With the upcoming release of The Yess Legacy, a double album all star-project, Gershon Veroba, who is co-producing the album along with Yerachmiel Zeigler took some time out of his uber-hectic schedule to share some thoughts on the project with JMR readers.
JMR: What made you decide to undertake this project?
Gershon Veroba: I’ve always wanted to, really. I’ve had many of the ideas of how I would prefer to do these songs since I knew the guys way back when. I had even recorded multitrack harmonies for “Go See Your Mother” just for enjoyment. When Yerachmiel Ziegler called me last June and told me he had this idea he wanted to make a reality, it meant I had someone else to do it with, so I spoke to Yossi Zweig, who I always do my projects with and we decided to go ahead. I approached Benny Taubenfeld at Sameach Music and found that, much to my surprise, I didn’t have to beg him much for his support. Even in tough times where only the few established hit performers get financial backing, Benny gave me the green light.
JMR: How long have you been working on it?
GV: Since about June this past year. We had to gather which songs we wanted, so we first spoke with the family. Then we had to cut it down from about 40 of our favorites to a more manageable number. We then discussed how each would be approached and produced, decided who between Yerachmiel and myself, would take charge of which songs. Then came the difficult task of finding performers and musicians to do it for love, because the money we offered was either little or nothing. If they wouldn’t have accepted that, there would have been no album at all, but those who remembered listening or performing with Moshe had no trouble jumping in. Others who had heard of him or liked what we played for them, felt it would be a unique opportunity with music they could respect and enjoy performing. This process was ongoing for months, sometimes losing one artist because of lack of schedule fit or simply not right for the song. Constant re-positioning of the artists took up a lot of time, even while we were already underway in the studio.
JMR: How many songs are featured on the album?
GV: That number kept on changing…25, 26, 32… We actually produced 30, one of which we decided to wait on for a future release and, instead, we replaced with an old recording of Moshe doing a live performance for himself, a friend and a tape recorder during a camping trip in Canada. The recording came from a rare album no longer in print, like most of Moshe’s albums today. His son, Naftali, gave us the entire catalog to work from and soon after, we realized that 12-14 songs wasn’t going to be nearly enough. That’s when we knew it would have to be a double album. Have you ever listened to Moshe Yess’ entire catalog? It’s torture to be the one who says “yeah, that’s a great song, but we can’t include it.”
JMR: Who produced and arranged the album?
GV: It depends on which songs we’re talking about. Many were arranged by the performers, like Nochi Krohn and Soulfarm, who produced their songs in their respective studios after long discussions with me. A collaborative effort, but ultimately it was their sound that resulted. Yerachmiel Ziegler, of course, produced a bunch of the songs at his studio in Israel. Many of the musicians were depended upon for their contributions to the arrangements, which is another reason why certain people were chosen to do this album, instead of just hiring available studio musicians who knew nothing about Moshe or Shalom, having little interest or incentive to be part of the project and it’s goals. Gal Gershovsky and Tony Montalbo discussed their parts with me at length and insisted on recording without any written music because they simply preferred to connect with the songs individually. I believe you’ll find no one who could have connected more strongly and captured the music so precisely, creating essential foundations for most of the tracks you’ll be hearing. Moshe Antelis was close friends with Moshe, performing with him countless times. His soulful guitar and bass parts on “Hinei” and “Fight In The Man,” two songs that he and I performed for years together, help define the song as it was meant, in my opinion.
JMR: Was the music redone for this project or did you keep the old arrangements?
GV: We had the best musicians available to us to create this music from scratch. Even if we decided to make exact copies of the originals, they would have come out different and new, so we stretched the boundaries while keeping the spirit of the original. Fortunately, even though Moshe and Shalom were able to present these with as few as one or two instruments, that never meant those songs couldn’t sound even more complete with a larger arrangement, but we were very careful. Many songs and arrangements, some fully produced and recorded, were rejected because they missed the mark and we felt they wouldn’t be supported by the original artists. Many of the tracks on this album were based on the original arrangements, though brought current or expanded with another instrument or two. Sometimes piano was used instead of guitar, sometime both were used for a more full sound or alternative mood. Others were almost completely revamped and expanded, some even got completely new treatments, but at all times the goal was to be sure that, if Moshe Yess himself were to hear it, he would appreciate it and accept it as a valid expression of what he intended.
JMR: Any bonuses other surprises?
GV: This was a difficult project, with the participation of dozens of people contributing from around the world, so things don’t always go as planned. I personally could do without any more surprises. I do, however, believe that there are enough unique experiences for everyone who buys this album, to keep them listening over and over and get something different and meaningful from every song in different ways. For Jewish music, that can be a surprise in itself. Here’s a surprise…even with the greatest Jewish performers of today singing songs from one of the most admired Jewish performers of all time, in this entire project, there’s only one song in Hebrew! Mainly because Moshe’s roots were solidly American, that was his method of contributing to Jewish music and inspiration.
JMR: When do you expect the album to be in stores?
GV: Hopefully by the time this article is released, if not shortly after. Our original goal was Chanukah, but the hurricane messed up our plans.
JMR: Anything else you want to share with the world?
GV: We were so privileged to have Shalom Levine, a”h, Moshe’s partner in Megama, in the studio to help us on this project. Shalom was the production and musical genius that was a perfect match for Moshe’s magic. Shalom reminded me while he was here that his mind and ears were naturally awesome and skilled. He sensed arrangement, accompaniment, mood, texture and technical sound management like a pro, though he hadn’t done it for over 30 years. He had the opportunity to hear what we had done with the songs and he questioned one or two times, but saw the vision as a whole and blessed us with his absolute approval and support, which was like getting Moshe’s stamp as well.
We’re hoping this opens many eyes and ears, not only to Moshe and Shalom’s music, but to the simplicity of melody, the uniqueness of thought in the lyrics, the urgent importance of original music and the ability to make that happen without more technical wizardry than necessary. Simply the studio, good songs and great musical talent. This album is completely organic, but it won’t cost more. In fact, this double disc containing 30 songs will hopefully be priced about the same as a regular album, containing10-12 songs. Plus, there’s an associated website and even lyrics embedded as a file in the CD! Considering the fact that these songs are ALL great, that’s a bargain you can’t argue with. Moshe’s legacy, though I’m sure he thought it would fade, will now become strong. I know, because even during the production of this project I saw it happen as the fans and old friends were contacting us in overwhelming numbers with their questions, thoughts, ideas, memories and support. He and Shalom would be proud that, over 30 years later, their music may very well create another, much-needed, new direction for us. Of course you realize, in Hebrew that’s called “Megama.”
The Yess Legacy is being distributed by Sameach Music and will be available at www.jewishjukebox.com