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The Life and Times of Mike Fanning

Da Vinci's Notebook

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Album Review

A cappella quartet Da Vinci's Notebook adds a few instruments here and there on its second album, The Life and Times of Mike Fanning, but for the most part the sound is produced by the foursome's versatile voices. The spare instrumentation actually increases the impact of their parodies, because the listener can imagine the elaborate production touches of, say, the Beach Boys ("Seaside Lament [Sand]") and Meat Loaf ("Three Little Words") without actually having to hear them, while the singers have their way with their targets. They score double with the leadoff track, "Ally McBeal," which is set to the music of Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" and makes fun of Dylan's lyrical stretches and performing style while also attacking the dangerously skinny and supposedly bulimic TV character. But other songs are basically one-joke ideas, such as the R&B raver "Road Rage" and "Secret Asian Man." "Title of the Song" is an abstract version of a boy band ballad in which the group members, joined by producer Richard Greene and fellow vocalists Ball in the House, plaintively emote lines like "Naïve expression of love/Reluctance to accept that you are gone." It's an amusing concept that never manages to be as funny as it might be, perhaps because there's a bit too much of it and they don't sing it as excessively as 'N Sync might. Da Vinci's Notebook isn't always in comedy mode; their versions of Joe Jackson's "Is She Really Going Out With Him?" and Harry Belafonte's "Jump in the Line" are taken straight and work well in their harmony arrangements. But they spend most of their time going for laughs, and for the most part they're very funny.

Biography

Genre: Vocal

Years Active: '90s, '00s

The comic a cappella group Da Vinci's Notebook was formed through a classified ad in the Washington City Paper that brought together Bernie Muller-Thym, Greg "Storm" DiCostanzo, and Paul Sabourin. Richard Hsu, a college friend of DiCostanzo's from the University of Maryland, joined in the summer of 1993, completing the lineup, though a fifth member, Jay Jones, sang with them from late 1993 until 1994, when he moved to Scotland. The group made its mark by coming in third in the 1994 Mid-Atlantic Harmony...
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The Life and Times of Mike Fanning, Da Vinci's Notebook
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