Saturday, December 26, 2009

Jewish Music Bloggers Awards 2009


This year's awards will be hosted by JMR and they are taking it to the next level. They are now accepting suggestions for best songs, arrangements and so on, and the actual awards will start soon. More bloggers joined and we will be having a more broad vote this time, so please spread the word and email any specific suggestions to awards@jewishmusicreport.com . I register here my thanks to JMR's staff with a special mention to Kol Isha for taking the time to organize everything.
Repost from JMR (click here for the original post):

"Last year, YK of jmusicforum.blogspot.com organized a Jewish Music Bloggers Awards where he gave both his readers and several Jewish music bloggers an opportunity to vote for their favorites in a number of categories. It was an exciting process to be able to vote for your favorites, read the opinions of some of Jewish music’s best known bloggers and finally see the winners when they were announced. YK was hoping that the Jewish Music Bloggers Awards would become an annual event and has asked us to host this year’s awards. We are so honored to be a part of this exciting event!

We have come up with a list of categories and are giving you, the readers, until Sunday night to nominated your favorites in each category.

Once we have firmed up the list, we will post it on our website and you will have ten days to vote for your favorites. During this period, we will be posting picks from a number of Jewish music bloggers who have graciously volunteered to share their opinions. After that, we will narrow the poll down to three finalists in each category, before we finally tally up the votes and proclaim the winners.

Below are the categories for this year’s awards. Who would you like to see nominated in each category? Let us know at awards@jewishmusicreport.com. We look forward to hearing from you!

  • Best Album
  • Best Song
  • Best Debut Album
  • Boys Choir Album
  • Best Arrangement
  • Best English Song
  • Best Yiddish Song
  • Best Concert DVD

We would also like to take this opportunity to thank all the blogs that are joining together for this award contest.

TheJewishInsights Life Of Rubin Gruntig The Cool Jew JM Derech Jewish Blogmeister YK’s Jewish Music Blog JM Maven Jacob Da Jew The Real Shaliach

If you have a Jewish Music website and want to be included in this please email us at awards@jewishmusicreport.com"

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Monday, December 7, 2009

JM Trivia #1!

I love JM trivia and from now on I will be posting trivia questions every so often. This is one I got in my mailbox recently:

"Hi,

I was wondering if you know what the do do doritos ein kelokeinu song is called and who sings it? If you dont know can you post the question on your blog.

THanks"
It took me a little time to understand what he was referring to but I do know the answer. Do you?

UPDATE: Yehuda instantly got the answer right so I will throw another trivia and hopefully this will keep going for a day or two. If you have have other good trivia you may email me and I will try to eventually post it .
Here we go: A song with only one word. Singer and the name of the song?
Answer: Ruach, from the one and only Shlomo Carlebach. I couldn't find a link to a preview of this song.. anyone has it?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Benny Friedman's - Taamu

Benny Friedman debuts in the JM scene in a very interesting time. MBD and Fried continue to be extremely popular but the following generation of singers - Mendy Wald, Dachs, Flam and even Dedi are completely out of the spotlight. Shwekey had his time in the #1 spot but was eventually surpassed by a much cooler and talented singer - Lipa. You have other names with significant buzz around them like Gabay and Gertner but we didn't have a "shock" debut for quite some time. Benny Friedman is shooting for that and he has everything going for him - great buzz, production and timing.

Misod stands out from the usual opening songs I've heard lately. Is not revolutionary but it has a somewhat different pattern to it - it's not always the same notes being repeated again and again - and the song builds up nicely, complemented by the rather symplistic arrangement and niggun. ****

Now if Benny really wanted to be more edgy, he would open the album with the next song - this one, yes, revolutionary. It reminds me of Oif Simches' edgy niggun songs featured in their first two albums, but this one goes further albeit without losing the JM taste. And, hey, the song is not overly long - it's within the "goyish" range of under 3:50. This kind of songs - original, edgy and cool - is what my ears have been waiting to hear since YG's 8th Note and we must give a lot of credit to the great arrangement by Freitor. *****

I'm a big fan of Spinner's songs and the result of the mix of Spinner's musical skills and Benny's gifted vocals is very promising. Spinner's compositions are, in my opinion, more original than Blumstein and Waldner, which are from the mainstream JM camp, and I'm happy to see that Spinner is not keeping all his songs for himself. *****

