recent review

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recent review

Postby sizzles » Fri Apr 21, 2006 9:16 pm

BEWARE: What follows can be summarized as "BLARG BLARG I LIKE NATURAL SINGING." You have all heard this before. Enjoy....





gotta tell you guys, as per this....

"When you include something like "No pitch correction devices were used in the making of this album.", you might think you're making a valiant case for your skills. But, in the opinion of at least half the a cappella world, this disclaimer means, at worst, that you have no respect for the recording process and might as well have released a live album. Even at best, the disclaimer shows a stubbornness and an unwillingness to adapt with the times."......

I gotta quit the gym here at rarb. Way to beat people up for TRYING to do something human. This represents a progression past the "I like autotune more than natural" to the "I take a dump on people who even try to be natural anymore." Fine, say you don't like natural. But to say they're disrespecting the recording process? Please.

Isn't it KIND of interesting to you all to hear SOMETHING that's real, that hasn't been altered? Aren't you the slightest bit interested in hearing how a group actually sounds that you can't immediately travel to and see live?

Don't get me wrong. "Passive" by OTB is my favorite track period. But there has to be allowance for reality in this genre. Isn't something perfect and real even more impressive?

In conclusion, go use a keyboard to make a cappella, or have 70 faders for one track. But don't take dumps on people who don't want 70 faders. Tell them to practice more and make it perfect naturally, if that's what they want. Doesn't that make more sense?

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Postby billhare » Sat Apr 22, 2006 8:17 am

I think the point was if you ARE going to put some sort of disclaimer like that up, you'd better have a great lock on the chords, perfect control of your voice, etc. They did not need to put that disclaimer up because, from what I hear, the tuning was poor.

It really is not about natural vs. unnatural, it's more about using technology to help level the playing field. There are groups I work with who are fantastic musicians, highly trained, who know how to lock chords and blend like nobody's business. Do I use AutoTune on them? Not usually.

MOST of the Collegiate groups (not to offend anyone) are filled with people majoring in subjects besides music, and even though there ARE pro-level caliber singers scattered throughout these groups, each group will only be ultimately as strong as its weakest link(s).

Let's put up an average high school baseball team against an all-star pro team. When, as expected, they lose the game 25-0, putting up a disclaimer that they lost without the use of steroids is not really needed now is it?

Now had the game been closer, or if they even won, there'd be some reason to suspect. If then they claim they didn't use steroids (and it was proved that they didn't), they'd be lauded as amazing athletes.

The difference of course is that steroids are illegal, but AutoTune is not. A high school team is also not going to be playing a pro team - but that's what the high school/collegiate A Cappella groups are doing - they are taking the professionals head-on, and sometimes bettering them using technology, but more than that they are using CREATIVITY to make up the rest of the gap.

Being in tune alone does not make your record great, it's the character you give your project that sets it apart, and no technology can do that yet. If a group has trouble tuning, it doesn't mean they have nothing to say, and if they can get people to hear their real message without their tuning inadequacies getting in the way, I say more power to 'em! :-)

sizzles wrote:Isn't it KIND of interesting to you all to hear SOMETHING that's real, that hasn't been altered? Aren't you the slightest bit interested in hearing how a group actually sounds that you can't immediately travel to and see live?


I'll say it yet again: Would your favorite world-famous rock band do the same for you? Well, some might, but most wouldn't. Many millions of people get to hear the song that hits #1 on the charts, but a small fraction of one percent are going to see them live. They want to put their best foot forward for the big audience as well as the small audience. Contrary to popular opinion on this board, my opinion is that if someone puts out something that's enjoyable to listen to, no matter how they did it, it has worth. Blah blah Bohemian Rhapsody blah blah A Day in the Life that you can read in about 100 of my other posts.

And there are many, many "real" projects out there, some good, some bad - plenty for everyone. But just listen to the CDs regardless of whether you think the group did it for "real" - they worked hard, and they made it into something viable! If you like what they did, end of story.

sizzles wrote:Don't get me wrong. "Passive" by OTB is my favorite track period. But there has to be allowance for reality in this genre. Isn't something perfect and real even more impressive?


