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?