The Spartones CD

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Review of the Spartones cd

Postby that guy » Mon Sep 20, 2004 2:42 pm

I actually am not surprised to hear about the current rating of the spartones new album, Bulletproof, however. I do feel that the way it was gone about is totally ridiculous, in every way. What justifies a good cd in the mighty acapella world these days....? Most people would say a good group with the balls to record.......but in actuality it's the size of their pockets and how long they actually have to spend in the recording studio. Some groups such as the "mighty titans-the beelzebubs", who were very much compared to the spartones by Javan Soo's criticism, practically sleep in the recording studio with how much money they generate per year. For us smaller acapella groups, we're only so lucky to have the priveledge to actually have a cd to call our own. Given the situation, I feel the true valor lies on the stage and not the soundboard, but who am I? After reading the picky posts of the unquestionable critics, it seems that the production of these cds these days are a big deal (rather than the actual musicality that starts the foundation of any singing group), and with that comes much money. Well the spartones didnt have much money to record with.....infact they only had 4 recording sessions to do what they did. Comparing that to some groups compilation of recording time to months, Id say they did pretty good for themselves. Lets take this to an even further level, if I might add. If this is going to be all about production, why dont we aim the fault to the men behind the soundboards themselves that the UNCG Spartones so gratiously paid thousands of dollars to, but weren't given the quality product that was so dearingly promised to the UNCG Spartones.....? Why should a group so graciously take the fall of one persons shortcomings......Dave Sperindino? Thats a bastard thing to say, but I will not stand by with my hands in my pockets while other people trash talk the UNCG Spartones. They are a very good group of singers, and they dont deserve it by any means neccessary. They are a group that contains consistency with musicality and variety, rather than every other boyband group out there that wants to sing for the girls, and not for themselves. In my book, The UNCG Spartones have done well for what they have to work with.

...........that guy
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Re: The Spartones CD

Postby vkolko » Mon Sep 20, 2004 2:58 pm

(The following opinions are my own and do not reflect those of the entire RARB staff.)

To respond to a few points Josh made (and note that I've neither heard the Spartones' album nor seen them in concert):

ricohitman wrote:I'm not going to defend the Spartones CD, but I am going to say a few things. Let us put into a scenario of how much it costs to make a CD. The spartones had enough money for 4 recordings sessions and the whole production stuff after that. I imagine that most groups spend a lot more time in the studio recording. We only had enough money for a little time. Let us also put into a scenario how much an acapella group can contribute to production, to put it frankly, we didn't have a lot.


By submitting your album to RARB for review, one inherently pits his or her group up "against" hundreds of other groups with a huge range of funds that they're able to spend on recording. We don't judge your album based on how much money you put into it; we judge based on the audio quality. There are a good amount of groups out there who use home equipment and turn out some fine CDs, and there are some groups who record in expensive studios and have the genre's best produce their music, and still don't produce works of aural art.

ricohitman wrote:I am not going to pinpoint any one of the reviewers on rarb but I am going to say if your going to compare us to a group that puts thousands upon thousands of dollars into a CD and doesn't live up to that on live performances you need to learn a few things about music.


It's not up to us to judge your live perfomances. You may be great in front of a crowd, but it's not our job to say so in the reviews, especially if we lack the personal knowledge. Some of us will indeed comment when we have the experience to say "{Insert group here}'s album doesn't match up to my memory of their performance at {insert venue here}" or "Both in the studio and on stage, {X group} really epitomizes the best of a cappella."

In fact, the RARB publishers are adamant at fact-checking when we reviewers talk about what we've seen at a live show - they want to know whether we've been there for real! We know lots of things about music; our specialty here is that which is recorded. Again, we only compare across albums, and at that, we compare them to a pre-determined scale (5=excellent, 4=good, etc.). When I find an album in any genre that is a "high" 5, one that is perfect as far as I can tell, I hold that in regard when listening to albums of every genre until the one CD comes along that surpasses it.

ricohitman wrote:When I look at the recent acapella CD world I notice that every damn CD has overproduced hip hop songs where I can't even tell what are voices because there is so much fakeness. I know personally that the production of this CD lacks, but I must say that some of the people on rarb need to understand their musical background a little more....To address variety on a CD: a lot of acapella groups out there nowadays sing to the masses, i.e. the hip hop genre. It was all our intent to NOT do this because it is the most boring music to arrange.


