yet is motivated to try again and push themselves further than they did previously. I think this notion could go a long way in how we interact with each other.
brianhaverkate
RARB
RARB
 
Posts: 419
Joined: Wed Feb 12, 2003 7:56 am
Location: Detroit, Michigan

Postby rebecca » Mon Feb 09, 2004 3:27 pm

yahtzeealum wrote: Judgement....perogative.... I don't think we should be reviewing the thought process of an album. That's for the group to decide. I believe it's the job of the reviewers to review the music that's there. If someone records Mozart, Eminem, Disney, and the Beach Boys on the same album, I don't believe it's my job to tell them it was a bad decision to do so.


Whenever someone doesn't like a review, the first line of criticism is often "you're just a reviewer. that's not in your job description."

With respect to all involved, here is my job description: Write 400 words about the most interesting aspect of the album in question. It's a snapshot, not a description, and it is by definition pretty limited in scope

What is "interesting" about an album is highly subjective and varies widely.
My job as a reviewer, is to find something that is interesting to me and write about it so that it may be interesting to you. If you remember anything I said - whether or not you agree with it - then I count that as a mild success since at least it means I wasn't boring.

Happy Monday everyone. Thanks for reading.
rebecca
RARB
RARB
 
Posts: 336
Joined: Mon Nov 18, 2002 1:40 pm
Location: washington, dc

Postby brianhaverkate » Tue Feb 10, 2004 4:38 am

Rebecca wrote....
Whenever someone doesn't like a review, the first line of criticism is often "you're just a reviewer. that's not in your job description."

If you look at the original topic of this thread you'll notice that the thread came about because I LIKED one of the reviews of this album.

Rebecca wrote....
With respect to all involved, here is my job description: Write 400 words about the most interesting aspect of the album in question. It's a snapshot, not a description, and it is by definition pretty limited in scope

I'm not criticizing WHAT reviewers are saying. I'm criticizing what they AREN'T saying, and how they GO ABOUT saying what they actually put in the review. For the most part, I can go along with the ideas a reviewer puts out there (when, of course, it relates to the music itself). I believe reviews can be honest, to the point, enlightening (to the group and consumers), proactive, and musically descriptive in 400 words. When you get rid of extraneous dialogue in reviews, there's plenty of room for what I've mentioned above. That's what I'd like to see in a review, anyways.
brianhaverkate
RARB
RARB
 
Posts: 419
Joined: Wed Feb 12, 2003 7:56 am
Location: Detroit, Michigan

Next

Return to zzCommunity Reviews

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest