This is my 1st time blogging period, forget about reviewing anything, let alone a CD, and so I hope you bear with me. I want to give you all a little background on me. I am not anywhere close to a music expert. I am a huge fan of Jewish music and I have been given the opportunity to express my opinions, so here I am. I am sure some of you will read this and completely disagree, but as my mother in law always says, “taam varayach ayn livakayach”! Basically, everyone had their own tastes. Wait, did I just quote my mother in law in my 1st paragraph? Ok, it’s her line; I’ll give her the credit. Back to my background, I have very strong opinions and preferences on music and therefore my opinions on a specific CD or singer might be different because of those opinions.
I think the perfect CD for my first review is Ad Bli Dai by Yaakov Shwekey. This CD, as is Yaakov’s style, is full of the real deal, real instrumentation to the fullest. Also, as has become pretty much standard on most CDs being produced, he uses multiple musical arrangers, five to be exact, and it helps give each song a distinct flavor. Gone are the days where one person arranges an entire album giving all the songs the same flavor. Every arranger has their preference, and I can remember back to certain albums where the entire album had a very brassy feel and others that have a very stringy feeling. I’m not saying it doesn’t work, but I LOVE chiddush, so having multiple arrangers helps that much more for me. Ok, so now that I’ve completely turned most of you off, for those who are still reading, here is my review:
General assessment- I usually have a very hard time falling in love with a new CD right away, and need to hear it numerous times before making any type of assessment. If I can’t stand listening to it then I know I’m not going to like it. Since it’s been a few months since Ad Bli Dai has come out, and I still love listening to it, that in itself means it must be a great CD. Yaakov has a beautiful and sweet voice and you can tell a lot of time and effort was put into this CD.
Areivim- I will admit when 1st listening to this song, I thought it lacked the sizzle to ever become a big hit and that it was a little too slow to be the opening song on the CD. I usually like to hear a quicker tempo song to begin a CD and give me a pumped up charge. As the months have passed and this song has become a big hit on the wedding scene, and a top hora, my opinion has changed. The low part of the song is a bit plain, but I think the high part is really nice and melodious and it helps that Yaakov has that awesome range to really highlight the high notes at the end of the high part. The chorus is really nice and I think mixing the music and singing, first with the choir and then with Yaakov himself, is another nice touch to the song. The song is arranged very well by Yanky Briskman, who has proved time and time again that he is a talented arranger. The song is one of four on the CD composed by Yitzy Waldner, and of all the faster tempo songs on the CD, this is my favorite. All in all, this song gets a “thumbs up” from me.
Tshuvah- This song is a bit of a throwback song for me. Most of the slow songs that come out nowadays have a rock or jazz feel to it, but this Yossi Green composition has a real hartzege feel to it. Again, Yaakov’s tremendous range really shows on this song. The musical arrangement has a nice soft feel to it and I really like the choice of instrumentation for this song (see my comments above about Yanky Briskman). For the harmonies and the background vocals, I like the mix of Yossi Green with some of his signature harmonies that we have come so accustomed to, the adult choir, and some of the harmonies Yaakov does with himself. I can close my eyes and imagine this being sung by a kumzitz…..I think you got the idea. The song is a little long for me, but overall it is a really nice song that fits with the words given to it.
Veshochanti- This is a catchy upbeat song (Nu nu nu nu) which while it doesn’t have a very wide range it is still very melodious. We have the sweet voices of the Shira Chadasha Boys Choir in this song and I think they do add a lot to the song (maybe it’s just me, but I think boys singing is so much sweeter than having adult choirs). Moshe Mona does some of his magic with the arrangements. I think this is a solid song, but I am not surprised that it has not become a hit in the wedding circuit. As Yaakov ends off his song…NU NU.
Mimkomcha- Looking at the cover before listening to it (yes I read the covers of CDs too because I want to know everything about it) I saw this song and my first reaction was “not another mimkomcha”. It is an interesting song, to say the least. The first and second part really don’t sound connected to each other, but each part separately is nice, I’m just not sure they really match up with each other. The intro has synthesized organ and that’s pretty cool. I recently saw a real Hammond organ (it’s a pretty old one too) and that is one amazing piece of equipment. Moshe Laufer is a master arranger and does a real nice job. I think while the song is hartzeg, I don’t think it’s going to be big at kumzitzs. It’s not my favorite song, but it’s ok.
Natzliach- Whoa is that a sefardi/yemenite Hora composed by Baruch Levine? You betcha! While Baruch is not the arranger, the arranger is someone I never heard of, but seems to be a sefardi/Yemenite performer in Israel, there is no way this song was not composed with this style in mind. Baruch continuously amazes me with his talent and koach hachiddush. Ok, a little disclaimer, I did sing with him once at a wedding and he’s also a real nice guy and mentch, but if he wasn’t ultra talented, I wouldn’t be singing his praises like this. He manages to get one or two songs on most of the “hot” new albums, and never disappoints. This song is catchy and I am not sure why it isn’t being played more at weddings.
