On June 7th at approximately 11:15 PM I was roused from a deep, self-induced hibernation. Contrary to that utterly vile rumor currently circulating, JTB does not stand for Jeremiah the Terrible Bear which means that no, this is not all part of some horribly vivid nightmare involving an enormous, leering, furry beast that has just awoken from hibernating in my bedroom closet and snatched away my laptop to type this (whoever thought up this one has some pretty serious issues…). The hibernation I’m actually referring to here is the one with me shutting myself away in my room, putting on my studio headphones, switching my phone to airplane mode, and listening to Shloime Taussig’s new album, all while submerged in an ethereal and subliminal trance (that part’s 100% true). Why such hermitical behavior, you ask? Well, around two and a half years ago Shloime released his debut album which unfortunately went staggeringly unnoticed. In fact, I’ll even go so far as to say that it remains the single most underrated album ever (and you can quote me on that)! Thus, I feel morally obligated to take the task of reviewing his second album upon my shoulders to ensure that this travesty does not occur yet again. As I sit here tapping away at my keyboard I can’t help but wonder what on earth I’ve been spewing and why now, of all times, my backspace key has insisted upon malfunctioning. Ah well, life can be tough… I think I should get going now prior to any aspersions being cast on my mental wellbeing (or lack thereof) and being rudely posted in the comments section.
Nissim V’niflaos- The album commences in fine fashion with this catchy disco composed by Pinky Weber. Avrumi Berko arranged the adult choir and Shmily Spira took care of the children’s. The song was arranged by Shua Fried, who has really begun to make a name for himself in the music business. I love the funky clavichord heard during the low part of the song. Around 3:20 in, the song transforms into an ultra-funky beat featuring shaking trumpets, the aforementioned clavichord, only a bit heavier and some cool slap bass action. It stays this way until it gradually fades out. I think a more conventional ending would’ve done the trick just fine. Well, I’ve just realized that I’m only talking about the music again and not the singer. Shloime sounds as good as ever with his sweet, crystal-clear voice which sounds a bit like Shloime Daskal for those who haven’t yet heard it. Although this song has a fairly catchy tune it still is only average; which means 7 out of 10 stars will be the rating.
Gam Ki Eilech- This song is a moderate 4/4 with a bit of a reggae feel but I think it’s really some sort of Caribbean style. It’s got a pretty decent tune composed by Eli Cohen who also masterfully arranged the music with assistance from Yitzy Berry. Throughout the song the flutist sounds as if he just ran the New York City Marathon, judging by the copious amounts of air being expelled into his instrument. I got a massive migraine when listening to it and from the sound of it the poor guy got one too. Interestingly enough, there’s a grave omission in the credits with regards to any mention at all of a flutist on this album; which is a shame because he plays beautifully. The choir is “The Cherries” whom I’ve Googled (no, Spellcheck! That’s a real word in my book; I couldn’t care less what you think) without any success. They did do a nice job of backing up Shloime so if anyone has any further information on them I’d greatly appreciate it. One thing that didn’t sit right with me was the lyrics. This may be a result of my being accustomed to hearing these words in a more slow and mournful setting and the picture of the barbed-wire fence next to the song in the booklet only served to reinforce this feeling. All in all however, this is a song with pretty good dinner music potential and it gets 7 out of 10 stars from me.
Hecher- This song is a sort of funky hora/disco composed by Yitzy Waldner. The arrangements, expertly done by Ilya Lishinsky, are a little – and please don’t fire me for putting it this way – “Michael Jacksonesque”, if you catch my drift. Shloime gets his voice synthesized (as every singer seems to feel obligated to do at some point or other nowadays) and also does the backup vocals. I like the music even though I’m not a huge fan of the particular style it’s played in but it has the feel of a filler song to it so I’ll give it 5 out of 10 stars.
Viyehei Raavu- My former Rosh Yeshiva is firmly against any music that’s doesn’t have enough “Yiddishe Taam” to it and has made his earsplitting opinions on the matter known on more than one memorable occasion. I’m 100% confident that if he were to hear to this song he would enthusiastically approve and might even use an iPod to listen if necessary (although that last bit is highly unlikely). Basically, think of the old songs Yossi Green composed for Avraham Fried and you’ll get a clearer picture of what I’m referring to. Incidentally, Yossi did compose this beautiful 3/4 ballad whose words are a T’fillah found before Kiddush on Friday night. It takes a little patience to appreciate it and mine is just about stretched thin now as instead of concentrating on the song, I find my mind wandering to the sumptuous challah in the picture above it. Maybe if I eat something I’ll be able to do my due diligence more effectively. So hold on just a sec…. Ok, I’m back and more focused after that hearty meal (courtesy of my sister Samantha) and I think if you listen to the song a few times you’ll agree that it’s one for the ages! Yup, another fantastic Yossi Green classic! What else is new? As always, Yossi does the background vocals to this gem arranged by Shua Fried. 10 out of 10 stars.
