Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Bkavor (Kol Achai)

Album can be previewed/purchased at Mostly Music.com

Special Guest Reviewer: ARI GOLDWAG

Ari Goldwag's (un)official review of the all-new Kol Achai CD "B'karov"

I would like to begin the review with a disclaimer. It's now sefira, so my review may not be as precise as if I was actually listening to the CD as I was writing the review, but be that as it may, I have time now, and probably won't have time later. End Disclaimer.

Before beginning the actual review of the fourth album of Kol Achai, I would like to mention a few things about this unique group. Kol Achai, as the name implies, is the sound of three brothers, Yossi, Boaz, and Yitzchak Goldshmid. The songs are composed by Yitzchak, who plays guitar on the albums (Avi Singolda plays as well). His strongest compositions are the slow ones, which is why we find mostly slow selections on each of the four albums. The three brothers have been singing together literally all their lives, and that special chemistry truly comes across in their performances, both live and recorded. To me, there is only one group in Jewish Music that impresses me whether it is musically or vocally, and that group is Kol Achai.

About the CD - the album contains 11 tracks. 10 songs + 1 bonus track (migdol Jam session). 9 out of 10 songs are composed by Yitzchak. The 10th is the Crakow Niggun of Shlomo Carlebach, sung as their signature A Capella song (more on that later). The musical and vocal arrangements are done by Leib Yakov Reigler (who did all their albums, and also Dveykus 6 and 'Nissan'). Some of the vocal arrangements were also done by Yitzchak. It was recorded in Creative Audio, Jerusalem. There are some really nice liner notes, written by their "fourth brother" Meir Weingarten. He introduces us to the brothers and gives some keen insights into each of the songs.

The first song on the album is Od Yishama. This song is dedicated to Nachum and Staci Segal - composed for their wedding 13 years ago. This song actually veers (in my opinion) from the normal Kol Achai style, but it just proves their versatility at performing different genres of music. The style is somew hat reminiscent of something we've heard on Lev Tahor 2 in say a refoeinu or aneni, but it is a fast, upbeat song. The song itself is very pleasant. One of the things that strikes you right away is the very different sound of the compositions, not your typical Jewish Music - fresh sound - doesn't remind you of something you've heard before. Nitsan Ein-Habar does some really nice sax solos in this song. I rate this song a 7.5

Next song is Amech Ami - the trademark of the word selection of Kol Achai (as is everything about them) is originality. The words were those said by Ruth to Naomi - your nation is my nation. It was written for the wedding of Boaz, who married American (they're all Israeli) and stayed in America for a time because of his wife - "Ki el asher telchi Elech" "wherever you go I will go."It's a very emotional slow song. Trademark Leib Yakov key change, with two flutes (courtesy of Nitsan) into the modulation. Really classy - beautiful harmonies (duh). This song rates an 8

The third track is "B'karov" the title track. When I first heard it I was very confused. It starts off slow, then gets faster. After a few listens it really grew on me, to the point where I was singing it everywhere and it was literally stuck in my head. It's upbeat and lively, arranged mostly with guitars. This song rates 7

Rachmana is the fourth song on the album. This song is up there - probably the best on the album. Very moving - the words are expressed very well by the composition. It asks Hashem, the one who answers poor people and the broken hearted, to answer us. It has three parts, and the third part is just a niggun. It is a soul-stirring piece, sung with a lot of heart. At the end of the song a choir sings, and I think I would have preferred to hear just Kol Achai, and no choir, but it's still really nice. This song rates an 11.

Song five is Va'ani Tefilati. A nice major song. Doesn't strike me as an outstanding song. Rates a 6.

Next song is Sim Shalom - Grant peace! The major theme of the album is the current matzav in Eretz Yisrael, and almost all the songs are prayers. This one is upbeat and gets you moving. Again it is arranged with a lot of emphasis on guitar. I believe the general feel they want to give is the type of 60's folk music sound. Meir Weingarten (their "fourth brother" and co-producer) also told me that the focus here is supposed to on the harmonies, and I suppose this is why the guitar is used a lot in the arrangement and general sound. I rate this song 8

The next song is R' Shlomo Carlebach's famous Cracow niggun. It is performed A capella and the arrangement is done beautifully. The song is familiar, but Kol Achai doesn't let you get bored. The song totals 4 minutes 49 seconds and keeps you on your toes throughout. I rate this song a 10.

Od Hayom (more unusual and original lyrics) is the eighth selection on the album. signature Kol Achai smooth style. Very pleasant slow, mellow song. Get's a 8.5.

Song nine is the most unusual on the album - the words are Migdol Yeshuot malko etc... It is sung in a swing Jazz style. Really a lot of fun to listen to - you can tell they had fun in the studio. One thing to look out for - at one point the words are v'oseh chesed limshicho - so the harmony goes "V'oseh oseh oseh oseh chesed" but they make the word oseh sound like Yossi - one of the brothers. It's very cute. this song rates a 8.5 (kudos for originality in style).

Last song on the album is Sei saviv. Another moving slow Kol Achai song. It was composed by Yitzchak on the birth of his daughter Adi (one of the words in the song is Adi, which means jewel), and during an interlude you can hear him singing her name behind the na na's of his brothers. Very emotional and special touch. Towards the middle the drums come in and out - a bit unusual, but gives extra umph to the song. rates an 8.5

Bonus track 11 is a 'jam session' - a reprise of the song migdol. Here we find each of the musicians taking a solo - you get to hear Nitsan (clarinet/sax), Yaron Gottfried (piano), Aryeh Volnitz (bass), Avi Singolda (guitar), Avraham Felder (trumpet). A lot of fun (again) to listen to. Also, at the very very end Kol Achai says the words "three, four," and if you listen very closely you can hear me in there, with my American accent! I happened to be in the studio when they were recording parts of the album, so I was zoche to be on it for exactly 2 seconds!

In summation, this is another great addition to the Kol Achai collection, and in my humble opinion should be up there on everyone's purchase list - it has great songs, great singing and great harmonies. If you enjoy slow heartfelt music with very professional vocals, go out and get it!
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