In the mail... the second Shirei Shmuel release.
The album, K'Shoshana, features Aaron Razel, Chaim Dovid, & Shlomo Katz perfoming never-recorded songs that were composed by the late Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach.
The musical arrangements were written by Aaron Razel, and seem deceptively simple. For the most part, Razel's arrangements subtly enhance the songs, without detraction from the melodies.
All too often, producers get too fancy, as it were, with Carlebach's simple melodies, and the resulting arrangements take away from the music. The "Best of the '60s, '70's, and '80's" series comes to mind in this regard. The arrangements on that one aren't bad, but their commercial polish often seems a bit much. Not that I have anything against complex arrangements of this music, per se. Milt Okun's classic orchestrations of early Carlebach work nicely. It's not about how complex the arrangement is, necessarily but about how well the arrangement supports the melody, functioning as a setting for it, rather than a substitute for it.
On this project, Razel does an excellent job, for the most part. The arrangements are subtle, yet sophisticated. He has a good knack for choosing simple but tasty chords to support the songs, and the arrangements are never overbearing. The chord changes on Boreh Olam are a good example of this nicely understated approach.
The tunes are all unknown, as it were, but sound very much Carlebach. No real surprises here, in that regard. The song selection is nice, overall, and the songs don't all sound the same. This is a result of both good song selection and the way Razel varied the arrangements.
Tracks I really liked include Ravrevin and Borei Olam, but the whole album is pleasant. The singers do a nice job taking turns on the leads as well as harmonizing. The singers are all really into the music, and their singing is heartfelt.
Some minor nitpicks...
The ending on Ki Lekach Tov sounds rather abrupt.
Many of the arrangements use the same technique of skipping a repeat of a song to move to the next section. It gets to be a bit overdone.
The final tune opens with some dialog. In general, I'm not a fan of dialogue on music tracks (unless it's part of the composition). In this case, the "It's Moshiach, brother" bidness comes off as contrived. I'd have passed on that.
In general, however, this is a pleasant album, especially for fans of these singers and Carlebach aficionados. I've added some of these tunes to the bands' book. If you're looking for a Chanukah gift, you might want to check this disc out.