My dear friend Rob introduced me to this fabulous a capella group. The latest studio album from On The Rocks, entitled “A Fifth”, is their fifth studio album (clever huh?). If you have an Internet connection, you’re probably one of over five million people (as of this writing) who’ve watched the video for On the Rocks’ cover of Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance. (If you haven’t seen it, follow this link. Go ahead; I’ll wait.) The good news is that, the arrangement still sounds great on A Fifth these guys don’t just rely on gimmicks and fun choreography.
First, though, Bad Romance: there’s so much energy and fun in this arrangement, and these guys absolutely nail it. I’m not in love with the Poker Face snippet, but it fits; still, more impressively, these guys just know how to build a rich, full arrangement that doesn’t sound busy. The “walk, walk, fashion baby” segment is so intricately layered that it conveys a rumbling tension without sounding chaotic, and the whole song just flows and sounds great.
The rest of A Fifth is more of the same high-quality, well-executed arrangements; the only difference is that most of the rest of the songs are older mid-tempo tunes. That’s hardly a complaint, though: their version of Earth, Wind & Fire’s Sing a Song is crisply precise; their take on Brad Paisley’s Then drips with emotion; and their cover of CSNY’s Helplessly Hoping just shimmers.
What’s great about On the Rocks and A Fifth is that everything these guys do, they do well: We Don’t Eat is a collaboration with all-female group Divisi that is flawless. There are three originals on this album that stand up beautifully next to the covers here. It might be nice to hear a little more breadth of dynamics (and some of the syllables on And So It Goes are a little distracting), but ultimately, these guys have delivered a solid, stunningly-executed collection of songs.