Jewish Music Blog

May 22, 2006

David Ross Concert

Filed under: Uncategorized — jewishmusic @ 9:14 pm

David Ross will be having a concert this Thursday May 25th at Makor.

From the e-mail:

David Ross, the hottest new talent in Jewish music today, will be appearing at Makor this Thursday night! After singing with groups like Kol Zimra, Beat’achon and the Hamsa Boys, and performing with top orchestras like Neshoma, Negina, BaRock and Symphonia for years, David Ross’ solo career has recently taken center stage. This is a concert event you will not want to miss!

The e-mail included a preview song, and Ross blends many different pop styles with few effects, while tending to stay away from hard rock.

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May 18, 2006

Upcoming Albums

Filed under: Uncategorized — jewishmusic @ 10:26 pm

Sameach released a new podcast today, and the 60 minute podcast previewed 6 new albums. Here’s a quick rundown:

First off is the album Uz Yevakeh sung by Sruli Ginsberg. The song previewed is entitled Heimah and is composed by Lipa Schmeltzer. Heimah has a freilach-then-rock groove, and the energy steps up for the rock. The B section melody uses 8th note anticipations, which adds to the groove and makes it more energetic. Sruli Ginsberg’s voice is pretty standard, but he adds the proper amount of energy for the song, and the Cher effect is used tastefully on his voice.

Next comes the song Tiferes off the album A Time and Place sung by Yossi Rotbard and Yerachmiel Ziegler. Tiferes is a catchy slow rock song, with a unique arrangment and great groove. It also uses a nice blend of electronic effects and acoustic instruments. The harmonies are all appropriate and well done. I am a big fan of Yerachmiel’s voice, and he works very well with Yossi. I can’t wait to hear the rest of this album.

Third is the title song off of the album VeHakohanim sung by Shlomo Katz, the brother of Eitan Katz. The song is arranged in a very simple quasi-Carlebach style. Katz has a very unprofessional voice, and I don’t think it’s enough to propel the song through the simple acoustic guitar-centric arrangement.

Siman Tov Mazel Tov is a wedding compilation album, and it features 75 songs in 2 CDs. The 9 vocalists are: Ron Ben-Chaim, Yoel Sharabi, Shlomo Chaviv, Meir Sherman, Avner Levy, Sandy Shmueli, Ari Pollack, Gershon Veroba and Avrami Weisberger. I think the concept behind the album is excellent – have one album with all the popular wedding songs so people can choose songs for their wedding or just enjoy commonly played wedding songs. The main key to this album will be the songs chosen.

The next new album is Koili El Hashem, produced by Dudi Kalish and Moshe Schwartz with vocalist Yaakov Daskal. Koili is an uninspiring song, even though the arrangers have some creative ideas such as clavinet funk and latin. The groove itself is very yeshivish, and Daskal’s vocals don’t have much energy.

Last, we have the title track Yogati from Yacov Young‘s album. The music uses the standard yeshivish sound, and Lamm’s arrangements are all over it. The disco Yogati has the potential to become popular at weddings. Although the drums have a more live, less compressed feel, Rick Cutler’s drumming is very simple and rigid. The also-stiff bass on the high part makes heavy use of the on-beats, which is a little disconcerting and subtracts from the groove.

All these albums will be released within the next two weeks.

Also, Avraham Fried will be releasing his next album called “Father Don’t Cry” around June.

May 17, 2006

Links and E-mails 5/17/06

Filed under: Uncategorized — jewishmusic @ 5:56 pm

In anticipation of his release, Yacov Young’s website, yacovyoung.com, is under construction. The website will feature sheet music from the album, pictures, and other information.

Dovid Gabay’s website, legabay.com, although mentioned on his album jacket when the album was released back in mid-March, is yet to be finished. What’s taking so long?

Ben Baruch writes that:

I just started an Adi Ran blog devoted mainly to translating his songs into English. http://adiran.blogspot.com.

(Please note that comments said in someone’s name are not necessarily, and without further verification are most probably not, said by that person.)

May 15, 2006

Moderating in Moderation

Filed under: Uncategorized — jewishmusic @ 12:47 pm

The purpose of this blog is to provide a degree of information about Jewish music that is not found elsewhere, and have interesting discussions about that information. I do this because I care about Jewish music.

Lately I’ve had to delete several comments because they deviated from that purpose. They were inflammatory, sarcastic, and most importantly, they were not at all germane to the post.

It’s up to the readers to use their discretion as to what a proper post is, and I have faith in the readers to do it well. If your comments are not germane to the post, please send me an email at keyboardguy@yahoo.com. But please do not take out your angst on an unrelated post.

This occurence also reiterates the point that comments said in someone’s name are not necessarily from that person.

The discussion from the previous post can continue here.

