Monday, March 12, 2007

Yossi Green

Before I post a review on Shloime Gertner’s album, I would like to discuss about the man behind Gertner’s music – Yossi Green, the composer and vocal arranger of most of the songs in the album. YG is an outstanding composer and he’s probably one of the most prolific composers of Jewish Music history, having composed hundreds of songs, in more than one hundred albums. He started composing for the London Boys Choir and never stopped. Lately, his music sounds more contemporary and he even ventured to compose oriental-style music (Ki Hatov, Halo Yadata etc..) and techno songs (i.e. Wald’s Echod and Ohad’s Gedoilo). He is not the typical Yeshivish composer anymore - Pinky Weber has that post today. In an industry where most people are amateurs who have little formal musical knowledge, YG is one of the few pros that are constantly evolving and he is always scouting for new singers to sing his songs. He produced albums for virtually all A-list singers in the industry, from Lipa to Dudu Fischer. One of his biggest accomplishment’s was his partnership in Dedi’s the sky-rocketing career in the mid-90’s, when Dedi became just as popular as Avraham Fried and MBD, if not more.

But as much as I appreciate Green’s music, it’s just disappointing to see he’s the only bringing new music to the industry consistently. Most of the other composers compose occasionally, whenever they are lucky enough to compose something that sounds good I guess. Obviously there are other good composers out there but I don’t see more than handful composers that take JM seriously. Every single time there’s a new singer, Yossi Green is behind the biggest hits. That was the case with Dedi, Shwekey (Shomati), Ohad (Ve’erastich), Michoel Shnitzler, Michoel Pruzanski (Da Lifnei Mi), Craimer (British chazzan who released an album two years ago with YG), Lipa (Mi Sheomar), Yaakov Young (Yogati) and now Gertner, just to name a few. The musical mind behind all those singers was Yossi Green and that highlights how one-sided is Jewish Music today. There’s a lack of professional composers, people are musically talented and know how to compose an original piece.

That probably explains why so many singers started to compose songs themselves, kind of an Im-Ein-Ani-Li-Mi-Li approach. Avraham Fried has composed many great songs already, like Lechaim in Yerushalaim, and most of the songs in MBD’s latest album were his own compositions. Even Ohad started to compose as well, in his latest album (see review).

In the last ten years, I only have in mind one new musical talent that started to compose songs consistently, bringing a new sound and genre within JM. That’s Yizthok Rosenthal, the man behind the Shalsheles. He composed songs for the three Shalsheles albums, for his Shabbos album featuring many guest singers, for Shalsheles Junior and for Yaakov Young. The public instantly absorbed his music and his songs were instant hits, but that’s still too little if you take JM as a whole. We need more, much more. I hope we see some new knowledgeable composers entering the Jewish Music world in the near future. Until then, all I can say is long live Yossi Green.

21 comments:

sammy24 said...

hey there, great comments-- i was just saying to someone recently that i can't imagine what the state of jewish music would be without yossi green-- he truly is a prolific composer, he's always exploring new genres,i don't know, he's amazing. i think there are few songwriters anywhere in the world with his ability to just find something absolutely original in their music, and especially while working within relatively simple styles of music (as opposed to jazz/fusion and other more sophisticated genres), and i bet he would have been great working within those styles as well.
I just wanted to add that Moshe Laufer has composed many important jewish songs in the last twenty-five years, obviously not to same extent as yossi green. And also Abie Rotenberg, who has composed some beautiful songs on albums other than his own (which are numerous, 6 dvaikus, 2 aish, 2 lev v'nefesh, 4 journeys, etc.). And Yitzchak Goldshmidt from Kol Achai is an important composer as well. (true, only 4 albums so like 40-something songs but his music really adds to JM overall)

Jewish Blogmeister said...

Interesting comments.... I can say so much here,I'm not sure where to begin. I will say this there is no doubt Yossi Green has written some great tunes but I believe quite strongly that he has not been at the status that he was 5- 10 years ago when he wrote REAL hits. I'm talking about songs that were really good. The songs he writes today with few exceptions will not be played for more than 1-3 yrs tops. Some of the hits you mentioned are not real hits. Pruzansky's first album went no where. Yogati is not a huge hit either and you won't hear it next year at all. Dedi's big hits were also from Yishai Lapidot and not so much Yossi Green. The problem is this: singers like to use a name and it';s very hard to get into the business of songwriting because it's a tight knit group and people are afraid to go outside the circle. There is also not enough money in it for people who have the talent to really bother with it. Once you make a name for yourself you can sell songs that aren't so great..(Y.Green has written plenty of those for the less popular singers) and get away with it and still ask for big money. Green doesn't look for singers to sing his songs, they come to him.

YK said...

sammy24,

tks for stopping by!

I obviously concede that there are other good composers out there and you mentioned them to the exception of Yishai Lapidot, who's brilliant altough less active than YG.
Abie Rotemberg is only a good at slow songs - his fast songs are not good, with few exceptions. He's far less versatile than YG. YG is in a different league specifically because of his versatility, in my opinion.

