What’s up JM Nation!?
Before even listening to Chai, the Chevra’s newest CD, I could tell I’d be in for something good. I loved the album cover design. It’s different than the average Jewish music CD cover; it’s clean, minimalistic two-toned color design gives it a more modern feel.
In regards to the group, well, you know the drill – last batch of guys got married, so here’s a new batch. The newest batch of guys look like they belong in a boy band, so I think it’s safe to assume that they’d be good picks for the Chevra.
Another positive note of the CD that is noticeable right from iTunes is the duration of the songs. Usually Jewish music doesn’t know when to end a song, but these songs are in the 3:30 to 4:30 range, with the exception of two slow songs in the 5-6 minute range.
On to the actual music…
I have a feeling that this song will catch on quickly. While it’s slightly different from Y’hei, Lecha, and Chizku, it also has a powerful intro concept. Like the aformentioned popular songs, it’s very catchy and repetitive, thus, it’s so easy to sing. It reminded me of Benny Friedman’s Yesh Tikvah’s style. However, this song has its own unique factor with English lyrics. With their perfectly blended harmonies and the signature “whoaoooowhoaa’s,” I’d say it’s overall a very “Chevra” song.
I’d say this song is just a filler, which has no place at number two on the tracks list. You know, nothing special but nothing horrible. In other words, a hit or miss song that some will like and others will hate. Maybe it’s a second attempt at Kel Mistater from the third album? While not extraordinary, the chorus is solid and there is nice accapella section at the end.
Surprisingly, a lot of “NaNaNaNa’s” in a song isn’t always a bad thing. This song is also unique in that it doesn’t have typical lyrics. Nachpisa is a relaxing song with beautiful harmonies where the voices blend just so. It’s easily my favorite slow song on the album.
4. I’m a Jew
Woah!!!! What just happened here? “I’m a Jew” is definitely a risky song. How ironic that it’s a club beat and yet the song is talking about being a Torah Jew. More on the surface, though, it’s not so bad. the chorus is very, very catchy. While the music is a bit overboard for my taste, it’s not such a bad song from a musical standpoint.
5. Kee Tov Zamrah
Eh. The song started off with me thinking, “man, that’s a high range for the child singing.” Then another voice stood out to me. The guy singing at 4:12 has the best solo voice of the group. As a whole, the song isn’t as good as Nachpisa. It’s a nice ballad, but not up to the standard the Chevra has set on past albums.
6. Ki Yitzpeneini
The refrain has the same feel/beat as Shelsheles’ “Gadol” and Joan Osborne’s “What if G-d Was One of Us” (Thanks AKA Pella for teaching me that one). Yaakov Mordechai Gerstner heads this song and sounds a lot like a deeper Eli Gerstner. I see that maturity has hit him full on. Ki Yitzpeneini is definitely one of the top three songs on this album.
Former Chevra member, Dovid Nachman, starts off this song and gives it some classic Chevra sound. Makes sense they’d have him starting off this song considering it’s a pretty standard slow Chevra song with some nice “Na Na’s” at the end. While it’s not as good as Nachpisa, V’lirushalayim grows on you.
8. Mee Kell Kamocha
With a Middle-Eastern style was it trying to remake Va’ani from the Chevra’s second album? There’s really nothing exciting about this song. Perhaps it’s because I’m ashkenazi, or perhaps it’s just not a great song. I can understand why it’s at number eight on the track list.
Every album needs one – a song with a classic Gerstner/Yosis Orchestra musical opening. “Peace” would be a good song to end concerts with. Unfortunately, the song has just typical English lyrics; I was hoping for something more profound.
10. Ad Olam
The heart of this album somehow ended up as the last song. While we may have heard it before this album came out, thanks to its music video, I still think Ad Olam should have been placed earlier in the album. All the singers did really well. Benny Friedman kills this song (in a good way). YBC is great, continuing their streak of hit music videos (Ah Ah Ah, Amein, etc.). And to top it off, out of all their songs on Chai, the Chevra sounds the best in this one.
To conclude, this album has it’s ups and downs but is still a solid buy. You should definitely buy this if you own the previous Chevra albums; it’s fun to compare and contrast the different group members. I wish they would have had more killer solos from the guy who had the solo in track 5 “Kee Tov Zamrah.” He is the Shlomo Schwed (Menucha reference) of this group.