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July 19, 2004

Springfield News Sun

Unlike that sticky-fingered filcher from Berlin down to Belize, Rockapella can't go incognito. They could if they put some effort into it, but as long as they remain in the business of harmony, consider their cover blown. And it doesn't help they still sing the theme; the one that made them a household name a decade ago. So what theme? Here's a roundabout hint: The group soon will visit an Ohio city at 39 degrees latitude, 83 degrees longitude.

Rockapella, playing the Summer Arts Festival at 8 p.m. Saturday has an unmistakable sound to begin with, a pumped-up version of street corner doo-wop. But after five seasons on PBS’ geography game show, “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?,” the a cappella quintet has been cornered for life. They'll have to leave this world to get away from that “World.” But they're not going anywhere. Yet. “It's been a while, but people still really want to hear it,” group member Jeff Thacher said of the Emmy-winning game show's insanely catchy theme song. “If it were like any other song in our set, we'd get tired of it. But with that said, it's well-oiled. We can do a pretty polished version. We also do the Folgers song. It's arguably a bigger hit.”

From those coffee commercials to the PBS series, Rockapella has gotten its share of exposure. And deservedly so. After that five-year stint on “Sandiego” — which, in turn, had resulted from an appearance on Spike Lee's 1990 PBS special, “Do It A Cappella” — the group revolutionized an outdated genre, injecting it with a modern sense of pop. And we're not talking a cappella Britney Spears covers.

These guys have great taste, as documented by their appearance at a Frank Zappa tribute concert in the early ’90s. “Led Zeppelin rocked out harder than anyone, and a lot of stuff derived from it,” said Thacher, a New York state native and graduate of the Berklee College of Music. “Rockapella's kind of the same way. Although we're not that old.” Just go to any college campus. You'll find at least one a cappella group that transforms pop songs into rhythmic excursions in harmony. In Rockapella — new bass George Baldi once was in an embryonic version of Boyz II Men — Thacher is the rhythm man. His title? Mouth drummer. Seriously. “It was always something I could do as a kid. I'd make sound effects for my toys. It just goes from there,” he said.

Posted by acapnews at July 19, 2004 10:34 PM


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