Jewish Music Blog

September 24, 2005

“Yerachmiel” Ziegler – A’Hava V’Achva – Review

Filed under: Reviews — jewishmusic @ 10:52 pm

From the moment I started listening to this album, I could tell that it was going to be different. What surprised me was how good “different” can be. This album blends the divide between “soul” Jewish music such as Chaim Dovid and Soulfarm and yeshivish Jewish music, such as Shwekey. It has the solidity of yeshivish music and the originality of soul music, making it a great album all around.

The music is excellent. This album has what many Jewish albums don’t – an arrangement with a direction. As opposed to just having a band play without much thought going into exactly what’s being played, A’Hava V’Achva prides itself on originality of arrangement and adding only what’s necessary to get the point across. This album combines elements from all across the musical spectrum – from Reggae in Im Eshkacheich (Matisyahu could learn a couple of things from this guy), to country-folk intros in Ani L’Dodi, Kol Dodi, Bigdei Yesha and Siman Tov. At times, such as in Achoteinu, Yerachmiel sounds like Yosef Karduner. Many of the songs have a pop feel – Od Yishama and A Hidden Rose are the prime examples of this.

The tunes themselves, whose lyrics all have something to do with the Jewish wedding, are both complicated and catchy at the same time. Almost all the tunes use original chord progressions, which is unique in Jewish music and keeps the ear interested. There are even a couple of times where the rhythm gets complicated, such as the bar of 5/4 in Welcome the Bride and several bars in Bat Melech. Welcome the Bride also has a very soundtrack like feel, with its moving string lines. The rhythm section is very tight, and consistently has a great vibe.

The vocals are done well as well. Yerachmiel has a professional, soulful, voice. He does not “over-sing” – all his improvisations are tasteful and not overdone. The background vocals are worthy of note too. Both from an arrangement perspective and mixing perspectives, they are excellent.

The mix is just right. The instruments are not over processed, which has the effect of making the music sound live, but the mix still sounds polished and professional.

My only qualms from a musical perspective are against the piano player in Mi Bon Siach. The piano seems to be slightly off rhythm several times. Also, all the chords used are almost all add 2 chords, which feels a little overdone after a while. Additionally, at about 2:28 in Mi Bon Siach, he plays an add 2 major chord which sounds out of place in this slow ballad. The piano player should have used the harmonic minor scale instead of the major scale over that chord. Also, in Od Yishama, I fell that the piano solo is too jazzy for this all around pop tune.

I have a few (annoying, perhaps) hashkafa qualms as well. I think the words Harei At Mekudeshat Li Kidat Moseh V’Yisrael, which are the words used to consecrate a marriage, are strange words for a song, although I’ve heard worse. Also, at the end of A Hidden Rose there’s a feeble attempt at Rap(?) with strange lyrics about a husband and wife, which for a Jewish album may be inappropriate.

For more information on Yerachmiel, check out his website at www.yerachmiel.com. There is also a page which has audio samples at http://www.yerachmiel.com/audio.html.

Update (9-27-05): I listened to a pre-release version of the album. Yerachmiel told me that the last song, “A Hidden Rose”, is a “hidden” track, so the issues which I brought up for that song aren’t really applicable.

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September 15, 2005

Pey Dalid – Review

Filed under: Reviews — jewishmusic @ 8:43 pm

Generally, this album falls into the Chaim Dovid, Soulfarm catergory, whose philosophy is about “pure” music – limit the effects and the editing and try to capture the “live” performance feel. This has advantages and disadvantages – the most severe disadvantage being that the overall tightness of the album tends to suffer.

Unfortunately, this disadvantage manifests itself here too. The drummer is almost always in time, but there are those couple of off moments which I feel really subtract from the overall feel of the album.

Another general comment which I will refer to alot – I hate to say it, but the bass player lacks groove. He plays most of the songs like a ballad, which is only playing the bass note on the first note of each meaure or chord change. Occasionally his rhythm follows the melody, but he rarely gets into a groove, and he doesn’t follow the bass drum.

The first song, Am Yisroel, starts off with a intro full of cuts in which the bass player is noticeably off rhythm. I don’t understand why the mixer didn’t line up the parts – it’s really simple, especially for bass parts. Alternatively, they could have recorded the off parts again. I don’t really care for the answer-back harmonies either – it sounds like they just sang whatever came to their mind in the studio. Also, there are times where the harmonies should be in rhythm, but they’re not. The song itself isn’t very catchy, but it follows an interesting chord progression.

Shalom Aleichem – This song is more solid than the previous one, and the bass player even gets into a groove on the low part, but not the high part. Strange, I would think it should be the other way around. On the high part, the drummer plays a rock feel with the first two eighth notes on the bass. The bass player should follow this, but doesn’t. Instead he plays half notes with an occasional eight note anticipation. The low part is played in a disco/hora/half-time rock feel, and the high part is a straight rock feel, which makes it feel like the song is speeding up when in fact it isn’t. There is also tasteful violin by Rudy Harris. The harmonies are more rhythmically in time. There is a point in the song where it’s just the bass and vocals, but the vocalist sounds like he’s screaming and trying to sound edgy. I don’t really go for this.

Yom Zeh Yisroel has a cool sounding intro with cuts, but the rest of the low part also has these cuts. I feel that this takes away from whatever groove this song has. The drummer really gets into this song, and plays tasteful fills and grooves. There is even a little piano on this song, which sounds like a Yamaha keyboard.

The next song is a niggun, so there are no words. The drummer plays a reggae feel, but the rest of the band doesn’t. The high part moves into a rock groove which be so much better had the bass player simply played eight notes. This song introduces saxaphone – both alto and sorprano. I guess they’re going for that Dave Matthews feel.

Shabbat Shalom has a great low part. I really like the way it starts off with just rhythm guitar and vocals. The high part doesn’t paralell the low part though – it’s fairly boring. Halfway through this song they do a rap type thing. I’m not exactly sure what rap has to with Shabbos, though. I tried to decipher the words they’re rapping to, but it just sounds like random gibberish, especailly after 2:30 minutes of this stuff.

Boi V’shalom is next, although the jacket says Hamalach should be next. The intro has cuts, but they’re off AGAIN. There’s not much to this song – except for the fact that they sing “L’Cha Dodi no no no no no”. I guess they’re trying to copy the non-Jewish usage of “no no no no”. The problem is that in non-Jewish music it means no, here it has no meaning, it’s just something to sing, I guess.

The first two measures of Hamalach are a copy of the D’Veykus hamalach in minor. The drummer uses rod sticks.

Mi hu Zeh has reggae style organ comping.

Garden of Eden starts off with an E Major, G Major progression and then switches to E freigish. The song ends off with an eerie shofar blowing.

To sum it up – As I mentioned at the outset, this album is like Soulfarm and Chaim Dovid. If you like that style, you’ll probably like this.

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