Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Shalsheles 3

Artist’s web site: Shalsheles.com

Album can be previewed/purchased at Mostly Music.com

Reviewer: Harry

General Introductory Stuff: I've been a big fan of Shalesheles' music ever since the first cd (I also own Rozeh D'Shabbos and the Dreaming single - they're my favorite JM group), and I have eagerly anticipated the release of Shalsheles III (which I was honestly expecting to come out next year to keep in with the 2 year pattern - V.1 - 2000, V.2 - 2002, etc). So getting it now was a nice surprise. I've always been more into faster JM, but Shalsheles was the first group to really show me the beauty of slow niggunim as well. Their slow songs in particular are always incredible and never cease to amaze me.

As a bit of a side note, I was pretty puzzled about the look of this album. V.1 was cool colors, V.2 warm colors, and the range of blues used on V.3 is a pleasant change. Nothing groundbreaking, but it follows in the Shalsheles style of transitioning colors.

Anyway, onto the review...

1) Gadlu - a very nice way to open up the album. The piano/keyboard intro is perfect and sets the mood for another album. It's another medium pace song, not too fast, not too slow - which I think has become Shalsheles' trademark style. I don't think this is quite as good as Shalom from V.2 which just seemed to say to me "hey guys, remember us? We're baaaaack." Anyway, the harmonies are quite nice, with each member getting there shot individually. The only part that really doesn't sit well with me is the fading off at the end, I don't know why, but it doesn't sound right. Overall, very enjoyable, and like I mentioned, a great way to open the album. Definitely one of my favorite faster songs on the album.

2) Shma - another example of the style Shalsheles is known for, slow, but powerful. The song heavily features the member of the group with the sweetest voice, which is not a bad thing at all, since he's my favorite singer in the group (for the enlightened ones, please tell me which guy this is, thanks). It's a great slow song, there's not much else to say. I also really like the ending...

3) Yhi Shmo - this song is a bit of a departure from Shalsheles' usual style. It's a bit faster in the vein of Tzadik from V.2, and features a choir of boys. Something about the echo of their voices is a little bit unusual, although I can't really put my finger on it.

4) Achas - the song starts off beautifully, I love the piano in the background. It's another great slow song in the usual Shalsheles flair, I don't think there is anything else to add.

5) Mi Yaleh - this seems to be the song along the lines of Gadol in V.2. I really like the way the music matches the voice work here, building up, and going back down gracefully, especially at 3:54 - classic Shalsheles.

6) A'aleh - this is the faster hit of the album, IMO. I particularly like the horn instruments used with the "A'aleh" chorus at 1:36. The song has an unusual sound to it, with the saxophone and the sound that I can only phonetically describe as "chicka-wocka" - I'm not sure what instrument produces the sound, but it's very distinct (guitar maybe? I'm not sure). The ending is also perfect. This song is definitely my favorite faster song.

7) Nishmas - to sum up the entirety of this song in one word - GORGEOUS. It's in the vein of Yehi Shalom from V2. and Mah Tovu from V.1 as many have already noted. The child soloist Yechiel Fuchs does an amazing job. This song is the longest on the album (a little over 7 min), and deservedly so, it's incredible melody makes you want it to never end. It's that good. I can not stop praising this song. Definitely my favorite slow song on the album.

8) Hodu - another faster song. It has another great intro. More of the "chicka-wocka" guitar is found here - and like I said, it's a new sound found on a Shalsheles album. This song is ok, probably my least favorite faster song on the album. It's good but not great. The "Shiru lo shir chadash" chorus kinda gets repetative.

9) V'liyerushalayim - I really like the small wind instrument used in the opening of this. Another new distinctive sound. The group work on this is particularly impressive. It also ends with a short flurry little flute that I enjoy so much. Great song.

10) Chai - the electric guitars in the opening of this song sound very weird to me, when we hear them a second time very shortly after, they sound appropriate (like in the BGM in Tzadik) but at first they are just odd... When the guitars come back and play their part again at close to 2 min, it doesn't sound as weird... maybe it's just the opening. The "Ad...Ad... Ad olam" part at 1:16 (and repeated later) is cute and servces as great shtick. Overall, it's a good fast song, not my favorite, but still verry good.

11) Lamnatzeach - the opening words "Lamnatzeach al neginos l'Dovid" consistently sound a little unusual to me. I dunno why. Again, it's a nice slow song in the Shalsheles tradition.

12) Dreaming - most people have heard this English song from the single for the Voices of Israel campaign that came out a while back. I think it's nice Shalsheles included it here, even if I can't feel a little bad for already owning it. The positive side is that I don't have to dig out the single if I want to hear the beautiful song. I love the lyrics - they're still perfect, although a bit more applicable when it was originally released (even though the loss of Rochel's Tomb and the Ma'aras Hamachbpelah still affect us - they had just happened then). The part "We must unite in Israel's fight... we have so much to lose," at 4:43 is still spine-tingling. It's the quintessential English Shalsheles song, and I'm glad it was included, since I often find a lot of English songs lacking.

Overall, the album is a great continuation of Shalshles and their unique style, and I can't wait for V.4 when it's released in a few years. If you're a fan of Shalsheles, I think you'll enjoy it, if you've never really been exposed to Shalsheles before, I'd say purchase the albums in order, as I find that they show a nice development in style and voice. I wouldn't say that this is the best Shalsheles album so far, but it is a very worthy addition to your JM collection to round out the trilogy of albums released so far. Enjoy.

