Rutgers University's The Orphan Sporks’ “A Little Bite of Everything” begins with an “Intro” that is reminiscent of the group’s perennial demeanor. The group starts with whimsical ululation in 5-part harmony and breaks down into raucous revelry, out of which emerges the directive “And…let’s go!”
Indeed, the O Sporks get down to business. Their opening songs, “Stuck” and “Vienna,” offer a full and vibrant sound that rivals the songs’ original recordings. Perhaps the same can be said of “Lonely No More.” Frankly, the Sporks’ rendition is my first good experience with the song. For better or worse, Aaron Boykin’s voice is the ideal approximation of Thomas’. Boykin expresses the same passion and masculinity, and adds just the amount of intonation and diction that should be found in every professional vocal track.
I’d hate a perfect review to be broken by one of my guilty pleasures, KT Tunstall’s “Suddenly I See,” but it must. Meredith Silver’s solo, and the group’s harmony, tempo, and the like, are all good. However, the bass introduction is more reminiscent of Max Headroom repeating the word “dome” than Tunstall’s bass. It’s a nice effect, but slightly out of place.
Perhaps that type of effect would have fit better into a song that started out more instrument-heavy. Welcome to “Tragic Kingdom/Don’t Speak”. The vocal percussion on this track sounds particularly convincing, and the soloist of “Tragic Kingdom” provides another wonderful match to the original vocals. I only wish she and Gwen Stefani would have used the correct pronunciation of the word “homage”. I was impressed by the way these two songs were tied together. The segue was relevant, simple, and straightforward with the emotion in all the right places. While the “Don’t Speak” soloist sounds considerably different than Stefani, her voice is strong and sweet, adding a new depth to the original.
In “Take Me Home Tonight,” I think I’ve found a new track for my CD alarm clock. I mean that in the best way possible. This song’s energy and tempo are both rousing and inspirational. With this song, I also realized that it was the last one on the CD with which I was familiar. For the second half, I did a little research.
Once again, the Orphan Sporks retain the original emotion and feel of Zero 7’s “In The Waiting Line.” The song is mellow and entrancing, and as any good a cappella version should, this one evokes the same response. To be honest, I wasn’t as enamored by “St. Teresa,” although I admit I’m not as big a fan of the original as I am of “In The Waiting Line.” “St. Teresa” is sung well, and overall a good rendition. As a bass, this is hard for me to admit, but I found the bass line a bit too heavy and focal to the piece.
Damien Rice’s “Volcano” seems to have a lot of passion and emotion behind it, and the Orphan Sporks add even more. The original track is stripped down to its essence, portraying raw emotion as it is evoked. Thanks again to soloist Aaron Boykin, and now Devon Gant, the Sporks’ rendition is rich and soulful, adding depth that can only come from a fine a cappella group.
I was pleasantly surprised by Talib Kweli’s “Get By,” as well as the Orphan Sporks’ version, in different ways. This being the first time I’d ever heard Kweli’s music, I found honesty in his lyrics, and far more melody than I would have expected. I find the Orphan Sporks’ decision to cover a song that starts with the line “We sell crack to our own” to be very daring. I appreciate all of these aspects, as well as the fact that the Sporks were able to balance the melody of “Get By” with the rhythm that is a necessary part of hip hop, all in an a cappella framework.
When I saw the name of the penultimate song listed on this album, I had it confused with a different “You Found Me” by a different artist. Even though Kelly Clarkson doesn’t feature very prominently on the soundtrack to my life, I was greatly relieved when I discovered the difference between the two songs. Unlike the alternative (in my humble opinion), this “You Found Me” provides the Orphan Sporks repertoire with an additional positive, uptempo crowd pleaser. It serves as a fine way to close out the album.
While “You Found Me” would have been a great ending, “Outro,” in a manner exactly opposite that of “Intro” is even better. The track begins with one voice, which splits up into raucous revelry, which turns into ululation in 5 part harmony, gradually thinning out until one voice is left. “Outro,” also known as “Ortni,” shows that this Orphan Sporks’ album can truly provide the groups fans with “A Little Bite of Everything.” -Elazar Nudell
About the author:
Elazar Nudell has three years of collegiate a cappella singing experience. He sang with the Jewish group Kol Halayla at Rutgers University from 2001 through 2003. Elazar is currently a member of the recreational a cappella group Strike A Chord!, which is based primarily in Western Massachusetts. Thus far, Elazar has sung with 10 vocal ensembles ranging from the two a cappella groups to grade school choruses to synagogue choirs, and Jewish community choruses. Before Elazar discovered his niche hitting the low notes for these groups, he started to dabble in instrumental music. Elazar played violin as a child, and has, since high school, picked up a bit of guitar, mandolin, and electric bass. He claims no actual expertise in any of these endeavors, but is always open to new vocal and instrumental opportunities.