To put it mildly, not "every damn CD" has overproduced hip-hop songs. I've gotten over the last 2 years at least a dozen CDs to review that are neither hip-hop based nor "sung to the masses," and are incredibly fine compilations. Not only that, but some of the most interesting, layered, complex, and ear-catching pieces I've heard are indeed hip-hop/pop songs. I don't know if you mean that you get bored when arranging it, but its performance (at times) can be ANYTHING but boring.

You'll notice some of my 5s belong to an all-Asian group, a Russian folk group, a high school jazz group, an African women's group, and a women's group from Australia with African and tribal motifs. To be certain, there are a number of a successful cappella groups out there, collegiate AND professional, that do not even attempt mass audience appeal and instead reach a specific niche market. We at RARB aren't supposed to think "Is this collegiate album as good as the other collegiate album I heard?" We are "instructed to grade albums in comparison to the general body of a cappella recordings available" (see www.rarb.org/scores.html).

ricohitman wrote:That said you can like CD's that costed a billion dollars to make, but I will stick with groups like chanticleer who still give us purity in music unlike the tainted genre of collegiate acapella today.


I'm gonna make a guess that no group has a billion dollars to make a CD, but many save a few thou to put into a quality album because they don't have the equipment themselves. The thing is that even with the best studio and mixing, a mediocre group will still sound just that. (I'm not saying the Spartones' album is such, as I haven't heard it.) I would guess that Chanticleer, too, doesn't have a billion dollars to record an album, but given their record of excellence in live performance, I'm not surprised their albums are top-notch.

Based on Jevan's review, the issue is less with production than with arrangement and execution. Tekay seems concerned with creativity and originality. Eric touches on all of these in addition to the production element.

To leave with a question for you, Josh, if you feel collegiate a cappella is tainted, why sing it?

Val
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Postby Cutter » Mon Sep 20, 2004 5:06 pm

1. I don't think the production is really to blame for any shortcomings. Especially considering there was such a limited number of recording sessions (meaning the tracks needed more help), it's all pretty tight, in tune, and has that "thick" sound that seems to be the norm on Sperandio's production. Though I will admit the chorus effect applied toward that goal on the Beach Boys song rubs me the wrong way a little.

2. Honestly, it wasn't THAT BAD a review. Did you miss the accolades?

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Postby cjmike » Mon Sep 20, 2004 5:51 pm

teKay wrote:

"These guys soar on standards. The verses of God Only Knows left my mouth agape. Al Lewis brings an incredible tenderness to his performance. I Feel Fine maintains interest and vitality just like its title. But for diversity's sake the inclusion of Kurt Weill's Lost in the Stars as a barbershop number is breathtaking. At the same time the singers make excellent strides in contemporizing their sound with the aforementioned Stutter, The Distance and Anna Begins. This album has an excellent mix of old and new, pop/rock and hip-hop/r&b. Next time, guys, throw in some jazz and country and you'll knock it out of the ballpark as the group who can really do it all..."

Sounds like (from your posts) that your goal was not to create a highly produced technical masterpiece, but to bring your listeners a more organic, vocal feel to your arrangements and your recordings. Based on TeKay's comments above, it sounds like you achieved that. It's not your fault that not everyone likes that. 2 out of your 3 reviewers seem like they favor the high production values. That's not your fault, and it certainly is outside your realm of control, but lets not lambast them for doing what you (or someone in your group) asked them to do. What you need to remember is that they are just opinions. But, that being said, please don't dismiss them right away. Read what the reviewers have to say, and try to take one thing away that you can use for your next recording. I would like to think that groups don't submit albums to RARB reviewers for accolades, rather they do it so they can get an unbiased opinion of their work, and make their next project that much better.

The question I would pose to you Rico, is what are 3 things that you love about your album, and what are 3 things you would do differently next time around?

The good news is, the vast majority of the people who buy your album will have never have read your RARB review, let alone heard of the RARB. They will see your live show, and like it enough to take your disc home with them. They will love it, or maybe they won't. You can't please everyone.

