Classic Review: Nissim – Shloime Gertner

The first time I heard Shloime Gertner was not when his debut album, Nissim, came out.  It was four months earlier at a dinner for a local tzedaka, where Lipa Schmeltzer was the guest of honor.  Let me tell you, it was quite a dinner.  Everyone who was anyone in the Jewish music business was there.  There were plenty of special guests taking the mike and providing us with top notch entertainment.  There was only one singer that I had never heard of before but he was quite good.  You got it.  Shloime Gertner.

Fast forward to March 2007.    I was Pesach cleaning and had put on the latest Sameach podcast to make digging crumbs out of my refrigerator gasket with a Q-Tip a little bit less tedious.  They played a song that I absolutely fell in love with the minute I heard it, something that rarely happens for me.    It was so good that I went right out and bought the CD.  The song?  Yishama, track number nine on Shloime Gertner’s debut CD, Nissim.

If you haven’t heard Nissim, you are missing one of the best debut albums ever produced.  Thirteen songs and every single one of them is enjoyable.  While it seemed to me that a few of the songs were similar in style and blended together (Rachel, Hashiva, Hashem Tivne) and  some songs were stronger than others, there are no bad songs here.  No filler, no fluff, just quality songs, nice arrangements and Gertner’s terrific vocals.  Producer Yossi Tyberg lined up lots of big names for this album including Yossi Green, Pinky Weber , Moshe Laufer,  Ilya Lishinsky, Leib Yaakov Rigler and Yossi Gurwitz, just to name a few.  Put all that talent behind the wonderfully gifted Gertner and you have one sweet album.

With Gertner’s second album right around the corner, I thought it was a good time to go back and pay some serious attention to Nissim and remind myself just how enjoyable an album it was.

Nissim – The opening notes of this Yossi Green composition  tell you right away that this album isn’t going to be same old-same old.  The fun arrangements by Moshe Laufer, with additional production by Ilya Lishinsky transform what could have potentially been a mediocre song into a great energetic number that is so much fun to sing along with.  As someone who doesn’t speak Yiddish, I don’t usually find Yiddish lyrics to be a plus, but they work well here (as do the English lyrics) and Yossi Green does a nice job with backup vocals.  A great choice for an opening track.

Kodesh –  This joint collaboration between Yossi Green and Shloime Gertner is a beautiful, haunting song which is all the more touching when you realize it is dedicated to Gertner’s daughter, Malka, who is developmentally disabled.  Yossi Green’s soft harmonies never overpower Gertner and I love the idea of rhyming “Malka’le” with “brocha’le”.  Gorgeous arrangements by Leib Yaakov Rigler. Gertner just nails this one.

Im Ein Ani Li – The middle eastern beat of this Yossi Green song makes you want to get up and dance. Arranged and programmed by Shai Bachar and Ilya Lishinsky, this funky song is a can’t miss.  Love the pseudo rap at 2:30, 3:16 and 3:25.

Shmeichel – If you read my reviews regularly, you know that due to the language barrier, Yiddish songs are not my favorites.  But you don’t need to know Yiddish to get the vibe of this infectious Menachem Kraus song with awesome Yiddish lyrics by Lipa Schmeltzer and arrangements by Moshe Laufer.  This song, while slightly reminiscent of the Inspector Gadget theme song, is fun, cheerful and you can’t help but smile as you sing along with Gertner and Lipa Schmeltzer’s choir.

Rachel Mivaka Al Baneha – This slow Yossi Gurwitz song arranged by Moshe Laufer  may  not be the best song on the album, but on an album like this, that’s not saying much.  It is still enjoyable and like just about every other song on this album, you will most likely find yourself singing along.  Am I the only one who finds the introduction to this similar to that of Kodesh?

Rak Rak – This addictive song by Sheya and Avrumi Berko, nicely arranged by Moshe Laufer, features a funky electronic intro and a great disco beat.  Terrific words from B’er Mayim Chaim.  How could you not love it?

Hashem Tivne – Composed by Pinky Weber and arranged by Moshe Laufer.  Nothing in particular jumps out at me in this song but it is a nice song and Gertner delivers.

Mehayra – Slow chilled wedding song by Yossi Green that you can picture being played during a dinner set.  Great choice for Gertner’s voice and in an unusual move, arranged by master guitarist Avi Singolda.

Yishama – Wow!  Funky techno intro had me hooked from the opening notes.  This Yossi Green composition isn’t the most  singable  of songs, but it is a great listen  Ilya Lishinsky’s arrangements really blow this one out of the water.  No question, my favorite on the album.

Hashiva – Another hartzig song, this one by Pinky Weber with arrangements by Moshe Laufer.  This song is similar to Rachel and Hashem Tivne – safe, slow songs that Gertner sings very well.

Lefichach – Typical fast song, done completely by Eli Laufer.  Good, but not particularly memorable.  I wouldn’t mind hearing a remix of this one!

Yihalilu – This upbeat Pinky Weber song has a little more of an edge to it than Lefichach.  I am not sure why Gertner chose to revert to his native Chassidishe pronunciation on this song, but it doesn’t make much difference.  As with every other song on this album, Gertner sounds great.

Shema Bni – Beautiful Yossi Gurwitz song with arrangements by Hershy Ginsberg.  Child soloist Chaim Stern is absolutely fabulous and I enjoyed that they used him for more than just eight seconds.  I remember reading somewhere that this song had been recorded and then scrapped, but was redone at the last minute and added back in.  Good idea.  It is absolutely gorgeous and Gertner really shines.  While so many albums bury their worst song at the back, Gertner leaves us on a high note, wanting more.

My final thoughts on this album?  Even after all this time, the more I listen, the more I like it. While all the songs on Nissim are good, I am hoping that Gertner mixes it up a little more and selects songs that are a little less safe on his next album., entitled Say Asay.  Personally, I am looking forward to this album for a number of reasons and I know I am not the only one out there counting the days until Say Asay hits the shelves!

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