Ovinu- Not my favorite song. Next.
Ad Bli Dai- Finally the title track! I actually am a little befuddled why the title track is the 7th song of the CD. I don’t know what goes into deciding which song will be the title track, but once the decision is made, wouldn’t it make sense that it would be one of the 1st few songs? Sorry for the sidetrack, and now back to the review. This is actually a very nice Hora that I am surprised has not made it big at weddings. It’s a really nice and catchy song, and it has a nice bridge in the high part (at the 1:38 mark of the song). One thing Yaakov does a lot, and he does on this song as well, is to modulate to the next key in the middle of the song. As someone who doesn’t have nearly the range as him, it’s personally a little annoying, but that’s because I’m trying to sing along. I think it’s another way Yaakov shows off his amazing range and in case I didn’t mention it before, he has an amazing, awesome, unbelievable range. I think the ending is a bit quirky, but I have to give it to him as being original. As far as the fast songs go, this is a close second for me to Areivim.
Illon-I had the same reaction with Illon that I did with Mimkomcha, not because there are that many of them, but there are 2 classic Illon songs and with the meaning of the words, I have this mishugas that you need beautiful music to accompany them. My grandparents walked down to Illon (Abie Rottenberg’s) by my wedding and it’s a special song in my heart. That being said, I think this song does the words justice. Composed by Yochanan Shapiro of Acheinu fame, it is a beautifully hartzig song, that I have performed at many weddings already. The arrangements by Leib Yaakov Rigler are also right on the spot. I especially like his arrangements on this song, since as a pianist, he really has nice piano parts highlighted. I have a soft spot for piano since some of my family members are trained pianists. This song has minimal horns on it, as with all the slow songs on this CD and that gives them a softer sound.
Menagen- The only song with a freilich beat on the whole CD. Besides the chassidishe music you don’t find too many songs being released with the freilich beat anymore, but Yaakov usually has them on his CDs and some of them have gone on to be big hits (e.g. Emes). This song also has a little “klezmer” feel with Chilik Frank on the clarinet. It’s an ok Yossi Green song and is arranged by Yanky Briskman. While I think this song is a solid song, I don’t see it becoming a big hit.
Tzaddikim- I’m all for them, but I’m not big into a shtikel gemarah being made into a song, so especially with this being an Ein Yaakov it’s automatically not going to be my favorite. Additionally, with all the Yiddish lyrics (not my 1st language), I’ll pass on this one too.
Asher Boro- When it comes to songs with the words from the sheva brachos, for some reason there are so many, and most of them never make it as main stream wedding songs. This one, I believe, will meet the same fate. It is a nice hora, and there are some nice instrumental pieces on it, arranged by Moshe Mona, but for some reason it just doesn’t “knock” in my head. As an interesting side note, intros, bridges (not the Brooklyn), and instrumental interludes have become more and more an intricate part of the song in Jewish music, and sometimes can be the deciding factor whether a song will make it or not. I don’t necessarily agree, but see my earlier quote from my mother in law…..(I need at least one person to read this and if I tell her I quoted her, I know she’ll read it).
Music of Forever- When it comes to reviewing an English song, I believe, there needs to be a review on the tune and also on the content of the words too. The lyrics are written by the ultra talented Malka Leah Josephs, and I think the content is pretty deep and meaningful. The song is about the true music and happiness that will come when Mashiach comes. The idea is brought out very nicely and subtly in the song. This is a very nice and melodious song and it really fits the words well. This song once again shows off Yaakov’s range, and the background vocals by the composer Yitzy Waldner also are very well done. The song is arranged by Ken Burgess. He brings his unique style to this song, and I really love it. He has a soft spot with me ever since MBD sang his song Lonely People, and he continues to bring a different perspective to the world of Jewish Music. He mixes in a lot of guitar in this song , but at the same time it doesn’t have a real rock feel to it.
And finally last but definitely not least……Vehi Sheomdoh- This song has been played approximately 1,653,921 times, has been performed by every performer possible, at every wedding, bar and bas mitzvah, and by every school choir in the world, since it was originally performed by Yaakov and Yonatan Razel, the composer and arranger of the song, at the concert in Caesarea. I don’t think I have to say anything else about the song, but I will anyways. It’s an awesome amazing song, and I could just watch the DVD of this song from Live at Caesarea over and over just to see and hear the string section. I am waiting for the day when the parody of the song comes out “I’m so sick of Vehi Sheomdoh”….. :)
In conclusion, I think this is a very solid CD and is very enjoyable to listen to. I’m not sure it has a HIT song on it (besides Vehi Sheomdoh, but I don’t count that since this is not the 1st recording it’s on) like some of Yaakov’s other Cds, but since there are so many new CDs coming out on an almost daily basis, I think it’s so much harder to come up with a big hit and it doesn’t take away from my enjoying to listen it. If you haven’t bought this CD already, I highly recommend it.
I guess that’s all for now. I’ve really enjoyed my 1st review and I hope you have to. I look forward to hearing feedback from anyone who would like to share….and not mother in law jokes!