Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Tefilosi (Nochum Stark)

Artist’s web site: Nochum Stark.com

Album can be previewed/purchased at Mostly Music.com

Reviewer: Mindy

Here is my comprehensive take on Tefilosi.

Disclaimer #1: I am NOT in any way, shape or form, a recognized Jewish Music critic. My opinion holds absolutely no weight. I am just a li'l ol' lady from Williamsburg who luvs JM and runs a little fancy web site on the web. So I ask everyone to take my review with a grain of salt.

Disclaimer #2: Since Nochum is part of the group, I obviously had to keep most criticism out of it. Actually, there isn't that much to criticize about the album, but I obviously had to be more vigilant in my wording. Then again, I hope Nochum will not take offense to the smidgen of criticism contained herein.

Disclaimer #3: Bear in mind that as a rule, I can't STAND solo albums. No matter who it is. Even if Oded would produce a solo album I probably would hate it. (Okay, okay, I am just kidding.) So if I like ANYTHING about a solo album, it's a plus.

Now here we go.

There are three basics to my critique:

1) Nochum's voice
2) The slow songs
3) The fast songs

1. Nochum's voice:

It is without question that Nochum's voice is absolutely super on this album. The hard work he has put in to embellish and improve his voice is very evident. It is moving, it is sublime, and it is perfect in every way. I truly compliment him on that aspect - I was blown away from the first second that I heard it on the radio. I don't have to add another fancy adjective to what Nochum's voice is like on this album.

2. The slow songs:

Every single slow song is absolutely amazing. I was literally moved to tears by some of them. Mi Adir (#2), Tefilosi (#4), Retzei (#7), V'Harev No (#9), are GEMS. Masterpieces each. I can listen to them over and over again and not get bored. Zevy has a super voice and it blends SO WELL with Nochum's. Boruch Abbitan, while I was never crazy over his voice even in '99, does an excellent job, especially the way he goes up in V'Harev No. I love the musical arrangements on Tefilosi - it sounds like an army embarking in battle and it's really fitting. So in short, when it comes to slow songs, Nochum's inner 'gefeel' and natural heartzigkeit are portrayed wonderfully. No one can dispute any of that. A perfect compilation of slow songs.

3. The fast songs:

As you have probably guessed, I left the criticism for last!!! Actually, this is my only sore point of the album.... The fast songs leave a bit to be desired... and it's not really the fault of Nochum Stark. The problem is threefold actually:

a) As we have discussed ad infinitum and ad nauseum, JM songs today are so repetitive and similar that they have become one long monotonous blend of nothingness. Say for example, if an ovel who has just finished his year of aveilus goes to a chasuneh for the first time in a year, and he hasn't heard ANY of the albums which were released this year, he will be unable to differentiate between an MBD, Dachs, Williger, or Stark selection. ALL ARE VIRTUALLY THE SAME, and as Steven so ably pointed out this morning, when you start singing any song from any album, you end up singing songs from a myriad of other albums. All sound the same. Therefore, I found it hard to get excited over any of the fast songs on this album.

b) After all is said and done, and this is a compliment to Nochum - Nochum Stark is made more for slow songs. Again, the heart and feeling he puts into a song is so evident in his slow heartzigeh tunes, and it gets totally lost in the fast songs. There are certain singers who do a lot better on slow songs, and Nochum is one of them. Ari Goldwag, for instance, also does much better on slow songs than on fast ones. Therefore, I have a hard time liking the fast songs on Tefilosi, since they don't compare to the beautiful slow tunes.

c) The choice of composers is also a major factor in the fast songs here. Don't think that I disliked all of the fast songs on the album. There are two fast songs which I liked immediately and I have nothing but compliments for these two: VeSigoleh (#6) and #8 (Ki HaMalchus). When I checked who the composers were, I was amazed! VeSigoleh was composed by Yisroel Meir Merkin - I'm impressed. This song has the potential to become a popular hora at weddings, if the musicians will pick up on it. Ki HaMalchus was composed by our very own Pinky Weber, who as I mentioned, was the badchan at my own wedding 5 1/2 years ago. I liked these two right away and I will continue liking them. As for the rest of the fast songs, I have basically stated my point. I have never heard of Alex Hoffman, and I don't know of any hit songs composed by Yitzchok Waldner. Tefilosi was done by Eisenstark who is supposedly a good composer, and Retzeh, which is basically my favorite song (almost) is by somene Gavriel Kahane whom I never heard of either (NOTE FROM MINDY: GAVRIEL KAHANE ENDED UP BEING A FORMER MBC KID) and VeHarev is by Shlomo Drebin whom I've never heard of either, but the slow songs are really good. Naturally, Mi Adir, the songs composed by Nochum himself, is really superb.

Once again, I ask Nochum not too take any of this personally but to view it as an objective opinion and constructive criticism only. I'm sure there are other opinions out there and am wondering what others out there think. I still consider this a must-get album, and on a scale of 1 to 10, I'd rate this

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