Sunday, October 24, 2004

Simcha B'libi (Ari Goldwag)

Artist’s web site:

Album can be previewed/purchased at the site

Reviewer: Mindy

The former child prodigy has done it again. Ari Goldwag has once again composed, sung, recorded, arranged, directed, and produced his own CD. You know what they say – a debut album is only successful if the second one is as good as the first. Nah, I just made that up. But it’s true, if you think about it. Many debuts have come and gone without a follow-up album. But Ari is here to stay. He still has many compositions to offer and the Jewish Music world will yet benefit from his musical genius.

I was really nervous before the album hit the stores. I had heard many of the songs in advance, and while the compositions by themselves were great, you can’t judge a song until the package isn’t complete. I hoped the arrangements, choir, etc. would be good, if not better than the first album.

I was not disappointed.

As I mentioned before, this CD needs time to grow on you. I find this to be the case with almost every solo album. Solo singers tend to bore you, so you need to listen closely and thoroughly. Then the magical moment happens – the CD clicks with you, and the musical message entrances you. The songs on Simcha B’libi are all simple and singable yet they reach into your heart.

In typical Ari style, every song he releases has a message to convey and some even have a story behind them. The CD insert offers the source and translation of every song plus a little explanation as well, which is very inspiring.

Let’s move on to the songs – in my new simplified style which will make it easier to read. Since not all of the songs had negatives, I only put them in where necessary.

Song: Boruch HaShem
Composed by: Elimelech Blumstien
My rating: 10
General: I was very surprised that the first cut on the album was NOT an Ari Goldwag composition! I also had no clue what the words were until I got the CD. It is quite an unusual combination. The first possuk is from Shoftim: לבי לחוקקי ישראל המתנדבים בעם ברכו ה' , followed by “Boruch Hashem L’olam omen v’amen” etc. I had never heard those words before, and it made for an interesting combination.
Positives: This is a very catchy song. The word “b’om” makes the song sound like it has “bum, bum, bum” in it. It’s fast, it’s lebedig, it’s an instant hit.
Negatives: The tune is a fairly simple one, but it’s very well orchestrated so it doesn’t bore you.

Song: Hu Haitiv
Composed by: Ari Goldwag
My rating: 7.5
General: Interestingly enough, instead of going the ‘fast song, slow song’ route, Ari chose to have a semi-fast song as the 2nd track. The words are from birchas hamazon, הוא הטיב הוא מטיב הוא יטיב לנו etc.
Positives: It’s a really ‘cute’, catchy song. I have to say that since I heard this song I find my bentching more meaningful and stop when I reach these words to reflect on them. The music is very nice, and it’s one of those tunes you’ll want to bop along to. The acapella part at the end is a nice added touch.
Negatives: The tune is a bit repetitious and it drags on a bit long (5 ½ minutes), but it’s got its unique twists so it’s not a yawner.

Song: Ana HaShem
Composed by: Ari Goldwag
My rating: 9.5
General: Ari’s strong point is his slow song. The compositions are always amazing, and he sings with such deep feeling and pure heart that you can’t help but be captivated. He also wisely chooses excellent pesukim for his slow songs, so that when you reach those words in your own davening or tehillim, you feel moved and inspired.
Positives: I love the piano intro. It’s a beautiful, moving song which will uplift you.

Song: Dror Yikra
Composed by: Ari Goldwag
My rating: 8.5
General: I had heard this song in advance and was kind of leery, because it’s a Sefardi song. I couldn’t for the life of me imagine serious Ari Goldwag singing in Sefardi. But the result was surprisingly good. What a fun song!
Positive: Lebedige, Sfardi style song but not overdone. You’ll find yourself dancing along in no time, if not actually singing along in Sefardi.
Negatives: I still find it a bit comical to hear Ari singing Sefardi. Haha :).

