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Review: Sheves Achim 2

by Kol Isha July 12, 2011

With the release of the hugely popular Sheves Achim 2, JMR proudly presents a three way review of the album, co-written by Just A Fan, JM Derech and JM Maven.

JM Maven: The long awaited sequel to the first Sheves Achim album is out and while it took time for me to really appreciate the album, I’ve really been enjoying it.  I find that there are some albums that I love right away and others that take listening to a few more times until I really like them.   I often end up enjoying the albums that I didn’t love at first listen more than those that I liked right away.

 

When the first Sheves Achim album came out, once I had listened to the album a few times, I was blown away by the talent of the Bell brothers. Aside from the singing and harmonies, they wrote quite a few of the songs themselves and although I liked some songs more than others, there were quite a few songs there that were just amazing, especially considering how old the boys were when they composed them.

 

But as anyone knows, any album/group featuring boys only lasts as long as the boy’s voices. When the first Sheves Achim came out, both Bell brothers were already getting older, and their voices were already maturing. That worked fine for the first album, and Moshe Bell was even featured on Sheves Chaveirim, another amazing album put out by Ari Goldwag. But as rumors spread of another Sheves Achim album, I  wondered, as I’m sure many others did, “Aren’t their voices changing? How good can a second album be once their voices change?”

 

Once I heard the demo, I was somewhat relieved.  Sure, it wasn’t the same boys group that it was before, but it definitely didn’t sound bad. After hearing the album a few times, I saw that even though it was different, it was a very solid album. The Bells hadn’t lost their touch, and still sounded great. They definitely sound more mature, but they still are able to use their voices well and hit some pretty nice keys.

 

JM Derech: The Bell brothers are back and they lost their sweet child vocals, but have developed soothing, mature adult voices. The music is still great and their compositions are still the best around.

 

The first Sheves Achim was a solid hit from start to finish and I expected no less this time around; luckily, my expectations were happily met.  I’m going to compare songs from this album to the last album, there are a lot of similarities that I noticed, which I’m sure you noticed as well.

 

Just A Fan: I was late getting the first Sheves Achim album, so it wasn’t too long after that I heard there was a second album in the works. I’m a big fan of the first album and I think it was all I listened to for a few weeks last year (considering I had an hour commute, that’s a lot of listening). But I had to wonder– what in the world are they going to sound like on the next album? Are they going to still be good when they can’t hit the amazingly high notes that the Bell brothers gained fame from?

 

Then the sampler was released. This is a little weird, I’ll admit, but I listened to the sampler a lot. That’s when you know an album is going to be great, when you sit there listening to 30 second clips of each song…  Getting the whole album has obviously been a much better experience since …you know… I can listen to the entire songs.

 

The album is very different than the first Sheves Achim. Yes, there are parallels you can draw. But the Bell brothers have grown up and Baruch Hashem their voices are still amazing (in a different way) while the music has become a lot more mature and well, better. Let me assure you, though I am a big fan of kids CDs (as you can tell from my recent reviews), this doesn’t sound like a kids CD. The first album was composed by Ari Goldwag with some songs by Shimon or Moshe Bell. This one keeps that tradition while adding in other composers to mix things up a little bit. Somehow, with all the differences, there is still a consistency among the two albums.

 

Overall, the album is really amazing and top quality. I really commend Ari Goldwag for this. I remember on the first album he said something about this isn’t his style of music, but it’s the boys’ style. It’s probably very hard to write songs and do all the instrumentation when it’s not your style, but he did a tremendous job as usual.

Most importantly, Shimon and Moshe Bell are pretty unbelievable. They are still teenagers and they have put out two high quality albums. There are a lot of great child soloists who are only in the music business as children for various reasons, and I’m thrilled that Sheves Achim hasn’t followed that pattern and that we will hopefully be hearing music by them for a long time to come.

 

Sheves Achim – Composed by Elimelech Blumstein

I’ve heard Elimelech say before that Ari Goldwag was the first one to use one of his songs – I’ll leave this one as a quiz for the readers, if you know which song it is, leave it in the comments below – extra point if you know what the original words for the song were, before they were changed. Additionally, I know that Ari does a lot of the demos for Elimelech’s songs, so he probably had “first dibs” on this song, and it sure is a good one. Call it the Sheves Achim theme song, it starts off with a bang. This song is, in every part, an Elimelech Blumstein song, and I love the way that the song and the words flow. I’ve always liked Elimelech’s songs because he is very innovative in how the songs flow, and almost every one of his songs is somewhat off the beaten track, but in a creative and good way. There are a few things in the song arrangement here that really add to the song, like the way the song moves up a key in the middle. There’s a lot of word repetition, but I like it, especially how all the Gam’s fit into the song. Overall, great song, and great performance – not going to start with rating each one, but it’s a definite hit in my book.

