Avinu Malkeinu (Avraham Fried)
Album can be previewed/purchased at Mostly Music.com
I promised I would review this album since there hasn't been much discussion about it in the 5 months since its release. Although we haven't talked much about it, we never know what our lurkers are interested in. So here goes.
This review will be a bit different from my previous reviews since I'm dealing with a completely different type of JM. These are not songs composed to provide "kosher entertainment" (as Rabbi Leff put it); rather these are niggunim specifically designed to bring people closer to Hashem. Avraham Fried does a stellar job singing these niggunim; he says in the CD insert that he grew up with these songs and wants to share with JM-listening world the spirituality of Chabad niggunim. Avremi G provides the album with pratically perfect arrangements, modern enough for contemperary listeners to enjoy, yet compatible with the style of the niggunim.
In comparison to AF's last niggun release "niggun HaBesht", i think he chose a much bigger variety of niggunim on this album, making it more enjoyable. Also Avremi G's arrangements make "Avinu Malkeinu" the perfect addition to any JM collection. Now on to the selections.
1. Reb Shlome's Niggun: The trademark niggun of a melamed named Reb Shlome "Der Geller". This lively dance tune (and i mean Chassidishe dancing), gets the album off to a great start. The music is great on this track too. My only problem is that it goes on for a tad to long(it's nearly 6 minutes), but nevertheless, it gets you in the mood. 7.5/10
2. Avinu Malkeinu Medley: A beautiful medley of slow niggunim featuring Avinu Malkeinu, anim Zemiros and Ki Anu Amecha. Avinu Malkeinu and Anim Zemiros are two of my favourite Chabad niggunim bichlal, not just on this album. AF sings them both soulfully, with his whole heart, although I think Anim Zemiros could have used a bit more harmony. Ki Anu Amecha was not the niggun i was expecting. i have heard a differnt rendition which I like bettter. This one is more of a chant. It's alright. Overall rating of ,medley: 8.5
3. ein Od Milvado: A levedige niggun celebrating Hashem's oneness and how everything else in thw world is "Hevel Havalim". I like how the tempo changes at differnt intervals throughout the song. Children's choir is ok. the song ends with everyone singing and clapping A Capella. 8.5
4. higoleh Nah: A gorgeous slow melody marking the arrival of Shabbos. This is my favourite slow selection on the album. It has a really nice tune, great harmonies; an authentic niggun in true AF style. Also it doesn't go on for to long which makes it more enjoybale. 9.
5. Karahod! Now this a unique one. I think of it as more of a musical comedy routine than a song. It starts off with jazz-type music, creating a sense of informality, like everyone's at a party. (The insert says that this is occasionally performed at intimate Chassidishe weddings) AF plays the role of a newcomer from the town of Pahotzik. Everyone (choir) exchanges Sholom Aleichem, ask him where he's from etc, then they ask what people do in Pahotzik. To which AF answers: "Men zogt l'chaim un m'iz freilach un men geit a Karahod." (We say l'chaim and we're happy and we dance a Karahod.) then the tempo changes a couple times with eevryone singing men zogt l'chaim etc. Then, the jazz kicks in again, a bit faster than ythe intro this time. AF goes into English, "We say l'chaim etc." Then he starts this sequence about drinking mashke and something esle (still trying to understand it..); he goes crazy a little bit, giving the impression that the party-goers are becoming shikker. Then they revert back to the original chorus and end of with a contented sigh and the jazz conclusion. This gets a 10 for originality both music-wise and content-wise, and i think AF did an exceptional job creating the environment this "niggun" represents. It's no wonder it got high ratings on the Mitzad!
6. Torah Medley. A fast Torah-themed medley featuring the niggunim Sisu V'simchu, Mah Yisron and Torah Tziva. This medley has more of the tempo-changing stuff which i think may be this album's trademark. Not much to comment, except I really like Mah Yisron, it has a cool beat (although i don't know if i should tor efer to niggunim as 'cool').Basically this is a very good example of lebedige chassidishe niggunim. 9. (just fyi, the insert says that AF was taught Mah yisron from a Rabbi avrohom Ber Blesofsky. Now, I have a Dinim/Chassidus teacher named Rabbi Avrohom Ber Blesofsky. I doubt it's the same guy, since i would have assumed he would at least mention he's from Melbourne. But I wonder if it is.. I might ask him..)
7. Niggun Hachono. This is the prelude niggun to the holy "forbidden niggun" of the Alter Rebbe. I've sung the hachono niggun many times at Farbrengens etc. A great example of Hisvaadus, niggunim that Chassidim sing when they come together to discuss Chassidus, or other divrei Torah. I heard on a jmintheam interview with Avraham Fried that he doubts he will ever record the "Forbidden niggun" (which is only sung at special occasions, eg. chasunos and then end of a Yom Tov); it wouldn't be respectful. Very nice niggun, and once again it doen't go for too long. 8.
8. Adon Olam. A nice waltz with chazonus interludes originating from the Russian town of Nevel. This isn't one of my favourites, but i it moves along quite nicely. AF does a great job harmonising with himself. All in all a nice tune. 7.5
9. Niggun Simcha. An intersesting selection compared to the other two Niggunei Simcha on niggun Habesht. It's a little different, not as fast. not much else to comment; it's an ok selction. 7.
10. Poltava Niggun. I don't like this one very much. It's a bit too slow and whiny for my liking. This niggun originates from Poltava, Ukraine in 1882, and was oft sung by the Rav, Reb Yaakov Mordechai on Shabbos Afternoon. i'm not really into the REALLY slow niggunim. 5.5
11. Grand Finale. Wow, they really mean business!! Compared to the lacklustre 3-song final medley on Niggun HaBesht, this is truly amazing. The selections are: Ki Elokim- fast paced niggun to the tune of "dayeinu"; Chotsh Mechudi- a nice Ukranian hora; Der Rebbe Hot Geheisen Feeilich Zein- another hora; Modzeh Modzeh Dringzadal-"a fiesty Russian funke-tune" (quote from insert); Vayehi Bimei Achashveirosh- An extremely lebedige niggun that REALLY gets you in the Purim mood!; Then there's about 3 wordless niggunim-pretty good, then E Vad'ye Mih Neutonim- this one's weird, the owrds are hard to understand; and finally Ki v'simcha- a great way to finish the medley. they end off by AF shouting "ein Od milvado" and the music finishing. Excellent music and singing- 9.5.
Every album has it's "shtick" and Avinu Malkeinu is noe xcpetion. At the end of the album there are brief 5-second snippets from Ein Od, R' shloime's niggun, Torah Medley and Karahod.
Overall rating of album: 90/110 or 82%.
In conclusion, if you enjoy, Chassidishe niggunim,this is the album for you. AF makes it sound very authentic. And you aren't famailiar with niggunim yet, now would be a good time to start. Niggunim are definitely an example of REAL JM, designed to bring people closer to Hashem.
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