Regarding Y. Goldshmidt, I don't think he has impacted JM significantly, he has almost no hits. (I can't recall any!)

YK

YK said...

J Blogmeister,

You are correct when you say Yogati and Pruz never became popular. What I meant to say was that these were the best songs in these album, the "album hits".

You were surely referring to Hu Yigal and V'Koivei Hashem when you said Lapidot was behind Dedi's hits. But I'm sure you agree YG was the man behind Dedi - he was his agent, producer and composer. He had a much greater role in the Dedi-craze than Lapidot.

I have a theory to explain why YG's songs are not as popular today. I believe every composer has his "share of hits" and after a while the public gets used to the sound of YG, or Abie Rotemberg, and their songs have less impact. I think Y. Rosenthal had his share of hits as well, with Esso Einai and Ekrak, for example. I don't think his next songs will be as popular.

Hillel Palai, Y. Rosenthal and Chaim Dovid became extremely popular and they were not part of the usual musical circles. It might be hard, but if the guy is really talented his music will shine.

Tks for stopping by

YK

sammy24 said...

blogmeister, i have in front of me dedi's first three albums, and ok here we go: ki heim (on dedi one), green, rotzoh, green, ateres zkainim, green, yehi hachodesh hazeh, green, chesed ve'emes, green, shma bni, green, chavro, green, od yishoma, green, omar rabi elazar, green, elokai neshoma, green-- yishai lapidot only composed three songs total on dedi's first three albums--hu yigal and vekovei (and vezakeinu on dedi one, which was never really big), that's it-- and i only mentioned the green songs which i think became big, there are many more.

it's true what u say that once someone has made it they can get away w/selling less quality stuff sometimes-- however, it is completely the buyer's responsibility to decide if he thinks something is worth the money. If it's really lower quality, i mean then don't buy it. No one is forcing u. It's like telling an artist not to sell any paintings which he may think are not his best. Maybe someone else will like them, and maybe everyone will actually like that material even better than all his other stuff combined.

Yk, i totally agree about green's versatility (although on a sidenote, abie has written some famous fast songs, but no doubt he's way way better at slow)-- i just thought some other ppl. needed to be mentioned. and regarding laufer, i know what u mean abt. his many chasana-type freilach songs (esp. recently), but seriously he has written so many songs -- i'm not interested in making a list right now, but i'm always surprised when i see oh, that song was by laufer, too? u can definitely make up an impressive list. (although mostly fast songs i think.)

yitzchak goldshmidt, first of all, wrote anim zemiros, which i think is pretty famous. other than that, it's admittedly pretty much kol achai fans-- what i meant was that his level of musicianship and excellent talent for songwriting raises the overall level of JM, even if their songs are not played constantly at chasanahs, and that would be true even if no one knew who they were. (obviously i don't mean that if no one knew them it would have a great impact on JM per se, but JM is better becuase they exist--w/o them the level of music and originality drops a bit.) they are extremely talented, very "jewish" sounding yet completely original, and always exploring new territory, and they use pretty sophisticated vocal harmony(and it's not like they are some fringe group, they have a bigger fan base than u think, and their fans are very passionate about their music.)

But mostly i just mean that we need more people like that, i.e. that really know music and write consistently original and high-level compositions (with some emotion, too.)

YK said...

sammy24

I feel like Kol Achai has a niche of hardcore fans, mostly in Israel. It's not the first time someone mentions them to me. Quite frankly, I only heard their first two albums (guess who composed a song in their second album?...hum... Yossi Green - Ana Hashem) and I haven't followed them after that.

Abie is very poor at fast songs..sorry, that's the sad truth.
Laufer is not so original, altough he somehow has the feel for what the public wants to hear. At the end of the day, he's an arranger, not a composer per say.

YK

Jewish Blogmeister said...

Sammy 24:
They be hits for you but I played the wedding circuit for over 12 years ( i still do)so I have a good feel for the what people were requesting and playing. Every song you mentioned by yossi green were not big hits for him excepy to be played in concert. The fast songs are what sells. Yishai Lapidot helped Dedi in a much bigger way than you give him credit for.

muse said...

I still love the stuff Avraham Rosenblum did/does. Diaspora Yeshiva was great, and some still perform, like him and Ruby Harris.

YK said...

dear muse,

In my mind, Avraham Rosemblum and the diaspora yeshiva are more what people call "alternative jewish music". However, that doesn't mean they are bad, not at all. They're just not mainstream, they sound more contemporary than the traditional jewish sound.

In this "traditional" jewish music industry Yossi Green is still at the top of the hill, for years already. But we definetly need change.

YK

Anonymous said...

is it okay if i copy and paste this blog onto my facebook group (entitled "i love and miss the old yossi green")? I think it is an excellent articel and I will give credit to the author (YK's Jewish Music Forum). Let me know, toda.

YK said...

I'm ok with it, tks for asking.
Would you pls place a link for my blog next to the credits?

YK

Anonymous said...

Yes, I'll post a link to your site.
thanks again, yossi green rocks!

pinye said...

great site, i think we have the same opinion... why don`t you have an email address by your profile?

Joel said...

