HomeRecording Review: "Help!" by Overboard

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Producing a great a cappella CD is no easy accomplishment. Even more of a challenge is devoting an entire album to the music of one of the most influential bands of all time - the Beatles. I’ll admit that I am not a die-hard Beatles fan; most of the songs that I have grown to like by them are probably owed to the fact that I have heard a fairly decent cover by another artist or group at some point in my life. Regardless of this, Help! is a truly adventurous album that easily delivers energy and creativity to what you expect of good a cappella music, and it anyone will be able to notice that the gentlemen of Overboard had a fun time in its production.

Although I have my criticisms with some of the originality Overboard chose to carry out within the arrangements of certain tracks, this CD deserves to be listened to by all and downloaded while it is still free on their site.

I’ll start with what I enjoyed from the album. On first listen, Overboard confuses the senses into making you think you are at some high octane concert in the 1960s with today’s modern technology surrounding you. The first five tracks collectively have all the intensity of what is needed to simply make anyone venture into listening to the rest of what the CD has to offer. “In My Life” is a great choice as the opening track, within it Overboard presents smooth harmonies with a great lead from Josh Koelker as his voice gives a great reminiscent feel of why the Beatle’s music is so missed during contemporary times. Each voice part delicately balances against the other parts not requiring Koelker to do more than what is needed to make the tune enjoyable.

“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and “Taxman” transition the album right along, literally, adding some great effects that more and more groups seem to be incorporating into their albums. What stands out the most are the simulated clapping of an audience as well as the bass guitar in “Sgt. Pepper’s…Club Band” and the switch from a live concert feel to a back in the studio atmosphere in “Taxman”. Although neither of the these songs are at the top of my list on what to listen for on the album, all three soloists between the two numbers deliver exceptional performances.

“Something” completely takes the album in a different direction in comparison to the previous two tracks. Playing highly on emotions and a soft feel, this is easily one of the more laid back songs from the album. Overboard makes great use of dynamics primarily with the backing “oo”s, as the higher parts repeat syllables that I have yet to determine. The energy fluctuates very little overall, but on this piece, not much is needed to make it more than enjoyable.

“Got To Get You Into My Life” is one of the select tracks that I had high expectations for simply because I’ve heard quite a few groups cover this song. The blend is always maintained for a song that requires so much energy from its performers and keeps its listeners nodding their heads and tapping their feet. Joe Barbato supplies the necessary chops needed to go after those high notes and keeps the intensity of the song constant, never letting his audience lose interest. After listening, I was impressed with this tune; the basic elements that went into the making of it, such as a good soloist, thought out arrangement, blend and energy, all seemed to be executed very well.

The rest of the album seems to follow suit, based on of these first five tracks leaving me with a sense of satisfaction. Only two other tracks really captivated my attention, almost demanding that I make note of the execution that was carried out by the group, or I would be robbing readers of what truly makes this album great.

The first is “Come Together”, and I would like to say that the execution in the vocal percussion alone is reason enough to love this song. After listening to about half of this track, I had to listen to the Beatle’s original version to compare, and let me say that I was more than impressed. Aside from the percussion, the mellowness of the bass keeps the song grounded and rhythmic until Overboard brings backs the high energy present in the beginning of the album each time the soloist sings “come together”. Blend is tight, as I’ve now come to expect from this group, and the arrangement, although less complex than some of their others is well executed.

Now, on to what is probably my favorite track on the entire album: “Eleanor Rigby”. Overboard took what is one of the Beatle’s most well-known hits and completely changed it into a song that makes you ask the question “Did the Beatles actually write this?” Never did I think I would see the day when I could actually imagine music originally by the Beatles, being played in a nightclub, because this is the exact idea I get every time I listen to Overboard’s version. Everything about this track works: an innovative arrangement, a great soloist, percussion that is not over the top, yet not lacking either. Even the effects are kept to a minimum, which is such a surprise for a song that keeps your head nodding for two minutes and sixteen seconds. Nick Girard has truly found his niche for music in transforming classics to complete awesomeness…yes; this is probably the only word I can use to describe it.

In the end, Overboard made this an enjoyable listen, but as mentioned before there are a few criticisms I have with the album. A few of the creative liberties they chose to take with the arrangements didn’t work for me, such as in the end of “Good Night” and the middle portion of “The End/In My Life (Reprise)”. The end of “Good Night” was just weird for me, and although I believe I know what the group is aiming for with the mixing of the various songs in the middle of the reprise, the closing of the final track alone makes us remember why we all enjoy the music of the Beatles. Aside from this, although I liked the transitions in certain songs, I think there were too many over the entirety of the entire album; there were times when I just needed to process what I just heard, but found it difficult when another song was immediately starting up.

Other than these minor problems, Help! is a great addition to the a cappella community collective discography, and the gentlemen of Overboard have invested in an album that is filled with great classics and extraordinary soloists. I implore all to grab a copy.    

About the author:
Brian Alexander began to develop his musical talents in high school, dedicating four years to the school's choir. During that time he was involved in the Men's Chorus, Concert Choir, and the Jazz Ensemble, which helped him to gain a spot as a member of the All-Region Choir. Throughout his high school career he took part in both school musicals and community musicals, some including Bye Bye Birdie, 42nd Street, 7 Brides For 7 Brothers, Beauty and the Beast, and The Music Man. After graduating from high school he enrolled in the University of North Texas. Hoping to continue his musical passion, he recently became a co-founder of the Green Tones, UNT's only contemporary a cappella group.


Help! yourself to a copy of this CD

It is, in my opinion, the best domestic aca release (aside from maybe N7) from 2009.  'Nuff said.

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