My Review of Eitan Katz's New CD – Unplugged: Niggunei Reb Shlomo Carlebach

So as I said in the previous post. I wrote up a really great review of this CD and didn’t save it properly (I take the blame even though it was really Blogger’s fault) and I lost the entire thing. It’s so hard to rewrite an entire review, but I’m going to try. Here it goes, from scratch.

…. but first some pre-hashing.

I first became aware of Eitan Katz from the Blog Seraphic Secret. If you never read this post you should, it’s not too long but it’s VERY touching. Eitan played a private concert for Robert’s son. He later sent them a CD with a song on it that was going to later appear on his solo CD. The song is available in that post, download it and enjoy, it’s an amazing song. It’s L’maancha, the title track of Eitan’s solo debut (mini-reviews here and here.)

Since that CD, Eitan’s brother Shlomo Katz, also released a solo CD. The CD is titled V’Hacohanim, I have reviewed it here. They are both great CD’s and are both highly recommended.

Since those solo CD’s, Eitan and Shlomo both appeared on MoChassid’s excellent CD Ushmuel Bekorei Shmo, (review here) which if you don’t own it yet and like this sort of music, you must get now. Eitan and Shlomo also first appeared together (prior to these albums) on an album titled Biglal Avos. I don’t have this CD but I really should get it at some point.

One last thing before I start the review of the actual CD. I think it’s important for people to know that not all Jewish rock CD’s are the same. There are very different styles and sounds and for those people who like the mainstream Avraham Fried or MBD albums, you should know Eitan’s overall style is in some ways (I said, some, please don’t flame me in the comments) closer to that style then the heavy sounds of something like the Moshav Band or Soulfarm or even Blue Fringe (which is not heavy, but still traditionally more of a rock sound). Eitan and Shlomo (along with Nochi) are what I might call Shiny Shoe Rock, but without the negative connotation that the term carries. It’s clean, aidel, heartzig, soulful and harmless. Just think R’ Shmuel Brazil … on steroids. (Oh dear, an angel somewhere probably just lost its wings from that comparison.)

…. and now onto the CD.

Eitan Katz writes in the CD booklet that this is a collection of rare and previously unrecorded R’ Shlomo Carlebach Niggunim. Eitan is a great choice to record such a project. R’ Shlomo’s Niggun are so special and it’s a shame to hear sometimes how they are redone. When I think about that Ohad-Kinderlach version of Niggun Neshama I cringe, it’s like drinking expensive 30 year old wine out of a blue plastic disposable cup. It’s just wrong. Eitan brings the respect and aidelkeit that these songs deserve.

The first song Yisboroch Shimcha does a great job of setting the pace of the album. It doesn’t have a too long of an intro, it just jumps right into it. There is a great rhythm to this album and it starts with this song. The percussion and the guitar are done really well and the choir sounds great. It’s one of the best songs on the album.

The next song is called Shuvi Nafshi and would classify as the first “slow” song on the album. This is a great example of a beautiful song that I’ve never heard before that turns out to be a R’ Shlomo tune. It’s sometimes just shocking how many amazing first rate songs R’ Shlomo actually composed. There is a great (but too short!) musical interlude about 2 and a half minutes into the song. This song and the first one are two of my favorites on the album.

Track 3 is titled Al Tira. I’ve always loved these lyrics, and I love this song. I vaguely remember that I knew this was a R’ Shlomo song. Maybe it’s just my mind playing tricks, but it does sound slightly familiar. The song is a great example of why Eitan was just the guy for this type of CD. There are points during this song where Eitan really gets into it. You can really hear from both the music and the vocals that there is so much heart and soul in this song (and the cd in general.) Listen for some awesome Violin work about 2 minutes into the song.

Barcheinu Avinu is a song that I actually did recognize. Turst me when I say I’m not R’ Shlomo expert, so I have to assume that this is one of the more well known Niggunim on this album. During parts of this song Eitan really channels R’ Shlomo. The song has a great beginning, middle and end. It’s a drop slow at the beginning, but it picks up very quickly. By the end it has a really freilach happy vibe. It’s a beautiful song, pay special attention to the instrumentals on this one.

Track number 5 is Gam Ki Eilech. This song also starts a bit slow, and again, once it picks up it also really starts rocking. It’s an easy to remember Niggun which is ironic, because I’ve never heard this and I think this is one of the rarer tunes on the album. There are some light duets on this song which sound good.

This next song has become my favorite song on the album. Ma Tovu starts off the deep sounds of what I think is a Cello (Frank Lider) and works itself into some beautiful flute (Jeff Gruber) work and sets up the brilliant musical production that goes into this song. The Niggun itself is stunning and really sounds great. This song is the perfect package and it’s obvious that a lot of work went into it.

The production level on this song is on par with top tier productions in Jewish music. It also features some really Heartzig duets. It doesn’t say who is singing with him on the song, but additional vocals on the album are credited to Nathan Franco, Gershon Braun, Dovid Silverberg and another great artist Nochi Krohn. (You can read my review of Nochi’s CD here, which is another outstanding album.) I loved this song so much that now, while I’m listening to it for the review, I stopped writing, and listened to it a second time.

What follows is more great duet action. The next song is is called V’sechazena and features Eitan and Shlomo together. They sound great together (another duet album!!??) and just plays out so well. Everything really comes together in this song. It not just the standard dueting, there is a lot of cute shtick, that works well. There is some fiddling in there I believe too. The entire song is just so much fun. I love it, it’s a great freilach song, that could easily translate into the mainstream like Niggun Neshama and Niggun Nevo have.

The next song is Ki Lishuascha, and after so many amazing songs, I guess one had to disappoint. It’s not a bad song, it’s done nicely, but I just don’t know if the Niggun is fleshed out well. Maybe it is, but it’s just so out there that it doesn’t click right. I guess some songs are rarely heard for a reason. Still the music and vocals on this song are great.

Oidcha has an interesting to feel to it, it depends on what mood I’m in when I listen to it. Either I love it or I hate it. Parts of it sound very Lanzbom’ish, which is not a bad thing, but at other times I just get bored during the song. Put it this way, it’s not my favorite song on the album.

Last but certainly not least, the song closes with what has to be the 493rd version of Niggun Neshama recorded in the last two years. I’m giving Eitan a free pass here because at this point since everyone else already recorded their own version, why should he be the only one without one. Especially on this type of a CD with “rare” Niggunim from R’ Shlomo. This song would have been the poster child for rare and unrecorded songs about 3 years ago, but at this point, (sigh), well … despite everything, it’s still a great Niggun. Eitan does a nice job with his version of the song, but the barrage of Niggun Neshama’s have just left me skipping this song no matter who sings it.

Final thoughts ……

This is a must get CD for everyone and I do mean everyone. R’ Shlomo has given so much to the entire Jewish music world and this CD does his Niggunim great justice. The first two thirds of the CD are a bit stronger then the last third, but as complete package I think it’s well worth the price. Just the production on Ma Tovu alone is worth the price of this CD.

You can download a teaser of the tracks here.

Read MoChassid’s take on the CD here.


About lifeofrubinarchives

You enjoyed this blog for 5 years, but sadly now the ride is over. We decided to move the archives here for people who want to go back and revisit old posts and for new people to discover the blog for the first time!
This entry was posted in Avraham Fried, Eitan Katz, Jewish Music, Jewish Rock, Nochi Krohn, Ohad, Reviews, Shlomo Katz. Bookmark the permalink.

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