Reviewer: Mindy
Until roughly the year 2000, solo albums and childrens’ choirs largely dominated the JM landscape. Then Shalsheles came along, and they get the credit for bringing the “group album” back to the fore. I was not a Shalsheles fan from the start. When the Shalsheles craze began, I refused to subscribe to it. When the 2nd one came out, I bought it after all the raving going on in this group but I wasn’t too impressed. Only after the YU Chanukah double album came out, did I become a shtickle Shalsheles fan. I borrowed the first album and realized that their songs are destined classics. Yodu, Esa Ainay, Mi HaIsh, etc., are really beautiful songs that keep to the essence of Jewish music with a contemporary twist. So I became a laid-back lukewarm Shalsheles fan. Shalsheles III came out, and at the first ten listens I did not like it at all. I realized that I would never be a genuine Shalsheles fan, because a genuine fan likes a new cd at first listen. But then, FTR and Segal started playing various cuts from the album which aren’t obvious at first. They were pretty lucky that their CD and big HASC concert coincide (perhaps not lucky, perhaps orchestrated), because that guaranteed them more radio coverage. Bottom line, hidden within the obvious supposed-to-be-hits such as tracks 1 and 7, are some really quality songs. After many listens the album grew on me enough that I went out and purchased the tape. It took a full evening to painstakingly turn them into mp3s for my computer, and now I’m ready to run through the songs and tell you what I think of them. I finally fine tuned my voice recognition and now I know who’s who :). I’ll elaborate on that for your pleasure.

As always, Shalsheles doesn’t write huge flowery lists of credits in their cd cover. They keep their families modestly anonymous, which is a laudable trait. The childrens’ choir consists of: Ariel Abbitan, Yechiel Fuchs, Moshe Herzka, Benny Rishty, Isaac Rudy, and Raymond Shwekey. Quite a few ‘familiar’ sounding names.

The compositions are all beautiful; Yitzchok Rosenthal is incredibly talented. Baruch Aryeh’s and Simcha Sussman’s voices come out very strongly on this album.

Every song on album 3 can find a counterpart on volumes 1 and 2. All three albums are consistent in continuing the Shalsheles style. 8 of the 10 songs are from tehillim!!! Only Nishmas is from Shacharis of Shabbos and Chai HaShem is from Nach. I guess now I will find even more songs in Tehillim to sing along to!

On to the songs:
1. Gadlu. It starts with piano work which I love. This song deviates from the usual initial song on Shalsheles albums. While I love this song I thought it belongs in slot 3, but I guess after having Godol as #3, Gadlu as #3 would seem strange. I think this tune is definitely among the more “modern-sounding” in the Shalsheles repertoire. The “choir” work is done exceptionally well. It’s one of the hits of the tape, my second favorite fast song. Initial vocals done in this order: Yitzchok, Chaim, Simcha, Baruch. Great song to start the tape off with.

2. Shma. Hands down, my favorite slow song on the album. This reminds me a lot of Mah Tovu, with Baruch Aryeh doing a large part of the first half. His voice just gets better with every succeeding album! He has a truly spectacular voice – with real heart. Chaim also does a beautiful piece on this song. Later, there is a great duet by Simcha and Chaim together. Baruch finishes off the song magnificently. This is definitely the hit slow song of the album.

3. Yehi Shmo. The “Godol” clone song, is in this case, at slot 5, and slot 3 features a second “Hodu” song – that is, with a childrens’ choir. Volume 2 had not had such a song. I find the first kiddie part to be too screechy, but otherwise the song is great. A rousing, toe-tapping song.

4. Achas. Here’s your equivalent of Olatz. Very nice slow Shalsheles style. The song doesn’t bore you because although it is slow it is a kind of enthusiastic song. Not a depressing slow type song.

5. Mi Yaaleh. Here is your “Godol” style song. I liked this song as soon as I heard it, and I think it will become another Shalsheles classic. Outstanding introductory vocals by Simcha Sussman, and the rest of the vocals are excellent as well. Super song.

6. Aaleh. I really didn’t like this song much at the first, say, 10 listens. Now I like it. Interesting how this song segues into Mehairo HaShem, from Aaleh. Nice freilach style song.

7. Nishmas. Here comes your next “Esa Ainay/Yehi Shalom.” I frankly think this falls between Esa and Yehi. I liked it way better than Yehi. Yechiel Fuchs has no trouble hitting the high notes, unlike the straining in Yehi in Volume 2. I love the piano intro. I like that Yechiel comes back later to sing another piece at the end. The song is really beautiful and I think will go down in the annals of JM as another classic slow Shalsheles hit.

8. Hodu. This is my favorite fast song on the album. Did you notice that part of the song is “Uvoruch Shem Kvodo” that The Chevra has as a a song? Amazing how one song can sound so different when done The Chevra way and the Shalsheles way – lol.

9. ViLiyerushalayim. Great relaxing song to rest up from the frantic breathless dancing from Hodu. Nice vocals, solos, heartzig tune. Gorgeous stuff from Baruch Aryeh.

10. Chai. You wouldn’t expect a hit song at Slot #10. But here you’ve got a fast, upbeat, toe-tapping number which I really enjoy. Chaim Block gets to strut his stuff here. Habotchim style song which reminds me a lot of the lebedikeit of some of the songs on Volume 1. It’s a pretty original style tune.

11. Lamnatzeach. I think that this song belongs earlier in the album. I would switch it with song 9. Again, a great slow Shalsheles song.

12. Dreaming – the song minus the lyrics (probably no room on the insert). I never got the single but got my fill of the song on Jm in the Am when it was hot. It’s nice to have for free ;).

That’s it – Shalsheles III, Mindy-style. Took me a while to like it – but now I’m hooked!

Comments on this review can be left below.


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October 27, 2005 at 12:28 PM  

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