Simcha Leiner is perhaps one of the most intriguing artists out there in the Jewish Music industry from a musical standpoint and also from as a regular person. I can’t call myself a friend of his but I consider myself an acquaintance and friendly with Simcha. We have sung together (ok so he sang and I watched and tried to lead the band while staying out his way) and schmoozed quite a bit. Many times we put a performer on a pedestal and without really knowing that person personally and it can be quite a letdown if we do meet the performer and he’s not what we imagined he would be like (being in the JM business for many years I can tell you it happens too often). I have met and interacted with Simcha numerous time. He is the same sweet and unassuming mentch now as he was when he was just starting to become famous (I like to call it the Kol Berama discovery).
His musical talents are only out shined by his mentchlichkeit. Now you might ask, if I have such a personal feeling about Simcha then how can I objectively review his album? That’s a fair question to ask, however liking someone as a person doesn’t automatically mean that I will like and enjoy his work and productions. While I don’t think too many performers out there (if any) can do what Simcha can musically, I would review this album the same way no matter who was singing on it. Now getting back to Simcha, he was on a meteoric rise before his first album came out and hasn’t slowed down since. His first album has a number of hits that have become real popular in the JM wedding circuit and Simcha is being flown all over to sing. I was curious to hear how Simcha, together with producer Yochi Briskman, would be able to follow up his debut album with SL2.
The answer is that he decided to make it twice as good as the first! I find this album to be very diverse in styles and arrangements and have been listening to it nonstop. My wife couldn’t believe that I was singing along the first night after getting the album…but then she realized that I had listened to it all day…and yes it’s that catchy! Additionally, I love how the songs are composed by so many different people, and many of them names I don’t recognize. There are so many nice songs out there waiting to be discovered and kudos to Simcha for taking the plunge to discover them. And of course, any time I thought Simcha couldn’t possibly sing any more impressively, he does. I can continue to go on but I think anything more will take away from the album itself. So without any further ado here is my song by song assessment:
V’Ata Marom – Having started out my writing on JMR letting everyone know how much I dislike techno and over time softening my stance, I have to say this song clinches it for me. There is a way to record a techno song and make it so enjoyable that I want to listen to it on repeat. Arranger Yanky Briskman mixes the techno with the right amount of real instrumentation to complement Simcha’s jaw dropping voice and range. This foot tapping and catchy song, composed by Mordechai Brezel, who as far as I know is making his debut in the JM industry, is sure to be a hit at weddings. (Update: I found at least one song that Mordechai co-composed that has been released so technically he is not making his debut).
Kanfei Nesharim – This is what I would call a classic Simcha/Yochi/Yanky song. Composed by Yochanan Gordon, this beautiful sweet ballad is another hartzige song that is sure to be a hit.
V’al Hakol – This song is another techno/disco crossbreed. I have to say that just about every song on this album is catchy and I have to stop myself from singing along as I am working at my desk. Composed by Doni Gross, the arrangements of Yanky Briskman mix in some synth horns together with the regular Danny Flam horn section to create a unique sound. Yedidim International, the choir on this album has some really nice harmonies on this song as well on many others too.
Eishes Chayil – How can it be that I am only four songs into the review and I feel like I am repeating myself? That’s because the album is that good! Another slow, sweet and hartzige ballad that Simcha brings to new heights. Amiran Dvir, famous Israeli band leader and musician, composes this song. Yanky Briskman’s arrangements feature some classic saxophone licks that I really enjoyed. Ending off the song with Simcha singing softly is a perfect ending to a masterpiece of a song.
Bonim – This song, another gem composed by Mordechai Brezel, starts off slow for the first 22 seconds and then takes off as a lebedik Rock song. You can go back to the last four songs to see all the superlatives that should be used to describe this song. There is a lot of techno used on this song, arranged by Israeli band leader and musician Ami Cohen. This will be a song that will be played over and over. I know I would!
Nigun HaChochma – This song has a Kumzitz feel, not only because the simple arrangements feature guitar but also because the catchy chorus is one that begs for participation. Composer Anshi Friedman takes the words of Lekutei Maharan, Yochi Briskman arranges the beautiful song to perfection and Simcha (with some of his own harmonies to boot) adds another dimension to an otherwise beautiful song. (Yes, Simcha doesn’t need a full band backing him…sometimes even just simple chords on guitar do the trick).
Proizdor – Just listening to this song, I can imagine it being a hit song of Metalish. Yes, Jeff Horovich’s arrangements are not on the heavy metal side but the influences are there. Jeff, of course, is part of Metalish and does an amazing job arranging this song. Simcha, once again, has some really cool harmonies. His voice really meshes well when he sings harmony and melody together. This is just another one of the many songs that I can listen to over and over again.
Es Ponecha – I have to say that every time I listen to this album, my respect for Simcha grows and grows. How many singers out there go for the name composers and songs like this, composed by Chaim Davis, would remain unknown to the public. It’s a beautiful and hartzige song that is complimented by Simcha’s sweet and powerful voice.
Zamru – I didn’t think a whole album produced by Yochi could go without a Yitzy Waldner song, and low and behold here it is. This song has an Israeli disco feel to it (that’s not an official musical term but if you YouTube some of the top Israeli bands you’ll see what I mean) and that’s largely because it’s arranged by Ami Cohen. The bass, guitar solo, synth work, and just about everything about this song is just amazing. I have to say I have one tayna on this song. I will need extra kavana davening before tekiyas shofar. V’hameyvin Yovin!
Shalom – Another song composed by Yochanan Gordon, this one is a waltz and further adds to the diversity of the album. The song starts with an interesting horn duet and has a very unique sound. Yanky Briskman is heavy yet tasteful with the string arrangements on this song. Adding an organ solo helps me love the song even more.
V’liyrushliam – Simcha ends off the album with a bonus song. A chazzanus piece originally co-composed and performed by Moishe Koussevitzky. As someone who is not into chazzanus I have to say that if you want to really appreciate how amazing Simcha’s voice is then listen to this song. Ofir Sobol’s orchestral arrangements complement this classic piece. If I had to write one word about this song it would be WOW!
In conclusion, this is a stupendous album and if you don’t have it yet, what are you waiting for!!!! It is available at www.mostlymusic.com, www.nigunmusic.com, and anywhere quality Jewish Music is sold.