by a Jewish Insights Fan
Baruch Levine – Touched by a Niggun
When I first heard that Baruch Levine’s next album wasn’t going to be your typical Jewish album, I was disappointed. I mean, what’s a Simcha without Vezakeini? A shower without humming one of these classics? And you can’t exactly play English songs by a Chasuna meal…
I was speaking to Baruch, and I expressed my hesitation, and he told me not to worry, but I still was skeptical.
But now that I got the CD, I see that my fears were unfounded, and I am already enjoying the album immensely. The songs are moving, enjoyable, and powerful, all at the same time.
A lot of credit has to go firstly to Rabbi Yechiel Spero, who wrote all the lyrics. A lot of the stories originally appeared in the Touched by a Story series, but they obviously had to be redone for a CD, and Rabbi Spero did a masterful job. This CD will be a big hit in the “Touched By a …” Series.
As with Baruch’s past CD’s, this CD was produced by Yochi Briskman, and it lives up to the expectations that Yochi Briskman productions have come to set. Baruch himself composed all of the songs, 8 of them that have never been put out before, and 2 that were put out with different words. Yanky Briskman, whose arrangements have shone on past Yochi productions, arranged 6 of the songs, Leib Yaakov Rigler arranged two of the songs, and as on his past CD’s, Baruch himself arranged two of the songs. A new addition to this CD was Eli Shwebel and Gadi Fuchs of Lev Tahor, who did a masterful job on the backup vocals.
That’s enough about the general details – let’s get down to the specific songs.
1) Touched by a Niggun, composed by Baruch, arranged by Yanky Briskman
I love the way this song starts off, slowly, with a powerful intro, and then Baruch comes in with the refrain. It then continues slowly with the first stanza, and then leads back into the refrain, but at a faster speed. The song continues like this, alternating speeds, even goes to a hora at one point, and the song switches keys a few times. The arrangements on this song are amazing – they really bring out the words and inspiration. And the tune is very catchy, nice, but powerful – a great way to start off the CD.
2) The Piano Boy, composed by Baruch, arranged by Leib Yaakov Rigler
I remember reading this story in Touched by a Story 1, and I enjoyed the story, but I was curious how it would be brought out as a song. The lyrics go on at the end to compare the story to how Hashem is always at our side, looking out for us.
The intro starts playing “Twinkle, twinkle little star”, the song that is the topic of the story. I thought that the words at the beginning go off topic a bit, but the song would be too short without them. I thought that the song could use a bit more background vocals, but Baruch did a very nice job bringing out the words.
3) Lecha Dodi, composed by Baruch, arranged by Yanky Briskman
This is the first song that was released before to different words, originally appearing on Yisroel Werdyger’s CD, Bayis Ne’eman B’Yisroel, with Yiddish lyrics, also called Lecha Dodi. I loved the song the first time I heard it, and with new words and new arrangements, I wasn’t disappointed this time either. The refrain is the same as the original version, but the story describes someone who entered a Shul during Lecha Dodi and enjoyed it so much. He came from Ramalla, but his mother really was Jewish, and his grandfather turns out to be R’ Shlomo Alkabetz, who wrote Lecha Dodi. The lyrics fit perfectly to the tune, and they really complement each other. Lev Tahor does an amazing job on the refrains, and I found myself singing along, even though I didn’t yet know the words. I thought that the first version was unsurpassable, but it seems like it’s just been surpassed…
4) The FaltchePhony Rebbe, composed by Baruch, arranged by Yanky Briskman
It took me two tried to get the song name right This is meant to be a more humorous story/song, about a Schnorrer who dresses up as a Rebbe, and ends up being put on the spot. I didn’t enjoy this song as much as the previous ones, until the point where the song slows down, and the mother asks about davening for her daughter. I liked the part about when he davens, and the lesson of the song, in the last stanza, but overall the song didn’t excite me as much as the others.
5) The Next Gadol Hador, composed by Baruch, arranged by Yanky Briskman
I liked the intro to this song a lot – it really sets the tone for the rest of the song. The song is a very heartfelt song, and the tune and the words go very well with each other. The arrangements really bring the song out, and Baruch puts a lot into the song, especially by the end, with the harmonies. Overall, great song, and great lyrics – one of the best on the CD.
6) Someone’s Child, composed by Baruch, arranged by Yanky Briskman
I liked the lyrics to this song, but I didn’t like the song as much. The song seems to be a bit too fast for the concept, and doesn’t come across as inspiring as some of the other songs.
7) Flickering Lights, composed and arranged by Baruch
The words of this song are very nice, and it started off nicely, but I didn’t really find that “Ah” moment with this song –there’s not really any part in the high part that I can say was “it” – the shtickel I was waiting for. It’s a nice song, it just didn’t hit me as much as some of the other ones.
8) The Maggid’s Message, composed and arranged by Baruch
This song is upbeat, more of a “fun” song. The words and message are very nice, and I enjoyed it, but again I just didn’t get that feeling that I got from some of the other songs.
9) Tour of Yerushalayim, composed by Baruch, arranged by Leib Yaakov Rigler
I enjoyed this song a lot more than some of the other ones. It’s not my favorite slow song, but it has a very nice feeling, and it conveys the words very nicely. Lev Tahor does a lot here, and really adds a lot.
10) A Child’s Prayer, composed by Baruch, arranged by Yanky Briskman
This is the second song that came out before, originally appearing on Baruch’s debut album “Vezakeini” with the words “Vehu Keili”. This song is still being sung all over, and has become very popular, so whatever English words they decided to use needed to be good… Starting off with a new intro, you only get that “Vehu Keili” feel by the last part of the intro, which is basically the same as the original lead in for “Vehu Keili”. The song starts off with a child soloist for the low part, and another one takes over for the high part. I’m not sure which one is which, but the two listed in the booklet are Yehoshua Schick, and Sruli Kahn. The words are all about the prayers of young children, and you can really feel the emotion throughout the song. I like the way that they stop the music momentarily with the words in the high part. The song transposes twice, and the overall arrangements really convey the meaning of the words. Baruch doesn’t start singing until the third time around, which I thought was interesting. But he does an amazing job, and I love the way the music gradually increases in intensity up until the end.
Overall, I really enjoyed the CD, and it definitely exceeded my expectations. People normally think of English CD’s as being second rate, but I think that this one disproves that, and sets the bar for other English CD’s in the future.
If you haven’t gotten it yet, do yourself a favor, and go pick up a copy – you won’t be sorry.