They sure did want to come out of the gate with energy. This opening song has all the power and excitement of an opening song, much like Ve’hu K’Choson did on the first album. However, the song I want to compare this to is Modim. It has a similar tempo and uplifting feel to it.

Given that this is the title of the group, it makes more sense that the first album would’ve had a Sheves Achim song. That being said, this song was worth the wait. It starts almost a capella and with a very fast tempo, introducing the album with a bang. The musical interlude that follows is a little too long, especially for a fast song/first song. The tempo is slower throughout the verse, but still upbeat. The song is really catchy and wonderful and is one of my favorites.

 

Mayim Karim – Composed by Moshe Bell

When I first heard part of this song on the sampler that came out a few weeks before the album came out, the first thing I was trying to figure out where the words were from. Once I got the album and booklet, I saw that they came from Mishlei. I always liked exotic words, but this may be a bit too exotic for me… I’m also not sure how Moshe Bell managed to come across the words. Either way, it’s a great second track, and I love the way the intro starts off. It reminds me a bit of another Goldwag intro, but I can’t recall which one, so that’s fine ;) Although it’s a great song, I‘m not sure this song will make it by Simchas, because the words are a bit too hard, but it definitely was performed well on CD, it’s a pumping song, and live performances/Simchas aren’t everything, so it definitely gets a thumbs up in my book, and Moshe Bell did a great job with the composition.

Here’s your V’Hu K’Chosson. This techno song is amazing, and has the Sheves Achim signature sound to it. You can feel the energy with every horn sound in the chorus. This is a great song for exercising or doing household chores.

Here’s the first song on the album composed by a Bell, and it’s Moshe, the younger brother. On the first album, he composed Modim and co-composed Vehu…two fast and super high energy songs, so this one is exactly what you’d expect based on those– but of course it’s a more mature and better version of those. Great song, although I could’ve done with a little less of the techno sound here. I’d buy an entire album of them singing without music, so we don’t need too many effects.

 

 

Tov Lehodos – Composed by Judah David

I have no idea who Judah David is, but this is definitely a very nice song. I like the way it start off with very little in the background, and gradually builds to a fuller arrangement with background vocals. The key switch is very smooth and almost unnoticeable, and I really like how the high part flows. One thing I might have done towards the end to add to the song is some a capella of the high part, with just singing and harmonies, and then bring the music back in to finish the song off, but I wasn’t asked, I didn’t arrange the song, and it definitely works the way it is :) Overall, a solid slow song with solid arrangements that I really enjoyed.

Ruchnius. That defines this song. This song is spiritually uplifting and makes me feel like and want to be a better person (huh, someone called me a bad person? :-D). This is possibly the best slow song from this pair of brothers and will be a guest at my Shabbos table for weeks to come. The closest song to this one is Avraham Yagel.

Here’s the first slow song on the album. It’s the Tov Lehodos words that we all love with a new and beautiful tune. This is one of the songs that best shows off their voices. It’s relaxing and just all around a very pretty song.

 

Hu Ha’Elokim – Composed by Ari Goldwag

Starting off with a simple guitar intro, this song has somewhat of a different feel to it. I like the low part, but didn’t love the high part as much. I also thought that the combination of the words used for the low part, from Yeshaya, with words from Devarim for the high part (and in the end of Neilah on Yom Kippur, in case that’s the connection) don’t really mix, and the words on the high part are a bit too repetitious. Definitely not a bad song, I just didn’t love this one as much as some of the other ones.

Acoustic guitar? Nice change. I love it! This song has the same “happiness effect” as Yaavducha from Benny Friedman (don’t ask, it just does). I guess the best comparison for this song is Ashreinu from the first album. It has the same summer camp feel.

Here’s the first song composed by Ari Goldwag. This is definitely one of my favorites and you’ll see why. It’s got a fast tempo but a laid back feel. On the first album, it’s closet to Ashreinu. This is one of those songs that makes you smile and is very pleasant to listen to. I love 3:00-3:35 when the words change up a bit.