Mike Henrickson
Cartoon Johnny, vocal band
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Postby sparkleytone » Mon Sep 20, 2004 5:58 pm

As a current director of the UNCG Spartones, I would like to do a couple things with this post. The first is to briefly address the previous posts. The second is to respond with my own opinions of the review.

On behalf of the UNCG Spartones, I say that the opinions expressed by any current or former Spartones on this forum do not necessarily reflect the opinions and/or communication skills of our organization.

RARB and its reviewers perform a very tough, sometimes controversial task. Collegiate a cappella music tends to be a personal journey for all those involved. Life bonds are formed between members of the organizations, and recordings become permanent reminders of each person's college experience. Listening to these CD's reminds us of the trials and tribulations of that time in our life...who we were in love with, what problems we had in life, who our best friends were becoming... Any time an arbitrary number is put on our efforts, its hard to accept anything but high marks.

Also, any remarks about the companies and/or persons involved in the production/duplication/recording/album-art/color/shinyness of our album is solely the opinion of the poster.

It is my personal opinion that a public forum is not a place to voice dissatisfaction with any business process. Opinions are expressed most effectively in the form of the health of a business relationship.

As far as the review goes...my personal opinion has more to do with what collegiate a cappella has become rather than the reviews themselves. We are being reviewed against groups that can and WILL spend ~$40k on a production, compared to groups that are recording directly through sound-altering software plugins, and measured against sounds that are so processed that the original sound is all but lost. Some groups can afford to record each individual voice on its own solo microphone, regardless of the cost. The worst part...is that some of those groups actually DO this. Where is the group mentality in that? When does it stop becoming an ensemble and start becoming a conglomeration of solo voices melded together by the wizardry of a producer?

In the end, I am more than proud of the Spartones' album 'Bulletproof'. It demonstrates the first recording of what this group has become. It is the first album with a solid, unmistakeable identity. What is good is really good, and what is bad is more than forgiveable. Above all, its real. Its raw. Its us. I know the Spartones are in no danger of being a Milli Vanilli of a cappella, and in today's world of college a cappella, that is something to be admired.
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Eric....

Postby that guy » Mon Sep 20, 2004 6:41 pm

Ditto.....Ive read alot of comments across the board, that Eric has produced with his vocabulary of distasteful words, and I just dont know who put him in charge of what he does......I feel it is way over board for him to bash a groupor any group the way he did the spartones.....maybe its best for all of us that you just stick with playing your magic cards....

......that guy
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Postby Nick Lyons » Mon Sep 20, 2004 7:04 pm

I'm not quite sure how to address what has happened in, virtually, the last 12 hours. Not only am I concerned that the Spartones have greatly tainted their own name, but I'm also concerned that they have tainted my perception of them.

I look back on BULLETPROOF and think, "wow, I did this." Not only was it my final accomplishment with the group, it was the first of what will hopefully be many, great accomplishments for the Spartones as an organization, no matter what any review says. No reviewer will argue with me saying that recording an album is an accomplishment. Everyone who does so should be proud.

With that said, I have to take the time to comment on the review. I was the director of the group that you hear on the album, as well as one of the producers (Dio was gracious enough to allow me to add my name, despite the minimal amount of actual "production" I did.) I was very passionate about the group. It was the one thing that remained consistent throughout my college career. And, despite my the school's and my family's disapproval, it was something I was very proud to be a part of. With that said, I apologize in advance for the length of this post but I feel the need to respond to what was, in essence, a dissection of my heart's work.

Jevan Soo wrote:The general mediocrity of the UNCG Spartones' second album, Bulletproof, speaks less to their lack of prowess than the continuously rising bar of collegiate recording.


-- There was definitely not a lack of prowess, just a friendly FYI. And also, just to clarify, it was the 3rd album put out by the group.

Jevan Soo wrote:Ten, maybe even five years ago, this would have been a pretty good album. The group has a pleasantly warm sound, generally solid tuning, consistently committed energy, a reasonably interesting tracklist, and a bunch of pretty competent singers.


-- Thank you for your kind words. I had a lot invested in the group and it is nice to hear someone comment on one of the many things I helped the group improve.

Jevan Soo wrote:But nowadays, these traits serve as the qualifying round rather than the final trial. And when thrust into the big game against titans like the Beezelbubs or AVP, the Spartones fall far short of their album title.


