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!


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