Thursday, April 3, 2008

8th Note Review

I will start with a disclaimer. Much has been said about my alleged bias towards Yossi Green. Some think I like everything he does, some suspected me of being YG himself, given the similarity between our names, and some (Joel) have even suggested me to get a room with him. Well, I want to make clear that no one is above criticism and even the geniuses make mistakes. In other words, in this review I will analyze YG like any other musician and singer, not as a necessary “evil” (this is a quote from a reader) i.e. ignoring whatever shortcomings this album might have. In this review I’m not reviewing YG’s career, I’m just reviewing his latest album, the 8Th Note.

Let’s start with the concept behind this album. The concept is similar to Gideon Levine’s Best of the Best, where Gideon sings half of the song while a guest star does the other half. Except for a few songs, that’s what YG did here, but his guest singers have a different style than Gideon’s. Gideon’s guests are usually the old-school singers like Dachs, Wald, Shwekey and the like. The 8th note reaches for the Mizrachi music fans that love Chaim Israel and Gad Elbaz, the Matisyahu fans and the public who loves groupies like Lev Tahor and AKAPella. So the 8th note has a wider appeal.I think “8th note” was a very creative name, even though one of the most famous record labels in Israel is called.. the HaTav Hashmini – the 8th note.

Lishinsky usually does techno arrangements and I haven’t heard him doing arrangements like this one, which is very simple and not very edgy. In Mendy Wald, Shloimie Gertner and Gabay’s opening songs, all composed by Green, the constant was the techno / edgy feel. Layehudim is not like that, as it relies heavily in the creative lyrics and not on many other interesting shticks. True, the Teimani Rabbi is there for a few seconds but in this song he can barely be heard. It’s a catchy song, but the arrangement didn’t add much to it. ****

Anovim is a perfect song. The song is breathtaking, MBD was born to sing it and Freiberg’s arrangement brings this song to a stellar level. Surprisingly, YG was up to the task singing-wise and he took this song really well. I haven’t heard him interpreting a song this well, even throwing in a very cool vocal shtick in 3:51. Five stars is not enough for this one. It’s above everything else. ******

Sefor has an “ethnic” feel, mostly because of the cool flute solo and the very creative idea of bringing in a Teimani reading of the Passuk into the song. This last shtick really makes sense as the Teimanin allegedly have the most accurate Havara (pronunciation) and I guess this is the closest to what the Passuk should really sound like (click here for my post on this subject). Lev Tahor are the guest singers but Eli Shwebel did 90% of job. Gadi, who’s really amazing in the lower harmonies and usually mimics the bass lines, can barely be heard and the other one (forgot his name) was probably not even there. *****

It almost seems like Beshivtecho was supposed to be featured in Gertner’s last album – it was evidently composed having him in mind. Gertner’s Chassidish groove fits in very well in this song, which is a three-part. Without the third part, YG’s niggun, this song would be flat and missing something – it’s really amazing how YG is able to bring this song to a new level with a simple yet cool niggun. I must note that like in his debut album, Gertner again played too safe in this song. He basically sang his part but did virtually no improvisation, opposed to YG who was clearly having a blast singing it. Gertner is really good, but he must let himself out of the box a little more. ****

Chaim Israel is next in the line up and I felt it wasn’t the right song for him. Although Chaim Israel has many great slow songs in his curriculum (Mimamakim, from his first album, is a good example), he seemed to be out of his comfort zone here. The song never gets momentum and although this song is not at all a flick, in my opinion YG didn’t play his cards well in this song. ***

There was a big effort to make Al Todin sound like an authentic Reggae song, and in this sense, it was a success. However, a distinction must be made between a Reggae song and a good Reggae song. Al Todin is not a great Reggae song – YG was weak in the vocals and the words were repetitive. At this point it’s clear that YG’s voice can sound good, like in Anovim, but it can also become a liability, as we see here. I will elaborate more about this towards the end of the review. Allegedly, Matisyahu was supposed to be the guest singer, but couldn’t come because he’s in contract with Sony. If Matis would indeed come, I’m sure he would build up the song and add his creative lyrics. But he didn’t, so the song is just what it is – one of the weakest from this album. **

