Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Journeys 4

Album can be previewed/purchased at Mostly Music.com

Reviewer: Moishe

While goyshe world is going crazy about the return of their king, JM world has a homecoming party for a king of its own – Abie Rotenberg is back with the new Journeys addition. While his latest releases failed to live up to legacy of their predecessors, people started to wonder if Journeys IV will deliver the goods or will it meet the same fate. Well, following is my review and I can tell you now that the album doesn't disappoint – it is a worthy entry in Journeys series.


Journeys always got to showcase various JM talent and this album continues that tradition. Lev Tahor takes over for D'Veykus (good way to compare Eli Schwebel's voice to that of his father), Shwekey gets a song of his own, and Meyer & Baruch Abbittan take over child soloists' duties. All in all, it is definitely a very good mix that works and all vocal arrangements come across very well done.


Journeys was never meant to create wedding hits but rather provide an excellent music that you have in the background while you do other chores. Therefore it can't be judged by the same standard as other albums – slow songs ("Mama Rochel"," A Man from Vilna") have very moving tunes that fit the lyrics great. "Sfashkenaz", the funny song on the album, also has a nice tune to it. I was also impressed by "Country Boy", that mamish sounds like a real country song. The rest of the album is typical Journeys style which gets the job done.


English album has to feature good lyrics – after all, that's the main thrust of it. Journeys over the years has given us some great songs like "Who Am I?", "Neshomele", "The Place Where I Belong", "Wedding Song" and many more. So this is the department where the album has been traditionally very strong and this one does not disappoint at all. All songs have a message in them and lyrics are not your typical run of the mill English lyrics that you can hear on every English song that is recorded in JM world today. They are original and try to tackle different issues. My only problem is that this album doesn't feature a single song about Internet (like "Moishe Online" off Destiny IV). That would definitely be an interesting song to hear.


Well, Journeys IV gets an A in that category as well. Unlike previous CDs, it finally comes with full album notes that include lyrics, story behind different songs and full listing of vocals by each track so you are not left clueless as to who sings what. A very useful thing for an English album.

Now on to the tracks:

"The Band"
Vocals: Abie Rotenberg and Lev Tahor

The song is about a few unfortunate souls who play different instruments but not quite to everyone's liking so people run away from them when they play. Nevertheless, they will all be picked to play in the band when Moshiach comes whose arrival we await. IMHO, it is the weakest song on the album so things only get better afterwards which is a good thing:-).

The Man From Vilna
Vocals: Abie Rotenberg

We heard this song with Rena when Abie performed it at Jewish Hospice concert 2 years ago. Truly an amazing song that is based on a real life story of a Holocaust survivor. Abie was always able to deliver when it comes to that very sad topic and this song is no exception. It tells a very moving story of men coming back to their hometown only to find it all in ruins. Nevertheless, it didn't diminish the spirit of Simchos Torah that they were celebrating and instead of Sifrei Torah, they clutched the children in their arms. Am Yisroel Chai.

The Ninth Man/Part II
Vocals: Lev Tahor and Abie Rotenberg

This song got some airplay on JM in the AM so most of you know what it is about. The bochurim from the original song are now in Kollel and are pushing 45. They are challenged to a rematch by the guys who they beat many years ago and despite their tefillos, the game is on and they show up to try to win again. Of course, they are way out of shape but a sudden downpour saves the day. It has a similar tune to the original "Ninth Man" and the only sing missing is Moshe Yess. Lev Tahor and AR do an admirable job of filling in for him but somehow it is not the same. Nevertheless, it is a good sequel.

Mama Rochel
Vocals: Yakov Shwekey

No need to write about this one – most of you heard it and it is a very moving song with excellent vocal performance by Shwekey. The song undoubtedly is the highlight of this album and to some people might be a reason to buy the CD just for that. If you are a Shwekey fan, it is definitely a must buy simply because he sings in English:-) The only thing that bugs me a bit about it is that some chords sound very similar to the theme song from "Schindler's List" theme song. But then again, as per some people on this board, I hear goyshe songs in everything so I will let this one slide:-) I posted before the story behind this song so I won't go into it again – just search for my response to "Mama Rochel" thread.

