By now, everyone knows what to expect from 8th Day. These guys have taken Jewish music in a totally different direction, with English lyrics that mix fun and funny with depth and devotion. Brooklyn Yiddishisms are tossed in alongside California eclecticism; maybe it’s what you get when you cross Lipa with Megama. It certainly is talent.
I’ve been following 8th Day since… way, way before Yalili. Well before their first album Tracht Gut was released, an unofficial tape was making its way around with five songs on it: Penny (version1.0), Tracht Gut, Ayei, Kukureeku and (the as-yet unreleased) a cappella version of Carlebach’s Veshomru. Anyone who heard the stuff back then was a fan – it was fresh; something new, but real. Their songs were lyrical and full, although occasionally nonsensical and nutty; their harmonies were authentic; their vocals were at once edgy and elegant. The music grabbed you. Thankfully, they haven’t stopped since then, and each album has brought exciting new ideas and broad exploration of music, while just having a grand old time.
All You Got is another excellent offering from these two talented brothers. To really get these guys, though, you have to look at their lyrics – statements made on any line you can think of. To that end, we’re pulling out our favorite lines from each song for all to see.
Mazel Tov (T.T.D.F.): (***) The acronym, and the song as a whole, exhorts you to head out To The Dance Floor. So it’s no surprise this has got a strong beat and good movement. While the guitar has less presence here than it does on other 8th Day albums, we still have that classic 8th Day-styled subtle clarinet making its own appearance throughout. This song is mostly keyboards, but the backing music gains strength over the song and ends with a full sound. Still, I think it could have used more substance in the beginning. As always, excellent job on the vocals, backups and cross-harmonies. A nice beginner that’ll grow on you.
Tell all your fears, your worries, your troubles
Tell them to go and dance, kazatzka, kazatzka!
Bounce: (****) Once you’re talking about dancing, it’s only natural for a Bounce to follow. A heady reggae groove moves this number, with an awesome message – get off the earthiness of the ground and move to a spiritually higher space! I’m not sure if the term “tefach hecher fun velt” originated here, but legend has it that Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson made this comment about the mystical city of Tzfat. I do know that the Marcus brothers spent some time in yeshiva there, and that’s where one of their illustrious uncles lives, so it’s possible that this message echoes from then. The third stanza uses a hip hop style rhyming, but Shmuly wisely keeps the rhymes refined and low key. The only thing missing from this spunky song is a little bit of spontaneity. A fantastic song despite that.
Don’t let your ego rise when you make your bread
Don’t let the hits hit you over the head!
Harmony: (***) Nice tune, pretty harmonies, and a good job squeezing the most out of – in all honesty – a fairly overused cliché. But, as anyone who knows 8th day can attest, these two brothers know how to harmonize, and that is, after all, the theme of this piano-based song. That piano could definitely pick up steam as it rolls through the song, but the foundation that it sets is nice. A sweet acoustic guitar solo in the middle links up the pieces, which I’d have stretched it out a bit longer. To really appreciate this song, though, you need a good set of speakers so you can enjoy those two solid voices combining together flawlessly.
Life is so much better with harmony together,
We can out-storm any weather with harmony together.
Didan Nitzach (Victory Song): (*****) Yeah! Score. As soon as this number starts up, you know you’ve got a home run heading your way. This sizzling piece has a bit of awesomeness on so many levels, starting with a heads-up electro intro that gets you bopping furiously. As for the arrangements, everything is perfectly placed, starting with that emphatic piano spaced among the glowing synth, over to the elegant guitar solos. Over at 2:30, they cut the backings out to great effect, especially as it kicks back up to tops for the rest of the song. The theme is Moshiach (the term Didan Notzach is Aramaic for “victory is ours”, and originates in a really cool Aggadic tale), and if this song doesn’t proclaim victory, I don’t know what would. I love the cheeky line, “People singin’ a familiar tune, it’s the one you’re listenin’ to”; it’s just great.
Shofar blasts on the airwaves, clouds of glory on the runway
Elijah dancin’ away the night, old Goliath gave up the fight!
May You be Blessed: (***) While calling to mind the song with these words by Ken Burgess (sung by Yeedle), this slow crooner is unique in its own right. Bentzy takes the solo here, which makes me wonder if this is his personal statement to someone, probably his mother or his wife. The liner notes don’t tell us specifically, so we’re left to guess. The orchestrations are kept simple, with the strumming guitar feeding the rhythm and Bentzy’s earnest vocals feeding the emotion. The sparse piano works magic when it appears, and I love the synth work, but this fine song is first and foremost about the vocals.
All she does is think today what’s for tomorrow
Awakens the faith that everything will turn out fine
All You Got: (*****) Another exceptional song. The lyrics recall R’ Zusha of Anipoli’s legendary remark, “When I get to heaven, they won’t ask me, ‘Why were you not Avraham?’. They’ll ask me, ‘Why were you not Zusha?’” Using a slamming reggae beat with throbbing bass and shiny brass, Shmuel knocks it home. It’s guaranteed to be another crowd pleaser, even though it reflects their earlier song Tracht Gut in a few elements. It’s still way further up the chain, with the professional production and mature vocals and musicianship the brothers now showcase. But it’s the lyrics, with an excellent message and phenomenal phrasing, aimed at a generation that knows only imitation, that drives this red hot number. I hope we see more the likes of this in Jewish music.