Lama is one of the most interesting songs of the album, featuring Mo Kiss. He has a very pleasant voice and carries this song well alongside with YG. But I do feel Mo Kiss’ core competency is in background vocals and vocal arrangements, as seen in Pruz’s album. Mo’s sweet and pop-ish voice, plus his talent in harmonies make him the perfect man perfect for these roles. But I repeat, he did a very good job as a soloist here as well. Lyrics are original, the tune is very pop-ish and catchy. I liked the digression in 3:15 and this is one of my favorites. *****

In Kanei we see the unthinkable – Helfgot singing alongside with YG. Let’s start with the song. It’s not a Chazzanus piece, but Helfgot has shown many times he’s not limited to the realms of Chazzanus – in that sense, he’s the Andrea Bocceli of JM -, and he sings this song flawlessly. The tune is really nice and powerful, the lyrics are perfect and YG did the right choice to go with Rigler, the frontrunner arranger for string lines. Coming back to the Helfgot-YG duet, it doesn’t works too well. Helfgot has a very high pitch voice, and as a result, YG is forced to sing his weak high notes, taking away from the beauty of this song. A full choir, like the one I hear in the Jerusalem Great Synagogue or like the one featured in Fried’s Zaroh, would raise this song to a classic. ****

I have an old grudge with Yiddish songs that is not specifically related to the next song, Yossel. I think no more than 30% of JM listeners understand Yiddish (ok, maybe 40 or even 50%) and I’m not part of that group, so when I hear a song like Yossel I always get worried. But this song was easy to understand, is a song-anthology about Yossi’s outstanding carreer, and it’s more about the lyrics than the actual the tune, which is not amazing, but it’s a fun song. Thanks to my Yiddish speaking wife, who explained to me the more complicated words. ****

Hesech Hadas is a good song, but as I noted in my other 8th Note post, the “Avraham Fried sings about Mashiach” concept has become a cliché, so just like any other cliché song, this song is not up there. The lyrics are again novel, but I’m not fond of this song. All Fried’s fast songs from Bein Kach are superior to this one. ***

Naaseh starts off really great but the high part is too simple, so it sounds like the song is missing a third part, maybe a niggun like in Beshivtecho. Just imagine Beshivtecho without the niggun - it wouldn't be the same. That's what happened here. This song had the potential to be amazing, as the lyrics are very creative and the first part is interesting, but it unfortunately fell short. However, the Yiddish anecdote in the end is cool, reminds me of Shlomo Carlebach. But there's a mixing issue in the very end of the song - you can hear the sound of a busy phone line and Yossi asking "Hello?". Pretty comic. ***

Mi Adir is something else. It’s not typical and that alone is a compliment. This is a salsa song – reminds me of Macarena – that is very well thought from start to end. The intro and finish are so original (coming back to my Gabay review, how can this be compared to the unoriginal radio intro? This is originality, Gabay’s was a cliché) and the braking of the plate – what a great idea! In almost every JM album there’s a slow Mi Adir and I was afraid this would be just another song, but YG was able to bring new life to the lyrics with a very crazy tune. The second part is a bit weird, but I applaud YG for not being afraid of trying something new and crazy. I’m quite sure this will be a wedding hit – it’s great for dancing.

There are two versions of this albums’ theme song, 8th note, English and Hebrew, so it’s inevitable to compare the two. The English version is more focused in the pleasant harmonies done by AKAPella, with YG featured like the fourth member of it. Here again YG shows that if used smarty, his vocals can add a lot to a song. He sang the first part flawlessly and wow, so softly. And he came up with a great harmony in 2:48, that’s YG at his best. It’s a great song. ****

The Hebrew song is more powerful – Ohad is there and his voice is more expressive and powerful than all AKAPella guys together – and the lyrics seem to flow better, so I prefer this version to the English one. There’s another singer that is uncredited, but I’m quite positive it’s Gad Elbaz – really great singer. *****

-> This is an album unlike any other. It’s an album focused in originality, authenticity and fun, which also has a nice and cool concept behind it – the pursuit of the 8th note. Or, in YG’s own words, the “Journey to the 8th Note”. Everything in this album was thought over and over until it became what it is – a classic. Not all songs are perfect but hey we don’t live in a perfect world. A classic is a classic, and I’m really happy I bought this album. My library would be missing the cherry on top of the chocolate cake -the 8th Note.


Check also Chaim's great post and JB's review.

27 comments:

Imanuel said...

I can't believe it. You were so pleased by "Mi Adir" that you have forgotten "Naseh venishma" in your review ???

Chaim said...