-- I’m glad to know we would have made the qualifier… haha. In the recording industry, a group like the Spartones probably won’t ever enter the ranks of the groups you referred to… due to lack of “public” appeal, and lack of funds, due to the former. It’s a fact and a shame, but not a complaint or excuse. I hope it doesn’t come across as such.

Jevan Soo wrote:So what's holding the Spartones back from greatness? Arrangements with measure after measure of "doo doo doo" rhythms or held "ahh" block chords. Overly restrained soloists bringing choral enunciations and stylings to a pop repertoire.


-- All of them? There isn’t a single “doo” in Going the Distance. Sarcasm… sorry, I had to. Almost half the arrangements on the album had my name on them, so I was a bit dismayed to hear the comments referring to them. However, I will take your comments to heart. I do feel, though, that it may not have necessarily been the arrangements (in every case), but the failure of the production to capture them… due in part to the producers (of which I was one), but moreso due to a lack of funds… which would also fall largely on my shoulders, as director.

Jevan Soo wrote:And the biggest problem of all -- inconsistency. We are slammed by the initial energy of The Distance and Stutter that threatens to become frantic by each track's end. I Feel Fine has a jaunty energy and the harmonies are tight, but then the instrumental section is unbearably bad. All I Need is a Miracle has a solid solo and sparkling block -- which is buried by a muddy mix that seems completely inconsistent with the production on every other track. There are a number of things to like here, and enough problems to blemish each and every one of them.


-- Inconsistency!!!! YES!! I COMPLETELY agree. I would have said, however, that there were about 4 tracks on the album that were worthy of 5’s… but of course, I’m biased, as the heart behind the project.

Jevan Soo wrote:From the liner notes, it sounds as if the Spartones are a relatively young group, in which case the stumbles on their sophomore album are reasonably excusable. But for the non-family member/significant other/stalker, there's nothing here that you haven't heard before -- and not much you'd want to hear again.


-- The Spartones are now 6 years old. We had a great time recording this album and there are some genuinely amazing moments on the disc that actually occur outside of Stutter…


TeKay wrote:With this recording, BULLETPROOF, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro Spartones challenged themselves to achieve three goals in the collegiate a cappella community:
• Produce a tight-knit family of outstanding musicians and recording artists.
• Effectively and interestingly increase the scope and diversity of their musical repertoire.
• Create more national recognition, thereby fostering North Carolina's regional influence on the scene, while also expanding the concentration of talent beyond Duke, UNC and North Carolina State.

Let's see how they did.

Goal one: Like most of the top male groups, The Spartones grew out of the male glee club tradition. Glees are excellent training grounds for a cappella groups as they are the basis for creating a solid foundation in musicality. Pitch retention, blend, phrasing, and a mature breath support are drilled incessantly. Those are the pluses. Unfortunately, loss of creativity, squareness, and an unseemly standardization of sound can be the result of this training as well. Some groups are able to transcend the trappings of the heritage, others are not. The Spartones are well on their way to transforming all that is good from their strong musical background and barbershop influences into a strong musical hybrid for today's collegian. Crisp backing vocals, solid blocks and excellent phrasing are apparent from the first moment.


-- Again, thank you. I’m not sure if your review appearing before Eric’s was a blessing, or a curse. Did it raise my spirits, so his words hit me a like a ton of bricks, or simply put me in a good state of mind to openly accept what he had to say… ha, we’ll see.

TeKay wrote:Many of the arrangements still need to make that jump as well, though alumnus Nick Lyons is headed in the right direction with songs like The Distance and Anna Begins, with only occasional slips into the been there/done that feel of standards like Pinch Me and Two Points for Honesty. Josh Flores, on the other hand, brings it with his amazing work on Stutter.


-- Ahhh, that’s nice to hear. I hadn’t heard a single arrangement of Anna Begins when I arranged mine, and it came together in approximately 60 minutes. Didn’t expect it to go over as well as it did. I’m glad someone liked The Distance as much as I did. I was beginning to wonder. I was also very pleased with Pinch Me and Two Points… but I would agree they are both overdone songs. Let me send you the chart on Two Points though… you’d be surprised at what you see… haha. Stutter, like most hip-hop tracks, will almost always turn out well, because they are the same 2 measures repeated again and again… and again… and again… I'm sure you get the point.