There is plenty of allowance for that, now we need an allowance to move it all forward. Not every group needs to impress you, some just want to be able to say something that can move you. If slightly retouching the photo takes some warts out and makes it less distracting to allow the message to come through, all the better!

-B

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Postby jesset » Sat Apr 22, 2006 9:22 am

A disclaimer like that does not "disrespect the recording process", what a disclaimer like that does is just make the group look really silly all on their own. There's no need to, as Sam said, take a dump on them. They've put their own egg on their face.

And also,

billhare wrote:my opinion is that if someone puts out something that's enjoyable to listen to, no matter how they did it, it has worth.


Can we just all agree on this and go back to arguing about cooler things? Music is music, and as much as I didn't like that Logarhythms album, the Bubs' version of Mr. Roboto is #2 on my iTunes. Let's give this really tired subject a rest, eh?
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Re: recent review

Postby dekesharon » Sat Apr 22, 2006 10:59 am

sizzles wrote:"When you include something like "No pitch correction devices were used in the making of this album.", you might think you're making a valiant case for your skills. But, in the opinion of at least half the a cappella world, this disclaimer means, at worst, that you have no respect for the recording process and might as well have released a live album.


The first thing that comes to my minds is that the statement should only be made if your average listener is going to have trouble believing it.

A photo of a pock faced guy with the statement "no airbrushing was used on this photo" will probably elicit the response "no s##t!" from average joe.

Not having pitch correction is not a bad thing: a barbershop album, for example, may not have it, or need it. Beautiful. And they might include statement like the one above, but it would probably be moot, even though it's in tune, as barbershop's often recorded live in the studio, relying on the natural tuning talents of the singers.

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Postby Cutter » Sat Apr 22, 2006 11:35 pm

People. Be realistic. Very little to do with the "purism vs. processing" debate here.

I seriously doubt that steering clear of pitch correction was a choice. This is obviously a young group (founding members are graduating right now) getting off the ground with little recording know-how and little budget that put out a rough album and knows it full well. It makes much more sense to translate this disclaimer as a more tactful-sounding spin on "well, it might not be perfectly in tune... but at least we did it without any help". It's looking at the bright side and it's their consolation prize to themselves.

Does this "disclaimer" mean anything positive to anyone else? No, you're right, it probably doesn't. If you wanna ride 'em for making the questionable decision of including it, okay, fine. But taking this as simply being stubborn, unwilling and DISRESPECTFUL of the recording process, and scolding them for doing so? That's a little silly. Lay off 'em.

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Postby Treymix » Sun Apr 23, 2006 2:42 pm

Cutter wrote:But taking this as simply being stubborn, unwilling and DISRESPECTFUL of the recording process, and scolding them for doing so? That's a little silly. Lay off 'em.


Sure, I mention that at at worst, the disclaimer shows a lack of respect. I then mention, in the very next sentence, that it could just show stubbornness. And then, two short paragraphs later, I mention that I didn't let it affect my review. And gave them the best score of the three reviewers.

It's the disclaimer that made me mad, not the act.

Bill covered my points very well, so I won't rehash them. Just read his post again if you want to hear my point of view.

I do have to say, however, that if I read a disclaimer that said "no track on this album was UNprocessed", I would be just as ticked off, because I think, at worst, that disclaimer would show a lack of respect to the art form, and to the people who spend hours practicing to get things right.

But I still wouldn't let it affect my review.
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Postby Treymix » Sun Apr 23, 2006 2:56 pm

One more thing I just thought of, related to Deke's post and Bill's point about steroids: the disclaimer that's on the vast majority of albums now, stating something like

"All sounds were made with the human mouth, except the claps, which were made with the human hand."

We're at a point where VP is sounding so much like real percussion and people are distorting their own voices so much to sound like instruments (plus the effects that go onto them) that this is actually a worthwhile disclaimer.