Very very good review. I loved it. I agree with this review much more then JB's, but I still have some disagreements on certain things.

1) I don't know how you can review an album after only hearing it for a week (was it even that?)

I've been listening to it for 3 weeks and still not ready for a review.

2) Where is naaseh vnishmah??

3) The singer in the Ohad song is the awesome, great, amazing and very not kosher Israeli singer Momy Levi who also arranged both the English and Hebrew version of the 8th note song.

4) I love Lishinsky's arrangements on the Mo Kiss Lama song.

http://www.momilevi.com/

YK said...

Chaim,

Tks. I look forward to read your review, just don't take another 3 weeks!

I also like the Lama's arrangement, it's one of my favarite songs.

Regarding Naaseh, I write in Word, every song at a time, and save it in blogger's draft, so it looks like I skipped it. Did you hear YG's "Hello" at the end?

About the listening time, my system is different than yours. i always write a review after listening to the album 4 times or so, whether I heard it for week or a month. The reason is a very personal one - I get used to songs very quickly and after I listen to a song many times I just ignore what's bad. It's just me. So in order to avoid being biased, I hear it very carefully 4 times and I'm ready to go.

I know your system is different and I understand you.

YK

levi said...

great review. I would like 2 mention 2 things.
1) Al Todir should have been sung by Motti Pshemesh, as it is his style.
2) I was very disappointed with the song 8th note, especially being the name of the album, there is not much tune to it.
Overall its a great refreshing album.

YK said...

Levi,

Tks.

I hear where you are coming from, the 8th note song is not a blockbuster indeed. Fried's Father don't cry is much better for instance, but YG is not a specialist in English music. Lama and Kanei are more aligned with his style.

Al todin is another song that is not within YG's talent range so much. I agree with you - if you're doing a Reggae song let the reggae guys do it.

YK

Imanuel said...

Chaim,

Sorry for being over sensitive but you shouldn't write about momi being "very not kosher" or whatever. He's part of the 8th note, which is not trief as you told yourself (although it's too good...)

What can I say: Never judge a brotha' until until you standing in his space...

Chaim said...

Imannuel,

Chas V'Shalom I was not trying to say HE was not kosher. I meant his music. Don't get me wrong I LOVE his music and I think he's brilliant. Just youtube some of his videos and you will see for yourself how non Kosher they are. I don't want anyone to think that regardless of my love of his music, that I'd condone the untzniusness featured in those videos.

Joel said...

I must give you some kudos for your even handed review. While I am tempted to purchase this album I will not for previously stated reasons. I have heard only a few songs from this album. Some I liked some I did not. Anovim is an unbelievable song. I am very impressed with it, and YG actually sounds pretty good on it. Layehudim is a dud. Beshiftecha is a cute song which I enjoyed, but its not a classic.
Keep the reviews coming.

YK said...

Tks Joel. There are other songs I believe you will enjoy, like Kanei and Tav Shmini, but you will definitely dislike the ones YG sings all by himself - by now I know your musical taste.

I will try to keep the reviews coming but after Gabay and YG I expect to see a long hiatus of good albums, just like after Avraham Fried's Bein kach.

YK

gabaytop said...

singing wise, gabay's album is much better than this
and omar dovid + bircois are better than all slow songs of the 8th note combined. anyone against?

Jewish Blogmeister said...

Chaim,

To each their own I have listened to this cd over and over and I doubt there is much I would change about my review. I actually let a well known arranger listen to it and his response was it was over produced with too many jazz chords. To quote him "people want to het a great song with meat and potatoes not billy joel." People want to hear your great songs not what a genius you are...."his words not mine. I would agree to some extent Green may have outdone himself and it wouldn't be the first time someone has done that. I'm happy you liked the album but I think Gabay has this album beat. Green is spending a truckload of money to promote it and I'm sure it will do well but not unbelievably so.

Joel said...

Gabay's album was better than the 8th note.
Even though I havent heard the entire 8th note based on the tracks i have heard( usually the ones played on the radio and the podcast are the best ones) Gabays is better. I would even dare to say that Yosef Chaim Bloch's album is better as well.
YK how come no review on Bloch's album. I think its your kind of album. In my humble opinion it was very good.

YK said...

gabaytop, Joel

both albums are great in my opinion, but YG's has an edge because his is more original. Gabay's is more of the usual stuff, although it does has more contemporary arrangements than the average album out there.

