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Shimon’s review of “Dance 2: Not Shayach” by Shloime Daskal

In my review of Beats by Yoeli Greenfeld and EvanAl Orchestra from two years ago, I mentioned how “compilation” albums can be a perfect time capsule of the zeitgeist of Jewish Music.  By listening to a compilation or wedding album, the listener gets a snapshot of what songs were popular at the time of the album’s release, which new songs were considered instant classics, and which older songs had staying power.  In addition, you can hear the evolution of instrumental arrangements, as well as which non-Jewish songs get snuck mixed into the set lists.

As wedding albums go, Shloime Daskal’s second offering, Not Shayach, is an instant classic.  Fifty-six tracks of rocking dance awesomeness, backed up by a great combo of Yoeli Dickman, the Aaron Teitelbaum orchestra, the Israeli Philharmonic on strings, and appearances by the Shir v’Shevach Boys Choir and Shloime Daskal’s kids.  The arrangements, courtesy of Yoeli Dickman, are really tight—if maybe a little brassy.  Shloime’s vocals are impeccable—he alternates between his pop-star mode and his mega-chazzan mode, and he really shows off his incredible range.

Set 1 (Tracks 1-15), Freilach Medley:  The album begins with a fanfare composed by Eyal Golan, followed by a powerful rendition of Avraham Fried’s “Shtar HaT’nayim”—including some arrangements that were lifted directly from Avremel’s live orchestral album Im Eshkacheich Yerushalayim.  From there (after the obligatory sound of breaking glass and shouts of “Mazel tov!!!”) the band begins its freilach set.  The set is mostly a mix of old classics (MBD’s “V’yishama”) and chassidish songs (Vizhnitz’s “Nigun Shevuos”, Belz’s “Aseh Imi”), combined with enough new material to make it interesting (Avraham Fried’s “Heimoh Heimoh”, Arele Samet’s “Ahallelah”).  The arrangements on this set are top notch—they are the type which makes you want to drive faster, walk more assertively, dance harder.  I put this set directly into my exercise playlist—the tempo also happens to be just perfect to help me keep my pedaling rhythm on my bike.

Set 2 (Tracks 16-25) and Set 3 (Tracks 26-32), Disco Funk Medleys: Remember 1994? The year of Tomid B’Simcha by MBD and Miami Experience IV, when Dedi was the Next Big Thing? That was also the year Yanni, the famous Greek pianist and composer, released Live at the Acropolis, the live recording of the PBS concert watched by more than half a billion people around the world.  Apparently, a lot of those people were Jewish, because several tracks from that album have become regular standbys at Jewish weddings, including “Standing in Motion”, which is the opening fanfare of the second set on this album.  The rest of the “disco funk” tracks are your typical new-age second-dance hora and disco tracks.  The first set includes (among others) Shwekey’s “Et Rekod”, Yiddish Nachas’ “Hiskabtzi”, S.Y. Rechnitz’s “Eitz Chaim”, and Shloime Cohen’s “Kadsheim”.  The second set features Gad Elbaz’s “Hashem Melech”, Avraham Fried’s “Bentsh Bentsh”, Shwekey’s “Rau Banim” and “Lo Yaavod”, Benny Friedman’s “Todah”, and Simcha Leiner’s “Mi Mi Mi”.

Track 33, “Ein Od Mil’vado”: In the first Dance with Daskal album, the interlude between the dance sets was filled by “Shema Yisrael”, better known as “K’shehalev Bocheh”, the Israeli hit originally by Sarit Hadad and popularized by Gad Elbaz and Uziya Tzadok.  This time around, Daskal treats us to his version of “Ein Od Mil’vado” by Israeli megastar Shlomi Shabat.  While not as purely emotional as “K’shehalev Bocheh”, Daskal delivers a great rendition of this song which has been tearing up the charts in the US.

Set 4 (Tracks 34-56), Rock Medley: One of these days, someone is going to explain to me what the criteria are for taking mainstream American music and “Juda-izing” it.  Does it have to be remixed, covered, or parodied by AkaPella, the Maccabeats, or Gershon Veroba first?  Does Blue Melody or EvanAl have to do a Shlomi Cohen sax cover of the song?  What is it about the theme from Pirates of the Carribean which puts it into the list of acceptable fanfares?  Anyway, that’s the intro to this final dance set.  In case you were wondering, “Rock Medley” translates to “the end of the second dance when the band sees that you guys maybe have had too much to drink and now you can’t handle the hora anymore”.  The tempo speeds back up to what we had during the first set (the “running around in circles” pace, not the “three steps and a leg kick” pace), and while the title of the set is “Rock Medley”, there are plenty of freilach songs snuck in there too.  This set is probably the most even mix of new and classic.  Selections include “Amein” from Avraham Fried’s album Keep Climbing, “Ben Faiga” from Lipa and MattDub’s B-Positive, and “Osim Teshuva” and “Am Yisrael” from Shwekey’s Kolot; as well as some 90’s vintage classics like “Sisu” from Fried’s Bracha v’Hatzlacha, MBD’s “Tomid b’Simcha”, and Yeedle’s “V’zakeinu” from his debut album.  As you may have guessed from the fact that this set crams 23 tracks into approximately 20 minutes, the songs in this set move at a rapid-fire pace, a trick that Shloime also used in the rock set of his first Dance album—in fact, five out the last six tracks are under 40 seconds each.  The last track would be around that length too, but the arrangers give us one more fanfare for the “outro” of the album: everyone’s favorite seven-eighths orchestral fanfare, Yanni’s “Santorini”, the opening track for the aforementioned album Live at the Acropolis.  Everyone here does realize that Yanni isn’t Jewish, right?  OK?  Just making sure.

In summary, if you like wedding albums (and I do), if you love Shloime Daskal’s singing (you should), and if you like a lot of brass in your dance tracks (sure, why not), then Not Shayach is an album which should be at the top of your post-sefirah shopping list.  Whether you like this kind of music for exercise, for commuting, for playing at actual simchas, or just for plain old listening, I can’t recommend this album highly enough.  Enjoy, and keep dancing!

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