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Review: Yosef Chaim Shwekey- Chavivin

Since getting into Jewish music (I didn’t grow up frum), I have encountered a wonderful problem: no matter how many CDs I get, there are always going to be high quality artists that I never really got to sit down and take the time to listen to. When I got Yosef Chaim Shwekey’s album Chavivin, I discovered a “new” artist– basically new to me at least. I’m very happy that I did, because it happens to be that the album and the artist are both very good.

The songs are basically in three categories: very emotional slow songs, techno-style fast songs, and fast songs with a full orchestra sound (lots of horns). The full orchestra style (not sure how else to describe it) does often work very well because Yosef Chaim Shwekey has a bigger voice. It’s very powerful and he hits a lot of great notes. My favorite songs are Aseh Lemaancha, Yerushalayim, Kol Yisroel, and Chizku. I can say that after listening to the entire album-many times-that there is a certain style that he puts into each song, yet there is a lot of diversity in the album. There is a touch of Sephardi and of rock sprinkled in with everything. The only complaint I have- and I have this with a lot of artists- is that  a lot of the intros and musical interludes are too long for my taste. This is a high quality album with a lot of amazing songs on it.
1. Lehoidos
Lehoidos starts out with a very big intro, and one I would’ve liked to be shorter. Between over a minute of instrumentals and choir music, YC Shwekey doesn’t come in until around 1:35. Since it’s the first track, I would’ve put him in right at the beginning.  Anyway. All the way through this song stays big (lots of horns and choirs). His voice shines in the choir, with a calm and effortless feel producing great notes. Despite too many musical interludes, this is a very good song.

2. Shma Koleinu
Here we go into a nice heartfelt slow song. Right away I am impressed with his voice, very powerful and shows his emotions. There are a lot of big notes in this song. I enjoy it but it is not my favorite slow song on the album.

3. Veuyodata Hayoim
This song also has a lot of “bigness” to it, with the choirs and more dramatic instruments,  but I think it works better here. Overall good song, fun and great to sing along to.

4. Hu Yevoreich
We have heard these words on a lot of albums, so it is not a very unusual song, but it is sung very well. It seems to play off of the strengths of his voice. Nice touch on the ending going very high and soft.

5. Chavivin
Here’s the title track, and with that obviously comes a higher standard. I think that Chavivin delivers on representing the album as a whole. Remember when I mentioned the three types of songs on the album? This one has the big orchestra feel but is also a little funky and at the same time isn’t very fast and has a lot of big notes. It has it all.  I love this song.

6. Aseh Lemaancha
This song is immediately very funky with a a Sephardi feel.  It’s my favorite song thus far and stands out. I like that the verse is faster than the chorus and the fun music doesn’t end with the intro. Another great thing about this song is that it isn’t repetitive at all.  This song is unique and stands out on the album.

7. Min Hameitzar
Wow, I am really impressed with the feeling in this song, between the vocals and the music and the background vocals. He really sounds as though he is “calling to Hashem from the depths”. Min Hameitzar also shows off YC Shwekey’s vocals very well. The only thing I wasn’t crazy about was the the electric guitar solo around 3:20. It seems out of place here and led into an also unnecessary almost minute long musical interlude… he has a great voice, I want to hear it! Another thing about this song is that it never seems repetitive although there are only seven words. In fact I just re-listened to it to make sure I wasn’t mistaken because it seems a little unbelievable that the words never get old here.

8. Yerushalayim
This song doesn’t waste any time getting into the powerful music. This song, a mix of techno and big horn instruments, will make you smile. I guess that goes well with the words (Somachti bomrim li…) . At times the music sounds like a heartbeat which is neat , though not sure if it was on purpose. It’s just a catchy, overall feel good song and one of my favorites.

9. Kol Yisroel
This is my favorite slow song on the album and I wish it had come earlier. It is sung with such love that it inevitably gets me a little emotional… The words are simple (from right at the beginning of Pirkei Avos) though when I saw the title at the length (7:16) I thought it had a story to it or some really complicated lyrics– with a song like this, I think simple is better. Every note sounds good, the music isn’t overly complicated, and like I said, most importantly it is sung with a lot of love. Great great song.

10. Chizku
Chizku starts right out with a techno feel and the verses go along with that having funky electronic music. The chorus, however, is more powerful and rocky. Right away listening to the album this was a standout for me. I love the mix of the strong, passionate vocals in the chorus with the laid back verses. Great beat and interesting to listen to all the way until the end.

11. Avihem Shebashomayim
The album ends with a bang with this song. I love that the vocals come in right away, as my only real complaint with this album when there are very long intros. This is a good dance song/driving song/ etc. Interesting to end the album on this type of song, but I think that what it accomplishes is leaving us wanting more, back to track 1.


Enjoy !

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