Happy Adar, everyone! In honor of the season, I will be putting out a series of reviews of Purim-themed albums in the coming weeks. If there are any particular albums you want to hear about, contact me via this page’s comments and I’ll see if I can make it happen. This week, I tackle the granddaddy of them all, Yochi Briskman’s Purim MiX.
In the mid-‘90s, Yochi Briskman’s Project Productions was in the midst of an incredible run. The original Project X, released in 1993 (not the Lipa version from 2005) helped redefine the concept of the “wedding album”. X was quickly followed by Project X Plus (same as Project X but with vocals), Project NeXt (more wedding songs), Project RelaX (slow songs), and Dance MiX (yep, even more wedding songs).
In the middle of all this, Yochi and Co. released their first Purim-themed album in 1997. Purim MiX was a fun, funny, and very well done album which occupies a permanent space in my Adar playlist. Not all the tracks are strictly Purim-themed, but how many versions of “Layehudim” do you really need? Even the cover art and liner notes were funny—Bigson and Seresh are credited as producers, music is by the Neginah Shushan Philharmonic Orchestra, and the string section is credited to the artist known as “They Didn’t Show Up”. In addition, many of the tracks are preceded by brief comedy routines (which are funnier if you actually understand Yiddish).
Track 1, “Purim Medley”: This track starts off with a quick comedy sketch which sets the tone for the rest of the album. Apparently, Haman (played by an unwitting Indian cab driver?) is getting hanged in Boro Park. His last wish (I mean, “letzter bakushe”) is to be blessed by a rabbi (The “Hanger Ruv”) and a priest (Archbishop “Carlos Blitztrug”). The religious “personalties” are called to the occasion as if it’s a chuppah, and the blessings are granted—at which point “V’nahapoch Hu” takes over, and we get to the main point of the album: Purim music! This track is your basic Purim essentials mix: “V’nahapoch”, “Layehudim”, “Revach V’Hatzalah”, “Shoshanas Yaakov”, and other mainstays all make appearances on this track. Arrangements are well done, and the legendary Yehuda Spinner absolutely kills it on the clarinet.
Track 2, “Chaim Berlin”: This track is not really a Purim-style track. It is a collection of traditional marches (usually of Chaim Berliner heritage) which you could hear at any wedding: “Ki Hamalchus”, “Tekah Tekah”, and “V’yimalei”, among others. The only time the track turns to Purim is at the end of the track, when “A Gantz Yahr Freilach” turns into “A Gantz Yahr Purim, Shikker Zol Min Zein”. L’chaim!
Track 3, “Shushan Purim”: This track features more Purim songs: “Layehudim” from MBD’s Hold On (performed by a very credible MBD impersonator), Benzion Shenker’s “Layehudim” (also by an impersonator), “V’gam Charvonah”, the “other” Modzitz “Shoshanas Yaakov”, and the Karlin “Yemach Shemo”.
Track 4, “Timche”: The comedy returns, this time with a ranting, raving, hammered-out-of-his-mind Rosh Yeshiva reading Haman the riot act—to which Haman responds “OK, Rabbi, all I want is an orange soda, any flavor!” (Rimshot!) This track is where the album begins to go slightly off the rails, what with explosives and gunshot sound effect in MBD’s “Timche”, two Amudei Sheish songs (a very well done “Al Hanisim”, and a what-the-heck-is-going-on-here “Baruch Hagever”—mashed up with MBD’s “Moshiach”), a very-rocked-up version of Abie Rotenberg’s “Hamalach”, a swingy rendition of “Mishenichnas Adar” with a Dedi impersonator mixed in, and Piamenta’s “Na’aleh” closing out the track with some weird slowing-down-the-tape-recorder sound effects. Hey, it was the ‘90s.
Track 5, “Intros? You Got It!”: More comedy! Apparently, one of Haman’s sons wants to be buried in a Jewish cemetery because the worms there won’t eat non-kosher meat. Ooooookay. Anyway, this track is also not really Purim-themed: it’s a greatest hits collection of the best song intros of the ‘80s and ‘90s. It took a while, but I think I figured out all of them: “Sameach” by Mendy Wald, “Harachaman” by Yeedle, “L’cha Etein” by Dedi, “Dovid Melech” by Yehuda!, “Kol Hamisameiach” by MBD, “Lefonov” by Avraham Fried, “Hu Klal” by Srully Williger, “Asher Bara” by Piamenta (no, not that one), “Modeh Ani” by Regesh, “Im Ein Ani Li” by Shlomo Simcha, “Daagah Minayin” by MBD, “Yehuda Bin Teymah” by Yeedle, the HASC concert theme, “Asher Bara” by Piamenta (yes, that one), “Hu Yigal” by Dedi, “Rashi’s Niggun” by MBD, “Sisu” by Avraham Fried, “Tomid B’simcha” by MBD, “V’zakeinu” by Yeedle, “Baruch Haba” by Avraham Fried, “Lo Yisa Goy” by Miami Boys Choir, “K’sheim” by Avraham Fried, “Hu Yigal” by Yeedle, “V’kovei” by Dedi, “Adam Doeg” by Avraham Fried, “Meheirah” by MBD (a.k.a. “Rhapsody in Blue” by Gershwin), and “Hisyatzivu” by Avraham Fried. Did I miss anything?
Track 6, “Guest Stars”: If Purim MiX began to go off the rails in Track 4, this track makes you forget that the CD ever had rails to begin with. After the opening comedy routine ends with our hosts dispatching Vaizasa (the last of Haman’s sons), we get our requisite “Chayiv Inish Liv’sumei”—which basically sums up the rest of the track. As the title implies, the impersonators crew takes over for the rest of the track: MBD, Shlomo Carlebach, Dedi, Abish Brodt, the Piamentas, and the Miami Boys Choir all make “appearances” on this track. In addition, you can begin to feel the Purim wine kicking in: the Dedi impersonator can’t get past the opening bar of “Tanye”/”Rotzo”/”Aderabah”/”Omnom” without people jumping on him (“it’s mamash a shailah of hasagas gevul!”), MBD’s “Tomid B’simcha” is performed by a bunch of crying dudes, and 1010 WINS’ top-of-the-hour drop cuts into the beginning of the Miami piece (a nod to their song “Chasdei Hashem” from One By One).
Even more than fifteen years after it was released, Purim MiX still holds up well. To a very large extent, Purim MiX is the founding album of the Purim subgenre, which now contains nearly seventy albums (according to MostlyMusic.com), with more additions every year. While it’s not available for purchase via download, the CD (and cassette!) are still available for purchase, and it is a very worth addition to your Purim music collection if you somehow don’t already own it.