With the three weeks now upon us, it is back to sefira music, at least for those of us who listen to a capella music during the three weeks. While the offerings seem to come fast and furious during sefira and the three weeks, the boys of AKA Pella have made a name for themselves by combining great vocals with a diverse selection of songs, some paired with other songs that are similar lyrically, musically or both.
Let me issue my usual disclaimer. I generally don’t listen to secular music so there is a lot going on here that I just don’t get. With apologies to C.D. Eichler and the talented crew that is AKA Pella, I am missing a lot of the humor, fun and brilliance that is here. But no matter. There is still plenty to listen to here and enjoy, although if you frown upon any secular influences in your music, this is not the album for you.
For those of you who have been living in a cave for the last few years, AKA Pella is produced by C.D. Eichler, also one of the group’s vocalists. Clearly Eichler spends all his waking hours figuring out ways to combine music – be it new, old, Jewish, secular or anything in between. His instincts are generally on the money and AKA Pella bills it’s music as “so good it should be assur.” The regular AKA vocalists, Yoel Horowitz, Elie Ganz, Dovi Ziffer, C.D. Eichler, Zevi Daniel and Elchonon Majeski are joined this time around by Shmuel Braun, Shloime Kaufman, Shallom Engel, Simcha Leiner and Yitzy Spinner. Standout arrangements by Ed Boyer and Eichler really make each song into something memorable.
Kulam Ahuvim Telephone – This song, featuring MBD’s Kulam Ahuvim, grew on me more than the others and has earned a coveted spot on the playlist that I listen to during my morning hike, which I am sure is the holy grail for all Jewish singers. Tons of fun to sing along with and these songs are so well matched it is hard to tell where one song ends and the other begins.
The TGIF Medley II – This was not one of my favorites at first listen, but it is a great song to sing along with and somewhere along the way I forgot that I didn’t enjoy it initially. Special shoutout to C.D. Eicher and Zevi Daniel for some really good lyrics. My favorite? “We may be the men but you be wearing the pants.”
Moves Like Nilli Milli – Yitzy Spinner and AKA Pella go together like milk and cookies and if anything, listening to this song, you wonder why they didn’t get together sooner. Spinner, a serious contender for the crown of most-all-around-talented-guy-in-the-music-business shines in this pairing of songs that, once again, fit together seamlessly. Spinner also takes the prize for the best EVER lyrics in Jewish music in a subtle harmony on MBD’s Im Eyn Ani Li at 3:31 where he sings (wait for it, wait for it – you ready??) “I got the moves like Mordche.”
7th Heaven – In case you thought the boys of AKA Pella were the bad boys of Jewish music, think again. In both their slow medleys they prove themselves worthy and very capable of singing so straightforwardly (who knew that was a real word?) and so beautifully that they could be hired to sing the chupah at the wedding of the greasiest bochur in Brisk to the most toasted girl from BJJ. Just stunning. This pairing of Shloime Gertner’s Hashomayim and Shwekey’s Mimkomcha is gorgeous.
Tick Tock – See? Now this is what I love about AKA Pella albums. C.D. Eichler doesn’t just go for the mega hits – he mines out great songs that have been potentially overlooked. This one, Tick Tock from Shea Rubenstein’s Ohavti (with harmonies on the original album done by Yitzy Spinner that make the song pop), is a fun song and another great choice if you like to sing along.
Moshiach/Moshiach – Ready for more fun with a Latin American flair? Originally I found the timing on both Benny Friedman’s Moshiach and Miami Boys Choir’s song by the same name too slow for my taste, but the great piece at 3:28 (no clue what the English song is, nor do I care) wouldn’t have worked well at a faster tempo. Again, close the windows and sing along with this one. You know you want to!
No Lyrics/No Lyrics Old School –Both versions of this one of a kind song from Benny Friedman’s Taamu album are awesome and must listens. Hearing the two mashed together in the outtakes is totally outrageous. Benny Friedman and Avi Newmark, if you are reading this, hope you guys are shepping nachas big time. Is there a greater tribute to one of your songs than to having it redone twice on an album? (Three times if you count the outtakes.)
Pruz Control – Ok, guys, what is up with the Seinfeld thing? This combo of Pruzansky songs is yet another example of AKA Pella’s uncanny ability to do dead on imitations of singers. Special shoutout to Simcha Leiner, who with every vocal, manages to climb yet higher on the musical ladder of success. Keep an eye out for Simcha. While there are so many talented newcomers out there, he is one who will definitely be going places.
Birchos Avicha/Birchos Habanim – Both songs (Dovid Gabay’s Omar Dovid and Ohad III) are really beautiful. But again, I found the tempo a little on the slow side (yes, I know they are supposed to be slow songs) and this was the first time ever on an AKA Pella album that I really felt I was listening to a Sefira album and missed the “fake” accompaniment that makes the AKA albums sound like authentic music.
Ya’alili – If you are a Ya’alili fan, you will love this fresh, slightly irreverent take on the song with all new lyrics that will have you chuckling all the way through.
Aravim – Another song that wasn’t a favorite of mine at first, but grew on me in a big way. From the fun intro (again, don’t know what it is and have no interest in finding out) they made this song really explode. Great guest vocals by both Shloime Kaufman and Simcha Leiner.
Cutting Room Floor/Outtakes – A chaval that some great vocals by Yitzy Spinner ended up on the cutting room floor, because they are huge.