TeKay wrote:The glee club background leads to a second point and the second goal. These guys soar on standards. The verses of God Only Knows left my mouth agape. Al Lewis brings an incredible tenderness to his performance. I Feel Fine maintains interest and vitality just like its title. But for diversity's sake the inclusion of Kurt Weill's Lost in the Stars as a barbershop number is breathtaking. At the same time the singers make excellent strides in contemporizing their sound with the aforementioned Stutter, The Distance and Anna Begins. This album has an excellent mix of old and new, pop/rock and hip-hop/r&b. Next time, guys, throw in some jazz and country and you'll knock it out of the ballpark as the group who can really do it all and not sound stupid.


-- I think that’s a goal I aimed for with the group that I don’t feel your Beezlebubs or AVP type groups will be all too concerned with. I’m glad you felt we were somewhat successful to this end.

TeKay wrote:I wavered repeatedly on the scoring of this album. At times, everything started sounding the same, so I'd forget what track I was listening too. The block would be so good, but the dynamics so unyielding that I'd get distracted from listening to the soloist. And there is a bad, bad recording glitch at the end of track two Pinch Me, which is unexcusable when handled by professional producers and engineers. Buy the album, listen for it, and you'll see what I mean.


-- It was done on purpose… It was funny in the studio and, for some, will be funny on the disc. Didn’t expect it to spark everyone’s funny bone, though.

TeKay wrote:And as for the third goal, I think it's more than evident that The Spartones are more than unstoppable, they are BULLETPROOF. Kudos.


-- Thanks, TeKay. I appreciate your kind words and generous scores. Yours was more than I could possibly have asked for.


Eric Skalinder wrote:"It's extremely difficult to encompass the 2002-2003 Spartones in a single concept". So say the liner notes of BULLETPROOF. I couldn't have said it better myself.


-- If I didn’t know better (having seen the scores beforehand), I may have thought this was headed in the right direction…

Eric Skalinder wrote:The main weakness,


--- And now, I know better…

Eric Skalinder wrote:not surprising to collegiate a cappella fans, is radically variable song styles. But on this album it's even more disjointed and destructive than usual. We've all been to restaurants that simply try to do too much and, as a consequence, do nothing very well. So goes this album. Given the song choices on the disc, even the Stump the Chef segment from Public Radio's food program "The Splendid Table" would be hard pressed to come up with anything resembling a tasty treat. The ingredients from which to choose?


-- What?!?! I guess I understood the restaurant reference, but what? Stump the Chef? The Splendid Table? I mean, I guess I understand them, but have you been trying to find a way to implement them into a review? It just seems a bit out of place, more than anything else.

Eric Skalinder wrote:Cake's hard edged The Distance, Joe and Mystikal's (at least originally) soulful Stutter, the nearly choral Lost in the Stars, 80s cheez-pop hit All I Need is a Miracle, saucy Canadian BNL's Pinch Me, The Beach Boys' hook-filled God Only Knows, classic Beatles tune I Feel Fine, the syrupy folk of Sarah McLaughlin's When She Loved Me, and union rally cry Chemical Workers Song. Thankfully, two (count 'em, two!) Counting Crows songs bring some stability to this aural feast. Well, okay, they don't.


-- I don’t think I could have described the track list better than that… in all seriousness. I guess having known that you didn’t particularly like any of them would lead me to aim for different descriptions, but I think I especially like the word “saucy.” I love BNL and I think that definitely describes their style.

Eric Skalinder wrote:None of the above songs is performed or arranged particularly well.


-- Despite your next comments about one of my arrangements, I'll have to disagree with you here. I can't really think of another way to say it than to just tell you you're wrong, as rude as it may sound. Dave Sperandio runs what some would call a successful production/engineering/everything aca company and seems more than comfortable to have me as the head of his arranging wing. Maybe I had 5 complete misses on the album, but I'm going to have to go out on a limb and say that "the food's presentation was unique and appealing. If not to the average restaurant-goer, definitely to the restaurant connoisseur."

