Jewish Music Blog

July 20, 2005

Yeshiva Boys Choir 2 – Review

Filed under: Reviews — jewishmusic @ 6:31 pm

Although this album came out a while ago, I just managed to get my hands on the CD, so I decided to write a belated review.

This is Eli Gertner’s second foray into the Jewish choir market, which was previously primarily dominated by Miami Boys Choir. The album is mostly arranged and the songs mostly composed by Eli Gerstner. Generally, I feel that this album suffers from the same pitfalls that the rest of the Eli Gerstner albums do – Over-singing and over-arranging, coupled with solos and keys that strain the vocal chords of the singers and the ears of the listeners.

I feel that Eli Gerstner falls into the problem that many (but not all) Jewish arrangers fall into – over-arranging. I believe I read something along the following lines in Keyboard Magazine: [When arranging] “Don’t ask what else can I add, but what else can I take away?” The importance of this statement is that an arrangment is about balance, and about conveying an idea through the subtle use of music. If an arranger just keeps adding and adding, there is no balance and the effect of the music simply can be deadening.

The title song, V’Ahavta, is quite catchy and the high part uses a very simple rock chord progression (Minor i, VI, III, VII). The intro consists of rhythm acoustic guitar with a string section playing arpeggiated chords, as well as the addition of a unique sounding ethnic flute. The song starts off with a nice groove, but the rest of the song escalates into the classic Gerstner rock sound, although this song is a disco. By the end of the song there is a significant amount of overdriven guitar and heavy bass. I don’t like his harmony on the high part over the word l’reiacha. This is a typical Gerstner harmony which he uses throughout all his albums.

A comment on Eli Gerstner’s use of the term “whoa oh ho”. Toward the end of the song it seems that the words “whoa oh” have just as much if not more promience than the words to the song itself. I didn’t know that part of R’ Akiva’s statement was “whoa ho”. Of course there is a certain poetic license that artists have, but Eli Gerstner seems to strain the envelope.

The second song is titled Bar Hey Hey. These are unique words to a song – right? Too bad Shwekey and Yossi Green already used a similar concept of words in their song Ben Bog Bog. Regardless of the fact that Gerstner may have thought of these words before Yossi Green, the fact that he ‘jumped on the lyric bandwagon’ smacks of a lack of concern. Gerstner does list Yossi Green among the thank-you’s. The song itself is a not-too catchy hora which diverts (inevitably) to rock at the end. There are some latin flavors in this song as well. The words to this song are taken from a Gemara that is talking about someone whose peers would like him to participate in a Mitzvah, but he does not want to participate. Why are kids singing about this?

The first solo of the next song, Kol Hashem, has a noticeable use of autotune, evidenced by the yelping sound between notes. This song is a ballad, but ends up like a hard rock tune. Once again, Eli Gerster’s unquenchable thirst for rock strikes. This song lacks any sense of balance, and suffers from over-singing, most noticeable in the way the word b’hadar is sung. The long ending is highlighted by Gerstner’s brother.

The song Ku Mu has an attempt at a sixties feel, but not a very good one. There is some surf guitar, but it’s barely noticeable in the mix, and the tempo is too fast for the sixties feel. The pianist, Yaron Gershovsky, plays blues style over the quasi-sixites beat, which doesn’t add to the effect. Oh well, he tried. There all also two types of horn sections in this song – a saxaphone section a horn section which sounds almost synthlike.

Mi Adir is arranged by Yisroel Lamm, which is evident by the arrangment. There is a little acoustic guitar strumming at the beginning of the song, but its effect is drowned out by the other rhythmic instruments, such as piano. This is the only song on the album without overdrive guitar. Lamm’s style presents itself in the Shalsheles like every-syllable-is-an-accented-chord feel. Gerstner also has a solo on this song. He starts off singing with himself an octave lower, and then sings “fill-in” harmonies with the choir. Gerstner ends off the sing on his solo singing the words Baruch Ha-ba-ah-ah-ah-ah. Okay.

The next song M’leim has a very interesting intro. I wonder where it’s REALLY from? 🙂 The song itself is a hard rock with an 8th note anticipation on the word noGAH, which subtracts from the rock feel. The song has three parts, the third of which is extremely predictable. In the beginning of the song, Yaron Gershovsky plays some “funny” chords which are very tasteful.

The beginning of the intro to the next song, Mikolos, reminds me of the theme to Jurassic Park.

