In today’s times when there is usually a PR blitz starting several months before an album release, culminating in either a pre-release music video or some other event to introduce the new album, Tuesday’s news that Yaakov Shwekey’s new album, Cry No More,would be available in less than a week, came as quite a surprise. The ability to purchase the newly announced album as a download, just one day later, was a feat that few could manage to pull off. Being that this is my third review of a Yaakov Shwekey album, it is very obvious that I am a big fan of his, and I have a feeling I am not in the minority. There is no need to build up any hype or anticipation for a release in Yaakov’s world. While it is very hard for me to have a true feeling and opinion for an album after only listening to it for a couple of days, I usually walk away with a pretty strong opinion after a first impression, and this time is no different. I think I can say confidently that this is once again, a quality Yaakov Shwekey album, expertly produced by Yochi Briskman, and in conjunction with his usual partners in music, Yochi’s immensely talented son, Yanky, and versatile composer Yitzy Waldner among others. I am especially excited by some “different” things he did with this album, which I will elaborate on later.
Here are my song by song first impressions:
K’dai- The song starts fading in, with what sounds like a mix of techno and real music. It immediately quiets as soon as Yaakov starts singing, to highlight the beginning of the song, and the beat picks up the 2nd time around the low part. In my opinion, it is a very tastefully done arrangement by Yanky Briskman. The song, composed by Yitzy Waldner, is a nice hora, and a perfect song to begin the album with.
Batuach Ani- This is a slow and hartzige song composed by Elimelech Blumstein, and arranged by Yanky Briskman. It is a beautiful song that really highlights Yaakov’s voice and amazing range, but it is a typical “Shwekey style” song. While I enjoy chiddush (as you’ll see soon) I still enjoy the classics, and this was an enjoyable song to listen to.
Lo Yaavod- If someone listened to the first to songs and stopped, they would probably think that this is another typical Shwekey album. Well my friends, I think that by the third song you will see it’s not. This song is composed by Yossi Muller, arranged by Jeff Horovich, and features a blast from the past (and perhaps the future) Metalish. Metalish was a group of musicians, Yochi Briskman, Dani Maman, Menachem Herman, and Jeff Horovich, who put out 3 albums of Jewish songs with a heavy metal interpretation. I myself have never been into heavy metal (or any secular music for that matter) however when their first CD came out I was taking guitar lessons from a heavy metal aficionado, who asked to borrow the Metalish CD. He was not a Jewish person, nor had he ever heard Jewish songs before, and was so amazed by the talent and musicianship on the CD that he had me buy him a CD and told me it was the best heavy metal release he had heard in a long time. I have always enjoyed their work, and this song is no different.
Mi Bon Siach- This is another slow composition of Yitzy Waldner. It sounds similar to other songs out there. I am not sure if I have ever expressed my shita on songs written to Mi Adir or Mi Bon Siach before, so I apologize in advance if I have. There are so many songs being used for those special words sung under a chupa, and I find the words themselves to be overused on albums. In my opinion, it takes a special song to mesh with these words. The song is long enough however, for the kallah to walk around at least 7 times.
Hiney Anochi- Moshe Laufer! Need I say anything else? This is a classic styled Moshe Laufer lebedik song composition and arrangement. The Shira Chadasha Boys Choir, under the direction of multi talented Nachman Seltzer, add their talents to this song.
Oleinu- This is a slow and hartzige song composed by Ezi Reissman. At first, it sounds like a typical Shwekey styled slow song. Being that this is a composer who I have never heard of before, I wanted to listen a few extra times to see what stands out from the song. Ironically the first thing that jumps out at me is the words of the song. Usually people rush through Oleinu, when it is such a meaningful Tefila. In that respect, the song and the words really fit well. The song is really a sweet song, and I absolutely love the vocal arrangements and the backup vocals on this song.
Rabi Nehorai- This is an upbeat hora that is composed by Yitzy Waldner & Elie Schwab. It is arranged by Ruvi Banet & Yanky Briskman. The saxophone solo to start the song off, presumably by Arkady Kaufman is nice! I have a soft spot for songs about Torah, and especially songs about teaching Torah to the next generation. My favorite times of the week are the times I get to learn with my son.
Yesimcho- This might be the song of the album. Composed by Yitzchok Rosenthal, of Shalsheles fame, this beautiful and touching slow song with equally beautiful words really hits home. Combine it with the masterful arrangements of, in my opinion the best arranger in Jewish music, Yisroel Lamm, what more can you ask for? Oh yeah, Yaakov’s son, Menachem sings on the song too. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!
Retzoneini- This is a very lebedik Chasiddishe style song composed by Pinky Weber and arranged by Yanky Briskman. You can always count on at least one song in this style from Yaakov (e.g. Menagen and Emes). The song does go a bit too long, but there are some really nice arrangements that spice up the song.
Cry No More- This is a very poignant and emotional song about us yearning for the coming of Mashiach. The song is composed by Yaakov himself together with Yitzy Waldner, and the lyrics are written by Ken Burgess. The arrangements by Yanky Briskman have a techno pop feel to them, but are not overdone and enjoyable.
In conclusion, my first impression is that this is another quality album by Yaakov Shwekey. It is already available for download at http://www.mostlymusic.com/cry-no-more.html and will be available wherever quality Jewish music is sold shortly.