This article should really be titled “JtopBlogger’s Inexcusably Belated Review of Shloime Gertner: Vehiskin” but somehow I don’t think the PR department of JMR would be too pleased that I’m shoving my tardiness and ineffectiveness down a prospective reader’s throat, before even giving him or her a chance to peruse my work and make an informed decision of his or her own. As it is, PR is most probably not too happy with me based on the simple fact that I’ve gotten progressively more random and eccentric with each of my articles. Truth be told, I’ve been engaged in some intense soul-searching as far as my writing career is concerned, contemplating the true meaning of being a successful writer. I’ve come to the foregone conclusion that from now on I will stay within the guidelines of conventional writing so as not to risk the revocation of my poetic license. You can call it a 2013 New Year’s resolution if you like (now you know when I started writing this) but the real reason is Great Britain. Yes, that’s right. Shloime Gertner resides in that little country “across the pond” which famously represents normalcy and maintaining a “propaw” decorum, if you will. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a born and bred American and am proud of being a citizen of the Land of the Formerly Free and the Home of the Formerly Brave (or at least I was until 4 years ago). However, I feel it would be apropos to pay homage to Shloime and England by at the very least attempting to turn over a new leaf. Of course everything I just said is complete and utter rubbish. Guess what? You don’t like my writing style? That’s a shortcoming on your part, not mine!!! OK, let’s get this going here before I self-inflict any further damage.
Chayim- Most blockbuster albums begin with a fast song to get the listener’s heart pumping and excited for more. Interestingly enough, this blockbuster album begins with a slow country style song which alternates between a 4/4 and a 2/4 (in other words a one man band’s worst nightmare) composed by R’ Baruch Chait. Shloime does a good job with the lead and background vocals, including the la la la refrain throughout the song, although somehow I don’t think the song was composed with intentions of it being a lullaby. I mean, which sane child would not be scarred for life after listening to his or her mother croon him or her to sleep with a song about losing one’s house/trailer, car/tractor and guitar/banjo (Hmm… maybe that’s my issue…)? Granted, this song actually has a happy and inspirational message but as they are wont to say in the hallowed halls of yeshivos worldwide “A minhag is a minhag V’zeh hu”. Moshe Laufer arranged this kumzits staple nice and easy (although it does contain some complicated drum stick work executed by Avi Avidani) so that it gives one the feel of driving a beat-up 1976 Ford pickup truck down a lonely road in rural Kentucky where, incidentally, a man was recently arrested for drunk horse riding (true story). As always, I do have one issue with the music; namely, the accordion in the introduction. Being that I’m a person in possession of a commendably generous nature, I will set aside the fact that accordion has nothing to do with country music for now and focus on the sound itself, which sounds incredibly synthetic. I mean, if you want an accordion sound either get a real one or find a good sound on the keyboard to replicate it. I hope I’m not coming across too harsh on this because I do enjoy the music overall as well as Moshe Laufer’s arrangements in general. This being said, the song rightfully earns a rating of 7 out of 10 stars from me.
Kol Haolam- This song is a bland sounding yet somehow catchy disco composed and arranged by Moshe Laufer. One major factor in this song coming up a little short for me would be the music (surprise surprise) which I don’t feel was really up to par other than the bass line in the low part. If the song would’ve been arranged with a little more “shtik”, for lack of a better term, it most certainly would’ve been received more favorably with the mainstream yeshivishe crowd which is obviously what the target is. Nevertheless, Shloime sings nicely in this song although it may’ve been geared more towards Shwekey’s style. 6 out of 10 stars.
Haposeach- Bang! That’s the first word which comes to mind when listening to this fabulous song composed and backed up vocally by Yitzy Waldner. Shloime superfluously proves he can successfully run the gamut between slow and fast songs with this thumping techno style disco expertly arranged and programmed by Ilya Lishinsky. The “oom ah eh heh” sprinkled throughout the song adds an interesting flavor although it’s most probably not something that was sanctioned by The Viznitzer Rebbe Zatzal as was the message of this song but hey, who’s gonna tattle? This song has the makings of a real mega hit! Think of it as this album’s Ashrei Mi if that explains it a little more clearly. I only wish that the song would’ve been extended a little longer perhaps to allow a key modulation or something of that nature to spice things up a bit. 9 out of 10 stars.
Yehi Chasdecha- This slow 3/4 is the first hartzig song on the album and is composed by the one and only Yossi Green. It begins with the pianist playing an original yet rather discordant sounding introduction before being accompanied by the string section and some light background guitar. The arrangements, courtesy of Moshe Laufer, are sweet and to the point; blessedly devoid of any excessive pontificating (I’m in a 12 step program to recover from that now so I really don’t need any unneccesary tests of my mental fortitude). Shloime sings with a chassideshe havarah which only seves to make this more perfect in my arrogant opinon (no, not humble – arrogant! Get used to it! It’s called my attitude). There really isn’t too much more to say other than the song gets a 10 out of 10 stars rating from me.
Vehiskin- The title track features some really impressive arrangements again done by Moshe Laufer. It begins with a 60’s organ sound and then explodes into a formidable hard rock complete with actual organ sounds (a keyboard) in lieu of the more standard rock piano. Yitzy Waldner composed and also sings on this song which has an interesting ending. It slowly fades out while the guitarist, presumably Avi Singolda, shreds the living daylights out of his Axe, accompanied by a beat which makes the whole thing sound like The Devil Went Down To Georgia. 7.5 out of 10 stars.