Hadrecheinu, composed by Yossi Newman, starts off with tasteful country rhythmic guitar, and you think the song is going to one direction – and then it goes into — rock with overdrive guitar. The song itself has an original low part, and is done well with chorused guitar thrown in to alleviate some of the overdrive.

The final song has a synth-pop sound. The sounds used are tasteful, and the song is not as rocky as most of the others.

Some general comments:
Almost every V chord is a sus chord.

Eli Gerstner made sure to give prominence to his younger brother by providing him with multiple solos on 8 out of 10 tracks. Of course there is nothing wrong with giving the spotlight to his brother, as long as his brother deserves the spotlight.

From Gerstner’s use of ethnic flute in V’Ahavta, rhodes for the intro to Ku Mu, piano for the intro to Bar Hey Hey, and the fact that he doesn’t attempt odd transitions for key changes, one can tell that he is trying to be original and embrace new sounds. But he’s clearly not there yet.

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11 Comments »

  1. Everything done by Gerstner uses 8th or 16th note anticipation. I’ve actually improved my sight reading of that kind of tied anticipation note just from readng the charts on his website. While we are on the subject, he is a terrible force within jewish music and his stuff is terrible, alhough not really “worse” than Miami boys- so it’s not so bad I guess.

    Comment by Anonymous — July 21, 2005 @ 1:33 pm

  2. I didn’t even think of looking for the anticipations in his sheet music, but that’s a very conclusive way of seeing it. Thanks for the tip.

    Regarding Miami – I think their stuff used to be much better, but Yerachmiel Begun really lost his touch, and it was just more of the same.

    Comment by keyboardguy — July 21, 2005 @ 2:22 pm

  3. Thanks for that very candid review.

    Comment by Jewish Blogmiester — July 25, 2005 @ 3:22 pm

  4. You are so pretentiously absorbed in technical visceration that you miss the obvious boon to Eli Gerstner’s music: it’s pop. Analyzing pop is like, say, critiquing the literary style of a comic book. Your review would have been more credible if you noted something positive on his VERY successful album. Since you castigated all ten tracks I suspect you have some petty or malicious motive. Dare I suggest jealousy?

    Comment by Anonymous — January 15, 2006 @ 1:55 pm

  5. Listen, i don’t know that much abiut all these technical music terms and instruments. I do know that I absolutely love the yeshiva boys choir, especially their recent video, and i cannot understand how you have not mentionned even one GOOD point about at least one song- of, course, I believe the whole CD is a good point- it is absoltely stunning, and everyone i speak to loves it!
    Maybe it would help to focus on some pleasent aspects of the CD… sometimes at least.

    Comment by Anonymous — January 22, 2006 @ 4:47 pm

  6. Quite a critical fellow u r, aren’t u?
    Perhaps u r missing the entire feel of this amazing choir.

    Comment by Anonymous — January 22, 2006 @ 4:49 pm

  7. Good review of the boys choir, Steinman!

    You know, there is a choir made up of frum men with downs syndrome that performs in Milwaukee. They sound horrible! I think you should critique them. I mean after all, if you can candidly review a bunch of 10 year olds, why should we leave the disabled out?

    Comment by Tani — May 19, 2006 @ 11:36 am

  8. Wow – just realized these comments.

    First off: anonymous says this album is “VERY successful”. Source, please?

    Second, just because I don’t like something doesn’t mean you shouldn’t like it. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again.

    Tani,
    So you’re saying that a child’s choir should be held to a lesser standard than the rest of music. So should there be a special section in stores that sell albums for sub-standard albums – after all, that’s where you’d put children’s choirs, right? Also, did you read my review of Shalsheles Junior? Better yet, did you listen to Shalsheles Junior? These are kids, and there is much more originality and creativity, not to mention professionalism, in SJ than YBC. Furthermore, have you ever even bothered to hear what real professional children’s choirs sound like? Somehow they manage to sound great. Amazing, being that kids are handicapped.

    Comment by keyboardguy — May 19, 2006 @ 3:12 pm

  9. Angry at the world Keyboard guy,

    Take a second and imagine what it would be like to be a ten year old boy, proud of his accomplishments in the Yeshiva Boys Choir, who decides that he would like to check out any news of his album on the web.

    Do you realize how hurtful it would be for this kid, to see an adult (I assume that is what you are) write such a scathing review?

    We are not the general population!! Little kids in boys choir are not like societal celebrities and artists who can be critiqued like this. We are yidden! perhaps you have forgotten that.

    Do you want to know why I wrote this? Because my 11 year old nephew read your review and ran to his room crying. It took quite some time to console him.

