Friday, March 29, 2013


College! One can look back on the experience quite fondly…the sex, the drugs, and actually learning a few things that helped jump-start a career. But sometimes, a belief that a college campus is a place of "higher education" can be shattered by irresponsible behavior and doing things that are downright brainless.

Like…being part of a marching band.

Like…being part of an a cappella ensemble

As this is a music blog, we confine ourselves to these two types of activities, which involve people who should be confined in strait jackets.

Two CDs that will always be part of my collection are: "Roses for the Lions" from the Penn State Blue Band, and "Cause It's Time" by the Vassar Devils. And yes, that hellish name is very accurate.

Below, you get a HALF DOZEN examples of the Vassar Devils sticking their pitchfork tongues into deservedly wretched pop-rock songs.

"Africa" by Toto. The soggy whitebread pop group's wimpy and limp ode to a country that hates their music, had gratuitous homogenized harmonies now bettered, buttered and battered by the Vassar Devils. They scat and doo-wop "Africa" to a level that could cause race riots.

"Carey" by Joni Mitchell. Another Africa-themed number, for reasons unknown, whiter-shade-of-vanilla Joni sets the tale somewhere near Africa winds, or Butterfly McQueen farts. There's a calliope of doo-doo's in the background as a plucky soloist named Biz (wasn't there a detergent by this name?) does her best to mimic the precociousness of her Canadian heroine.

"Signed, Sealed and Delivered" by Stevie Wonder. Blind people do not know the difference between black and white. But they can HEAR the difference. The Persuasions, this ain't. Sometimes you also have to wonder what the fuck the point is of NOT singing with backing instruments. A bunch of assholes going "doo oooh oooh" is fatefully farty.

"Killer Queen" by Queen. Well, ok, anything goes when you're covering the fruitiest rock band in history, even a cappella. Just wait till you hear the Vassar Devils do some kind of cat noises along with their usually poopy doops.

"Changes" by David Bowie. By this time, I was waiting to hear "ch-ch-ch" instead of "doo-doo-doo," but the Vassar Devils, like most a cappella groups, are really into deep doo-doo. While lead vocalist "Jon" does ch-ch-cheese it up, there's still way too much doo!

"Uncle John's Band" by The Grateful Dead. Say, didn't those dead-heads actually have an a capella moment in the original? Trust the Vassar Devils to add plenty of doo-doo to this happy shitkicker tune.

Also below, in addition to the zip-file of six songs from the Vassar Devils, is the most vivid example of marching band mania from "Roses for the Lions."

Who doesn't love a marching band? Spectators.

But let's not be so pessimistic. It's possible that half the marchers in the band don't love what they're doing either. Some have no choice if they're music majors, others…well, any joy in being in the midst of all that blazing brass and percussion soon palls due to rehearsals, lousy weather, embarrassing uniforms, having to carry around an instrument and choreograph at the same time…and most of the musical choices you get are cheese.

If they aren't cheese, they become cheese as they whiz through your horn. That most certainly includes a medley of Beatles songs…"Magical Mystery Tour…Got To Get You Into My Life…Hard Day's Night."

"Roses for the Lions" is a souvenir CD from the PENN STATE BLUE BAND, from live recordings made at the Eisenhower Auditorium between 1992 and 1994. At least they didn't have to march around when they were recording…although that misses a great opportunity for "living stereo" and having the thrill of tubas, trumpets and trombones circling around inside your head.

Take five, guys. And take a shower…it's ok, Sandusky's gone.

VASSAR DEVILS! SIX A CAPPELLA ROCK COVERS including Joni Mitchell, Stevie Wonder and The Grateful Dead


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