Adon Olam- Yitzy Waldner does it yet again with this stunning, smooth, 16 beat ballad! As an arranger who’s new to the Jewish scene, Richard Niles’s debut could not be any more impressive. He demonstrates that he’s not afraid to utilize to finnesse non standard chords as well as standard chords with non standard placements. Unfortunately, this seems to be a debilitating phobia plaguing Jewish arrangers and musicians alike nowadays. Of course music is not merely about one’s prowess or lack therof in chords but the former can most certainly transform a boring arrangement into a decidedly interesting and dynamic one. Shloime’s beautiful voice really shines through in what is the best song on the album in my opinion. It’s worth shelling out your hard earned cash to buy the CD just for this song. Thus it receives a 10 out of 10 stars rating from me.
Ureh Vanim- The jacket cover says that Moshe Laufer is famous for composing great melodies with amazing intros and this song doesn’t disappoint; at least until the rather bland high part comes around. The moderately hard rock, which Laufer also arranged, is just beginning to start sounding dizzyingly redundant when it modulates to a half step higher the third time around breathing a whole new life into the song. Going back for a moment, I love the way the keyboardist is straining to be heard with an organ sound during the second low part of the song! It’s as if he’s too timid to be heard but deep down he knows he can perform… I apologize – it seems I’ve forgotten my Prozac today… Ok that’s better. Getting back to the matter at hand, the song gets a 6 out of 10 stars rating from me, which would have been substantially higher had the high part been substantially more substantial, if you catch my drift. Ah well, you can’t always have your cake and eat it, especially not if you’re my needlessly diet-conscious Mom.
Shehashalom Shelo- I was just beginning to get a bit concerned from the odd lack of Pinky Weber songs when comes along this stunner of a 3/4 and hurriedly allays my fears. What more can I say? Pinky Weber, Moshe Laufer (the arranger), and Shloime Gertner is and always will be a guaranteed winning combination! 10 out of 10 stars.
Ben Chorin- This song is an incredibly catchy 3-part freilach and incidentally is featured on a music video made for Kumzing II. It has a Mona Rosenblum old style feel to it what with all the bouncy bass and such. Apparently, the song was composed by a fellow kollell yungeleit of Shloime’s, who was humming it to himself day after day until it finally caught on. I have never actually heard of Yanky Erlanger before nor probably have most people, but all I can say is that if there were a handbook for songs to be put out by debut composers this would surely be in it. Moshe Laufer once again contributed with tasteful arrangements while Shloime sings the words of Pirkei Avos talking about how the only one who is free is one who is engaged in the study of Torah. I somehow feel that this won’t take off the way it would have 10 or 20 years ago because of the style of music. Nevertheless, it does garner a rating of 7 out of 10 stars from me.
Mimkomo- The legendary Boruch Levine composed this song and although Shloime does an excellent job vocally, I can’t help but wonder what it would’ve sounded like had Boruch decided to sing as well on this track as he occasionally does. Richard Niles comes out swinging again with these slightly quirky yet ultimately appropriate 3/4 arrangements. Call me crazy (if you haven’t already) but I get the sense that Avi Avidani has one hand on a drumstick whilst the other holds a beverage as is evident by the odd accenting at the end of every measure of the low part the first time around. This brings out the aforementioned quirky sound that Mr. Niles seems to cherish. Boruch Levine is a superior composer but to be perfectly honest I’ve heard quite a few better songs than this one although it does contain some potential. 6 out of 10 stars.
Riboin- Speaking of quirkiness, Lipa composed this song, both musically and lyrically. I suppose it has somewhat of a tune but it should really have been sung by Lipa not that Shloime did a bad job or anything like that. Bugsy and Simon take credit for the arrangements, which I guess sound like a 90’s rock slowed down a great deal. There are also some traces of gothic music with the strings and the tubular bell chiming in every now and then. In short, this was by far my least favorite song on this otherwise phenomenal album. I guess it’s one of those songs that I simply don’t “get”. 3.5 out of 10 stars.
It’s not very often that a foreigner makes it in the Jewish music world in the United States. Of course there’s Ohad, Chaim Yisrael, Meydad Tasa and Dedi in his time. Yet Shloime has managed to take the Jewish music world by storm with his smooth, clear and not too overly British vocals and fantastic songs. At this time I would like to mention that the last sentence was the first I’ve written in around 9 months. Writer’s block has inflicted me with deep physical, emotional and spiritual wounds – ok, I’m back to my normal self now. All in all the CD gets an 8 out of 10 stars rating from me and if for some odd reason you haven’t purchased it yet you can do so at mostlymusic.com (I’m too lazy to post the link now) or your local Judaica store. Please be advised that this will be my last post on JMR. It has been an amazing ride and I thank everyone who’s been a part of it. Kol Isha, you’re the greatest and most patient editor a writer can ask for. The guy who I originally emailed my debut article to and haven’t really communicated with since, it’s been a year and a half but you’re awesome! The readers of the website – keep it up! Now be honest with me. How many of you were fooled by that tearful farewell? Better yet, how many of you were relieved and how many were distraught? Ah, it’s good to be tapping away at the keyboard affecting the lives of the millions of individuals who read my posts, generally in a negative fashion. Sooooo… buy the album and maybe you’ll hear from me again? Because if I haven’t yet made it clear I’ll do so now. I WILL ALWAYS BE TERRORIZING THE JEWISH MUSIC WORLD WITH MY NONSENSICAL RAMBLINGS. Ok, that’s enough for now as I’m late to an appointment with my psychiatrist. I may just decide to review the new Boruch Levine album as I actually play keyboard on the track Hashiveinu. Thankfully, I was not mentioned in the credits, which allows me to avoid spontaneously combusting due to my true identity being revealed… Ok, away from the computer away eqrdhmpfiozcsuhrozvdiuhs 2pruhsriuhriou4joiur
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