Jewish Music Blog

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.



  1. will you be reviewing MBD’s new album? I’m interested to see you take.

    Comment by Anonymous — March 27, 2006 @ 1:48 pm

  2. Thank you for your honest review Aryeh. Because of your expert critiquing, i have decided that singing is no longer for me as I am obviously not cut out for it. I will therefore shift my career plans and work full time as a plumber! Thank you for the eitzah Aryeh!

    Comment by Dovid Gabay — May 17, 2006 @ 3:40 pm

  3. Hi. Thank you for visiting my page. I am currently using free drumming lessons type of layout myself.

    Comment by peter — March 31, 2010 @ 7:41 am

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