Taamu is more wacky and not exactly my cup of tea, but it's understandable to have something wacky after three home runs. But there's something interesting in this song - the "bridge" in 2:40, where Benny resembles a lot his uncle Avraham Fried and does a very cool fabrengen-style improvisation. I really want to know if this was Benny's or the arranger's idea... it added coolness and soul to this strange song. ***

Leib Yaakov's arrangement stands out right from the beginning and it reminds me of his arrangement of Dovid Gabay's Omar Dovid. This "retro" song takes me back to the olden days of JM - traditional, warm and Avraham Fried-styled. ****

Moshiach - Ian Freitor uses the acoustic guitar for the coming arrangement, something rare in JM that comes and goes every so often (Mendy Wald's Kol Mevaser in his second to last album is a good example). And here is the interesting part - this is a Waldner song and Shwekey had a few in his album but they were not cool. This one is cool, mainly because the arrangement by (again) Freitor is perfect - not overly busy yet modern - and Benny's voice and energy shine. I suspect Shwekey couldn't make anything out of this song and Benny seized it and made it fly. ****

I can see from the opening of Kad Yasvun that Benny has very good singing technique for the low notes and although this song is too boring for me I do like to hear nice notes. The choir is too typical and it throws me back to the trauma of mainstream JM, where the choirs seem to all sound the same. And this song is looong - 8:36 - and for me that's way over the acceptable range. This one is competing with Gabay's all-time record of 9:14 (Havi'i, first album). **

Amar has much in common with Moshiach - composed by Waldner, a lot of lyric repetition, fast but not too fast and quite original. Again, this is a Waldner song that is not for Shwekey - too smooth and edgy, and Benny was lucky to get a hold of this song. ****

Yaavducho is a risk-taking song. Heavily focused in the guitar arrangement, this is a song that puts the singer's voice, energy and improvisation skills in evidence. And Benny is somehow comfortable singing what no one else in JM would. And the Hawaian la-la-la at the end added to the coolness of this song. ****

At this point I'm already realizing we are looking at one of the best albums out there now. Letova has a very tasty dissonant note in 3:11, I love this kind of things and in general this song just "has it", even with lyrics that are not the most original. ****

Batuach is another risk-taking song, and Benny goes out of his way to make this song fly, using his very soft falsetto and harmonies. And it paid off. This is another song that is hard to see in JM and yet Benny has no problem doing it. ****

Emes ***

I love risk takers and Benny is one. That's the only way to constantly bring in new music, because if you accommodate - like Shwekey did - you will eventually find yourself singing more of the same. Benny Friedman has come out with an album that is surprisingly fresh, original and cool. Just for argument sake, take Gabay's album, which was very successful and had very good reactions. To me, Benny Friedman has more star-quality and I like his album more than Gabay's, because it's more eclectic. Finally there's something in JM worth talking about!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Helfgot sings Sole Mio

Someone sent me this video, featuring Helfgot, Adler and Shachat singing Sole Mio. I prefer Helfgot singing Puccini, but this one is also good.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Helfgot sings Puccini


A few weeks ago I saw this video and I was very surprised to see Helfgot doing such move. He is revered as one of the most inspiring singers in JM today and to see him performing a classical opera piece is amusing and to some, maybe a bit offensive. Shwekey, Fried and MBD would never go for it - they stick to the rigid JM behavior standards, but it seems that Helfgot is rather comfortable singing a song that is not in his usual repertoire. That's great, in my humble opinion.

This Puccini song is a classic opera piece and many Chazzanim have singing lessons using these classical opera works since they demand maximum concentration and voice control. That explains why Helfgot has no problem singing it and I'm sure he knows many more opera songs by heart. Maybe Gladitore next time?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Shwekey's New Album, Ad Bli Dai

It has been a long time since my last post and I was hoping to listen to some fresh new music, so I picked up Shwekey's latest album, Ad Bli Dai.

As I noted in my review of Shwekey's previous album, a change in course was the only thing he could possibly do to stay relevant and cool. It hasn't happened and, by inertia, this album is not really a new album, it's just more of the old.

Let me get more specific. The opening song Areivim is a complicated choice for a first song - little energy, not catchy and not a innovative arrangement. This is at best the traditional "filler" song but right at the start of the album of JM's most popular singer.

Teshuva is arguably Yossi Green's least original song in a long time. It's hasn't the usual YG taste to it.

