Jewish Music Blog

March 28, 2006

Link Dump 3/28/06

Filed under: Uncategorized — jewishmusic @ 9:48 pm

Blog in Dm has a hilarious post on Eli Gerstner’s latest album.

Jewishmuzic continues the “fun-poking” at Eli Gerstner .

Shwekey music video here. Music arranged by Leib Yaakov Rigler, composed by Yitzy Waldner and Abie Rotenberg. Lyrics here.

Nothing to do with music, but interesting nonetheless for Apprentice fans: Nachum Segal interviews Dan Brody, an observant orthodox Apprentice contestant.

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March 23, 2006

Dovid Gabay LeGabay – Review

Filed under: Reviews — jewishmusic @ 3:13 pm

As I said in this week’s Sameach Music Podcast, LeGabay can be summed up in one word: energetic. Most of the fast songs on the album have a lot of energy and are arranged accordingly. My favorite fast songs are Tamshich, Havi’i, Mitzvah and Timche. Havi’i uses a tasteful jazz groove for the low part no doubt conceived of by drummer Russ McKinnon. Tamshich uses authentic sounding rock backed by Mckinnon’s driving drumming which puts Eli Gerstner’s rock to shame. The caveat of this is that the slow songs are just average and at times below average. Although the intros to the slow songs are nice, the songs themselves are for the most part very boring and unoriginal. The only exception to this is the 3/4 Av HaRachamim, but it sounds like a Shalsheles rip off including the obligatory Shalsheles-esque child vocalist, which takes away whatever originality it had.

A bit on the song Mah Tovu: The low part sounds like the type of song that would be played at a circus, not a wedding or a Jewish album. Not to mention the words: V’osu Li Mikdash V’shachanti B’sochom: And you shall make for me a temple and I will dwell amongst them. These words are used to introduce the construction of the Mishkan. I’m not sure the circus image fits into this. The intro to Mah Tovu sounds like an Eli Gerstner tune. The only redeeming quality to this song is the high part. Sometimes you just have to ask: Why did Gabay choose this song?

The arrangements take the standard Jewish sound, epitomized by Shwekey and copied by many others, and upgrade the sound to make it more sophisticated. This is mainly accomplished by the drumming of Russ McKinnon, a drummer for Tower of Power, and Yitzy Bald’s arrangements. McKinnon adds much needed originality, sophistication and taste to the Jewish drumming world, which was previously dominated by Ron Vered, Avi Avidani and Larry Steppler. McKinnon’s versatility is demonstrated by his grasp of the freilach feel in Mitzvah, which is usually difficult for non-Jewish drummers to pick up. McKinnon not only picked up the freilach feel; he nailed it. McKinnon’s fills and accents throughout the album are tasteful, original, and add a great deal to the album. Piano is covered by Yaron Gershovsky, but because of mixing issues, the piano is hard to discern in fast songs. (More on mixing later). In the intro to the song Avinu at 0:17, Gershovsky sounds the slightest bit off rhythm, which is the first time I’ve ever heard him of rhythm. LeGabay also has interesting instrumentation choices, such as accordion and bagpipes in the title song. Throughout the album the musicians (other than guitar) also get a chance to improvise.

I was actually a little disappointed in the vocals. I feel that Gabay could have done much more to the make the singing more memorable. Although Gabay sounds energetic most of the time, there are times when he sounds tired and worn out. Also, Gabay is sometimes sharp. Why not slap a bit of auto-tune to fix it up? I feel that Gabay should have taken more risks and sang with more originality such as singing tasteful runs and using more dynamics. He clearly has the talent and voice for it, so to not hear some more vocal versatility was disappointing. Gabay also doesn’t sing thirds above himself often. (After thinking about this, I realized that most of the songs actually revolve around the 5th of the chord, so the typical ‘thirds’ harmony [in the sense of the closest harmony above the melody] would actually be a 4th, which does not lend itself to the typical listeners common-sense harmonies.) The choir, arranged and conducted by Ari Goldwag, sounds a little less ‘typical yeshivish’, and is used a lot throughout the album to the point that it feels like the choir is singing more than Gabay. Ari Goldwag’s choir arrangements are clearly evident through his signature staccato choir hits, which I find annoying. Choir is not a percussive instrument. It would have been nice if Gabay sang vocal runs over the choir, but that never happened. The closest to this was Gabay singing simple melody over the choir, which isn’t very original.