Song: Elokai Neshama
Composed by: Ari Goldwag
My rating: 10.5
General: This is easily the most moving song on the album. Ari composed this when his good friend Avi Stewart’s (the “Chaim Schwartz” on Ruach Uneshama) sister passed away (sadly at a very young age). You can feel the raw emotion that this song portrays. I paused this morning when I said Elokai Neshama and the song sang in my head. This song features a duet with Avi, who has a remarkably similar voice to Ari. If I hadn’t known it was Avi I would’ve thought it was just Ari doing harmony.
Positives: This is an absolutely stunning song. I daresay it’s Ari’s best slow song yet. The harmony is exquisite, the tune very original. It’s slow and moving at first and then speeds up but remains very moving. It is this song that makes the album what it is. This song alone makes the whole album worthwhile. The arrangements are fabulous, especially the piano at the end of the song.

Song: Time
Composed by: Ari Goldwag
My rating: 7.5
General: This is an English song featuring a duet with Ari at age 14.
Positives: The only thing that’s really outstanding about this song is its sentimentality. It’s always a treat to hear the Ari Goldwag of youth. The song was ostensibly composed by Ari at a young age (he’s 14 when he sings it, but his voice is still remarkably good). The message of the song is a simple one, to trust in HaShem. It’s fun to ‘imagine’ that Ari junior is singing side by side with Ari senior, or to picture it as a time capsule. The harmony is great and music is excellent. I’m not sure if I like Aleinu more than than this song; Aleinu was one-dimensional and this has more to it, but Aleinu was exciting cuz it was the first time we heard Ari+Ari.
Negatives: The quality of the childhood recording is not too good. The then and now parts of Aleinu merged more flawlessly; you could swear there was a real child soloist there. Here it’s more obvious that it’s an old recording. The lyrics are also very simple and as someone wrote, “campy”. It’s a fun song to listen to though.

Song: Simcha B’libi
Composed by: Ari Goldwag
My rating: 7
General: When I first heard this song as a raw cut, I thought to myself “This will never work!” The entire song consists of three words: נתת שמחה בליבי. It’s from Tehillim kapitel Daled. Then when the Cd came out I was pleasantly surprised what Ari did with the song. The music is great and it’s a fast moving song – he did a great job with it. It’s quite unusual to have a Title Track at the Seventh Slot.
Positives: The song does exactly what the words say – nosato simcha blibi – to put joy in my heart.
Negatives: Song is a bit repetitious; but it’s only four minutes long so it doesn’t get tiring.

Song: V’hoyo
Composed by: Ari Goldwag
My rating: 11
General: This is Oichila II – but even better than Oichila. This song just gives me the chills. The music is outstanding, the emotion unbelievable. The words highly original, and the message profound. The words are from Ovadiah: והי' בית יעקב אש ובית יוסך להבה ובית עשו לקש ודלקו בהם ואכלום. ולא יהיה שריד לבית עשו כי ה' דבר.. Ari explains on the insert that “The days are coming soon when Klal Yisroel, the children of Yakov will rise up as a great flame, consuming all the corruption, filth, and contamination of the nations of the world. This is the fire of Torah and spirituality, which will quickly lay waste to the hollow emptiness of the meaningless values of the secular world in a flash, leaving no remnant but a cloud of smoke that will quickly dissipate, leaving no trace.” This is a very interesting concept and a beautiful song.
Positives: The musical arrangements on this song are outstanding; the vocals moving, and the message profound. It’s my favorite song on the album, like Oichila was. A-1 job.

Song: Ahalelo
Composed by: Dror Kivodi
My rating: 9
General: Very interesting song. A lot of it is sung on half-notes (don’t know the musical term for it). The song certainly keeps you on your toes. Fast, lebedige song, the words match the tune perfectly.
Positives: It’s really great that this CD has some good fast songs. Slow songs are usually always beautiful; if fast songs are good too then the album is complete.

Song: Aishes Chayil
Composed by: Ari Goldwag
My rating: 7.5
General: Beautiful Aishes Chayil song. I hope this will become a wedding staple, and I have a feeling it will. Elana Goldwag has a flute solo on the song.
Positives: Especially for a song on track 10 this is really good! Compare it to Boee BShalom on the first Ari Goldwag – a ballad sung by Ari all on his own.
Negatives: This tune gives you the distinct feeling of “I’ve heard it somewhere but don’t know where.” Maybe it’s just the words that are very common.

