Sunday, May 9, 2010

Shloimie Gertner's Say Asay

I got a hold of Shlomie Gertner's new album and I think it deserves a review. True, my blog was omitted from the list of Jewish Music blogs featured in the album's jacket and I didn't get a courtesy copy from the distributor, so be prepared for some fiery negative remarks throughout this review. Now seriously:

Say Asay is the album's main song and it has a creative shtick from Yossi Green, yet, the song is plain. It doesn't builds up, and the English lyrics are very weak, even for JM standards. Kudos for the risk-taking but this bet didn't pay off. ***

Hashomain is a big song and it brings Shloimie to the next level, forcing him to improvise and use his voice smartly - something we didn't see in his first album. This is one of Waldner's best compositions and in my opinion, the album's real deal. *****

Ashrei is an average fast song with a cool arrangement. ***

Nishmas is an "outlier", not a regular slow song like we are used to hear in JM. Shlomo Simcha once showed me a database of Yossi Green's songs, categorized by style, and many of them had a special term to describe them - something like "Yitzur" or "Yetzira", I can't remember exactly, but it means "novelty". Nishmas fits in this description and it's a strange song. Honestly, it doesn't makes sense to me musically but... it's different, and that's a compliment. ***

Besimcha uses a lot of repetition and it's probably a song YG composed having Lipa in mind - Gertner couldn't make this one work. The third part of this song - the niggun - is not bad and along with the Shloimie's middle-western improvisation in 3:26 saves this song from being a total flop. **

Shabbos Hayom, by the great Boruch Levine, is a really good song. The lyrics are original, the tune is catchy yet different than what we hear in JM, and Gertner was the perfect guy to sing this song - superb vocals. In the second part there's a great harmony (using the fourth notes) that wasn't explored by the vocal arranger and that's my only let down here. *****

Finally, a very good fast song - Boruch She'amar. This is Gertner's kind of tune - simple, catchy and modern, as seen in his first album. Gertner's improvisations and vocal arrangements were excellent and this song should have been featured earlier in this album.
Re'eh is a typical Pinky Weber song but it isn't his best. Too predictable and surely not the album's best slow song. ***

Ein Kelokeinu is another solid fast song, with a great arrangement and like Boruch Sheamar, this is Gertner's kind of song. Simple, fresh and different, this song is "vanguard" and it's just a pleasure to listen. I see that Waldner's fast songs are ahead of Yossi Green's in this album, surprisingly. This is the way JM is going recently (think Benny Friedman) and I'm happy to see Gertner doing a song like this.

Yossi Gurvitz, a family relative of mine, was the man behind Gertner's best songs in his first album and this song does resemble Rachel and Shma Beni a little - Gurvitz likes to use a lot of repetition in his slow songs and Min Hameitzar is composed with this same concept, and it's quite good, something different. ****

Mesameach is interesting, another solid composition of Waldner. This is the future of JM and even though this might not be a crowd-pleaser this song is very well done and groovy. ****
Mi Von Siach - the most beaten down lyrics of JM. Yes, the song is beautiful but there's gotta be a limit of how many Mi Von Siach YG can compose. Or not? ****

Dedi comes to my mind when I hear Happy Birthday, a very creative song - credits to Yossi Green. This is the 13th song and yet very solid - unusual. ****

Yevarechecha - closes this album in the right note. Complex and interesting. ****

What I like about this album is the risk-taking, something I mentioned in Benny Friedman's album. Okay, the bets will not always work but this album had many clear successful songs that are hard to find elsewhere in JM. Until this week, all I heard about this album was that it wasn't as good as the first. A big mistake - it's actually better. Everyone asked to Shlomie to take more risks after his first album and here he is, making big bets and really going for originality. The only thing I missed was a more contemporary choir and vocal arrangements, and a guy like Mike Boxer would add a lot to the songs. But all in all, it's a really great accomplishment and credit should be given not only to Shloimie but to all the production team, who managed to produce a great, groovy album.