Eric Skalinder wrote:Guster's biting, if overdone, Two Points for Honesty provides the lone exception. The arrangement has direction and vitality as well as production that is the best on the disc. Mr. Stuart Spencer brings an otherwise played out song to life with his deliciously piercing, vibrant solo.


-- Didn’t think Stu’s solo voice would go over as well as it did. It’s different and unique. And I’m glad the arrangement was received well. I guess not quite well enough for a 5… but even I can be accused of grasping at straws.

Eric Skalinder wrote:Mr. Brandon Ellis also contributes a convincing and dynamic solo on the album's opener, sounding nicely layered and multi-tracked for that larger than life feel.


-- All due to the work of Dave Sperandio. I was very pleased with that track as well.

Eric Skalinder wrote:Production is a mixed bag. Distortion (not of the effects variety!), along with other general noisiness, is bad enough to be a major distraction throughout most of the album. But the majority of songs are still finely and energetically mixed.


-- A disclaimer to all groups out there. Don’t skimp on your studio time. It can make a huge difference. In my opinion, the production is as much to blame on the album as anything else. Not a shot at dio, just a lack of time and resources (money).

Eric Skalinder wrote:The Distance, like too many other songs on the disc, suffers from an unimaginative and too literal arrangement, but is still pleasantly fat and big.


-- I appreciate your words, as they will help me grow as an arranger. But I will respectfully completely disagree with you on this point.

Eric Skalinder wrote:Two Points for Honesty, while predictable, is compellingly crispy and crunchy. And All I Need is a Miracle is appropriately full of warmth and other 80s gooey goodness.


-- Cripsy, crunchy, gooey goodness. YES! We’re a Snickers bar!! Hahaha. All joking aside, thank you for your kind words.

Eric Skalinder wrote:The liner notes' claims of BULLETPROOF musicianship and music quality are simply overcooked.


-- Musicianship and music quality are completely subjective, as is evident by you scoring Anna Begins with a 2, and your colleague, with just as much musical experience and musicianship, giving it a 5.

Eric Skalinder wrote:On the other hand, the guys are probably correct when they say that "most importantly, the friendships forged in the Spartones will always be "Bulletproof"". But that's not reason enough to spend your cash on this disc. Go buy yourself a decent dinner instead of trying to create a gourmet meal out of what's left sitting in your fridge.


-- And finally, the witty, and completely unnecessary closer.

I’m a frequent RARB-er (a what?), so I’ve seen my fair share of people who make us all say “here we go again. Another bum that wanted a review and since they didn’t get what they wanted, they’re pissed off.” I hope I don’t come across that way, as some of my past group-mates may (and almost certainly) have. I will say that I'm glad they didn't comment on the album art!!!! Hahaha. I apologize for the length and, I’m sure, completely pointlessness of this thread but, as anyone, including anyone who has ever been a Spartone, my friends, my family, Dave Sperandio and anyone else could tell you, it’s in my heart and pumps through my veins. I couldn’t just let it go… as much as I may have wanted to. But, I appreciate the time you all took to review the album. Despite whether or not he, she or the other agreed or disagreed with you, I appreciate your words of encouragement and look forward to many more, though, perhaps without the wit, that ultimately comes at our expense. But again, thank you.

Nick Lyons
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Postby Nick Lyons » Mon Sep 20, 2004 7:07 pm

As if my last post wasn't long enough...


Hey "That Guy," if you don't have the guts to put your name on your posts, don't bother posting. And do me a favor and don't publicly bash Dave Sperandio. Especially since he's not allowed to defend himself... and also because, outside of singing, you contributed next to nothing to the album. It greatly angers me that you continue to make yourself and the Spartones look foolish. Stop posting, please!
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Warehauser

Postby that guy » Mon Sep 20, 2004 7:29 pm

to your response, I dont have to give my name......those who know me know who I am already......Im sure you know who I am Nick, so stop the cloak and dagger ruitine.......I voice my opinion because I want to. Ive seen many things go wrong in the acapella world and theyve gone unspoken. I only choose to speak of them because its time someone said something, and I was unaware that dave could not post anymore. By the way, dont ever tell me what I can and cant do, ever again. Your like a rash that wont go away sometimes.
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Postby vkolko » Mon Sep 20, 2004 7:34 pm

sparkleytone wrote:We are being reviewed against groups that can and WILL spend ~$40k on a production, compared to groups that are recording directly through sound-altering software plugins, and measured against sounds that are so processed that the original sound is all but lost. Some groups can afford to record each individual voice on its own solo microphone, regardless of the cost. The worst part...is that some of those groups actually DO this. Where is the group mentality in that? When does it stop becoming an ensemble and start becoming a conglomeration of solo voices melded together by the wizardry of a producer?