Sasson V’simcha- Things are really starting to get exciting here with this, the second Yossi Green song in a row. Before even looking at the booklet I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt whose song it was. I mean, which other Jewish composer would have the guts and wherewithal to write a bona fide samba? For those who are unfamiliar with this style of music it’s basically a Brazilian 2/4 characterized by the strong presence of brass and woodwind instruments, seemingly superfluous mi6 chords, as well as octave piano; all of which are heard in this catchy song arranged by Shua Fried. The closest thing the drum beat is similar to in the mainstream Jewish music world would be a hora, I guess. But this song is not really made for dancing; it’s more of something that would be played at the smorgasbord when no one (except for me) seems to be paying any attention at all to the band, too busy instigating the massive stomachaches that will be plaguing them hours later. That’s really a shame because it’s quite an enjoyable song to listen to. I wonder what Yossi will do with it if he ever decides to have it featured on his next Hipsh album. Maybe convert it into a soft ballad? Who knows? Anyways, Shloime does a nice job singing, with Yossi occasionally piping in, using the one-of-a-kind harmonies he’s famous for. I wonder if anyone else out there feels the same way but doesn’t this sound like something Dedi could’ve sung, what with his pronounced Israeli accent and growly voice? It’s just a thought of mine. The one criticism that I have is the ending which very briefly modulates the song to one step up and then to another step up at which time it… ends. Shua! Can’t you see how painful it is for me as a musician to hear that escalation in the music and not feel any resolution????!!!!!!!???????? I’m sorry, I… I don’t expect too many people to understand what I’m going through here but I just had to vent to you, my dear readers. I hope to see many sympathetic comments below. Other than that, I did thoroughly enjoy the song so I will rate it 8 out of 10 stars.
Va’afil- Ok, let’s get one thing straight right from the get-go. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS SONG!!!!!!!!!!! There’s something about this slow 4/4 ballad composed and arranged (both the music and choir) by Ruli Ezrachi that’s mind-bogglingly beautiful. I’ve managed to pinpoint the main source of this; in the high part when Shloime sings the words “Melech Malchei Hamelachim” he emotionally soars to a higher octave and to me that’s the climax of the song. The words are from T’fillas HaShloh, who I believe is an ancient ancestor of mine. So who knows, maybe that has something to do with why I’m so uncannily captivated by this song. The unspecified electric guitarist (either Avi Singolda or Nachman Dreyer) does a truly fantastic job adding some great shredding but with the perfect amount of moderation. Basically, this will end up being one of my favorite songs of all time and the only reason it’s not getting 11 out of 10 stars from me is because I think that’s kind of cheesy. But it is getting a rare 10 out of 10 stars which means that I will have to listen to it yet again now.
Lehoidos- Lipa Schmeltzer composed this pumping disco that sounds a little like club music. Arrangements were done once again by Shua Fried who’s in his element due to the fact that the noticeable presence of “fake” music is actually, for once, appropriately applied (I do like his arrangements but I could do with less synthetic music in general). The Yedidim Choir (along with Avrumi Berko who also sings the backup vocals with Shloime) is featured on this song. I was truly disappointed when I realized that the second part is actually the high and not the middle section. Oh, and in case you’re wondering I did hear the “Shiros V’Sishbachos” part but that’s not a high part in my opinion; it’s merely an interlude. Whatever, I just feel like I was bilked out of a song that may have had a lot more potential had there been a genuine high part. 6.5 out of 10 stars.
Hamechadesh- This is a beautiful and melodious waltz composed by Pinky Weber with fantastic choral arrangements for both the children’s and adult choirs. Moishy Kraus led the children’s choir and Ruvi Banet the adults. Ruvi also arranged the song with nice and simple music that really hits the spot. As I said about Avraham Fried’s Yehalelu ( http://jewishmusicreport.com/2012/03/18/jmr-welcomes-new-blogger-debut-review-frieds-keep-climbing ) there’s not too much else to say about this song. It has the perfect tune, music and vocals and I really wish there would be more artists who’d be willing to sing old-style songs like this one. 10 out of 10 stars.
Asach Besser- According to my mother (who even at this stage in my life still knows best), Shloime is singing about a Jew who when asked how things are doing responds, “Good and they’ll get better”. Basically, it’s about never giving up hope no matter how many things aren’t going your way. That’s a very nice message and so is the tune – oh wait, no, the tune is catchy not “nice” or “gorgeous” like some say. Only slow songs are “nice”. Motty Ilowitz composed it and sang the backup vocals as well. Ruvi Banet worked his magic in this hora and I will give it 8 out of 10 stars.