The mixing on this album, covered by Shloimy Zeiger, leaves much to be desired, and this manifests itself over and over. In the first song Sos Asis, the drums conflict with the percussion to the point that the fills sound like a big mush. This is a clear example of when more is less: Just don’t use percussion! I guess the standard Jewish arranging book contains the rule to always use percussion, even when not needed. This fault is even more egregious due to the fact that Russ McKinnon is on drums whose playing negates any need for percussion. The piano throughout the album sounds wimpy due to attenuated lows and mids and raised highs. The way the piano sounds reminds me of Shalsheles 3, where the Yaron Gershovsky’s piano suffered from similar problems. The strings are also mixed badly, especially in the song Aneinu. The strings often sound like they were played from a bad synthesizer. In general, the instruments don’t sound like they have their own sonic space. Before I review an album I try to listen to it in a number of different settings: through my Sony MDR-7506 headphones and my car. I noticed all the afore-mentioned mixing issues through the 7506s. When I listened to it in my car, I had to turn the EQ all the way up to make it sound half decent. Mixing, mixing, mixing. . . mastering.

This album has several energetic rock songs, but suffers from severe mixing issues which subtract from what this album could have been.

March 19, 2006

Ari Boiangiu Rosh Ashmurot – Review

Filed under: Reviews — jewishmusic @ 11:55 am

Ari Boiangiu is a guitarist for NY’s Neshoma Orchestra and is renowned for his skill and versatility. This album sums Ari up and compacts it into 48 minutes 31 seconds.

What I like about this album is its originality, confidence, and refreshing sound. Boiangiu clearly had a purpose and direction with this album and he did a very good job at conveying it. The songs are singable and original, which is impressive considering that many of them have jazz influences. The album is arranged by both Boiangiu and Mark Fineberg, who arranged the Teva albums and also plays keys. The relatively simple instrumentation, in contrast to the complicated arrangements, consists of various guitars, Larry Steppler’s drums, Fineberg’s keys/organ and Dave Keyes’ bass. The recording and mixing is excellent – all the instruments are clearly distinguishable. The drums have a very live sound; they are not over-compressed and portray Steppler in a fresh way. The sound of this album is far from typically Jewish, but at the same time it still manages to maintain a distinctly Jewish feel.

The grooves throughout the album are in-the-pocket. Everything from Kumi’s hora, Al Naharos’ rock, to the various ballads all have well-thought out and tasteful grooves. Surprisingly this guitar-based album doesn’t seem overly rocky. Ari uses rock when necessary and not as a matter of course. Boiangiu’s versatility shines forth on every song: everything from rocking tapping solos to beautiful ballads playing is represented on this album.

Besides focusing on Ari’s guitar playing, this album also features Ari’s unique vocals. Although I don’t think Ari has the greatest voice, I applaud him for doing his thing. Ari’s vocals are energetic, in tune, and not typically Jewish.

This album is refreshing and relaxing to listen to. The songs are catchy, the grooves are moving, and the music is unique.

March 9, 2006

Preliminary Thoughts on Dovid Gabay’s LeGabay

Filed under: Uncategorized — jewishmusic @ 10:01 pm

The title song LeGabay is an interesting, original song. The song itself is a catchy disco, with a very simple disco groove.

Listening to the track from sameach’s podcast (at 42:30) was a little distracting due to the obtrusive noise stuck in at 43:37 and 45:06. The purpose of the noise is clearly to deter cutting the track and playing it, but I think it’s a little paranoid. On the same podcast there’s a song by Ari Boiangiu without the thouroughly annoying noise.

LeGabay is definitely a danceable song, but I have several arrangement critiques. On a positive note, the intro revolves around the D mixolydian scale and uses bagpipes, which has a hip sound. On the other hand, the drums are extremely simple – you really couldn’t get any more simple than the groove and fills used. This is kind of odd due to fact that David Garibaldi, the superb drummer of Tower of Power (audio and video clips here), is supposedly the drummer. (The drummer is actually Russ McKkinnon, another drummer for Tower of Power.) You can still have a driving groove with simple drums if the bass is driving. But no matter how much I listen, I can’t make out the bass in this track. After thinking about this, I’ve reached the conclusion that the bass is actually a synth bass played an octave too high for bass, which doesn’t add drive to the song. Synth bass would be fine if the drums were electronic, but in this context it feels lacking. Also, there is no guitar in this track, except in the intro, even though Avi Newmark touted the fact that Boiangiu plays on this album. The sole chorded instrument is some type of rhythmic synth/string sound, perhaps arpeggiated. This track has very interesting instrumentation choices, probably chosen to add originality.

Having said that, the tune and words themselves add drive to the track. Gabay has a great voice, and he does some vocally interesting things, such as holding out a high note and leading into vibrato, and singing a couple of tasteful runs. The choir sounds a tad more pop-like than the typical Jewish choir, but sometimes the choir sounds like Shloimie Dachs.

The fact that I wrote this much on one song says something about this album – there is a lot to it, and I’m interested in hearing the rest.

Dovid Gabay’s website will be located at legabay.com

Link Dump 3/9/06

Filed under: Uncategorized — jewishmusic @ 9:01 pm

Shirulo.com is a Jewish music related site with alot of up to date news. Although the site is in Hebrew, it is simple Hebew, and an English site is coming soon.