May 14, 2006

Interview with Yacov Young

Filed under: Uncategorized — jewishmusic @ 12:39 pm

I had the opportunity to interview Yacov Young who is IY’H coming with his debut album “Yogati” the week before Shavuos, the week of May 21. Cover art is available here. Sameach Music is planning on releasing a preview clip this week. (This review was conducted over Instant Messaging (IM), and all of the answers are paraphrased.)

What makes Yogati unique?
I spent a long time choosing songs that represent the message I want to convey, which is that Jewish music doesn’t have to use secular influences to be great. I tried to go back to the early days of Fried and MBD, but with modern sounds. I also tried to sing naturally on the album without using a ton of effects.

How long have you been involved with professional music?
About 5 to 6 years. Most of that has been singing at simchas with The Neginah Orchestra and has been a real pleasure. I also have some classical training, and I try add a little of that into the album as well.

Who composed the songs?
Yitzchok Rosenthal, Yossi Green, Yitzy Waldner, Pinky Weber and Elimelech Blumstein.

Yitzchok Rosenthal?
Yitzchok composed 5 songs for Yogati. This is actually the first time he’s doing anything outside of his own projects which is a real treat for me and others as well.

How did you arrange that?
Yitzchok heard me at a chuppah, and he was very impressed. When I was choosing songs for the album I called him up and he said that although he normally doesn’t give out songs to albums outside his own, he made an exception for me, and I am honored and privileged to sing his heartfelt tunes.

Why did you choose Yisroel Lamm to arrange?
Yisroel and I have worked together over the years in our live performances, and he is the biggest mentch. He is really the innovator who started the entire Jewish music sound that we all listen to today. Yisroel has also worked extensively with the group Shalsheles, and being I have many songs from Yitzchok it made sense to keep that Rosenthal sound. Yisroel is also famous for his string and classical arrangements, which I wanted to infuse into the album.

Were you involved creatively with the music?
I was very involved. I actually attended all of the recording sessions whether it be instrumental, choirs, mixing and mastering. Choosing the songs and words that were used was also very much in my hands with Hashem’s help of course.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I hope this album will add a little joy and emotion into people lives. It should inspire them to come closer to Hashem, “ivdu es hashem b’simcha”. And may we soon all sing together in the beis hamikdash hashlishi speedily in our days!

Thank you to Yacov Young for sharing your thoughts with us!!

Update 5/15/06: Sameach has posted a sampler here.
Update 5/16/06: Sameach will be debuting the entire album Yagoti this afternoon only from 3-4 via their streaming radio player. Link is here.

May 8, 2006

AKA Pella Ads

Filed under: Uncategorized — jewishmusic @ 11:26 pm

afewjews.com has two quite interesting ads for AKA Pella. The one on the home page says that AKA Pella is “so good it should be ossur” (prohibited). Cute, but not very intelligent. Did these guys actually ask a shei’lah before releasing with this album to determine whether it complies with halacha? Unlike a regular album, this album was made to be listened to during Sefirah and the Three Weeks, both times of mourning in which music with instruments is generally prohibited. AKA Pella pushes the envelope of Jewish acapella and some of the methods employed to create this album are little more than playing a keyboard vocal patch.

Be careful what you wish for.

The second ad is a video, and although creative and well put together, it’s really, really long for an ad, and pushes the obscene envelope. If the point is to be effective, I doubt it will be. If the point is to be cute, they’ve accomplished that worthy goal.

Update 5/09/06: I just want to make clear the fact that this post is not at all directed at the group Premium Blend, but at the agency or those in the group who decided to print this ad campaign. The ad campaign does not necessarily reflect the views of those in the group, and should not reflect on the album as a whole.

Update 5/10/06: Sameach Music writes:

Sameach Music neither confirms nor denies any plans on any future AKA Pella albums through Sameach.
Sameach has not pushed for anything. We also want to make it known for the record that Sameach had nothing to do with the creation of the website, ads and video.
We apologize if anyone was offended.

May 5, 2006

AKA Pella Premium Blend – Review

Filed under: Reviews — jewishmusic @ 12:19 am

This year there were only two new acapella releases, and AKA Pella Premium Blend is certainly the most interesting of the two. Just to clarify – the group is named AKA Pella and the album is called Premium Blend, which goes along with the coffee theme. The jacket design is certainly unique, but I found the layout to be slightly clumsy. This is not a result of design, which was very well done by Chanan Baer, but seems to be a result of the plethora of ideas which the designer kind of had to patch together.

A quick overview of the album – almost all of the songs have non-Jewish music influences: Everything from Michael Jackson and Bryan Adams to Joseph and Technicolor Dreamcoat. Although this concept was used by Lev Tahor, AKA Pella takes this to a whole new level by using some actual non-Jewish tunes, such as Simon and Garfunkel’s Scarborough Fair on song 2 Dror and Van Halen’s Right Now on song 9 Asher Boro. The sound of the album is very smooth, and is mixed excellently. Many of the songs use vocals to take the place of the instruments, and the vocal percussion sounds excellent.