    Thank g-d he was Ok after a bit, after my family informed him that you are angry bitter hermit who gets is ups by putting others down.

    All I can say is that its time for a serious cheshbon hanefesh. For someone so concerned about the “feeling” of Jewish music, you don’t seem to be concerned about other Jewish attributes.

    Until you offer a public apology on your blog to my nephew, I am not mochel you.

    Comment by Tani — June 16, 2006 @ 1:16 pm

  10. Tani, Tani, Tani…

    “Angry at the world” and “angry bitter hermit who gets is ups by putting others down”. Pretty serious accusations right there. Groundless, but serious nonetheless.

    Back to your comments:
    Please quote for me where in my review I said anything bad about the kids singing, other than this album has “Over-singing and over-arranging, coupled with solos and keys that strain the vocal chords of the singers and the ears of the listeners”, which was directed at Gerstner and not the kids.

    I am sorry if your nephew was upset by the review. Instead of teaching him bad middos by putting me down, perhaps you should have told him that although he may have done a great job, my comments were directed at Eli Gerstner, and not him.

    Comment by keyboardguy — June 16, 2006 @ 2:36 pm

  11. Dear Yeshiva Boys Choir:

    I am a Jewish composer of classical music and I have written many works for choir. If you are interested in a free copy, just give me your regular mailing address and tell me what you’d like to receive. Below I print a list of my works.

    Sincerely, Henry (Chanoch) Pool.
    —————————————————————

    Opus 1 Two Sonatas for Piano
    # 1 in E-la # 2 in C-so

    Opus 2 Two Sonatas for Harpsichord
    # 1 in F-so # 2 in C-do

    Opus 3 Mozart
    Concerto in Eb-do for Piano &
    Orchestra (K.V. 271)
    Arranged for one piano / two hands

    Opus 4 Grand Sonata for Flute solo
    in F#-mi

    Opus 5 Hora for Two Recorders & Strings
    in Bb-so

    Opus 6 Two Sonatas for Recorder solo
    # 1 in G-re # 2 in F-so

    Opus 7 Two Israeli Suites for Harpsichord
    # 1 in mixed modes, C = do
    # 2 in mixed modes, G = do

    Opus 8 Grand Sonata for Marimba in C-so

    Opus 9 Quartet for Recorders (SSAT) in F-fa

    Opus 10 Two Israeli Suites for Small Orchestra (from opus 7)
    # 1 in mixed modes, C = do SCORE
    # 2 in mixed modes, G = do

    Opus 11 Three Sonatinas for Piano
    # 1 in C-do # 2 in E-la # 3 in D-la

    Opus 12 Two Sonatas for Piano
    # 3 in C-la # 4 in G-do

    Opus 13 Three Sonatinas for Harpsichord
    # 1 in D-la # 2 in G-re # 3 in C-la

    Opus 14 A Selection of Hebrew Songs
    Nine Songs for Choir a Cappella
    Four Hymns for Voice & Piano
    Three Supplications for Congregation & Piano

    Opus 14a A Selection of Hebrew Songs
    Six Hymns for Voice & Piano

    Opus 15 In Memoriam (Yizkor)
    Chorale, Variations, Prelude & Fugue for Organ in C-la
    (without pedal)

    Opus 15a In Memoriam (Yizkor)
    Chorale, Variations, Prelude & Fugue for Organ in C-la
    (with pedal)

    Opus 16 Haydn Concerto
    Concerto # 1 for Piano and Orchestra in C-la SCORE
    (After Haydn’s Sonata # 20)

    Opus 17 Two Sonatas for Piano
    # 5 in D-do* # 6 in C-do

    Opus 18 Israel
    Three songs for voice & piano**
    (lyrics both in Hebrew & in English)

    Opus 19 Two Sonatas for Piano
    # 7 in A-la # 8 in Ab-do***

    Opus 20 Symphony # 1 for Orchestra in D-la SCORE

    Opus 21 A Prayer at Wartime
    Psalm 121 for Choir & Piano****
    (lyrics both in Hebrew & in English)
    —————————————————-
    * Rosh ha-Shana
    ** These songs can be sung either by one voice (or choir unisono)
    or by a choir with two or three voices (SA & SAT)
    *** My Three Fatherlands (Netherlands, Israel, USA)
    **** This song can be sung either by one voice (or choir unisono) or by
    a choir with four voices (SATB)

    Comment by Henry Pool — July 30, 2006 @ 3:02 pm


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