Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Pardes 2

Album can be previewed/purchased at Mostly Music.com

Reviewer: Gedaliah

Sequels always possess a hit-or-miss nature. They either live up to the
standards of the original, exceed expectations with a better performance, or
disappoint listeners (or viewers or readers) in having not met the standards
of the original. Pardes 2 reflects all three of those aspects. In April 2002
a new singer named Yitzchak Simcha released an album called “Pardes”, which
featured a new sound in Jewish Music, that of smooth easy listening jazz and
techno. The follow-up, released this past December, features 10 songs with
that same smooth feel. However, I think that the tunes on Pardes are better
than those on 2 (particularly Halelu, L’chai Olamim and Yigdal). Another
disappointment on this new album is the decreased amount of harmony. The
thing that made Pardes so enjoyable to listen to was the harmony on each
song. While the basic harmony still presides on 2, some of it is barely
audible, and certain songs seem to beg for harmony; but it just isn’t there.
However, a major plus on Pardes 2 is the music which has some other styles
incorporated into it; many of the songs are a bit more upbeat (Pardes
contains mainly slow songs) and I think that the musical arrangements
improved in this sequel. In the general sense, Pardes 2 is an average album,
and fans of Pardes will still appreciate it, despite the above observations.
All the compositions and music arrangements are done by Yitzchak Simcha.

1. Barech. The intro starts off with smooth guitar which gradually increases
in tempo. The mood of this song is “Hey guys I’m back” and one can sense the
smile on Yitzchak Simcha’s face as he sings the song. In contrast to Pardes’
opening song, Shesh, this has a much smoother feel and it expresses our
daily request to Hashem for sustenance. Great job on the guitar.
(Nitpick: The notes for “Hashem Elokeinu” sung in the high part sound very
similar to those of “Rabba min sh’maya” on the high part of the Chevra’s

2. Adir Bamorom. Beautiful song from Birchas Kohanim. The tune and music for
this song are really beautiful, but it could use a lot more harmony (I was
particular hoping for the sort of harmony that is on Halelu and L’chai
Olamim from Pardes). However I would consider this song as my favourite slow
selection, especially for the smooth music. Great job on the guitar again.

3. Gog. One of the unique aspects of Pardes is the usage of not widely
circulated lyrics. This
continues on Pardes 2 and begins with a song talking about the war of Gog (a
later song is also entitled Magog and continues this theme) which will
B’ezras Hashem take place before Moshiach comes. The words from Yechezkel,
which describe the downfall of Gog, are accompanied by a 70’s style steady
rock beat. This is the first of 3 songs on this album which deal
specifically with the theme of war. A nice song to listen to.

4. Ki Hinei. It’s been a while since someone composed a new tune for
this Yom Kippur classic, and I must say that the tune is very nice.
However the harmony is missing again and only comes in towards the end of
the song. There are many moments when I’m saying to myself, “This could
really sound better with harmony” so that aspect detracts from the quality
of the song. Otherwise it’s very nice.

5. At War. Lyrics written by Asher Anshil, vocal Accompaniment by Avraham
Ben-Tzion, Narration by Moshe Meyers. Track 5 takes the form of an English
song, as does its predecessor “Young at Heart”. This song has the 70’s beat
again, and discusses how an old man teaches a fighter some lessons on how to
view life, learning from a soldier. Similar to Young at Heart, the lyrics to
At War are not very direct, leaving the listener a chance to digest the
words and think about the issue raised. Also no explicit mention of Judaism
is made, although I think the song is talking about the constant struggle to
fight temptations and overcome our Yetzer Hara. (I may be wrong). It’s a
pretty good song, which deviates from the regular JM English fare, although
some may not be comfortable with its secular music style.

6. Sos Asis. This song takes on a style Pardes hasn’t tackled yet—Rock ‘n’
Roll. The song
begins with electric guitar and drums, and the overdubs kick in for the
chorus (K’chosson, k’chosson). The song is really catchy and is my favourite
on the album; the chorus really gets you moving. This song also includes
some decent harmony for once.

7. Shesh Zechiros. Yitzchak Simcha seems to have an obsession with the
number 6. The opening song on Pardes was Shesh, which listed
the 6 mitzvos which we are constantly obligated to fulfill. Pardes 2
features Shesh Zechiros- the six events we are commanded to remember always.
The song begins with soft guitar, then the verse is repeated with the
synthetic drums kicking in. The chorus is “Na na na etc, eilu eilu haShesh
Zechiros” which gets a little repetitive, but there’s some pretty nice
harmony. This is another example of Yitzchak Simcha’s use of not overused

8. K’ayal. Here comes the stereotypical decrease in song quality towards the
end of the album. I do not like the song “K’ayal” for a few reasons.
First, the tune and music greatly resemble “Young at Heart” and “Achas
Shoalti”, my two least favourite songs from Pardes. Also Yitzchak Simcha
gets way too kvetchy during the chorus. Every time I listen to the song I
just want it to end already, which is not a good sign. Yitzchak Simcha
dedicated this song to his daughter, but I think she is deserving of a much
better song to bear her name.

9. Magog. The war theme continues with a song about the first war of Gog and
Magog (the song “Gog” talked about the second war, so these songs are
seemingly out of order). This is another smooth guitar song, really Pardesy.
Unfortunately, the tune is kind of boring and leaves you expecting more. The
mood of the album has gradually quieted down.

10. Pardes. The final track is the title track and it discusses what the
idea of Pardes is really about. “A person is lead on the path on which he
desires to go.” This is expressed musically with smooth trance, with the
synthetic horns fading in and out. The chorus is more upbeat and talks about
the four Rabbis who went into the “Pardes” concluding with the gesture “Now
you can go into your own Pardes.” This song features some very nice harmony,
and the tune is pretty good too, so don’t get put off by the preceding two
songs. It’s a nice way to end the album, with that feeling of standing at a
crossroad, choosing which way to go. It has the feel of the song “Eizehu”
from Pardes (volume 1).

In conclusion, Pardes 2 does not live up entirely to Pardes 1, but it is
nonetheless a nice album. Plusses are music and lyrics, minuses are singing
quality and lack of harmony. I would recommend Pardes over Pardes 2, but if
you have Pardes already, give 2 a sample listen before you buy it. I know of
people who have either liked the sequel or disliked it. On the whole though,
it is nice, but hopefully Pardes 3 will be as good, if not better than
number 1.

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