Song: We All Want To Believe
Composed by: Dror Kivodi
My Rating: 8
General: What a treat – an 11th track :). Very interesting, different English song, similar to “Shallow Waters” – by the same composer.
Positives: This is a very catchy song. You have to listen to it carefully and you will be amused. Ironically there is one line in it that says “Metaphors don’t mean a thing to me anymore” – and the entire song is one big metaphor :)! The lyrics are highly unusual and very entertaining. A sampling of the lines: “Better make that payment, better pay that toll, Because there is a lien upon your soul.” It’s not your usual “Moshiach is coming/Pray to HaShem/Let’s bring all our Russian brethren back to Yiddishkeit” theme.
Negatives: It takes a lot for a song not to sound “campy” and cliché, and this song will not go down as an English classic. It’s a great, fun song though.

Bonus track: Mimkomcho from V’Zoicher, composed by Avi Kula. Gorgeous song with quintessential Ari Goldwag gefeel.

Hidden track: 1 minute Acapella portion of the choir and Ari singing part of Ana HaShem.

Rating total: 93.5/110

Summary: It’s a solid offering, an Ari Goldwag masterpiece. You’ll be uplifted, inspired, find meaning in words you’ve been saying every day, and discover new words you’ve never heard before. Go get your copy today!

The Chevra 2

Artist’s web site:

Album can be previewed/purchased at the site

Reviewer: Noah

Ok, so after, no so little consideration I decided to take
the plunge and write my own review. I'm surprised that with so much
discussion that no one has written a review of Chevra 2. So, since
it's one of my favorite albums, I figured I'd give it a shot.

First of all, for those who were fans of the first Chevra
album, you might be a little disappointed with the sequel because it
is far less "goyish" and less "techno-ish," which, IMHO, makes for a
far superior album. That's not to say that I didn't enjoy the first
album, but this one is much more my style.

Secondly, all the reviews that I've seen have not included
ratings below a 5, so who am I to abandon the system. As such, the
ratings will go from 5-10.

Also, I will be attempting to assign names to the voices and it's
highly likely that I will be wrong, so I'm requesting mechila in
advance. Now, onto the songs.

1. Lecha: I'm under the impression that this song is supposed to be
the "Yehei" of this particular album. Now, as not a huge "Yehei"
fan myself, I can say that Mr. Gerstner succeeded. I do enjoy this
song very much; it's definitely one of the better fast songs, but I
would not call it 10 worthy. There are a few quirky things in this
song that caught my attention; the opening of the song is a vibrant
a capella short, that immediately grabs your attention. This is
awesome. Another part that I liked is the second time through the
song, before the low part, sung, I believe, by David, has a few
arhythmic nah-nah-nahs, which were pretty cool. And then there is a
solid modulation a few seconds later. The end is also pretty neat
when all the singers come together for a final "neitzach v'hahod,"
which echoes out into silence. Definitely a great way to start the
album, and I give it a solid 8.5.

2. Shalom: Before reviewing this song. Let's just say that I'm a
big fan of slow songs, and Menucha is my favorite album. Good. The
slow songs on the album are fantastic. This song, which is
excellent, is either my second or third favorite of the slow ones,
which is only to Eli's credit that the other two are that much
better. This song definitely gets points for originality; the
words "Esht'cha k'gefen poriyah b'yark'sei beisecha…," are beautiful
and seldom used. The high part, "Shalom al Yisrael," almost makes
you believe that we really are at peace. They keep repeating the
word "shalom" so many times, but it doesn't seem repetitive as one
would think. The harmonies that they use for the high part, which
change for each refrain, are excellent. After a few run-throughs
the high part changes into a short bridge section ending with a
beautiful part by Avi singing "Yisra-eh-eh-eh-ehl!" And right
after that, Eli does one of his little shticks, in which the music
stops entirely for a second and then we hit the singing again. This
song really does it for me, so I give it a 9.

3. Mi Zeh: Just to remind everyone that we are indeed listening to
the Chevra, Eli tosses in an upbeat techno piece. Those of you who
are into techno will love it. I don't have strong feelings about
techno in either direction, but even so, this is my least favorite
song on the album. This song would be the equivalent of, say,
Vayiten B'fi from the first album. The only thing that keeps it
from receiving my lowest rating is after the second time through the
song, the singers go back to the nah-nahs that began the song, and
then, in true Gerstner style, he does that little crescendo where
the nah-nahs start off a little above a whisper and rise in volume
until they go back to the high part, "Se-u shearim." If you don't
understand what I mean, it's very similar to the very end
of "Tehilas Hashem," on the Yeshiva Boys Choir Album. I think those
quirks are really cool. So, this song rates a 6 with me.