This album only has one original tune, song 10 Raninu by Elchonon Majeski, and the rest are described on the jacket as “your favorite songs”. I think this was another interesting choice – many of these are actually not so well known, so characterizing them as favorite songs may be a little misleading. When I think of favorite Jewish songs, I think of over-played songs such as Yeedle’s Atah Bonim and Shalsheles’ Esa Einai. Perhaps they meant your favorite non-Jewish songs. Regardless, I think the song choices were excellent for this group. All of the tunes are solid, singable songs, and they are pleasant to listen to. Just a quick rundown of the non-Jewish influences: Song 1 uses Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama, Song 2 uses Simon & Garfunkel’s Scarborough Fair, Song 3 uses the theme to Gilligan’s Island, Song 4 is Close Every Door from Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat, Song 5 is based on Michael Jackson’s Will You Be There (thanks anonymoose), the intro and outro to Song 6 sounds like it came from extra-Jewish sources, Song 9 is Van Halen’s Right Now composed by David Roth, and the intro to Song 10 is Bryan Adams’ Everything I Do.

The songs were arranged primarily by John Clark and Ed Boyer of cb-production.com and Mike Boxer, with CD Eichler being the idea man. Although CD is listed in the album as the main arranger, I know CD personally, and although he is a musical person, he’s not a musician, and therefore there is absolutely no way he could have arranged bass lines, rhythm sections and chords in general. What must have happened is that CD gave Clark and Boyer the original albums with the songs, they wrote a preliminary arrangement, and then CD gave his input, and it was finally tweaked appropriately. I don’t mean to minimize CD’s role at all – the entire album was his idea and he implemented the idea excellently. I just want to give due credit to the arrangers.

The arrangements themselves usually use incorporate bass and drums, with rhythmic vocals taking the place of standard chord rhythm instruments such as guitar or keyboard. In song 1 and 9, Clark uses vocal guitar, which is basically vocals with distortion, which produces an interesting effect. There is very little choir-type harmonies, which generally utilize close three-part harmonies. Lev Tahor balanced the two while AKA Pella seems to have mostly phased out the kumsitz style. The background vocals in general are creatively swamped in effects, to the point that they sometimes sound like string lines such as in Raninu song 10. There are often vocal arpeggios which I highly doubt were actually sung. What most probably happened was that cb-productions sampled different vocals, or they used their own pre-recorded vocals samples, and then played these arpeggios from a keyboard. The arrangement to song 9, Asher-Boro-otherwise-known-as-Right-Now, is almost an exact copy, if not taken directly, from the Binghamton Crosby’s version of the same song. Listening to the end of this file confirms this. Clark and Boyer use panning very creatively, especially in Menucha V’Simcha. All in all, these arrangements are more in line with secular, college type acapella and it is refreshing to hear them in Jewish music.

Because of the complexity of the arrangements and their replacement of the roles of instruments, and because of the quality of the vocal percussion, as well as the methods of recording the background vocals, this album sounds almost as good as music, which some may not wish to listen to during sefirah and the 3 weeks.

There are 8 vocalists, and while none of them are professional singers, they do a nice job overall. Most of them are flooded in auto-tune and various other effects to make them sound larger than life. The music also sounds very gentle sometimes, even gentle enough to fall asleep to. Having said that, the vocalists do infuse energy into the songs when needed, and the vocals are tasteful and lack common annoyances prone to unprofessional vocalists.

There seems to have been some debate as to how much of the background vocals were actually sung by the main vocalists. The background harmonies are by no means simple, and given the relatively low production time (7 months) and the daunting task of learning and recording all those lines, it is more likely that most of them were sung by John Clark and Ed Boyer, who are credited on the album jacket as “additional vocals”. Also, Mike Boxer sang almost all of the background vocals on the track he arranged, track 7 Piah Pascha, and that leads me to believe that a similar pattern was followed for the rest of the tracks. Using additional vocalists on an album is by no means a new idea, but using it on an acapella album is. Part of the uniqueness of acapella music is that the talent of the vocalists went into every aspect of the music, and that isn’t apparent on this album. This album is more like a standard instrumental album in which the musicians play all of the music and the vocalists sing over that, but instead of musicians we have Clark and Boyer’s vocal tracks.

 

AKA Pella is a welcome addition to Jewish acapella, and is arranged and mixed beautifully. It may even sound too good for sefirah and the 3 weeks, which are supposed to be times of mourning. The album also draws heavily on non-Jewish music, which may not appeal to some, but it still manages to maintain its Jewish character.

 

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