UR is full of self-proclaimed “a cappella whores.” These dedicated students usually arrive an hour before any free a cappella appearances and are the first to bombard the Common Market when tickets for annual shows go on sale. I was never much of a fan of a cappella music – at least in the freakishly obsessed way some are – but I find guys who can sing particularly more attractive than those who can’t.College a cappella groups encounter a challenge – an ever-revolving cast of characters – not usually met by other types of musical groups, with the exception of Menudo. Every year brings the departure of seniors, the addition of new members and the problem of adapting to new talent.The newest Midnight Ramblers album is a perfect example of what the Ramblers had to offer in the 2002 – 2003 academic year. The Midnight Ramblers combine a cappella, skits and other theatrics in their live performances. Released in 2003, “Alternate Route” is a decent sampling of the variety of musical styles the Ramblers like to dip into. The CD begins with the classic Blues Brothers hit “Soul Man.” What would not normally be an exceptional song is made memorable by the crooning vocals of sophomore Anthony Vargas. From bluesy-rock, the Ramblers move on to “The Good Life,” one of my favorite Weezer songs. Even though I love the original, I was not opposed to the a cappella cover. I felt that this track was one of the strongest from the selection. The balance between soloists and the rest of the members of the group is even, with bursts of energy in all the right places.The Ramblers get it right again with their arrangement of a Phish song, “Waste.” A Phish song? Yes, the Ramblers do everything. They extend their talents on popular songs by KISS, Guster and Pearl Jam. Listeners will recognize “Man of Constant Sorrow” from the George Clooney hit “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” The Rambler-ized version doesn’t carry as much of the Southern twang as previous versions, but that can be a good thing. Ramblers brings its touch to the Ben Folds hit “Army.” UR a cappella fans will also recognize a recent Ramblers concert favorite, “Minnie the Moocher.” Junior Tom Kraus’s rough, throaty voice is the perfect thing to get the crowd chanting along with him.Another soloist deserving recognition is 2003 UR graduate Andrew French in Guster’s “Two Points for Honesty.”At just over 30 minutes, “Alternate Route” is the perfect treat to give yourself after a long day or while driving from campus to home. There is something about the rawness of a cappella that impacts the way a person feels. I recommend this album to any “a cappella whore” or UR student who occasionally indulges in its guilty pleasure.”Alternate Route” can be purchased at Ramblers concerts and the UR Bookstore for $12 each or two CDs for $20.Catch the Ramblers in between competitors in the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella on Feb. 2 at 8 p.m. in Strong Auditorium. Tickets can be purchased from the Common Market for $7.Borchardt can be reached at jborchardt@campustimes.org.

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