A musical masterpiece is finally here! Over a year and a half ago there were already reports of Shades of Green 2 being in the works. The anticipation has been building ever since, and from the little bits and pieces of information that Yossi Green has provided on his Facebook page, it has been an album that seemed sure to be amazing. Well, I can tell you that after listening to it, it has completely blown me away and surpassed my wildest imaginations! I remember way back when Yossi Green, already well known as an amazing composer, was a guest singer on the first Dedi CD, and while his harmonies, were amazing and different at the time, his singing left much to be desired. As time has gone on, Yossi has perfected his singing approach, and while he still doesn’t have a voice as powerful as MBD, as sweet as Yaakov Shwekey or a range like Avraham Fried, Yossi has as unique a voice as there is in the Jewish Music Industry today! While the songs on this album are well known hits that have been performed by the most famous singers in Jewish music, Yossi adds his own twist to each and every one. Since the songs themselves are not new (except for the bonus track) I will not comment as much about the songs as I do with the style and performance of Yossi. When I feel warranted, I will also give a brief explanation or background of the style as well.
Shades of Latin- One of the most famous styles of Latin music is Salsa, which is the genre that this track features. Just listening to this track it is easy to hear why the album took so long to come out. The intricate harmonies alone, all performed by Yossi, are amazing, but sound like they were really worked on for a long time. Between Yossi’s vocals and Yisroel Lamm’s arrangements, there really is a true Latin feel to it. The songs themselves are Ki Hatov, originally sung by Yaakov Shwekey, and Gedolah Shira, originally sung by Ohad.
Shades of Motown- According to Wikipedia, “The Motown Sound” is a type of soul music crafted with an ear towards pop appeal, typically using prominent and often melodic electric bass-guitar lines, distinctive melodic and chord structures, and a call-and-response singing style that originated in gospel music. Pop production techniques such as the use of orchestral string sections, charted horn sections, and carefully arranged background vocals are also used. That would make this track authentic Motown sound! The two songs used for this track, both Hu Yiftach and Happy Days (originally called Miracles) are both MBD songs from The Double Album. While the lead vocals on Hu Yiftach are pretty straight forward and similar to the original, Yossi’s vocals really pickup the Motown feel in Happy Days.
Shades of Dance- This track is a techno lover’s dream. While techno is not my favorite genre of music, for those who enjoy it, will enjoy this track. The songs for this track are Yishoma, originally sung by Shloime Gertner, and Echod Yachid, originally sung by Mendy Wald.
Shades of Hipsh- Hip hop is not an easy style to incorporate into Jewish music. Matisyahu does it, with songs composed specifically for that genre. While the musical arrangements closely resemble the hip hop style, it’s not an authentic sound. However, in Yossi’s defense, it’s only shades of hipsh! Maybe his intention is to create a new genre of music! An innovator like Yossi, I wouldn’t put it past him. Yossi does do a cute rap in the middle of Yedid, which is originally sung by Yaakov Shwekey. The other song in this medley, Yagati, is originally sung by Yaacov Young.
Shades of Rock- This track has two nostalgic classics that fit perfectly in the rock genre. Kol Hamisameach is originally sung by Mendy Wald, and Im Ain Ani Li is originally sung by Shlomo Simcha. I really like how the arrangements and the interludes are redone, and the bridge between the two songs flows nicely. The saxophone solo at 3:33 breaks into a little swing beat, but it’s a nice twist to the song.
Shades of Baroque- According to Wikipedia, baroque music describes a style of European classical music approximately extending from 1600 to 1750. During that period, composers and performers used more elaborate musical embellishment, made changes in musical notation, and developed new instrumental playing techniques. Baroque music expanded the size, range, and complexity of instrumental performance, and also established opera as a musical genre. Many musical terms and concepts from this era are still in use today. While the musical arrangements are perfectly matching the genre, that comes as no surprise, as we have heard and seen Yisroel Lamm excel in arranging this genre before. The irony of this track, and the songs used in it, is from a definition I came across. Music which is melodious yet so constructed as to reflect the “perfect order” of the universe: that is the essence of the baroque. The two songs used in this track, Chesed V’emes, originally sung by Dedi, and Tzomo, originally sung by Yeedle, both reflect upon the greatness of Hakadosh Boruch Hu, our yearning to be loser to him, and the perfectness of the world he created. Amazing!
Shades of Debka- Debka is a genre that is a Middle Eastern style of dance. The early Horas that were played at Jewish weddings were this genre. While the instrumentation of this track is not the Middle Eastern style instrumentation, the arrangements reflect the style very well. The songs on this track are Bayshanim, originally sung by Avraham Fried, and Al Chomosayich, originally sung by Yaakov Shwekey.
