Solid standards highlight Chorallaries' new album
Better Late Than Never
The Chorallaries of MIT.
Erin E. McCoy '96, director.By J. Michael Andresen
After several production delays, the Chorallaries' latest album has finally been released. Not only is late better than never, the disc is definitely worth the wait. The Chorallaries deliver a solid recording that is well conceived, highly musical, and even quite amusing at times.
The album was recorded and mixed by the Chorallaries during January of 1993. Because of problems with Bristol Studios and various graphics companies (and the truckers' strike), the album was delayed for over a year. Even now the liner notes are not free of typos, and the graphics seem thrown together, but these faults don't detract from the high quality of the recording and mixing, for which the Chorallaries are wholly responsible.
The format of the album is somewhat standard for a co-ed a capella group. Most of the songs are popular offerings arranged for solo voice and accompaniment. The background vocals are the most solid part of the recording. The Chorallaries seem always to be in tune and in perfect balance with the soloist. Five members of the group did an impeccable job of mixing the album. The sound the Chorallaries generate from the recording is surprisingly robust given that they use no instrument other than the human voice.
The one major problem with the album is the quality of the solos. In an apparently large-hearted move, nearly every member of the group is given a solo. This was noble, perhaps, but the resultant solo assignments are questionable. Some of the album's soloists just don't have strong solo voices, but the greater sin was the sometimes heinous mismatches between the voice quality of the soloist and the nature of the song. In "Verdi Cries," Cathryn A. McNamara '97 delivers a solo that is full of rich vibrato that sounds almost grotesque in context. A flatter voice would have been far preferable to accompany the mellow sound of the song. Similarly, Erin E. McCoy '96 sounds awkward singing "Fascinatin' Rhythm" with her precise classical-sounding voice. Her completely staid performance does a grave injustice to the jazzy Gershwin tune.
This is not to say that the assignments are uniformly bad. McCoy sounds much better singing "Time and Tide" later in the album, and Thomas C. Bruno '95 pays a wonderful tribute to Steve Martin with his rendition of "Dentist." Still, the Chorallaries would have been far better served had the choice of soloists been an artistic decision rather than a political one.
Ten of the 16 songs featured on the album were arranged by current members of the group. The five of these arranged by director McCoy are the most inspired. Her use of staccato voices gives a jaunting lilt to "Verdi Cries" and makes "Walking on Broken Glass" alive and exciting. Though some of the credit must go to Natalie Merchant and Annie Lennox, McCoy is able to transfer the strong anticipations and releases to her vocal arrangements.
One of the songs was both written and arranged by a current member of the Chorallaries. "Dear, Dear," by William Lin '95, is a nice tune with a decent progression and a snappy ending. Somehow, it still seems like the longest song on the album, even though it is only the seventh.
The last song on the album is "Engineer's Drinking Song," the Chorallaries' signature piece. A couple of new verses accompany the standard tales of Lady Godiva and the engineer with his lady in the park. The Chorallaries skate gracefully through David Bass' now standard arrangement. The mixers did a wonderful job in giving the bass counterpoint at the end the emphasis it deserves. Too often the clever lyrics are lost in the melody.
A bonus track entitled "Engineer's Dance Remix" follows the drinking song. This hilarious offering features several percussive effects and a number of funk idioms that are perfectly placed. It adds to the Tom Lehrer and "Weird Al" Yankovic tunes, giving the album a healthy dose of humor. It is an appropriate ending to an album that is as fun to listen to as it seems it was to make