Veshochanti and Naase Venatzliach are already better and I cannot criticize as much. It's a little different and it's acceptable. But then it comes Mimkomcha I wonder what Shwekey liked about this song. I can easily spot Waldner's hand in most his songs, but in this one I was surprised to see his name in the credits. To compose a slow, mellow Mimkomcha is the same as composing a new slow, mellow Hamalach Hagoel - nobody can hear it anymore. Just a few Mimkomcha's that come to my mind - Mendy Wald's, Shlomo Simcha, Avrumie Flam, Carlebach (lehavdil). And here again, Shwekey goes for such a song. And the same goes for Ad Bli Dai - Dedi, Shnitzler and others have similar songs.

I always do my best to write even-handed reviews but I'm afraid I cannot go ahead and start saying wonders about this one and it's a case point of what going on today in mainstream JM - little originality, courage or musical beaktroughs. Yes, Shwekey can still sing beautiful songs like the uber-popular Vehi Sheamda but this is not Shwekey's signature kind of song. Vehi Sheamda is Razel's shtick and Shwekey was only the best way to make this song popular. When it comes to put a project together, Shwekey failed to bring us his usual hit songs. I miss Yedid!

PS: I did modify this post a little in response to the harsh comments I received and I did my best to soften the tone.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Jerusalem Great Synagogue New Chazzan

Chazzan Chaim Adler, who was the chief Chazzan of Tel Aviv's Great Synagogue became the new Chief Chazzan of the Jerusalem Great Synagogue. Although I previously wrote that his chances of getting the post were high or very high, this comes as a surprise since I know they tried to get Chazzan Motzen. Adler had a stable position in a prestigious Shul and I never thought he would actually make the switch, but I'm happy he did - the kahal likes him very much and he is one of the best Chazzanim out there now.

I just wonder how much he will change the Synagogue's Nusach, specially the High Holidays nusach. Remains to be seen!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Dudu Fisher Sings Shalom for the Pope



This is a great and controversial video featuring Dudi, David Dror and a well-tuned girls choir.

The song starts with a real "elvish" feel thanks to the Jewish/Arab choir but it gets boring when the choir steps away in favor to Dror's mellow singing. It would be better with the choir the whole time.

The song sounds simple and complex at the same time with many long and suspended notes and lots of room for improvisation, and the choir filled in the gaps. Dudu, as always, did a superb job and brought a "broadway" feel to this concert. This is the first time I hear Dror and although he has great technique his singing gets boring rather quickly. But he had some impressive falsettos.

Enjoy!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Vehi Sheamda - Shwekey and Razel



I intended to post this video for a while already and now that we approach Pessach I think it's the right time.

This is one of the best songs of the past months, by a mile. Although Shwekey sings this in a duo, this song has Razel's blueprint all over it. It's a complex and touchy song, with a great arrangement and harmonies, and to me Shwekey is a little out of his "Yeshivish Song Zone" but I guess Razel knew this was the best way to make this song a hit. And he was succesful. I loved how he asks Shwekey to be silent when he sings the Niggum smoothly - that's something Shwekey just can't do and Razel knew it. That's a real musician, a real pro and I hope Razel continues to venture in the more mainstream JM.

Again, this proves to me that the non-Yeshivish artists are the ones producing some of the best music out there today. And the Yeshivish singers probably aknowldge it - Shwekey sang this one and Avraham Fried has a great hit song with an "outsider". I hope it keeps going like that!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Santur Video


The musician, Uri Revach, is actually an artist who happens to like unusual musical instruments. But he plays like a pro.

I'm not really sure what's the name of this instrument but he told me that it's a Biblical instrument. I think the right name is santur.

Although we've seen bag pipes, darbukas and other unusual instruments in recent Jewish Music albums, I just wish someone will use this instrument or an harp soon. It's so cool!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Six13's Yesh Chadash Review

One of my favorite musicians in JM, Mike Boxer, is back with Six13's latest album. Although I'm pretty much done with reviews I made an exception simply because they are more original than everyone else - you can't be in Acapella otherwise. And I love original stuff and most of all Acapella, so I'm excited about this one.

The album's title Yesh Hadash is most certainly a play with the Kohelet verse: "There's nothing new (Ein Hadash) under the sun" like saying "Six13 is back, and with some new and refreshing music". Let's hope that holds true!