 

The Artist – Composition and words by Dovid Klaver

This song seemed to have been one of the featured songs on the album, as all the releases and information on the album highlighted this song. I enjoyed the melody very much, and the music is very fitting for an English song, but I personally feel that English songs on Jewish albums can’t be too complicated, in terms of the story/message. I always had an easy time following the Journeys songs – they were clear, easy, and straight to the point. This comes across more as a poem, with a hidden meaning, but since the main purpose of a song is also the music, you have to be able to understand the words while listening as a song. I didn’t really understand it until I sat down and read through the words in the booklet, which isn’t a bad thing – I just don’t normally don’t have to do that. Either way, it is definitely a nice song, and once I read through the words, I did appreciate and enjoy the song, and this is one of the songs that I think we’ll really see feedback from in a few months, depending on where it goes.

Best English song EVER. Okay, maybe I’m a bit biased because I work as a graphic designer and this song’s topic strikes a chord. Remember the emotional power the verse “He’s learning in a kollel, now he’s their superman” from the first album was? Ya, listen to this song and the power of the last chorus with the verse “You see in the end, you do play a part in bringing the painting to life”. Awesome song!

This song starts with a metaphor of an artist with a masterpiece where every color is important and intentional, etc., and to be honest I originally thought “Nice thoughts but it’s pretty cheesy.” Then there is a change, and the comparison changes to how some people feel worthless, unloved, etc., but in truth there is no such person when we can see the whole “painting”. Ok, it still sounds cheesy, but if you listen you will see that it’s very beautiful. It’s got a great lesson and the composition of the song is really nice as well, so this is a very enjoyable song.

 

Sameach – Composed by Ari Goldwag

I liked the way the song started off, but the whole accent thing – Israeli, then Chassidish, just didn’t work for me. I think the song would go a lot further if they would have just sung it normally (OK, that’s a relative term, but I mean without any accent) – I like the song as a song, just the way it was done was, in my opinion, not the best way to do it.

I’m not quite sure about the change in pronunciation from sefardi to chassidishe, but otherwise it’s a good song. With the words chosen, I assume this song was intended to be sung by weddings, but the beat may be a bit hard to dance to. This song is a good fast song, but I won’t go beyond “good”. I think it’s safe to compare this song to Lo Lanu from the first album.
After three laid back songs we have another very (in the chorus it’s very very) high tempo song. Throughout the accents change up and you will hear a Chasidish accent as well as an Israeli accent all mixed together, and it reminds me (since it’s a wedding song) of the way some weddings bring all different types of people together; it’s a really nice thing. This song is  super fun and exciting.

 

Shema Koleinu – Composed by Shimon Bell and M. A.

I don’t know who M. A. is, (unless it’s the Bell brother’s mother), but I don’t know why they wouldn’t write the whole name of whoever was involved, especially on such a nice song. Anyways, this is another beautiful slow song, which also features Ari Goldwag’s son, Moshe Dov, who was part of Sheves Chaveirim. The intro reminds me of Mi Haish from the first Sheves Achim album, but that’s not a bad thing… ;) Moshe Dov Goldwag sings a good part of the song, and while I thought that he may have been a bit too young on Sheves Chaveirim, he sounds older and in more control of his voice now, and he really adds a lot to the song, including harmonies and background vocals. There are some amazing harmonies on this song, and combined with some excellent arrangements, this is an overall amazing song.

Insert Goldwag’s son here. Moshe Dov Goldwag has definitely improved and is quite talented for his age, but his voice is still a bit “babyish” for me. This a slow song, but a good one, however, it is a bit typical. I think this song is the equivalent of Mi Ha’ish.

Another slow song, this time starting out with Moshe Dov Goldwag of Sheves Chaverim. I love Moshe Dov’s voice; it’s very sweet and pure sounding. This song was composed partially by Shimon Bell, who composed the brilliant  and beautiful Avraham Yagel on the first album. This song follows in that path, and it sounds like a lot of heart went into both the composition and the vocals.

 

Beshuvi – Composed by Ari Goldwag

For some reason, when I think of these words, I always envision a slow, hartzig song, but this composition by Ari Goldwag just goes to show how a well done upbeat song can bring out the meaning in words just as well. The intro is in line with the rest of the Sheves Achim intros, including some harmonies , which I really like. I like the somewhat toned down arrangements with mostly guitar in the background, but there are some sections and chords that were really done well, especially on the low part on the second time around. I also liked the bridge, how it went together with the background, and how they did the key change. The vocal are done very well, combining for an all around great song.

Ogil Viesmach Bilvavi… Oh? It’s not that song, could’ve fooled me ;). Much like Ogil, Beshuvi is a fantastic song with a great tempo. There’s not much to the song, but there beauty of it is that it still sounds great!

