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Review: Yaakov Shwekey Live in Caesaria II


We should all be grateful that Shwekey went to Caesaria because, if nothing else, we got this amazing album out of it. It’s sort of like a greatest hits CD. You’ll hear a lot of songs from Ad Bli Dai, a few from Leshem Shomayim, and a handful of older songs in addition to new songs and some songs that aren’t Shwekey songs. So even if you have all the Shwekey CDs, there are a few songs here you haven’t heard yet. If you haven’t bought a Shwekey CD yet, well, get started already! This is your chance to sort of catch up.

There are a few guest stars in this album. Without them, it would still have been a good album, but with them, it’s great. There’s a huge variety of types of singers on the stage, and at the end of the album, they all come to blend together. Though it’s not to the same extent, it reminds me of my last trip to Chevron when I saw a group of maybe 15 men ranging from blue jeans to black hats and NaNachs to Litvish singing together for a Bar Mitzvah. I get a similar feeling of togetherness listening to it, and the album makes me really want to go back to Israel… hmm….Anyway. There’ s a huge symphony orchestra behind Shwekey here in addition to a kids choir and a mens choir. It’s a really BIG performance. That’s the best way to describe it, and I mean it in a good way.

There is also a lot of variety in the types of songs, yet the transitions between the songs sound natural. Since there are so many songs, each time I listen to it, I’m excited to hear which song comes next. I pick a new favorite every few tracks. Many of the songs that we’ve heard before, such as Rachem and Natzliach, have significant differences from the original version.

Here’s a song-by-song run through. There are 18 songs so….let’s get started

1- Overture
I’m not so into the instrumental songs. I’m sure this would have been amazing to witness at Caesaria, but sitting in my living room in New York it isn’t the same.
You’ll recognize a lot of Shwekey songs in it, which is neat, but if I can listen to Ma Ma Ma or listen to a minute of a symphony playing it on CD, it’d listen to the regular version. I sing along either way so I won’t look as weird singing along with a person as with a trumpet so that’s a plus.

2- Areivim (Ad Bli Dai)
Everyone seems to love this song, and for good reason.
Great message and a super fun typical Shwekey beat.
Main difference is the kids choir featured here a lot more.
One of my favorite songs from Ad Bli Dai, and it’s great here too.

3- Mimkomcho (Ad Bli Dai)
Slow, relaxing song
I don’t know why, but this has never been one of my favorites. It’s beautiful, but maybe just not my style.
I really like the harmonizing with the choir here, and I would say I prefer this version.

4- Malachim/Natzliach (Chaim Israel- Malachim/ Ad Bli Dai) with Chaim Israel
Would prefer not to have 2 slow songs together, especially in a concert CD, but it’s early still.
Chaim Israel and Shwekey sound really good together- very different voices that blend nicely
Less than halfway through the song, it all of a sudden goes right into Natzliach
Natzliach is a fun, upbeat Sephardi style song
After relaxing through Malachim and Mimkomcho, it must’ve made all of Caesaria want to dance

5-Avinu (Ad Bli Dai)
Another slow song
I prefer this one to Mimkomcho from the slow songs on Ad Bli Dai, but Vehi Sheomdoh is on there too…
Sounds even better on this version.
Sings with a lot of passion

6- Ben Bag Bag (Yedid)
An older Shwekey song, and such a fun one!
To be honest, I have a lot of trouble understanding the words here. I know who Ben Bag Bag is, but I  googled him to try to figure it out and it asked me if I meant “Bean Bag Bag” . Nope.
Regardless, I still really enjoy listening to it
Love to hear the kids sing in this one! Adorable.

7- Levine Medley (Baruch Levine- Vezakeini/ Chosson HaTorah) with Baruch Levine
I’m a big time Baruch Levine fan
Starts out sounding just like “Baruch Levine Classics”
Levine and Shwekey take turns singing and it’s already been proven that they sound great together.
The song then goes into Vezakeini, I think my favorite song ever
It’s nice to hear Shwekey sing it. It’s nice to hear Shwekey sing anything, in fact, because he has a great voice.
Lastly, it goes into “Vehu” , the song that Shwekey and Baruch Levine sang together  on Vezakeini.
It sounds basically the same as it did originally, aside from the symphony in the background, and we already knew it was a wonderful song.
These are all slow songs, but don’t worry, more fast songs coming up!

8- Kol Mevasser (New Song)
Here’s a fast one for you
By new song, does this mean that it’s going to be on the next Shwekey CD? I hope so!
Love the lyrics of this one, and it’s a lot of fun.
Goes along with the Shwekey theme (which the MC actually points out at some point) of repeating in a chorus. This time its “Kol kol kol!” instead of “Ma ma ma” or “Nu nu nu” or “Ad ad ad” or “Bag bag bag” . I love it every time!
Looking forward to seeing this song on the next album, I hope.
One of my favorite songs on this album even with all the other hits.