Ki Leolam Hasdo is very catchy and pop-ish. I like the way the lyrics and the song blend - it's not easy to sing these lyrics but I think this worked well. The song builds up well, with a nice bridge in 1:52 (it sounds like another of Six13's song but I can't remember which) and some improvisation in 2:46, where they keep changing the lyrics and that's great - everyone else in JM would just keep singing the same basic lyrics. ****

Mah Tovu is another tune that goes very well with the lyrics, despite the fact that the lyrics are not very original. But although it's true that every JM singer already has a Ma Tovu in their repertoire, this one is different than the rest, so you will not pass it. The arrangement is really amazing, just makes the song flow seamlessly. I also loved the closing of the song. This was definitely the right choice for the second song. ****

Mi Kamocha is in the serious side, and although the first part seems to be just average the high part is amazing and groovy. So far in this album all the bridges are perfect - great job in 2:37, again singing on the lyrics ("Tzur Yisrael") instead of repeating the same lyrics all the time. And before I forget - wacky closing. *****

The next song is very upbeat and puts you in the right mood for the lyrics - Modeh Ani, which we say every morning. I didn't like the second part of the song simply because it uses to much repetition, but overall this song is the best so far - the vocals are superb (check 2:04 and 3:23 and 3:30) and the harmonies are just what I love in Acapella. To put all this together is a great feat. ****

After the cool intermission idea ("ladies and gentleman, once again, Six13") we get to the crazy part of this album - Neilah. The Shwekey-lovers will not be able to appreciate this but I love to see a group just having fun and singing what comes their heart. You can see here Six13's array of shticks and tricks and although all the songs are non-Jewish hits this is woth listening to. Yes, "Too late to circumcise" is a stretch and I hope you will not walk around singing this, but man, so much fun! ****

Like in Ma Tovu, Im Eshocheich is a complicated choice of lyrics but despite that I appreciated the moody style of this song. It's not singable, but it's a nice experiment. And the bass guy in the end is unreal - in Six13 Encore I thought this guy's voice was digitally altered but it's real. The best bass voice in JM, easily. If you didn't notice it, do me a favor, go to 4:04 and hear it again. Don't pass it like that. ****

Shiru Lamelech is perhaps some 5 years too late so from the start I wonder if it was smart to try to Six13-ize it. Everything is amazing but this song already got all the attention it could've gotten, even tough this gotta be the funnest rendition so far. It puts Lev Tahor's version (1st album) to shame, but again, it's too late. ***

I didn't "clicked" with Bni and Ata Echad, which in my opinion are less good than what we had until know. *

Ledor Vador is a song originally featured in Josh Nelson's debut album, an album I didn't review but full of good music (special mention to his first song there, amazing). If you are interested, check Teruah's glowing review. I heard this song before, so I didn't get blown away. ***

Final Thoughts: Although this is not an album intended to the Yeshivish crowd, it seems to me that this album got less buzz than it deserves. While JM as a whole is getting me bored Six13 is ever-interesting and original. All the songs have a purpose and a concept, that is, they are not just another song, it's a new story every time, so anyone who just loves good music will automatically love this album. I hope Mr. Boxer continues to venture into the more Yeshivish JM since he has a lot to teach. As I said once, a professional in a sea of amateurs and Spinner will go far if he sticks with Boxer.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Return of The Phoenix - Michoel Streicher's New Album


For those of you who never heard about Streicher, he was very popular in the early 90's and has a few classics that are still heard here and there in more Chassidish gatherings.

His most famous song is Koach Hatorah (now you understand the email featured in the poster) and Streicher was famous for his good range and powerful voice. However, he was never one of the show-biz guys, probably didn't even have an agent - he was just one of the typical JM's-early-90's success stories.

But from day to night he vanished and it was years since I last heard of him. Gruntig actually uncovered a recent vid of him ("Long Lost Streicher is Finally Found"), but his voice seems to have passed its prime there. So it was with great surprise that I saw this poster just today. This is Streicher second album with a son - the first was with his older son Dovid.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Chazzan Schulhof

We had Chazzan Schulhof this past Shabbos in the Great Synagogue. A former student of the revered Koussovitzki, Schulhof was great and you can hear him a bit in this youtube clip. You can also see more about him in his website.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

New Blog

I started a new blog about Safrut and I will be spending much less time in this JM blog from now on. As I said in the new blog, much has changed in this past years of blogging. I started blogging a few years ago about Jewish Music, in a time where Jewish Music was a major interest for me. There weren't many blogs about it and I knew I had interesting things to share, so I started YK's Jewish Music Forum.