Of all the songs on the album, this one isn’t the most fun, the prettiest, or the one that best shows off the voices of the Bell brothers. Still, it’s definitely my favorite. I keep playing it on my iPod and I’m upset when it ends. It’s another one of those laid back but higher tempo songs, without the techno feel. I love the words, I love the tune, I love the feel, I love the vocals– I just love everything about this song.

 

Horeini – Composed by Moshe Bell

Time again for a slow song, and Moshe Bell’s composition doesn’t disappoint! I love the intro, and how it’s used later on in the song as a bridge with vocals. In some ways, I like the low part of the song better than the high part, but it’s still a pretty solid high part, and definitely has a lot of potential. The only thing I would have done differently with the arrangements and background is that it’s pretty much the same throughout the whole song – I would have had it increase somewhat in intensity and add something more as the song goes on, but the arrangement definitely does the job. Overall, great song, with some very nice vocals and harmonies.

This song threw me off. I was not expecting it, yet I was pleasantly surprised. There a yeshivahs taam (feel) to this song and it’s also very heartwarming. The light guitar strumming throughout the song goes to show that this song would be a great kumzits song. It’s best to compare this song to an Eitan Katz song.

Back to another slow song with this track, composed by Moshe Bell. This is the first we’ve heard of his slower compositions, and it’s great. I like that it starts out right away with harmonizing. The lyrics are very nice, and all around it was very well done. Love the na-na-na…s going with the music which might’ve instead been a long musical interlude– very pretty!

 

Shema Hashem – Composed by Ari Goldwag

This song, composed by Ari Goldwag, and with Ari singing guest vocals, takes a bit of a different twist, with more of an alternative feel to it. When I first heard it, I thought there wasn’t enough to the low part, though I did like the high part. The more I’ve heard it though, the more I’ve come to appreciate it, and I like how the high and low part compliment each other. The whole thing with the English words wasn’t really up my alley, and I thought the saxophone and guitar pieces were a bit too long, but I did like how, towards the end, they alternated between the Hebrew and English, and between Ari and the Bell brothers. Definitely a great song though with great arrangements, and I like that they mixed something with a different feel into the album.

Shema Hashem (HOT!) – Hello Ari Goldwag! This is totally Goldwag’s song (he sings on it as well) and I’m loving it; in fact, I can’t get enough it. It’s funky, fresh and has a great sound. The English in this song is a nice touch. It’s a close one, but this song gets my vote for best song on the album. No comparison here, aside from Sheves Chaverim’s “Hashem Loves You”.

This song is really unique. It’s got a jazzy coffee shop feel with both the music and vocals, which Ari Goldwag starts off. It’s catchy, it has a good message, it’s got great vocals… then there’s a change (don’t worry, those things stay) when English lyrics come in. The theme stays the same– “I always knew You were there for me, I knew that You were listening…” I love it! They got this jazz feel right on- different without being weird and still retaining the Sheves Achim feel and the Jewish feel, of course. Great, great song!

 

 

Leshana Haba – Composed by Elimelech Blumstein

This is Elimelech’s second song on the album, and although I liked his first song (Sheves Achim) better, this song was a nice way to end of the album. In some ways, I felt that there could have been more to the song, and there were some parts that sounded a bit repetitious, but that could just be the way it was arranged. Definitely a decent song though, and a nice end to the album.

Nice lyrics for a closing song. This song goes out on a mediocre note with this song. It’s a very repetitive song, much like any other Leshana Habah song out there. It’s not a bad song but it doesn’t really add anything to the album.

Of the fast songs, this is my least favorite. There is something great about it in that there are amazing harmonies throughout, but it gets really repetitive since they only say “Leshana haba byerushalayim habnuya” for over 5 minutes. So, yes, great vocals and fun tune, but not as good as the other fast songs mostly due to the repetitiveness.

 

Conclusions

The Bell brothers, as well as Ari Goldwag, definitely did a top notch job on every part of the album, and I really enjoyed it. If you enjoyed the first Sheves Achim album, (or absolutely loved it like I did), then you definitely won’t be disappointed with Sheves Achim 2!!

Great album! The Bell boys have really improved. The only thing I wish they had on this cd was a track with their voices as kids and their current voices. Can’t wait to hear more from them in the future!

This is one of the best albums that I own. I have a lot of music.  I highly recommend getting this album or at least listening to the sampler which will probably convince you to get the album. Enjoy, everyone.

 

 

Kol Isha
Kol Isha


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