4. Odcha: This is my absolute favorite song on the album. Even
after getting the album 6 months ago, I still listen to this song
every time I sit down at my computer. Eli makes his standard cameo
appearance as he does in Mi Bon Siach on the first album, and as he
does in V'hu on YBC and Ovinu on Menucha. And, believe it or not,
this song is so nicely done with the harmonies that I'd like it even
more if we could hear the Chevra the whole time, and not have Eli
the first time around. The words are beautiful, "Odcha Hashem
Elokai b'chol levavi, va'achavda shimcha l'olam." One can really
feel as if the singers really are praising G-d with all their hearts
and will honor his name forever. Every time I hear the second high
part, it almost breaks my heart. After a short modulation, Avi
goes up for an extended "Eeeee-lokai-ai-ai" followed by Dovid
singing "b'chol levavi" beautifully. I'd pay full price for an
album for just this single. This one gets a yasher koach and a big

5. Va'ani: This is a really cute song with that little bit of
middle eastern tinge. There's also this great shtick that Eli
writes into the song which I think is fabulous. The first time
through the song, the singers use an ashkenazi accent, i.e. "yagel
libi bishuosecha." The second time through they use a sephardic
accent, i.e. "yagel libi bishuatecha," with more nasal sounds and
more israeli lameds and reishes. I hope you know what I mean. I
rate this song a 9.

6. Es Panecha: This song is one of those not too fast, not too slow
ones, the equivalent of Shoma Hashem from the first album. I really
like this one. I'm not really sure why, but it's like your favorite
sports team, or your spouse; you just love them. Sorry, I wasn't so
much help on this one, it's just that it doesn't have any
outstanding characteristics, it's just a solid song. It gets a 9
from me.

7. Samachti: At first I thought this song was another one of those
generic techno songs, and I began skipping it whenever I came to
it. However, I recently gained a new appreciation for it. Each
time we get to the high part, "Omdos hoyu ragleinu," it gets me
pumped, especially when they do a neat modulation later in the
song. Towards the end, Dovid does a cool set of nah-nahs, which go
really high, and this is followed by a final "Omdos hayu" part with
only percussion in the background. This one gets an 8.5.

8. Hashem: This is my least favorite slow song on the album, but
it's still a pretty good song. Eli's choice of words was
unexpected, "Hashem yishmorcha mikol ra, yishmore es nafshecha.
B'yado afkeed ruchi b'eis ishan v'a'ira, v'im ruchi geviyasi, Hashem
li v'lo ira." The little boy who starts off the song is very good.
The high part tends to get screechy at times, but it's still
impressive how Dovid goes so extremely high. I also think the song
is too drawn out and the parts are repeated too many times. Still a
good song, so it gets a 7.5.

9. Invei: Recent albums have all had the requisite wedding song,
usually Mi Adir, Mi Bon Siach, or Meheirah. Invei fills the role of
the wedding song, but with a little bit of Eli's techno style. The
beginning of the song reminds me of what a club would sound like.
The song is pretty standard, but it has a few interesting quirks.
Since the words go "Invei hagefen v'invey hagefen," it makes for
good harmony. Not too much else to say about this one, but it's
pretty good. I give it an 8.

10. Yehi Hashem: This is a really interesting song, and I think I
like it a lot. It starts off with nah-nahs done a capella style,
which is really nice. You can really hear the meaning behind the
words as well, especially when they sing the high part, "Al
ya'azveinu v'al yitsheinu." After two run-throughs, they do the nah-
nah's again, and then Eli changes the tune around entirely leading
into different nah-nah's which are really awesome. These finally
lead into one more set of "Al ya'azveinu." The end of the song
could use a little work, but I still really like it. Another 9.

So, there you have it. I hope you all enjoy the review, and I
really want to get some feedback. Thanks for reading.