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JM Derech’s Audio Review: Menucha

Note: The audio has extra comments and is not verbatim from the written review

Okay, I’m totally neglecting my work for this review so I hope you appreciate the time I put into this :). An important note: Listen to the audio review to hear audio from the album.

Menucha is comprised of three very talented singers by the names of Danny Berkowitz, he’s the tall guy with the deeper voice who does incredible low harmonies, supplying a full sound to each song. Then there’s Shlomo Schwed. He’s the one who sings most of the time and starts and ends almost every song. But most importantly, Schwed is the super high harmonizer, making Menucha who they are. Last and definitely not least, there’s Avi Shachter. Avi is the one is usually singing the melody while the other 2 harmonize. He has a unique voice, which sounds a lot like Baruch Aryeh from Shalsheles, that’s probably because they are cousins. Without Avi, Menucha wouldn’t be the complete package they are.

Let’s get something straight. Menucha 2 is the Shlomo Schwed album. It’s basically a demonstration of Schwed’s vocal talents. He sings the majority of each song and his high harmonies is what draws the listeners in. Not to mention, he is the center of the album cover with Schachter and Berkowitz standing on either side of him. We could call this album Shlomo Schwed and Menucha, because that’s what it is. Now I have no problem with that. I think Schwed has one of the best voices period. But lets be honest to the listeners and call it what it is: Schwed and the other 2 guys.

After waiting who knows how many years, it’s time to review Menucha 2.

Sh’ma Yisrael: Chevra, Chevra, Chevra! This song screams The Chevra. Probably because it has so much screaming and electric guitar in it. I enjoyed this song, definitely not my favorite, because it lacks depth, it’s just a good opener. The best part of the song is when they repeat “Hashem Echad” (audio). Is it as good as Uvah Litzion was? Too soon to tell, we’ll see with time.

Shiru Lashem: We first heard this song as a concert version on YBC Live 3. If you’re a Menucha fan like I am, then you took that song and you played it over and over in anticipation of this album. From start to finish, it is a solid song. Well… almost. The ending just kind of dies out, and I thought it was going to change from the concert version. I just figured that’s how they would end the song at a concert and not on an album. The best part is when the whole group sings Elokeinu (audio). Better than Sh’ma and definitely within the same caliber as songs from the last album.

Racheim Al Tzion: I absolutely love the strings in the beginning, unfortunately, you’re not going to be hearing any more amazing string sequences on this album. Yaakov Mordecha Gerstner and YBC sing on this song. Finally, Yaakov Mordechai doesn’t sound like an infant anymore. His voice has matured more and with his training, sounds excellent. The song itself is beautiful, definitely reached my expectations and then some. It does sound like one of the songs from Chevra 3, maybe Yogati? The best part of this song is when Schwed goes a crazy and then YBC enters behind Menucha (audio).

Kodosh: A Classic Hora beat for this song. Dovid Stein guest stars and this song sounds like it could have been on his album as well. Once again, there isn’t a whole lot of depth to this song, it’s kind of like the Yosis (Menucha 1) of this album, but I like it better. Also, does anyone feel like the music is from a Disney movies soundtrack? I’m talking about when the piano comes in (audio). The climbing of the music chart is the best part of this song (audio).

Tchias: Also known as a lullaby, at least that’s how the refrain sounds. With the light violin play in the background, it could put me to sleep. But then the chorus enters and wakes you up and has you singing along. Listen for Schwed’s high voice where he sings without words, it will blow you away (audio). Overall, this is one my favorite songs on the album. The chorus has a lot of feeling in it and it sweeps me away.

Vyizku: We’ve hit my favorite song on the album. It’s my favorite mostly because its fun factor. It’s fun to sing, dance or listen to. It music has a similarity to the Birshus that Yaakov Mordechai Gerstner sang on YBC Live 3. The harmonies in this song are flying this way and that way and it’s a typical Gerstner song, but it just downright rocks. Listen for Schwed going crazy in the refrain the second time around and be succumbed to the beauty of his voice (audio).

Vzakeinu: What would a Gerstner album be without Eli himself featured in a song? Enter Vzakeinu, Eli’s choice to guest star. I think he makes the mistake of singing the entire first time around by himself without harmony. I bought Menucha for the mix of voices and harmonies, not to hear one singer. The second time around, this song reaches what it is (audio). A fantastic composition. The chorus is really where it hits you. When it’s playing you just want to drop all responsibilities and listen to the song. “Shh not now honey, I’m listening to Vzakeniu.”

Y’hi Hachodesh: The first 5 seconds or so of this song sound like a typical secular punk rock song… and then enter the horns. That allows the conversion back to “Jewish” music. Nothin’ like a gold lo’ horn instrument to bring you back to your JM roots, right? Anyway, this song is the Romemu (Menucha 1) of this album. It’s fast, uplifting, and a crowd pleaser. Listen for the electric vocal piece (audio) that brings you to the climactic last minute of the song, featuring tons of high harmonies.

Loolay: This song I have listened to over and over again and not because I love it. But becauseI feel like I should love it, but I don’t. It’s a nice song to sing, definitely not too complicated. But here’s the problem, it’s missing something. Perhaps it’s the arrangements? Maybe it’s just the composition. The good news is, Menucha can make just about any composition sound good, with their combination of voices and they do just that. Overall, definitely my least favorite song on the album, but I still don’t skip it. It does have the same feel as Menucha V’simcha from Menucha 1.

V’hagisa: It’s interesting that in their list of guest stars, they don’t have Doniel Waldman as one of them. He was the fourth member of Menucha, but had left the group since their first album; who could blame him? That’s a long wait between albums. Anyway, he sings the beginning of this song and even though he had the fewest amount of roles on the first cd, the second album could clearly have used his talents. He brings a sweetness to the group that is missing. Although it doesn’t destroy them, why take a way a good thing? The best part of the song would be Waldman in the beginning.

S’hma Unplugged: No… I don’t understand why of all songs, they chose this song for an acoustic version. This song is a rock song, it needs the electric guitars. And does anyone else hear that instrument that sounds like a sugar packet being shaken over and over again? It’s so annoying! They would have been better off doing an acapella version of a song or an acapella medley like The Chevra did in their first album. Sh’ma unplugged is a swing and a miss.

It’s hard to say if this album lives up to the first album. It wasn’t a letdown, that’s for sure. However, Menucha 1 was in it’s own world, probably because we had a number of years to let it sink in. Give this album time, it may become a classic as well! Did I not mention this yet? This album is definitely worth the buy!

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