9- Meheroh (Shomati)
Basically an instrumental version of Meheroh, and the symphony sounds great
About the halfway mark in the album, so I guess this is where Shwekey took his break (well deserved)
Shwekey comes back after about five minutes and joins the song, and it’s absolutely beautiful
There’s only about a minute of him singing here, though…

10- Ad Bli Dai (Ad Bli Dai)
Another fast song that most of us know well
On the album, this song sounds big and as you can imagine it sounds much bigger in Caesaria
Somehow extremely repetitive, but not boring. Must be the fun music!

11- Refuah (New Song) with Baruch Levine
A slow song and calming song to break up otherwise 3 fast ones in a row
Again, for the next Shwekey CD?
I think this song is beautiful, and if Kol Mevasser and this song are on the next album, its already a hit in my book
Wherever this song next appears, I hope it stays a Levine-Shwekey song
I didn’t want this song to end.

12- Menagen/Emes (Ad Bli Dai/ Leshem Shomayim )
One of my favorite fast songs from the new newest Shwekey albums together, what could go wrong?
The band also sounds particularly good in the music between Menagen and Emes.
If you’ve heard these songs, there isn’t much for me to say besides they are very good here as well!

13- Im Eshkochaich (Yedid)
A slow song…I sense a pattern here.
Wasn’t familiar with Acheinu before, but they sound really nice featured here and I’m now looking into their albums…
Not one of my favorites, since I prefer fast songs and there are already a lot of great slow songs here
Still isn’t a song I would routinely skip, so that’s saying a lot about the album.

14- Hamavdil (from Cantor Yossele Rosenblatt) with Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfot
I am not normally a big fan of cantorial stuff, but I am here.
I like the way Shwekey sounds with Cantor Helgot. Cantor Helgot has an AMAZING voice.
So much of Jewish music today, aside from the lyrics, sounds just like what is on secular radio. This song makes me feel like I am back in Europe and it’s a welcome contrast. We shouldn’t forget about music like this and I’m glad Shwekey included it and with his own twists.
I really enjoy listening to this song.

15- Veschonanti (Ad Bli Dai)
I didn’t recognize it at first without the fun intro that’s on the album, but other than that I think it sounds MUCH better in this version
The symphony is phenomenal and the kids are featured a lot more.
The song is significantly shorter in this version, but I don’t know what’s left out unless I sit and compare second for second.
Lots of fun and high energy…a typical Shwekey fast song and one of my favorites

16- Vehi Sheomdoh (Caesaria I , Ad Bli Dai)
If you are a Shwekey fan, or any type of Jewish music fan, you know this one.
It’s still beautiful here.
One thing I don’t udnerstand… he says “Avoteinu” instead of Avoseinu here, which of course is fine, but it’s not like that on Ad Bli Dai. It’s not a big deal, but it’s just hard for me to sing along when there is a Tuf!
Not much new to say here, one of the best Shwekey songs of all time, and definitely up there with the best Jewish songs of modern times.

17- Ma Ma Ma (Leshem Shomayim)
This is the first Shwekey song I ever heard, so it definitely has a special place in my heart, and it hasn’t gotten old yet.
Still a great song, a fun song, and another “big” song, and even more so in Caesaria.

18- Rachem (Shomati) with …everyone
Wow!!! Baruch Levine, Acheinu, Chaim Israel, and Cantor Helfgot all come back to join Shwekey for this one.
Too amazing for words. I’ve heard the original version, and yes it’s beautiful and everyone loves it but this is taken to a new level.
The sound of everyone coming together … the nai nai nais of the boys choir and the mens choir together… all the different voices together…the beautiful harmonies… asking for one thing
The worst part is definitely that it ends; I wish it were longer
Definitely one of the best on the album

Favorite Songs
I started to type them out, but when it’s a like a 10 way tie can you really say they are your favorites? These are all amazing hit songs, so it’s impossible to chose.

Least Favorite Songs
Um… Meheroh? It’s not bad. I just am not into instrumentals and this is obviously Shwekey’s break. There is no song that I would routeinly skip aside from the instrumentals.

Best Things About the Album
- Adorable kids choir!
-Of course, the amazing orchestra- 50 piece!
– Well, it’s Shwekey. He sounds great!
– There are 18 tracks and 1:45:11 total time. That’s a lot of music!
– Such variety- from Sephardi sounding to Hamavdil…from his old classics to brand new songs.
– Shwekey and Baruch Levine sound the exact same live as on the CD which is a great testament to them. I am guessing the same goes for the other artists, but I’m not nearly as familiar with them.
– The two new songs! Now I’m anxious to see what’s next with them… They’re great!

Least Favorite Things About the Album
- Although the versions are definitely different, it’s hard to buy an album when you have most of the songs on it already. You can argue that there are guest stars and a symphony, but if I had to chose between buying a CD with 12 completely new songs or 3 or 4 completely new songs, I would definitely go with the later.
– Nothing from Libi Bemizrach? I was hoping for that.

Overall: Great mix of different songs and different voices , phenomenal orchestra– I would definitely recommend this album.

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