Jewish Music Blog

January 5, 2006

Lev Tahor 4 – Review

Filed under: Reviews — jewishmusic @ 8:27 pm

With all sequels the first question that comes to mind is: “does it bring anything new to the table, or is it more of just the same?” Regarding Lev Tahor 4, the answer is, a lot new. The sound of Lev Tahor 4 is dramatically different than Lev Tahor 2 – Lev Tahor’s previous music release. The arrangers are Leib Yaacov Rigler, who arranged Lev Tahor 2, as well as Jeff Horvitch who arranged the two Trax to Relax albums and Eli Schwebel, Lev Tahor’s main vocalist. This group of arrangers certainly had a lot of new ideas to add to this album – everything from 90s style pop in Chaveirim to film score like orchestral arrangements in Uvnei. Rigler’s style is evident in many of the string arrangements and vocal arrangements, while Horvitch’s style is clear from the synth drums as well as the atmosphere and bell sounds. Lev Tahor 2’s sound was full of great grooves, while Lev Tahor 4 is more concerned about large sounding orchestral soundscapes.

The rhythm section musicians are pretty standard – Yaron Gotfried on piano for 6 songs, Avi Singolda for guitars on every track, and a relative newcomer, Avi Avidani, on drums for 5 songs. The piano on the rest of the tracks are covered primarily by Jeff Horvitch, and I assume the drums fall under the heading of synths, again covered primarily by Horvitch. I would have actually preferred to have Horvitch or Rigler or Yaron Gershovsky, who’s conspicuously absent from this album, to cover keys on the entire album and the use of a different drummer with more groove. Yaron Gotfried is an excellent pianist with great skill and proficiency and he is undoubtedly a great classical player and sight reader, but when it comes to Jewish music which is many respects is more like jazz in its interpretation, Gotfried seems stale. Everything from his lack of dynamics to his voicings doesn’t add much drive or emotion to the songs he plays. On the songs he does play piano, the piano is barely noticeable (except of course ballads where the arrangement is based around piano). Although this can be blamed on arrangement, I don’t think this is the case because of the way Gotfried plays on other albums, the fact that on songs which piano is covered by someone else the piano adds much more, and the fact that Yaron Gershovsky added so much more to the songs he played on in Lev Tahor 2. The same goes for Avi Avidani. His drumming is tight and solid, but his fills are repetitive and he doesn’t have that “extra something”. I also disagree with the mixing of the drums. I prefer tighter sounding and more compressed drums, not the big sounding sound which seems to pervade Jewish music, with a couple of exceptions. Again my disappointment with Avidani’s sound can be an arrangement decision.

The songs themselves aren’t as memorable as Lev Tahor 2, but are still pleasant to listen to. 8 out of 11 songs are ballads. I’m a little disappointed at the small number of fast tunes – just to even things out if for no other reason. I suppose the large number of ballads fits into the arrangers’ concern about orchestral soundscapes. The catchiest song on the album is Im Lavan Garti, an almost Latin disco. The second song, Moshe, is a ballad which really seems to get a point across. The piano sound and rhythm remind on a certain pop boy-band’s incomplete popular single. The song Chaveirim is more like a ballad than rock or disco. The intro to Avinu, number 4, is the theme to Shrek, but no credit is given. Auto-tune is noticeable throughout this song on one of the vocalists, especially at 2:35. I guess that vocalist had a bad voice day. On the subject of vocals, many of the songs have extremely high vocals, which I don’t particularly care for. Song 6, Atah Echod, introduces the punchy horn section. Gut Shabbos has an interesting, mysterious sounding intro and leads directly into Shrias HaLev, an aptly titled song which seems to be a continuation of the previous song. The hora Kol Hami’oneg is the final fast song, sounds a little like a Yehuda! song and uses interesting clapping sounds for percussion. Songs 10 and 11 have large orchestral arrangements. The intro to U’venei sounds like it could have led into a fast song, but it leads into a ballad.

Lev Tahor 4 doesn’t just pick up where Lev Tahor 2 left, it sets out on a new path. The music is dramatically different, and many of the songs get a point across. The arrangement is augmented by Jeff Horvitch, and the music is balanced – more attention was given to the music as a whole and the direction of the songs from an arrangement perspective as opposed to just throwing together a bunch of musicians and having them take turns playing sections.

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3 Comments »

  1. I heard about your blog on the podcast, and figured since I’ve basiclaly stopped reviewing on my blog I should check up on what you had to say about LT4, especially since I haven’t gotten around to saying anything about it myself. I completely agree that this does not meet LT2, however I don’t think any CD will. LT2 was nearly perfect, I could not have asked for more. I also thought there should’ve been some more fast songs, however I still like most of the songs you weren’t such a fan of. I can tell you are a musician…… Anyway I may do a review of my own to pickup on some specifics within each song. I do not think that auto-tune is bad thing, in fact I’d often rather hear an on-key synthesized good sounding voice than an imperfect or borderline genuine voice (on a CD like this, obviously in certain venues I agree with you).

    Comment by Almost Yeshivish — January 6, 2006 @ 12:33 am

  2. Regarding auto-tune: I have no problem with using it – if used correctly it can be a great tool to fix minor corrections.

    My problem is with over using it and substituting it for a better recording thus ex ante leading to poor recordings based on the fact that – why do a better recording if we can just auto tune it.

    In Avinu, the main vocalist is filled with noticeable applications of auto tune, especially at 2:35. (That yelp is auto tune). I just think it would have been better to re-record a recording that required such heavy use of auto tune.

    Comment by keyboardguy — January 6, 2006 @ 12:06 pm

  3. I’m a professional musician and also listen critically. I am a huge fan of Lev Tahor, primarily because their vocal sound is so unique and stone-gorgeous. The voice of Eli Schwebel very clearly colors their sound, but it is all three voices together that create that harmony that, to me, is without peer anywhere. I agree with you that LT4 goes in a completely new direction, and I also wish there were more fast songs (Mah Yonah, anyone?), but this CD is a masterpiece in its own right and certainly towards the end is an homage to Shabbos.

    I hope we hear from Lev Tahor for many years to come. Do they do any live performances anywhere?

    Comment by AnnaRuach — February 1, 2006 @ 7:09 pm


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