An interesting point, Sparkleytone. I think your point indeed has merit. At the same time, I think it's way cool that the technology exists to stretch the recorded human voice to iterations that could in no way happen without alteration by the "wizardry of a producer." Whether you agree with me or not, you do acknowledge this possibility. I don't want to put words in your mouth, but it seems you value the purity of sound and semblance to the original sung notes, which is a fine and completely valid opinion.

Recorded a cappella, like all new music, pushes new boundaries by using studio mastery to create new sounds. I have no qualms if you are a purist and only want to hear the sounds that came out of performer's mouth on an album, having the whole group stand around a mic or a few and laying those tracks exactly so on a CD without altering them. But as mentioned earlier, it's not our place as reviewers to say that one method/systemology/technique is inherently better or worse than another, that its value is raised or lowered because of the use or lack of technology used in putting an album together.

We have different things in mind when we record and produce. Some groups might be thinking about, as Josh mentioned, "mass appeal." They may indeed use mixing and all kinds of alteration to make their voices sound more like instruments because that's what they believe people outside of the general a cappella world will like and buy. I'd like to think that people would like a cappella simply because it is such, but that's not always so. To be honest, I've heard more than a few groups (and not just collegiate) like this, both live and recorded, that go into overkill with the effects, and I'm turned off.

Other groups believe in the power of their collective voices so much that they don't use sliding buttons, dials, and loops to a great effect. And they still put out one heck of a sound. One of my absolute favorite songs of all time is the live version of the Nylons' "Good Old A Cappella." It's so well-tuned, poppy, energetic, and clean.

We all hold production values in high regard. Do I hear lots of breath sounds? Are entrances sloppy? Do I hear a clear sound without (unintended) reverb or echo? Are voices balanced? I would venture to guess that a group that's great live could put out a decent album whether they record as solo voices or in one large group.

Like I said, I think the great thing about our task as reviewers is that we can give the same scores to albums that use different recording techniques, spend lots or little money, are collegiate or professional, etc. It's not up to us to put a value on how the album was recorded. Can you imagine what could happen? "Well, the alto section was all somewhere between an E and an F when the rest of the group was singing a D major chord, but since they recorded as a unit, I'll let it slide." :)

For me, it's okay that a group records a bunch of solo voices and then lays them all together. Think of a cappella without the ground-breaking Bobby McFerrin solo "Don't Worry, Be Happy!" If the overall effect is displeasing to my ear, believe me, the reader will hear about it! I'm more concerned with creativity, energy, tuning, soloists, etc. If none of these are used appropriately to the genre or desired sound, the score will be lower.

I think it's awesome that the Spartones got the opportunity to bond over a disc they're proud of. Don't let a review change that. We can all come off as harsh sometimes, and to the group in question, it might always feel that way. Our analogies might leave the reader confused or angered because we only have limited space to explain ourselves. At the same time, as reviewers, we are entitled to our opinion. The best thing about RARB is that as a reader, you have your chance to do so here, too.

I'm actually glad we had the chance to discuss this aspect of recorded a cappella, as it's been on my mind for a long time, and this seemed like the right thread in which to do it.

Val
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Re: Warehauser

Postby carlyonders » Mon Sep 20, 2004 7:34 pm

that guy wrote:to your response, I dont have to give my name......those who know me know who I am already......Im sure you know who I am Nick, so stop the cloak and dagger ruitine.......I voice my opinion because I want to. Ive seen many things go wrong in the acapella world and theyve gone unspoken. I only choose to speak of them because its time someone said something, and I was unaware that dave could not post anymore. By the way, dont ever tell me what I can and cant do, ever again. Your like a rash that wont go away sometimes.



Dude did you forget to take your meds? Try http://www.writelikeanoneightyearold.com please. And also check out http://www.theenglishlanguage.gov .

good luck,
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