For example: I just played a song for a friend of mine who knew nothing about contemporary a cappella. I told him a little bit first, but after about 5 seconds he was like "so these people all sing to this drum machine?" and I was like, "no, the drums are vocal too." And he listened to about 5 seconds more and was like "but why did they include a real hihat???"

And he works in a professional studio. :)
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Postby tekay » Sun Apr 23, 2006 7:01 pm

Cutter wrote:Does this "disclaimer" mean anything positive to anyone else? No, you're right, it probably doesn't. If you wanna ride 'em for making the questionable decision of including it, okay, fine. But taking this as simply being stubborn, unwilling and DISRESPECTFUL of the recording process, and scolding them for doing so? That's a little silly. Lay off 'em.
Cutter


Well, please realize Mike, that Trey also gave them the highest score of the three reviewers, so I do believe he cut them some slack.

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Postby Cutter » Sun Apr 23, 2006 8:24 pm

That's great and I'm sure is much appreciated. I didn't suggest he scored them too low or was rough on them elsewhere in the review. Trey is A-O-K. Only made reference to one statement he made. Like Sizzles. That's all.

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Postby jrhailey » Sun Apr 23, 2006 9:53 pm

Treymix wrote:For example: I just played a song for a friend of mine who knew nothing about contemporary a cappella. I told him a little bit first, but after about 5 seconds he was like "so these people all sing to this drum machine?" and I was like, "no, the drums are vocal too." And he listened to about 5 seconds more and was like "but why did they include a real hihat???"

And he works in a professional studio. :)


This reaffirms my belief that recorded a cappella, if it generally continues to hang out in the suburbs of Over-production, won't see much increased popularity beyond the existing community at best.

I, too, played an a cappella CD from 2003 for my friends the other day. They couldn't believe that all of the sounds were vocal, but after a little explaining, I was able to get them to understand what they were hearing. Then, I reluctantly played some songs from a 2005 CD, and my friends couldn't understand how the vocal sounds were made on some of the heavily effected tracks, and to tell you the truth, I couldn't either.

It's great when Joe A Cappella Singer can tell his friends and family "Oh, you're hearing the bass part moved down an octave and the same percussion sound shortened then copied and pasted a bunch" etc. But I think it's gone too far when only the handfuls of producers can hear a heavily effected track and understand on their own how the sounds were made. This kind of thing certainly alienates even the pretty seasoned listener. I know I don't introduce people to a cappella by playing tracks from today.

I'm proud of AVP's most recent album Academical Is Not A Word (2005), for example, because it sounds good. In fact, I think it sounds great. And a lot of it sounds like voices. But I'll admit, that when I step back and look at some of the tracks and think "this is supposed to be a representation of my college a cappella group," some of that pride is gone. Usually, when this happens, I'll immediately pop in an older AVP CD like Room Zero (2001) or even Gracias, Por Favor (2000).

I wonder if others have similar feelings. I hope the we've reached the end of the Heavily-effected end of the production spectrum and that we're heading toward a recorded a cappella renaissance. In some ways, I feel like we're already going in that direction. I think we saw a step forward by looking back from the Bubs on their Code Red follow-up Shedding. I'd love to see more producers take their amazing talents and use them to enhance solid singing rather than spend time on computerized gimmicks that most people, both experienced and novice listeners, won't understand on their own.
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Postby jrhailey » Sun Apr 23, 2006 9:58 pm

Oh! My last post wasn't directed at anyone in particular, and certainly not toward Trey. The post isn't necessarily related to the review that this thread is focused on. The conversations on this thread just spawned those semi-related thoughts in the old noggin.
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Postby Treymix » Mon Apr 24, 2006 7:26 am

jrhailey wrote:This reaffirms my belief that recorded a cappella, if it generally continues to hang out in the suburbs of Over-production, won't see much increased popularity beyond the existing community at best.


I don't necessarily agree. On the whole, my non a cappella friends would much rather listen to the effected, closer-to-the-original tracks over and over again. They're like, "Oh, that's cool" when they can hear the voices and hear cute badiddle syllables, but after they hear them once they don't care to hear them again. And it's the repeat listenability, I think, that translates to album sales (unless your group already has tons of built-in fans).