Sameach Music has a new podcast with interviews of Ari Boiangiu and Dovid Gabay. Ari gives intelligent insight into his album. It’s nice to see personality behind the album. There’s also a demo track of Dovid’s debut album.

MBD’s Mussar Schmooze

Filed under: Uncategorized — jewishmusic @ 6:41 pm

Life-of-Rubin has an excellent post on MBDs mussar schmooze on not stealing music.

I just wanted to comment on this myself:

I think MBD should address his blatant use of Dschinghis Khan’s German rock song more commonly known as Yid’n before he lectures us on stealing. The message is good, but please don’t partonize the listeners, who are the ones buying your album!

MBD also says that,”Chas V’sholom, it’ll get to a point where it won’t be affordable to produce an album anymore”. I just wanted to reiterate what Life-of-Rubin said. Nowadays it is much much cheaper to produce albums, and in the Jewish music industry it seems that every shmo is coming out with an album, which reduces the quality of the music as a whole for the small but dedicated market. Perhaps the industry needs a little market force to whip it into shape. Also, there is no concrete evidence that sharing of music has slowed the music industry down, so even though his message is good, don’t say something as fact without some basis.

March 8, 2006

Matisyahu Youth – Review

Filed under: Reviews — jewishmusic @ 9:08 pm

I had some qualms about reviewing Matisyahu on my blog: after all, my blog is geared toward mainstream “yeshivish” Jewish music and Matisyahu is far from yeshivish music. But, I decided to take a crack at it because of his impact and popularity.

Let me start off with a disclaimer: I don’t like reggae or rap. Reggae is inherently primal and simple (which could explain its widespread appeal), and I prefer music with some degree of complexity and solidity.

Having said that, I figured that the entire album couldn’t be just reggae, could it? Yes and no. Some songs such as “Time of Your Song” and “Indestructible” have a hip hop/R&B sound, but they digress from that due to Matisyahu’s one dimensional vocal style. Vocals are perhaps the most important factor of an album and Matisyahu’s vocals, sung in a fake Jamaican accent, are often out of tune and are “projected” more than they are sung.

The instrumentation is very simple, and lacks variety. Due to great mixing, everything is in time, but the musicians themselves don’t have micro-timing, which reflects in the lack of solidity of the music. But this is exactly what Matisyahu was going for.

It’s not difficult to see why Matisyahu has such wide appeal – this music is exactly right for dancing in a bar a little (a lot?) high. But for mainstream Jewish music, this album has no relevance.

March 3, 2006

Lev Tahor 4 Not So Original

Filed under: Uncategorized — jewishmusic @ 9:09 am

I came across a song by Michael Smith called I Will be Here for You. The hooks on that song reminded of Lev Tahor 4, and I was surprised to here an exact copy of a bridge from that song used in Lev Tahor’s U’venei Yerushalayim. The funny thing is that when I first heard U’venei, I thought that the bridge to it were not typcially Jewish. It turns out I was more right than I thought. Although I have another post on this in general, I thought I should mention something about this regarding Lev Tahor because of the pervasiveness of this hook in the song. Sure, Lev Tahor already ripped a Scorpion song (Lev Tahor 2 intro to Asher Boro) and the theme to Shrek (LT 4 intro to Avinu), but this is not merely an intro, but a bridge in a song, which is more integral to the song. How much more of the album is directly copied from non-Jewish music? My main gripe is that people who buy this album don’t realize what they’re listening to. My second gripe is that Lev Tahor didn’t give credit to the original artist. Blog in Dm recently posted about this issue in regards to a “hashgacha” on music. (Here and here). I wouldn’t go that far, but it would be nice to know the source of the music I’m listening to.

Update 3/07: Based on a comment, I listened to the Pink Floyd song High Hopes, and not only is the intro to this song directly copied into Mah Yididus (Gut Shabbos), the bridge to Mah Yedidus is taken directly from a hook in High Hopes. The tone used for the guitar solo as well as string lines at the end of the song are all based on, if not ripped entirely, from High Hopes. Is Jewish music totally devoid of originality that it has to imitate?

March 1, 2006

Coming Up. . . Dovid Gabay

Filed under: Uncategorized — jewishmusic @ 7:26 pm

Looks like Dovid Gabay is finally getting ready to release his debut album. Sameach Music has a picture of the album cover here and there’s some more info here. I’ve heard mixed things about this album, so I’m very interested to know how it turned out. I know Dovid Gabay pretty well – I’ve worked with him and went to high school with him, and the one thing I know for sure is that he has a phenomenal voice that goes way beyond the average Jewish singer. Dovid previously sang on Gideon Levine’s Best of the Best Volume II and Sameach at the Wheel 1.

Next week Sameach will have “artwork, posters, samples and much more” posted at the Sameach site.

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