After these years, my interest has shifted towards different things, although I still like JM. Most importantly, I decided to fulfill a childhood dream and started a Sofer Stam program with a well-known sofer in Jerusalem, just few months ago. Suddenly, Safrut became a major field of interest and I'm spending a large part of my time doing extensive research about it. And I want to keep a database of all the amazing things I'm finding, so I want to do it in a blog-style.

I know the switch from Jewish Music to Safrut is unusual, but at the end of the day I only posted about JM for fun and now I suddenly find myself in a situation where I have more fun posting about non-JM things. It was a wild ride to post about JM for so long and the industry has changed a lot, for the good. Better albums, productions and singers, and today you have many quality JM blogs in the web. So you are well served and I will still be here, albeit more in the side lines.

YK

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Shuli Rand's Concert Vid

Shuli Rand started a tour in Israel last night, with a packed concert in Betzalel Theater, just a corner from my house. He will be performing another 4 or so shows in the coming days, and I was lucky to attend the very first one.
I went to the Carlebach Yartzeit concert last month, and I can safely say that Rand's was waaay better. Firstly the production was simple but perfect, not the usual cheesy JM sound. Here we had 5 excellent players - the piano was a great idea, and the violin + guitar combination rocks. And Shuli Rand was in perfect sync and performed really well.
Granted, he doesn't have a Lipa-like presence - he doesn't moves much, no jumping, white bekechers, but the man has charisma and most importantly, talent.
He played all the songs from his album, Nekuda Tova, and the crowd was singing along the whole time.
And he also showcased three of the songs of his upcoming album; one of them you can hear in the video, a very solid and unusual rock song.
Rand's songs will only interest listeners who have a good Hebrew, since his lyrics are very complex. So the US will be out of his reach. But for those of you who like good music, Shuli Rand created a new genre - "story-telling mellow music" (or something like that) - and you shouldn't pass this one.
I recorded with my N95 (great phone!) camcorder, so the video quality is poor. But the sound is decent. Enjoy

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Who's the New Chazzan?

Naftali Hershtik left his post post as the Chief Chazzan of the Jerusalem Great Synagogue two weeks ago and the rumor season has begun regarding who will be taking his place. Hershitk was there for 30+ years, with striking success, and I will for sure miss him (the BEST falsetto) but now is the time for a new face and no one knows who will be the chosen one. The Gabbaim have announced that in the next two months there will be numerous guest Chazzanim - maybe some sort of trials, I don't know. This blog is not really focused in Chazzanut, but Chazzanut is becoming a genre of interest for so many JM fans, including me, and I decided to put together a list of possibilties.


Chazzan Adler
Chances: [Very High] UPDATE: High
Why: Adler, the Chief Chazzan of the Tel Aviv Great Synagogue, comes very often to daven in the Jerusalem Great Synagogue and the public loves him. He is an easy-going guy, charismatic and different - he's a Ger Chassid, although he davens in Baruch. He has a great voice, power and range. You can hear one of his many youtube videos here.

Chazzan Motzen
Chances: [High] UPDATE: Very High
Why: Motzen is considered the best Chazzan today and although he currently lives in Bal Harbor, FL, he is Israeli and I guess he wouldn't mind to come back for such a chashuv post. He comes to the Great Synagogue at least twice a year as a guest Chazzan and the house is always absolutely packed - he was the guest Chazzan just last Shabbos. Motzen composed many Chazzanut pieces, like his famous Av Harachamim, and he is simply the most complete Chazzan out there. It would be amazing to have him as the Chief Chazzan!

Chazzan Schwartz
Chances: Medium
Why: Azi Schwartz is a former member of the Great Synagogue choir and he is an insider. Despite his relatively young age he has been around and held the post of second Chazzan of the Park East Synagogue, NY, for quite some time. The first Chazzan of Park East, as you probably know, is none other than Helfgott, so Azi is well-rated. Azi moved back to Israel just a few months ago and is "available", so if the board decides to bet in a rising star, Azi will be the guy. He has lots of potential, charisma and already is a great Chazzan. Additionally, he would probably maintain the Shul's nusach, which is always a plus.

Chazzan Helfgott
Chances: Very Low
Why: Helfgott never actually davened in front of the Great Synagogue's amud so I think is quite impossible for him to be the chosen one.