Yerushalayim- The last slow song on the album was composed by Pinky Weber and arranged by Ruvi Banet, both of whom outdid themselves with this stunning 4/4 ballad. There are a number of facets in the arrangements which are worthy of mention. First, the lounge style piano and chords in the first interlude, second, during the second time around in the low part when the song unexpectedly, yet smoothly modulates to a half step higher; third, during the second high part when the song explodes into a full-fledged rock ballad (at which time Shloime’s vocal power is clearly demonstrated) and finally, the ending which is not really original (a minor scale song ending on a major chord) but it certainly does the trick in this case. Again, there’s not too much else to say so I’ll give it 9 out of 10 stars.
Lashem Ha’aretz- The last 2 songs were not originally composed for this great album. This Yitzchak Fuchs composition was originally released as a single around 2 years ago. It was an enjoyable if somewhat interesting song to listen to then but what Chilu Posen (who came up with the fresh introduction) and Ruli Ezrachi (who arranged the actual music) did is truly something else. The introduction (which continues to be featured at appropriate intervals throughout the song) gave me the impression that it would be some kind of symphonic rock but it turns out to be a very bouncy oom-pah in the low part and an equally bouncy disco in the high. There is one word that describes this song for musicians (especially those who are part of the rhythm section) and casual listeners alike: fun! This is definitely one of those songs that when played during the meal at a chasunah, yeshiva bochurim who may or may not have had too much to drink are likely to get up and begin dancing in the middle of the dance floor, oblivious to the looks of askance being cast upon them by the majority of guests. I don’t know; it’s just something I’ve seen. This song proves that arrangements are a vital part of a song’s potential popularity and I will give it 9 out of 10 stars.
K’dai- This song originally appeared on an album titled K’dai R’ Shimon Bar Yochai which was included in Mishpacha magazine’s Pesach edition 2 years ago. I heard it then and I’ve heard it now and strongly suspect that I’m listening to the exact same recording. Not to worry however, because this Yossi Green composition certainly needs no further tweaking. The arrangements were done by the legendary Mona Rosenblum whom I wish I’d hear more from nowadays. This is a fast paced disco a little bit like M.B.D.’s V’ohavto, to give you a clearer picture of the beat. Yossi Green enhances the song yet again with his phenomenal background vocals. 7.5 out of 10 stars.
Shloime Taussig burst onto the Jewish music scene with his debut album but as I mentioned above it wasn’t received as well as it should have been. This album, as was the case with his first, was produced by Teem Productions (Yossi Tyberg and Gershy Moskowitz) and they did a fantastic job. Being a producer basically means that you have the right connections and know how to utilize them properly for each client’s individual needs. This is quite apparent on this album where every detail ranging from the CD’s artwork and interior jacket (which was handled by the Ptex Group), to the composing, arranging, choice of musicians and of course the mixing (done by Ilya Lishinsky and Yossi Tyberg) was executed flawlessly. If this CD does not get its fair share of enthusiastic acceptance I’ll be bitterly disappointed. However, I do have 2 criticisms that I’d like to share with you. Firstly, I would have really loved to hear Shloime infuse some more energy into his voice as he did in “Yerushalayim” but failed to do on the rest of the album and lastly, the name of the album. I mean, seriously? Volume 2? I was under the impression that names like that were exclusively reserved for people who don’t know the real name of an album but need a way to refer to it amongst friends ( “Hey, did you guys hear Y.B.C 4 yet?”). All this being said, this album wasn’t quite as amazing as his first one but is still one of the best I’ve heard in a long time and I will give it (Shloime, if you’re reading this you should know that this is a first and probably a last from me) a rating of 10 out of 10 stars which means that if you have to go hungry for a day or “borrow” money from your kid’s piggy bank to afford it I would still suggest that you do so*. You can purchase the album at your local Judaica store or at http://www.mostlymusic.com/volume-2-15148.html where it is available for digital download as well. I would also recommend purchasing and/or downloading his first album (Moidim Anachnu Loch) at http://www.mostlymusic.com/shloime-taussig-modim-anachnu.html and I can guarantee that you’ll thank me profusely once you’ve listened to them. As always, your questions and donations (all major credit cards accepted)* are more than welcome in the comments section below.
*By reading this article you are consenting to abide by the legal terms and conditions as set forth in both state and federal statute with regards to content of blogs. In layman’s terms, I am not to be held responsible for any and all ill effects which occur as a result of taking my suggestions too seriously.