After working so hard and wiping those tears, you look in the mirror, you face all your fears
Don’t be a fool trying to be wise like Solomon, only the weak try to be strong like Samson – gotta give it all ya got!
Money Room: (****) I’m not quite sure where I heard this concept before – whether it came from a parable of some sort, or if it was an actual story. Whatever the case, here it’s presented as an analogy on life in general. The entire production – vocals, lyrics and arrangement – creates a thought-provoking atmosphere. I think the idea is another side of All You Got. It’s a beautiful structure in totality, and that’s why every time you hear, it’ll strike you again. Am I taking or giving? Am I judging everyone like a Milton Kishinor? And who’s Milton Kishinor anyway?
The money room’s the world we live in –
Only you know who you are…
The Rabbi’s Son: (***) With all the songs on the kiruv movement and Baalei Teshuvah, this is an interesting take on the unfortunate other side of the coin. I think 8th Day touched this subject before with their earlier song “Been a Long Time”, but here it’s much less abstract. In any case, the contrast between the Czarist Cantonist decree and the modern struggle of materialism is an excellent piece of food for thought, but even more importantly, the statement or the challenge to today’s educators and parents to let the youth know “who I am” etc. has never been more important. And the reminder to us all of the Talmudic dictum that “While he has sinned, he is still a Jew”, is oh-so-essential in a society that judges at the drop of a hat. It’s a courageous message to stand up for. It is only the drums in the first stanza that I don’t quite get, but beyond that, it’s another listenable and reflective song.
How can I know where I’m going, if I don’t know where I’m comin’ from?
How can I know why I’m living, if I don’t know what he was dyin’ for?
Cheery Bim: (*****) It wouldn’t be an 8th Day album if it didn’t have a song with nonsensical or made-up words, would it? So here is this album’s silliness, in another enjoyable and oh-so-catchy song on friendship. I absolutely love the fun composition – it’s just so appealingly positive. Its only weakness is that it really could have used some more heavy and varied cross-harmonies – there is so much fresh territory that’s just waiting to be harmonized upon – and I think they repeated similar styles too many times, but it’s still so much fun! Even my 2 year-old has gotten into it, yelling out the “Cheeri Bim Bom” when it comes up. Something tells me this’ll be a camp favorite on those long bus rides.
I’ll cry with you through the saddest rubato
I’ll dance with you, do the rhythm staccato
Come on, aren’t those just sweet and refreshingly creative lyrics? Go Shmuly!
By My Side: (*****) This awesome classic rock song calls to mind a few of their earlier offerings: the a cappella preface is similar to their intro to Lama Balue, and the theme here is reflective of Fuhrt a Yiddele. We explored this concept when we explained the source of that song (the opening song of Avraham Fried’s Yiddish Medley) for our review of Yankel Yankel, but in any case, it would seem that they’re talking about life’s struggles vis a vis a Rebbe. I’d call this a California Chossid’s Ode to his Rebbe, and here’s what I mean. Sometimes life is like an ocean, and we’re faced with those massive waves – sometimes drowning us in the problems of mundane life; other times, cooling off our heat and passion towards Judaism and all things G-dly. And in those cases, a Chossid gets his reinvigoration from his Rebbe, a man who is a living embodiment of everything Judaism is meant to be. But for a Chabadnik, it’s tough – it’s been 18 years since we’ve been able to physically see and hear our Rebbe. Yes, the Rebbe continues to give us inspiration and even guidance with his words of Torah delivered in over 200 published works, and via video footage, etc. But still… so many times during both crisis and joy alike, we feel, “I can’t move on, I can’t go on without you, without you by my side…”
As for the arrangements? Perfecto. The Hammond organ sets the atmosphere perfectly; the drums are sharp and clear; and those sibling voices blended masterfully, all gracefully sets the song in a full and complete manner.
But in the dark of night in the lonely heights
You give me the strength to keep up the fight
Manhattan 2.0: (***) The Marcus Bros. are no strangers to reprises (Penny, Yarmulka Blues and Krenitz), but I don’t know why they went back to Manhattan. This has got to be one of their more inexplicable songs. I can only guess what the meaning is here, and I don’t have enough to go on to be so bold as to post my thoughts online. Whatever the case, this time, the song is used as a framework for some jamming. And at least now I know what the lyrics are. Whatever the reasoning behind it all, it’s an excellent finale for another excellent album.
Where were ya when the good life was around?
These guys are the worthy heirs to Megama and Journeys, and they’ve pulled off another brilliant, fun-filled, yet reflective and thoughtful album. Chasing Prophecy may have been a half-step better, but that’s just the result of Yalili’s hit factor alongside the raw emotion of Yiddishe Mama of Mumbai and Beggar Woman, as a tribute to Moshe Yess OBM. Still, if you liked that album, I think you’ll love this one as well. It very quickly became a favorite in my house, and I expect the same in yours. They’ve managed to stay away from overdoing things, keeping themselves a unique sound and presenting some excellent ideas to consider. If there is a weakness, it would be that there is not enough spontaneity. But considering the immense amount of creativity that went into it, I’m giving them a pass on that. Go ahead – get an All You Got. You won’t regret it.