Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Jewish Star - Final Review

COLlive's A Jewish Star concert took place a few days ago and the three finalists had a chance to sing one more time to the public. The concert was clearly small, and Benny Friedman had the tough job of carrying the flame over this not-so-enthusiastic crowd. But he is a cool and confident guy and he managed just fine, even with the language issue.

By the way, one thing stood out very clearly - all three contestants were "aliens", or if you prefer, non Americans. COLlive could've pushed for a local finalist but everyone sticked with what really matters - the performance and Ohayon, Sadon and Moshe were clearly ahead of the rest. That's great.

Let's get to the facts. The first was Ohayon and he did a fine job singing Ale Katan, but fell short in making a statement and didn't manage to make this song special. Interestingly, Mendy Peilin raised fears that Ohayon's Boi Kallah didn't give us a feel of how well he would do outside of the recording room. And he was spot on - Ohayon is a great vocalist, has a very smooth falsetto but is one of those singers who do well in records but less well in live concerts. That's not a critique; I still think he would do great in a debut album but the contest's format put him against the wall. And the judges were too complascent, and I was expecting a slight critique from A. Fried but it seems like he played the nice guy this time... where is Jewish Music's Simon?!

Next came Sadon and you all know I'm not a huge fan of him. But his high note in Ani Maamim awarded him a spot in the top-3 and the question was if he could take more risks in the concert. He took a classic - Machnisei - but he did take risks and did his best to make this song exciting, with great success. Special mention to the falsetto in the end of the song, it was really outstanding and a great shtick. Somehow, Sadon managed to put up a better performance than Sadon - unexpected.

Last came Binyamim Moshe and when the guy comes with his guitar on his back facing down you know he means business. Mendy Peilin thought it was an Uzi! Moshe quickly took over the stage and was really comfortable with the spotlight on him. And he was lucky to be the last, this caused his performance to have an even bigger impact. Moshe has what the other two lack: he is authentic. And that's a quality we rarely see in JM, where originality isn't the rule of the land. Moshe sang his own song, played the guitar along and did a fantastic stage work. I don't see a singer like him coming from the US these days, unfortunatedly. Binyamin Moshe is a product of Israeli JM, which is often more authentic and groovy than American JM. My only complaint is that his guitar was perhaps too loud, I think the sound system guy should've muted it just a bit.

COLlive's A Jewish Star has been a truly vanguard project and one of the most exciting things in JM in the past years. This will be huge next year and I can't wait for it!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Boys Choir: The Last Stand

In my Awards picks, I didn't choose any boys choirs. I noted that "my ears retired from listening to this kind of things long ago", and I wanted to write a little more on that.

Boys Choir have become one of JM's main niches, thanks to London Boys Choir and Tzil Vezemer's incredible breakthrough many decades ago. More specifically, Yigal Kalek managed to create a new craze around boys choir, creating a new niche of Jewish Music and that gave new life to the industry at the time - it was new, different and cute.

Miami Boys Choir stormed in and infused even more energy, with a new wave of high-profile concerts and CD's. MBC traveled around the world and provided us many timeless hits like Meheiro and Beseiata Dishmaya.

With time, the buzz around MBC started to fade away, specially in the last decade, and although they are still around, MBC became outdated. That's when the new Boys Choirs started mushrooming everywhere, hoping to bring new life to this niche. I guess people figured that with a more modern groove and look, the choir niche would be back in the spotlight and break new ground. They were partly successful - Boys Choirs are back in the spotlight but they don't break new ground. Let me explain.

As I mentioned before, the London Boys Choir was a shtick, a cool new idea that catched everyone's attention. And Yerachmiel Begun succeeded in making this shtick even more cool with amazing concerts and musical indulgence. But as of today the shtick is just way too overdone. You can't let children sing just for letting children sing; it was a cool shtick but without the "newness" of London Boys Choir and without the glitz of Miami Experience this niche has become soulless. You have choirs and more choirs, but all essentially doing the same thing and the same shticks.

Why can't we come up with other new shticks? For instance, why not have a really solid Men's Choir album, with top production, compositions and real music (not Acapella) supporting them? That's just one example, but there's a lot of room for innovation and I just don't understand why so many artists decide to venture in the the Boys Choirs genre creating yet another boys choir. Enough Boys Choirs!

Benny Friedman’s Kulanu Nelech Album Review

Benny Friedman’s latest album, Kulanu, is out on Spotify, and as a paying subscriber I enjoyed listening to this album quite a bit, to the e...