So it's a Catch-22. You can stay pure and simple, and not sell as many CDs. Or you can go crazy production, and sell more, but not be able to hear yourself on the tracks.

I think there's a middle ground, though. The albums I'm starting to like most have both - on acoustic songs, they're very natural, and on the electronic/rock songs, they're very produced. I think that way you get the best of both worlds - you have something to show off to everyone.
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Postby jesset » Mon Apr 24, 2006 8:39 am

jrhailey wrote:This reaffirms my belief that recorded a cappella, if it generally continues to hang out in the suburbs of Over-production, won't see much increased popularity beyond the existing community at best.


In continuation of this most awesome tangent, I agree. When I play a cappella for my Gentile friends, if it's over-produced, they're unimpressed and go, "What's the point?" Sure, we can say that they've got the wrong idea if that's their attitude, but it doesn't change the fact that it inevitably shuts out new listeners.

Also agreed about Shedding/Code Red. Though I'm not too into Shedding from a straight music fan level, (Song choices + soloists didn't do it for me, with the exception of LGIS and Paranoid Android) I absolutely LOVE it on the level of an a cappella musician. I love how it generally leaves the electronics at home and relies on clever syllables, solid arrangements, and really talented singing to deliver its punch. And whenever I play anything from that album for the Unenlightened, they're often very intrigued and want to hear more of the genre. Hooray Bubs.

In other news, I really hope my supervisor doesn't start wondering why I've been typing so much and gotten so little actual work done...
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Postby jrhailey » Mon Apr 24, 2006 9:40 am

Treymix wrote:
I think there's a middle ground, though. The albums I'm starting to like most have both - on acoustic songs, they're very natural, and on the electronic/rock songs, they're very produced. I think that way you get the best of both worlds - you have something to show off to everyone.



I think you're right about the middle ground. That's probably key to higher sales these days. And of course there are other factors that take place before editing/mixing/production, mainly good arrangements, good singing, and good recording. Some songs do warrant an acoustic/natural sound. And some need to rock out. But I feel like we (the a cappella community) have realized an extreme in over-production, and are starting to see producers enhance the good singing and arrangements rather than take them on a digital joyride. I think THAT is the middle ground: using just as many production techniques but in the name of bringing out the VOCAL qualities to the listener. I hope to see more of this!

If we're ever to see any crossover into the mainstream (other than Bobby McFerrin, Carmen San Diego, Folgers, Growing Pains, some Boyz II Men, and recently "The Astelins", which are all a cappella in its most pure form), tracks will have to maintain a human sound. I know we're not trying to become mainstream and sell out to the man, but part of what we're always doing with album sales is popularizing a cappella through awareness. I think this is easier and ultimately more satisfying to do when you can play the music for anyone (your potential audience) with no necessary explanation, when it sounds like 5, 10, or 15 vocal parts interweaving. A lot of the appeal that a cappella has is that it sounds different from everything else. So why make it sound like everything else? Be true to your art form!
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Postby davecharliebrown » Mon Apr 24, 2006 10:19 am

I couldn't agree more with jrhailey. We listen to our respective groups' recordings, and they're nice and all, even enjoyable to listen to. It's just that we're a tad embarassed if it doesn't "represent" our group. Sure - it represents what we did in the studio, our arrangements, choices we made in the recording process - absolutely. But when people listen to it, they don't really think it sounds like "us." Although I thoroughly respect the heavy effects world of a cappella recording, I don't think we're really doing a lot for our artform, at least when we're performing other people's songs.

What would you think if a cover band did a great recording of someone else's song, without making it sound any different? Wouldn't you just buy the original? I think the point of covering something is to perform a song that people like, but with your own twist, your own interpretation. Make it different! Especially in the a cappella world - it should sound like voices. At least a little.

If you're performing original songs, or taking covers in a whole new, cool direction, then lay on the effects. But otherwise, the whole gimmick of it is that you're using your voice to imitate instruments, not a computer.
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