JB,

Sorry to jump in, I know your msg was to Chaim. Was this guy a JM arranger or somebody stam? Because if it was one of the old-school guys like Lamm, he indeed always goes for the meat and potato sound, and I think he's fading away. I disagree with him, I think most people want more contemporary arrangements, like in the 8th note. That's why few people get Lamm to arrange these days - too much meat and potato.

YK

Chaim said...

YK, JB re: meat and potatoes.

It's almost impossible to compare Gabay and The 8th Note. I just want to say, that even though I profess my undying love for 8th note, I still think Gabay's 2nd album is the best CD to come out since Bein Kach.

I'm ALMOST ready to say that
I liked Gabay 2 more then Gertner. ALMOST. I'm not there yet. I think the overall quality and shelf life of Gabay's album is it's strength.

A CD like 8th note doesn't come along every year. It's something different. Gabay's CD should be compared to all the other "regular" cd's that came out over the last couple years. Levine, Pruzansky, Dachs, Williger, Bloch, Gertner, and Ohad.

I think 8th Note is fresher and a higher quality then ALL those albums. But you can't compare it to those. You have to compare GABAY to those albums, and I think Gabay's is better then all those CD's. (Some by a mile.)

Joel said...

I dont understand all this tzimmes about this 8th note album. On the first live version of "Anovim" MBD confirms my opinion and tells the crowd about YG that "When you were a little child you had a beautiful voice... but your not a kid anymore"
This cd is a Yossi Green ego trip 1-13. He's like the guy in shul who loves to daven but has a terrible voice. He cant sing and I cant understand how Chaim says the music and the production were the stars of the track.
Tanya, Aderaba, Daaga Minayin would not have been classics if Yossi Green sang them. They became classics because they were great compositions combined with great singers. This is an all star album a few steps above Solid Gold, Yachad and the Gideon Levine projects.

YK said...

Chaim,

I agree with you, Gertner and Gabay are up there and represent the future of JM. But they both have a little room to improve.

Joel,

You have a very good point when you say Tanye and the like wouldn't be classics if not for the great vocals. But this CD seems to be less about classic songs like Tanye and more like exploring new sounds and styles. The 8th note was like an experiment, YG took risks by singing the songs himself, but this is his own Journey to the 8th note. I don't mean to sound philosophical. Wtver

YK

randomer said...

This doesnt have very much to do with the music but u rock to have a Yiddish-speaking wife!!

YK said...

hahaha
that was my #1 hakpada when I was dating

and I guess I will now be able to review Lipa's future albums!

YK

Jewish Blogmeister said...

YK it was an arranger of JM and not a oldtimer like Lamm actually someone who has played on hundred of JM albums as well but I won't divulge more than that.I do think a bit of ego made it's way in here and perhaps some of the arrangements were more for him than us but that's cool too.

Yehuda said...

YK:

Nice review

As someone who doesn't know meat and potatoes from a mushroom alfredo when it comes to chord progressions and musical arrangements, and just listens to a song and decides if he likes it or not, I disagree with JB's arranger friend. The music on this CD is incredible, and really awesome to listen to.

Everyone I'm speaking to feels the same.

Joel, as someone who despises YG's vocal capabalities, and have always complained about the fact that he feels the need to sing so much, I can tell you that this album is worth every penny, YG vocals notwithstanding. The songs are really good, and the fact that others are also singing makes them not just manageable, but really great.

YK said...

Yehuda,

Tks. I also much prefer this album's arrangements than the usual Yisroel Lamm (and the like) heimish sound.

YK

Joel said...

What was the fight between YG and Dedi?

Anonymous said...

yossi green has a weird voice and it isnt so bad when combined with the absolutely right song. when you pair his voice with a song like mi mi adir it just clicks. he was that bad on anovim either which was an awesome song too.

Anonymous said...

correction: he wasnt that bad on anovim either. typo sorry. and gabay 2 definitely is no in the same category. good yes but different. there is no comparison.

YK said...

Joel,

Sorry for delay, i've been away from the web until now.

Honestly, I don't know the details, but I know for sure that they had a fight, or disagreement, and that's the reason why YG suddenly stopped producing and composing songs for Dedi.

From then Dedi has been slipping downhill. YG was the man behind Dedi's success, just like he's behind Shlomy Gertner now.

YK

YK said...

anon

I agree with you, but most people dislike mi adir. I like it.

YK

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