Shades of Blues- Blues is a genre of music with rhymed simple narrative ballads and characterized by specific chord progressions. Blues music usually has a feeling of melancholy and sadness. The vocals and musical arrangements reflect this style really well. The irony of this track is that the two songs, Ani Ma’amin, originally sung by Mendy Wald, and Posayach, originally sung by Sruli Williger, are both more upbeat songs and the meaning of the lyrics are uplifting words, something not usually found in blues music. At the end of each of these songs, the energy picks up a lit, and my interpretation of it is as follows. There really is no such thing as a person who truly believes in Hakadosh Boruch Hu having the Blues. When someone feels down all he has to do is remember Ani Ma’amin and Posayach Es Yadecha, that we believe that Hakadosh Boruch Hu takes care of us and sustains us, and all worries will leave.
Shades of Soul- I will take a break from first commenting on the genre to comment on the two songs used for this track. Both V’eirastich, originally sung by Ohad, and Hagomel, originally sung by Dovid Gabay, are from my favorite songs. I love the intro vocals to V’eirastich, which Yossi performs with a variation on this album. Hagomel is one of the most popular horas today and every band out there has their own unique shtik to add to the song. The two bands that stick out by me right away (with apologies to all the others that I don’t mention) are Even Al (that was so popular that Avremi G wrote up their arrangements for the masses) and Freilich Orchestra (Yossi Green’s favorite band). Soul music, according to Wikipedia, is a music genre originating in the United States combining elements of gospel music and rhythm and blues. Catchy rhythms stressed by handclaps and extemporaneous body moves, are an important feature of soul music. Anyone who has played or sang either one of these songs can tell you that both Hagomel and V’eirastich are music for the soul….and soul music!
Shades of Chant- Chant is the rhythmic speaking or singing of words or sounds, often primarily on one or two pitches called reciting tones. One type of chant music is chazannus. While this track is not the typical chazzanus that you would expect, Yossi Green isn’t your typical chazzan either. Both Tanya and Aderaba are beautiful songs, which, at the time that Yossi composed them for Avraham Fried, were a phenomenon in Jewish music. Anyone hoping that there would be some Adetanya on this track will be disappointed, but Yossi does a nice job singing both of these songs.
Shades of Yiddish- I propose we call this shades of Lipa, since both songs, Gelt and Simcha (originally the Diet song) were originally sung and performed by Lipa Shmeltzer. There are some really nice arrangements on this song. Yossi and Lipa both share a “fun” quality to their singing and music so there is no surprise that Yossi does a great job with the vocals.
Shades of Acapella- This is one of two tracks that Yossi Green does not sing most of the vocals. While he does sing the high part of Ki Chilatzta, most of the vocals and backup vocals are performed by some of the members of AKA Pella. I love the work AKA Pella has done in the past, and they do a great job once again. Min Hameitzar is originally sung by Shlomo Simcha, and Ki Chilatzta, is originally sung by Shloime Dachs and Mendy Wald in their collaboration CD of Listig and Lebedig. In the nostalgic department, Listig and Lebedig was one of the CDs I was listening to when I was going out with my wife, so it holds a special place in my heart. A nice twist to the track is the key change and modulation at 4:18.
Shades of March- The March genre has been a part of Jewish music for a long time. Yossi picks two very nice songs for this track. Kayl Adon, from Dov Levine’s Vechulam Mekablim, brings back memories of my minyan carpool going to school as a child. Our driver didn’t have any normal music tapes (yes tapes…this was in the mid 80’s) to play so we got together and bought him a few tapes to play in the van. This was one of them. The other song, Welcome Hipsh, is a takeoff of Yossi’s composition for the HASC theme song. For the years it was used at the HASC concert, it was always cool to see how they would make tweaks and changes to the song to keep it fresh.
Always on Call- This last track is a special song composed in honor of the Hatzoloh members all over the world (including the latest addition in Chicago…sorry couldn’t resist the plug). The song is composed by Yossi and he sings the backup vocals as well. The lyrics are written by the main vocalist, Michael Elias, and Dov Levine. The vocals by Michael are tremendous. One thing I noticed is that you can tell he has some real vocal training by how he enunciates some words in the song. It is a nice meaningful song dedicated to a worthy group of individuals.
In closing, I must say that the songs used on this album are a testament to Yossi Green’s tremendous composing talent, and his impact on Jewish Music. It took me a long time to pinpoint where each and every song originally came from, and it is amazing how far Yossi’s reach is! While Yossi will never be known as the best and most gifted singer, he really is a great performer and the songs on the album are arranged to his strengths. I highly recommend this album as one that you will enjoy listening to over and over for a long time. To purchase this album please visit http://www.mostlymusic.com/shades-of-green-hipsh.html