Yisroel Amar won all of us over when as permanent fans when he dedicated his performance of Piha Puscha to his mother in last year’s Jewish Star competition, which he went on to win. It wasn’t just the beautiful voice and the way he connected with the audience, at least for me, it had a lot to do with the love and simcha that comes out when he sings.
That continues to be a theme throughout this whole album. Yisroel Amar sounds like he is smiling when he sings the upbeat songs, and when he sings the slower songs you can still see that he is bsimcha, just in a more serious way. In short, it is a high quality album with not many in the same category. By that I mean I have around 50 albums now, and not one is a child soloist. I know there have been some, but it is a rarity so I personally have nothing to compare it to. All the songs are arranged by top notch composers– either Yitzy Waldner or Baruch Levine– and every one is enjoyable. After celebrating his Bar Mitzvah recently, Yisroel Amar now has even more to celebrate since he has put out a great album at such a young age.
Let’s get to the songs.
1. Bayom Hahu (Composed by Yitzy Waldner)
Like most albums, this one starts out with a super upbeat and catchy song that will get you moving. This one is a more “typical” Jewish popular song, being that it is full of horns and big percussion with electric guitar solos mixed in here and there and has a choir to back it up. You will hear the smile in Yisroel Amar’s voice that I mentioned before. He also has a unique power to his voice without screaming or screeching as many kids can’t help but do.
2. Ten Bracha (Composed by Yitzy Waldner, lyrics by Shirel Melamed)
Right after a pumping song comes a heartfelt, slow tefilla accompanied by acoustic guitar. You will hear a a bit of an Israeli sound here that didn’t come through in Bayom Hahu, but it’s definitely not sephardi because it’s combined with “Riboino Shel Oilam”. Yisroel shows incredible maturity here in both his voice– a pretty big range for a 13 year old! – and his emotions. It’s a serious message but I feel like he is really singing to Hashem. My only complaint is that this song goes on a little too long (6:25).
3. Tefillin (Composed by Yitzy Waldner)
This is definitely my favorite song on the album and I can’t get enough of it. I wonder why it wasn’t released as one of the singles, being that it shows off such versatility…maybe the length. It starts out with a chazzanus style almost acapella, which is super adorable to hear a kid do. That’s not to mention how incredibly well he pulls it off. . Even though it’s not a style I usually like very much, he makes it really enjoyable. All of a sudden at 2:24, the tempo picks up and the horn section comes in. It turns into a more typical sounding Jewish pop song– but better than typical in my opinion. At the end of the song, it again slows down into a chazzanus style. I can imagine a really fun video to this song. It’s GREAT, and even at 7:15 I don’t get sick of it.
4.Birkat Cohanim (Composed by Yitzy Waldner)
Another slow song, this time the familiar lyrics of birkas cohanim. Although like I said before, Yisroel is not the type of kid to hit screeching high notes, he gets pretty high in this song though never in a screechy way. I love the choir–which I think is actually a few Yisroel Amars– singing together towards the end. This song has a special sweetness and innocence to it and is very pleasant to listen to. It is probably my favorite slow song on the album, although I do not think the electric guitar solos are necessary in this type of song.
5. Smile(Composed by Yitzy Waldner, lyrics by Ken Burgess and Dina Amar – is this his mother?)
This is an upbeat English song that discusses the importance of smiling and different things we all have to be happy about, like the fact that Hashem is always watching us. It is a genuine feel good song that is fun to listen to and has a relaxed feel to it despite the fast tempo. Some of the lyrics are a little cheesy (A smile is fun, a smile is free/a smile is for you and me…) but much of the song is deeper and because he is a kid it is okay for lyrics to be somewhat cheesy. Anyway it is still a really enjoyable song.
6. Toda (Composed by Yitzy Waldner, lyrics by Shmuel Yona, featuring Yishai Lapidot)
This is an Ivrit song that I cannot understand at all because I am very American. I am getting a good chunk of the words and assuming it is a message of thanks but…yeah. It sounds really pretty but I don’t know what it is talking about. Yisroel hits some amazing notes during the chorus and Yishai Lapidot is a great addition. Their voices contrast each others in a neat way. Now that I am listening to it again I’m getting more of the words, and it’s very beautiful. I just wish I could understand it all.
7. Vehu (Composed by Baruch Levine)
This song sounds like a Baruch Levine fast song, and as I said in my review of the latest Levine album, his fast songs keep getting better. There is a good deal of horns, and it’s catchy and memorable. The high part has a unique tune and stands out amongst many Jewish songs that are easy to get mixed up sometimes. Aside from Tefillin, I think this is my favorite song. Again, a lot of simcha comes through and it is hard not to smile listening to it, not to mention sing along.
8. Hilulat (Composed by Yitzy Waldner, lyrics by Rabbi Chay Amar– is this his father?)
This is an upbeat Sefardi style song that sounds like (with a different voice of course) it could have been on Libi Bamizrach when it comes to the beat and the instruments. I can imagine people dancing on the streets of Israel to this song– but unfortunately it is the shortest song on the album so they would have to put it on repeat like I just did. Not much else to say except for this is a great, fun song.
9. Mikdash (Composed by Baruch Levine)
I didn’t even recognize these lyrics being from Lecha Dodi at first because this is such a unique tune, not to mention it’s very slow, unlike most of the ways I hear Lecha Dodi. I love “diddy dai dai dais” at around 3:20. It takes the song to a place outside of a recording studio because it sounds like men sitting around a table or in shul singing. This is not my favorite slow song on the album, but its very well written and the vocals are incredible. Not sure what it is about it that I’m not crazy about, but I still would say it is a good song.
10. Gam Zu (Composed by Yitzy Waldner)
This song has lyrics that we all need to hear “Gam ki leech bgai tzalmoves/ Lo ira ra ki ata imodi / gam zu ltova”. It’s the only really techno sounding song on the album, which I was surprised about because that seems so popular now and this was the single. Although I love this song, it was a pleasant surprise because I don’t want a whole album of techno. I love it when the tempo slows down at 2:44. This is a really catchy fun driving song (or subway song…) and will leave you wanting more Yisroel Amar. You’re going to want to start the album over from #1…
This album has all the cuteness and fun of a kids’ choir but is elevated above what someone would expect from most kids in maturity. I look forward to following Yisroel Amar’s music career. He is off to a great start!