Thursday, January 25, 2007

Matisyahu’s “New” Album

I’ve been hearing that Matisyahu was coming out with a new album for quite some time. After the great success of Youth, Matis is trying to keep the momentum going and he released this seven-song album that also features a video footage of one of his concerts.

The cover artwork is superb, it looks very futuristic and original, and in my opinion it’s far better than the artwork of Youth (which was somewhat boring and simplistic). Good artwork usually lifts my expectations about what’s inside the album, but I was disappointed with the music. There is sticker in the album’s cover saying that this album features seven”brand new songs”, but this claim is misleading. In real terms, there are NO new songs; all the songs are remakes of Matisyahu’s most popular songs. “Message In The Bottle” is originally sung by The Police and, although it’s a great rock song with some reggae moments, it’s not a new song. Additionally, there are two remakes of “Jerusalem” and the latter one sounds very weird – it’s a terribly slow version of Matisyahu’s song. In other words, almost 30% of the music in this album is alternative versions of Jerusalem. Give me a break.

And there’s a remake of “Warrior”, but this song was also in Matisyahu’s first and second album (“Live at Stubb’s”) and to reintroduce it again it’s a stretch. I think it’s unacceptable to have one song, which is by the way not so great, in three out of four albums of Matisyahu.

A point can be made that this CD is much more about the video footage, showing Matisyahu performance at stage. If that’s the case, I don’t think this should be considered Matisyahu’s fourth album. It’s just a video of his live concerts.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Mendy Wald’s Echod

This is a typical old-school Jewish music album. When I write old school, I’m referring to Wald, Shloimy Dachs, Avrumie Flam, Yisroel Williger and other singers that aroused in the 90’s and are still around. And when I say typical I mean that this album has few good songs and the rest are just fill-ins.

Echod is a techno song composed by Yossi Green and evidently arranged by Ron Tichon. Tichon is the foremost arranger of techno songs in Jewish Music today and he is not bad at it. I like the contemporary sound of his arrangements, but they are not very intricate in general. This three-part song is different than usual because the range of the notes sung is small (as you all know, JM songs typically have one very low part and one very high part), forcing Wald to improvise a little more than he’s used to. If you listen carefully you can hear Yossi Green’s classic choir in the middle of the song, but YG apparently wasn’t very involved in the vocal arrangements this time. I just kind of didn’t like the way the song ended, I thought it was too abrupt and Tichon’s closing of the song was unimpressive. Other than that, Echod is great.

Regarding the second song, Tzaddik, one thing comes right away to any listener’s attention. The song starts ok but the high part is Anachnu Ma’aminim bnei Ma’aminim, yes, the exact same words of MBD’s hit song. After listening countless times to MBD’s Ma’aminin song in weddings, radios and iPod’s the last thing I want to hear is another Ma’aminim song. Because of that, Tzaddik is a complete flick to me. Is it too hard to find other lyrics in Torah, Nach and Guemora instead of Ma’aminim? Even more so, why place it as the second song of the album? If it would be the album’s last song, this would be more acceptable but as it is, Tzaddik is a disaster.

Ve’seorev is a great composition of Boruch Levine, one of my favorite composers. Levine originally composed slow songs for Yehuda! and, in opinion, he always excels in slow songs (he also came out with a solo album a few months ago – to be reviewed…). What stands out in this song is the softness of Wald’s voice, specially when he sings the word “shchinoscho” and although this is for the credit of the composer, I was impressed by how Mendy was able to make it sound special. I once spent a shabbos with Mendy and everyone is always amazed by his powerful and strong voice, and rarely you will hear someone saying that Mendy’s voice is soft. But after hearing this song I came to the conclusion that Mendy became a much more versatile singer in the past few years.

Marbe was composed by a friend of Mendy and it’s more about his friendship with this guy than good music. The first and second part of the song sound very alike and there nothing special about the song, arrangement or the guest singer (the composer).

Mi Yaleh is a three-part song originally released in JJ Fried’s niggun album 5 or 6 years ago and it was reintroduced in this album. The other songs are just fill-ins.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Funny Voicemail

I just heard a hilarious voicemail made by the already famous Pinchos "The Imitator".
He imitates Yeedle, Yossi Green and others. Click here to hear it.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

YYY - Yaakov Young's Yogati

Yaakov Young’s album Yogati is his first solo album and it is an interesting project. After the great success of Shalsheles I and II, Yizthok Rosenthal realized that the buzz around his group was fading and he decided to branch out. He co-produced Rozo De’Shabbos, a great album featuring Shalsheles and various other big names like Aish, Lev Tahor & Shlomie Dachs. Last year, Rosenthal made a children’s version of his group, coined Shalsheles Junior. In Yogati, for the first time, Rosenthal hands over a large number of his compositions to a solo singer and that’s what makes Yogati different.

Young is a skilled singer and has a well-coached voice. The best song of the album is surely Gal Gal, a great fast and leibedig disco. At the very end of the first and second part of the song Rosenthal incorporated two traditional klezmer shticks, and Young does a great job singing it. The arrangement is simple and it’s easy to hear Yisroel Lamm’s signature string lines, which actually adds very little to the this song. The only thing that catched my attention was the introduction of the song, when Young sings the song slowly. It sounds a lot like Titanic’s theme song intro.. but I nevertheless liked it.

Shir Hamalos is the typical Shalsheles-like slow song and it has the same feel of Ekrah (Shalsheles I) and Shma (Volume III). The arrangement is basically accompanied by the piano and string lines. There’s little innovation in this song, but it’s just as good as Shalsheles’ most famous slow songs. Young doesn’t add too much to this song in particular and I felt like he didn’t really bring this song to a new level. It would be just as good in Shalshels upcoming album.

The album’s theme song is Yogati, composed by Yossi Green. Frankly, it’s a weird song. After listening it many times, it still sounds strange and it’s not one of YG’s finest compositions, albeit not being a bad song. I’m convinced that Gal Gal is far superior and original, and I think Gal Gal should have been the album theme song. Yogati is a hard song to sing and I think Young had a tough time interpreting it. He sings it in a key that seem to be too high for him and towards the end of the song he becomes annoying.

The other songs are just average songs in my opinion. Torah stands out as a good freilach song and Nachem is decent. I particularly liked Young’s harmony in the word Nachem, I tought it sounded very unique but I think that is it for the album. Yogati is not a excellent album but it’s a good one.

Welcome to JMF!

I started this blog because I felt that there was a lack of websites discussing JM in the web in a serious and honest way. There are a handful blogs who are actually very good, like Aryeh's JM Blog and Blog in Dm, but I always found myself looking for more reviews and posts in the web to no avail. I will post my impressions and comments about singers, albums and other interesting and relevant topics in Jewish Music and hopefully I will be successful in having you coming back often.