The Music that A Cappella Reviewers Love, Part 1

So your a cappella group just released what is (in your opinion) the hottest vocal album of the year. You’ve poured your blood, sweat, and vocal chords into countless hours of arranging, rehearsing, performing, and recording. You’re very hopeful that more than 20 people will actually listen to the album. How do you get more attention for your music and, as a bonus, an experienced reviewer’s seal of approval? The answer: submit it to the RARB.

The Recorded A Cappella Review Board has been reviewing a cappella singles and albums for over 20 years. Their experienced reviewers, many of whom are current or former a cappella performers, provide in-depth analysis and ratings for creativity, production value, blend, repeat listenability, and more. Any a cappella single or album released within the past year is eligible for submission. If you want the RARB to review your latest release (which is completely free of charge), you can submit it here.

We talked to RARB reviewers about their favorite a cappella albums of all time, as well as the best albums they’ve reviewed. When you’re working on your next project, consider checking out some of these albums for inspiration.

The Reviewers:

Dom Otto Asís is a Knowledge and Process Manager for a global company, as well as an arranger for pop and classical choirs and gospel groups.

Guang Ming Whitley writes speculative fiction (www.gmwhitley.com) and acts as the Chief Operating Officer of the Whitley Household. She was music director for the University of Southern California’s all-female group Sirens.

Rebecca Christie is a former journalist and freelance writer based in Antwerp, Belgium who has been writing for RARB since 1995. She co-founded Duke University’s co-ed group Rhythm & Blue in 1992.

Their favorite a cappella albums, and why they love them:

Dom

  1. Acappella Company, All That I Need (1999). This album covers different styles of arrangements (doo wop, choral, spirituals, etc.), which is an aural pleasure for any type of musician.
  2. GLAD, The A Capella Project (1988). This album is also equipped with stylistic vocal arrangements with a simplistic approach to create an environment where a listener is drawn to the great chord progressions with just the right vocal color.
  3. The Maranatha! Singers, A Cappella Praise (1991). A collection of hymns and praise songs that were arranged for mixed voices, with sprinkles of extra decorative vocal patterns.

Special mention: The Blenders, Nog (1988). My all-time favorite holiday album. The rich, jazz-standard chords give my ears the filling sound, and they all tickle – in a good way.

Guang Ming

  1. BOCA Vol. 1 (1996). This is the compilation album that started it all. It was a time when a cappella was raw and great without studio magic. It was one of the albums I studied back in 1997 when I was founding the USC Sirens and learning how to arrange music.
  2. USC Sirens, Surreal (2000). This one is selfish. I was music director on this album and arranged most of the songs. The women in this group are like sisters to me to this day – how could I not love the album we created together?

Rebecca

  1. Vox One, Out There (1995)
  2. Sweet Honey in the Rock, In This Land (1992)
  3. The House Jacks, Naked Noise (1994)

The best albums they reviewed for RARB:

Dom

  1. Skety, Skety (2015). Because jazz is mind-blowing, and this group is next-level talented.
  2. Bare Naked Statues, Framework EP (2016). They have a great sound with or without vocal percussion. Their arrangers are top-notch and their singers tend to own their parts, which results in a very convincing interpretation of the songs they sing.
  3. Retrocity, Mixtape (2015). I have never heard such a nostalgia-inducing a cappella experience. This group converts beloved 80’s music to pure vocals without missing the heart of the decade of the X generation.

Guang Ming

  1. Tufts Beelzebubs, Code Red (2003). It’s just great music, very well done.
  2. Vox One, Say You Love Me (1999). Vox One does such interesting arrangements. It’s captivating.

Rebecca

  1. Amarcord, Nun Komm Der Heiden Heiland (2005)
  2. The Bobs, Biographies (2013)
  3. BR6, Música Popular Brasileira A Cappella Vol II (2010)

I’ve also reviewed so many talented college groups over the years, like Off the Beat, the Beelzebubs and Straight No Chaser. So much talent has poured into a cappella during my time in RARB, from John Legend (then John Stephens) leading the U Penn Counterparts to all of the amazing work coming out of Stanford and so many stellar albums that have popped up in all kinds of places.


Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series! You can follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Become a member today!

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  1. Pingback: The Music that A Cappella Reviewers Love, Part 2 | The A Cappella Education Association

  2. Pingback: The Music that A Cappella Reviewers Love, Part 3 | The A Cappella Education Association

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