The Cat Ate The Canary
Vocals: Abie Rotenberg and Lev Tahor

It's an interesting song with an interesting title – the song talks about Swiss bankers who don't want to admit to stealing $$$ from Jews who perished in Holocaust and can no longer claim the money. Just like you shouldn't blame the cat for eating the canary since it is just the way nature intended it, you shouldn't blame bankers from Zurich since who wouldn't take advantage of the situation if one was in their shoes. I'm not sure why AR chose this topic for the song since it's an unusual one. AR does most of the singing with Lev Tahor mostly doing the harmonies.

One Word
Vocals: Abie Rotenberg and Lev Tahor

The song talks about how the world was created with one word, one Torah was given to one nation and that nation was given one land that we will return to soon. You get the point. The song is very nice but there is not much more I can write about it.

Vocals: Leibel and Srulik/Meyer and Baruch Abbitan

This is the humorous song on the album and it is very well done. The song talks about a chossid who lives on 16th Avenue and 53 Street (not far from me) who likes to sing zemiros with his son. His whole world changes when a sefardi from Turkey moves in next door and brings his own version of the same zemiros. At first they ignore each other but in the end realize that they sing the same zemiros and become very close friends. The song beautifully combines chassidishe and sefardi accents and features very nice performances by Abbitan brothers (I'm assuming they are brothers, I have no clue). It happens to be a very nice song with a very good message.

Dreams Come True
Vocals: Eli Schwebel and Lev Tahor

The song talks about a topic that I know very well – a man who is dreaming that iron curtain will fall one day and he will be reunited with his brothers from Soviet Union. Nevertheless once he is reunited, he realizes there is still much to be done but regardless, the fact that iron curtain fell is in itself a dream come true. Eli Schwebel does an excellent job as a soloist and Lev Tahor does an amazing jobs with harmonies yet again. Eli Schwebel is slowly becoming a star in his own right.

Country Boy
Vocals: Pail Hebert

This is the most unusual song on this album and probably in JM world altogether as there was professional country singer performing it (that's from people in the know who posted it on the board). When I first heard it, I was blown away by how well it is done and it mamish sounds like a read country song. According to the footnote, it is based on a true story. Essentially, the song is about a guy who lived his whole life in Kansas and accidently happens to discover that he was Jewish. His family and finance try to persuade him that it is not worth his effort to find out more but he persists and in the end becomes a Ba'al Tshuvah and move to Yerushalayim. It is a very well written and performed with a special kudos to AR for using country singer for an added effect – I doubt he could have gotten away with using a singer from the realm of JM.

Little Tree
Vocals: Abie Rotenberg and Lev Tahor

For some strange reason, I always liked the last track on all of Journeys CDs. AR doesn't disappoint this time and this track captures the current conflict in Mideast perfectly. It uses a metaphor of little tree (Israel) that only wants to grow and spread it seeds upon the earth that it inherited for its father. A woodsman (Arabs) wants to chop it down to plant a field of stones on the place that he calls home. A sly fox (UN) says that it sympathizes with woodsman pain and can't be distracted by anything else and only an eagle (USA) says that why can't the tree just stay alive. Again, AR does an excellent job with lyrics and performing the song while Lev Tahor provides a perfect vocal addition.

Well, that's the summary of all the tracks. Now that I listened to the album for about 10 times, I can say that overall it is definitely a very nice addition to Journeys series. I can see "The Man from Vilna" and "Mama Rochel" becoming solid hits among AR fans. Should you buy this album? Yes – if you like Journeys or if you never heard Journeys before because this album does provide a very nice intro to the rest of the Journes CDs. If you didn't like the first 3, I doubt this one will change your mind since besides for "Mama Rochel" which should appeal to all Shwekey fans, the rest of the album is typical AR fanfare.

Comments on this review can be left below.


Blogger Rivki said...

is there any way i can get the words for the song sfashkenaz?

May 31, 2007 at 9:46 AM  
Blogger Ari said...

Meyer and Baruch Abittan are father and son.

November 27, 2008 at 7:35 AM  
Blogger Dror Maor said...

Sfashkenaz lyrics:

January 2, 2012 at 3:20 PM  
Blogger Shim Frankel said...

Its a good CD but not nearly as exceptional as volumes 1 2 and 3. Those get 5 stars a piece (maybe vol 3 is a 4.5). This one is a 2.5 or a 3. I still listen to volumes 1-3 (I'm listening to vol 2 as I type this). Vol 4 only stayed in my cd player for about a month.

February 2, 2017 at 12:23 PM  

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