A cappella is one of the hottest music genres across college campuses these days. UR’s Midnight Ramblers exemplify the enthralling nature of this musical style in every performance, and as expected, the talent heard on their ninth album, ‘a C’est Bon,” amazes me. The album will be released on Saturday, Nov. 14, at the fall show, ‘The Ramblers of Oz.”
Inspired by their tour last spring in New Orleans, the album’s title approximately translates to ‘this is great.” Whether referring to the selection of songs on the album, the fun had in producing it, the vocal ability of each soloist or the flawless harmonies created, the album appropriately lives up to its name.
The first track on the album, ‘Knights of Cydonia,” makes for an incredible opener, just as it did one year ago at the 2008 fall show. Right from the very first sound, I cannot help but wonder how much of the track is edited and how much is genuine. There are so many fancy effects, such as the sound of a galloping horse and so many unfathomably high notes that the group hits dead on. However, having witnessed the Ramblers live a number of times, I don’t doubt the group’s authenticity or talent. ‘Knights of Cydonia” certainly looked like such a fun song to sing last fall, and it is without a doubt fun to listen to on this new album.
‘La Camisa Negra,” the second track, has already been released on other albums, namely ‘Ripple Effect” and ‘Voices 2009,” but senior Chris Aguilar makes obvious why the song continues to be recorded. The quality of his voice is so pure that anyone, whether or not able to understand Spanish, can love the music.
Walking out of the spring show last semester, I desperately wished to be able to hear the Ramblers sing ‘Hallelujah” again, but was not sure I would get the chance, because the ensemble continually expands its repertoire, debuting new song after new song. So, I am thrilled to see ‘Hallelujah” on this album. The harmonies generated on this track are absolutely incredible, and part of what makes this piece so special is how well the group blends together without any vocal drum beat keeping time. The silences in this beautiful piece are just as powerful as the lyrics, but what I love about the spoken words is the passion that senior Matt Myers clearly conveys.
There is a complete change of pace between ‘Hallelujah” and the fifth track, ‘Low.” The Ramblers’ rendition of this popular rap tune, not to denounce the original, is 10,000 times more musical. There is a great slow section to open the song, making it nearly impossible to guess the song. However, there are faint clues allowing the listener to recognize the song before it is actually established. Furthermore, in the middle of the track, the singers slow the beat down drastically and switch to sing ‘Crazy Train,” only to skillfully bring it back to ‘Low” towards the end.
In a similar manner, there is a clever twist in the Ramblers’ version of ‘Number One,” the eighth track on the album. In the song by John Legend, there is a rap interlude. The Ramblers not only incorporate this rap but also drop hints that lead the listener to identify Kanye as the original rapper. Right before the rap section, the group inserts the beat and background vocals from ‘Jesus Walks,” one of Kanye’s well-known songs. It makes for a very unique interpretation of ‘Number One.”
‘Tiny Dancer,” the ninth track, is yet another that I am especially excited to see on the album because it is one of few on the album that I had not previously heard performed. I love how Ben Fusco-Gessick ’08 takes some of his own liberties by not strictly following Elton John’s vocal inflections, yet he manages to maintain the melody. Balancing the original version with a unique one is a very hard skill to implement on a song like this that so many people know. Not only am I impressed with that mastery, but also with the falsetto that Fusco-Gessick effortlessly uses.
There are so many great musical ideas displayed within every track on ‘a C’est Bon,” including but not limited to perfect harmonization, intensity in dynamics, bass features and exceptionally communicated emotion. Each song is distinct in a variety of ways, and anyone can surely find a track to love on this album.
While I love the vibe of a concert perhaps I even prefer to hear the flaws that will without a doubt occur from a one-time deal like a live show gaining the perfection on a CD is well worth losing that atmosphere because now I can hear each song again and again. Maybe, though, one day we will get a CD of live performances.
This album is nothing short of stellar. I highly recommend purchasing a copy of it, as well as attending their show, ‘The Ramblers of Oz,” this Saturday. I know I’ll be there, anxiously waiting to hear what new songs the Ramblers have added to their collection.
Seligman is a member of
the class of 2012