The Logs' new recordings include audience favorites
Songs from the Bagel
Official "bootleg" cassette available.
The Logarhythms.By Adam Lindsay
The Logarhythms' new compact disc, Songs From the Bagel, is a good document of the state of the Logarhythms during the past two years. Combined with their official "bootleg" cassette, the recordings give a more accurate picture of who the Logs are, and what they are capable of.
The disc begins similarly to their last one, Together in Bakona, in that it mixes ambient/crowd noises with their first cut. Where there was a fake large audience in 1991, there is the noise of Harvard Square enhancing the familiar "Good Old A Cappella" in 1994. It is a cute concept, but does little to enhance the music. The production varies from mediocre, in that it does nothing to help some songs, to excellent, bringing out exactly what is needed for the cut. Positive standouts include the coincidentally titled, "Leave It Like It Is," and "Leave It." The former mixes the mellow baritone of Tyler D. Schubert '95 extremely forward in the mix to underline the intimacy and strange tension of the song.
The a cappella standout by the rock group Yes, "Leave It," provides the climax to the disc. The song's arrangement (or in this case, transcription) by Roy L. Rasera G lets the excellent song speak for itself. Some copycat production (heavy reverb and compression) may actually confuse the listener for the first few notes to which group is actually doing the song - The Logs or Yes. I found this penultimate track to be the highlight of the disc.
The rest of the 24 tracks show the Logs in typical form. The studio tracks have cut out much of the sloppiness one can find in their live performances, but, as the one live track demonstrates, loses an equal amount of spontaneous feel. "All My Loving," by The Beatles, was recorded live last spring and has a life to it that none of the other tracks can capture.
The performances on the disc, though smoothed-out, are not as perfect as one might expect or desire. Not everyone is in tune, in sync, or well-blended all the time. This is fine for the pop-oriented songs, which take up two-thirds of the disc and can use a bit of personality, but the remaining ballads and barbershops are noticeably flawed by this. It is clear that the Logs aspire to a smooth, perfectly balanced tone for these more "artistic" pursuits, but they fall short.
Fortunately, the shortcomings are not enough to make these tracks unlistenable for most; they are pleasant enough, and short. The "classical" tracks are far from useless, however. They exist as demonstrations of how arrangements should be written. Largely professional arrangements, they grow and vary over their lives.
"Linden Lea," a Ralph Vaughn Williams song, is a good example: The Logs don't cohere well, but the Julius Harrison arrangement maintains interest in the song. In contrast, the pop arrangements seem static and over-long. The worst offenders in repetition are Blue Oyster Cult's "(Don't Fear) the Reaper" and The Cure's "Friday, I'm in Love." There is no doubt that these are excellent songs in their original forms, but on this disc, they are far too droning and repetitious. The arrangements can be encapsulated in half the time. There is some variation, but not enough to avoid annoying the listener by the end of these songs.
William H. Lee's '95 arrangements and performances of the Indigo Girls' "Closer to Fine" and "Galileo," on the other hand, are wonderful examples of pop arrangements that capture the spirit of the song while not being boring. They are as simple as the others mentioned above, but they capture the elusive "feel" of the songs.
Overall, the Songs from the Bagel will be loved by Logarhythms fans because it captures who they are. If not a Log fan, it will not likely convert you. It is a lot of music (70 minutes), and is likely to include your favorite Log tune from the last two years.
The bootleg is a good idea. It includes many selections from their live shows, some studio outtakes, and inexplicably, selections from their prior CD. The cassette is in many ways more extreme than the CD. It includes the Logs' most creative moment on either of their offerings: "Beethoven's Pitch Pipe," an excerpt of his Fifth Symphony that must be heard to be believed. It also proudly displays low points in the studio, including mistakes like "Friday, I'm in Love" and "Bohemian Rhapsody."
The Logs' humor is also present, including their "Athena Becomes Self-Aware" segment from last spring and Monty Python's "Lumberjack" song. Unfortunately, most of the other humorous excerpts have a strong "had to have been there" quality that will mystify all but the Logarhythms themselves.
There is also some good music, such as a studio version of the Eagles' "Seven Bridges Road" and a loose live version of the Proclaimers' "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)." The inclusion of the old CD tracks are incongruous, and seem a bit of a cheat. The far superior production of the Together in Bakona tracks sticks out, and thus are unwanted and unnecessary for the fans who own the CD already.
The bootleg is clearly for fans of the Logs live, and will be satisfying to those people. It certainly is a bargain at $3 when purchased with the $12 CD (the bootleg is $5 when purchased separately).
If you've seen the Logs attempting to hawk their wares to you in the Student Center, and have been tempted because of a fondness for MIT's all-male a cappella group, you probably will not be disappointed and will find a few favorites on the long disc. You might also do well to pick up their supplementary cassette if you like the more fun, PG-13 side of the Logs. If you have mixed feelings about the group, then you probably won't miss anything you can't get for free at their live shows.