I think you forgot a few guys YK. Asides from Carlebach the biggest composer of jewish music of all time. What about Yitzy Bald? He composed Sameach easily the biggest hit of the 90's. He composed albums for Gabay, Wald, Ira Heller among others. Yerachmiel Begun he composed everything on Miami, Kol Salonika Judea, Williger's first album and a few Nathan Stark albums. He also composed Hu klal 1a along with Sameach as the best song of the 90's.
One thing about Yossi Green that bothers me is that he sings in every song he composes. He ruins many songs, and his artists should just hire a normal choir.

YK said...

Hey Joel!

Tks for stopping by.
My point was that -today- there are few people composing songs that are refreshing and original. Of course Carlebach was original (and the best) but today there are few skilled composed out there.
Yerachmiel Begun's gold years are gone and today his music is not as good as it used to be. That's why so many people are listening to Yeshiva BC and Shalsheles Junior - most people are sick of MBC.
Personally, I don't like Bald much and I beg to differ that Sameach (I'm referring to the one sung in wald's old album) was easily the biggest hit of the 90's. Think of any Dedi song, any A. Fried song, any even Carlebach song (his late years) - they were all far far superior than Sameach in my opinion. But u can disagree, it's a matter of personal taste.
But I now see I did one unforgettable mistake - I didn't mention Lev Tahor. They are making history.
Bye!!

Joel said...

Hey YK. Yerachmiel Begun's best work might be past him, but you cant argue with Hu Klal( it was played at every wedding and every live event in the 90's) but none of the YBC or junior songs come close to Torah today, BS'd or Klal yisrael Together. Thirty years of relevance is impressive in any genre.
You can disagree about Sameach and Yitzy Bald, but you surely have to agree that he has had a large impact on Jewish music.
Lev Tahor is a great act, but one thing hindering their success is the fact that they do not perform live. Additionally two of their albums are not original material, and their biggest hit is a Scorpions song.
Perhaps you should have a top ten list of your favorite 90's songs. It would encourage dialogue of differing opinions.

YK said...

If my memory serves me well, most compositions by Y. Bald were sung by Mendy Wald and Shloime Dachs back in the day. I agree, they were pretty good songs, among them Eich Nashir (Wald) and Keish Echod (Dachs). But speaking about prospects for the future, I think don't think Bald can push JM to a new level. Yossi Green can and has done that many times. Same thing for Rotemberg. And Shalsheles, and LT. I believe they're bringing some new energy and sound that is refreshing while mantaining the Jewish feeling. Now, Bald is a different story. Good songs, yeah, but I don't see him as a pioneer like the others I mentioned.

I like your sugestion and I have an idea. Write a list of your all-time top ten favorites and briefly explain why you like each song. I will do the same and I'll post both lists so we can compare. Deal?

Anonymous said...

yossi green did not compose Halo Yadata my friend

YK said...

dear anonymous,

what was I thinking? B. Levine, I know.
I actually mentioned that he composed it in the Sephardi Music post.

I already corrected it.

any other thoughts?
YK

Joel said...

10. Oh Yerushalayim - Yehuda!
My favorite song from a very diverse artist. "Oh Yerushalayim your city is my destiny". Very meaningful lyrics and a very catchy tune.
9. Hinei Anochi- Tzlil V'zemer
A mid tempo beautiful classic from the choir always in MBC's shadow.
8. Hafachta- Diaspora
A great rock song from the first jewish rock band. Great guitar riffs. A true anthem about Jerusalem. Blue Fringe did a great cover, but not as good as the original.
7. Torah Hakdosha- Shloimy Daskal from the Siyum Hashas
Shloimy redid an MBD tune for the Siyum Hashas. With arguably the best voice in JM today he changed the lyrics for the event commerating the Holocaust and honoring all those who completed shas. Almost all the lyrics were changed, and it became an instant classic.
6.Sholom Aleichem- Regesh
An easy choice. This song is universal sung in most jewish homes at the friday night meal. Its a great nigun, and it has stood the test of time.
5. Torah Today- MBC
I could have chose many songs from Miami, but this is my favorite because it has a great sound and a good message.
4.Shema Yisroel- Shwekey
This combines the writing skills of Abie Rotenberg and the vocal skills of Shwekey. An unbelievable story and a heartfelt performance by Shwekey.
3.Im Eshkacheich- Shlomo Carlebach
Sung at almost every wedding its a true classic.
2. Chazak- Avraham Fried
His biggest hit! By far
1. Jerusalem Is Not For Sale- MBD
My favorite song from the king of JM, even if he steals some songs. The lyrics have their original meaning and a new meaning in 2007. Very catchy tune and very eloquent lyrics.
Obviously I left many great songs and artists out, but I had to pick my 10 favorites. I used songs from the most influential artists with a couple exceptions and didnt use one artist more than once.

Anonymous said...

I'm joining this discussion a little late, but I thought I'd mention Eli Gerstner. While he's not as ubiquitous or versatile as Yossi Green, he's been the composer behind many albums, with a lot of really catchy songs, from The Chevra to YBC, and most recently Dovid Stein, and lots more in between.