Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Review of Shades of Green 2

If there's one genre of album I never buy, that is what I call "Chazora Albums". Falling in this category is a plethora of wedding albums, remix albums, project next albums that are easy and cheap to produce. I don't buy those because there's nothing new there - it's basically a double charge for songs you have paid for already.

Shades of Green series is a notable exception. First, it has YG's production standard, which is far higher than the average album out there. But more importantly, it's a testament to Yossi Green's remarkable career, coming straight from him.

Shades of Green 1 was good, I would say 6 on 10. There wasn't much new in the songs and it was just plain "Chazora Album" albeit with a very good production.

This time it's different. The production in #2 is somewhat more sophisticated and it enables Yossi to innovate more than before. Almost every song has a cool shtick, featuring Yossi Green's interpretation of his own hits - instead of a tired review of his songs we have totally new versions of his hits.

Shades of Latin - interestingly, YG decides to tweak his iconic Sephardi-style song into a latin sound. It's a nice try but I think the song loses all it's identity with this tweak and it becomes a weak latin song. Ohad's Gedola Shiro is also an unlikely candidate for a latin song but it worked better, and as usual, YG shows off his exceptional harmony skills with a dissonant note at 4:00. Novel and cool. ***

Shades of Motown - Hu Iftach is not among Yossi best hits and I wouldn't have chosen it for this album. It doesn't blend in the Motown style at all. Happy Days does, but overall there's little innovation in this shade. **

Shades of Dance - that's where the album changes gear. The arrangement is clearly Shai Bachar (I think) and the two songs are perfect for this Dance theme - no tweak this time. But although the songs are well done, Yossi has little room to innovate here, as the original songs had pretty much the same vibe and even more energy, thanks to Gertner and Wald's superb vocals. ***

Shades of Hipsh - the funky arrangement gives YG room for shticks - I love the one in 1:30 and 4:20. Nice concept. ****

Shades of Rock - The arrangement, I believe from Lamm, is weak. It's the traditional JM rock beat, the one we have heard countless times in the past decades and that's a dated kind of rock. Trumpets, saxophone should have no place there and I wish Yossi would dare to turn this into a heavier rock song. *

Shades of Baroque - Chesed VeEmet is probably one of YG's most relaxing and sweet songs, and Yossi brings the song to the next level with clever arpeggio vocal arrangements. Tzomo, if my memory serves me well was released by Yossi Rose in his first album (which didn't sell well but was quite good). I don't rank it among Yossi's greatest hits but it's ok. Lamm's arrangement is again weak, specially towards the end of the song, but YG carries the song well and smartly.***

Shades of Debka - great shade, showcasing YG's aptitude for middle-eastern songs. I wouldn't have used flutes and clarinets in the arrangement - why not keep it Arabic style? The vocal arrangements are very smart and cool, this is one of the best segments of the album. I wish that Yemenite rabbi from the 8th Note would be back here for a special appearance. ****

Shades of Blue - clever intro, tweaking Wald's original song. This Ani Maamin is from YG's most powerful songs and I'm happy he went for some solos opposed to using his choir the whole time. The arrangements has little from blues, and this song in general is not blues. But the second song is interesting, coming from Nissan's album. Few people bought Nissan's album but this song is a gem, and I always wondered why Nissan didn't succeed. YG makes this song really special, even better than the original and makes justice to this dark-horse song. Very strong shade *****

Shades of Soul - soul? If that's what they were shooting for, it failed. **

Shades of Chant - This is the album's best moment, a truly revolutionary Shade. From beginning the end, this shade is legendary, turning two of YG's most tired songs into some sort of byzantine chorus songs. This time the execution of this shade was flawless, and YG sounds better than ever in the chorus parts. This is the direction I keep wishing JM will go, and credit must be given to the arranger - it's not Lamm and it doesn't sounds Shai but it could be him. Everything in this song works, it's the complete package and that alone was worth the 25 dollars I was charged for this album (yes, I overpaid). ***** plus

Shades of Yiddish - ***

Shades of Accapella - interesting premise as we rarely see YG venturing into accapella and it was smart to bring more voices, I was afraid YG would do a Eli Gerstner shtick of one man acapella work. The arrangement by Mo Kiss is very good, but the AKAPella soloist in Min Hameitzar does not nail the song, lacking Shlomo Simcha's power that we saw in the original. Even YG's solo sounded better than the other soloists, so that is a letdown. If you ignore the soloists, the song is well built and I love how YG comes out in this setting, specially in the unusual modulation in 4:15 - I loved it ****

Shades of March - I don't know this march.. not a fan of it. Not memorable, not as creative as YGs usual compositions. The English song is cute **

Always on Call - quite a surprise! Nice vocals, nice song and nice cause.

Shades of Green 2 is better than 1. There's still lots of room for improving and I would dare more with the arrangements next time. And I would make it more 8th Note-ish - why not bring guest singers for every song, a la Gideon Levine? I would still keep YG's vocals as this is about his legacy but one bar here and there could be sung by guest singers. Nice album; special mention to Shades of Chant - wow!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Pessach Video

It seems like people feel like we need new shtick videos every Chag these days. While some are definitely interesting and creative, others like this one fall sort. He can actually sing and has a pretty sold voice, but why mix Sole Mio and Pessach? Corny.

Benny Friedman’s Kulanu Nelech Album Review

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