by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
Mordechai ben David, aka MBD, is the founding father of modern Jewish “pop” music. It’s been years, 5 or 10 already, since he last put out an album. This new album of his, Yearning, is said to be his last album.
Last not because of age, health or loss of ability. Rather, as he’s been telling everyone loudly and clearly for the last 4 years or so, he’s not willing to create more music when people aren’t buying CDs but are sharing copies.
MBD has created some of the top ‘hits’ among Jewish religious circles. His top tunes are memorable and known by practically every religious Jew, his albums (or CD’s, MP3’s, whatever) are found in almost every Jewish home (with someone 30 or older) and his music is frequently played at Jewish weddings and other events. So there was some excitement with the announcement of his new album.
The new album is 14 tracks for a total of 68 minutes. We got our copy at the Israeli supermarket chain Yesh, which was selling it for NIS 30, about $8.10, with purchase of a normal grocery shopping.
The album is significantly different from most of MBD’s albums, which are primarily pop style music with Jewish adaptations. This album is primarily chassidic tunes. Some songs are adapted from Shabbos Zemiros (traditional Shabbos table songs) and some are taken from traditional songs of chassidic groups.
MBD’s voice and tone are as strong as ever, and the album has a very professional well produced sound. Here’s a mixed family opinion (2 teens and an adult) of the tracks, rating on a 1-5 stars scale…
#1 – Shulem Aleichem. A slow deep rendition with a choir chorus. Kind of sad, synagogue chazunus like. 1 star – probably wouldn’t choose to listen to it again.
#2 – Menucho Vsimcho. A moderately paced rendition with rich sounds. It’s ok, mood music. 2 stars – wouldn’t turn it off but wouldn’t pick it out.
#3 – Al Kein Tzion. Is this the right song? This sounds like a rendition of Ani Maa’mim, the words don’t match the liner notes. Anyway whatever track 3 is, it’s a slow paced ballad between MBD and a youngster. 1 star – would not choose to listen to it again. (Tatti, can you please go to then next song? Yes I can.)
#4 – Shomrei. A bit of a modern slightly sephardi beat with a choir, children, and MBD. The mix is nice and more similar to MBD’s past work. 3 stars – it’s ok but nothing special.
#5 Hazkiri. Is that a ukulele? I think it is. This is your classic Jewish music ballad with MDB’s rich tones. Yay, another ballad (not). 2 stars – wouldn’t turn it off but wouldn’t pick it out. Good song to make me feel like doing teshuva.
#6 Tzemach Tzedek. This is a Chabad style niggun (a song sung without lyrics) done at a moderate pace with a sweet (rather than strong) sound. (Yay, a song with a little life!) A little life, but not done with much energy. 3 stars – it’s ok.
#7 An’im Zmiros. This is an unusual rendition of this classic Shabbos song, done in a way taught as a secret method of the Chabad Rebbe’s by the Lubavticher Rebbe. It’s sung at a somewhat slow pace and with sweet tones – with less energy than I hear it regularly sung. 3 stars – it’s ok.
#8 Chabad Tantz Niggun. Xylophone, oh please. This is a Chabad simcha (happiness) dance niggun. Does MBD join the song? I don’t think so! Oh there he is, a bit lost in the choir. I found the music accompaniment to be cheesy. 3 stars – it’s ok but a weak rendition.
#9 Hashivaini. Another niggun choir and MBD song, with MBD almost lost in the background – oh there he comes to the front. I think the pace on this song is being set by bongos, not what I would expect for a niggun. This one’s a bit better than the previous, the cheesy background is gone (but the bongos are annoying). Oh no, it switches to strong organ 90% of the way through, yuck. 3 stars – it’s ok.
#10 Nichsefo. Starts fast with strong organ (not a fan of organ). Again choir, a children’s one this time. This is a fast paced niggun, the background is ok. But something about the drum tones is annoying (too loud, too brash, not sure – it’s clashing in my ears). This could have been nice, the pace is nice, but the organ and beat tones are annoying. 2 stars – a miss.
#11 Kissifim. Yiddish lyrics by Lipa! Slow paced, a traditional MBD story tune with his powerful cries. But it doesn’t quite hit, the pace is off just a bit. 2 stars – a miss.
#12 Simchas Torah. A traditional MBD trumpet opening style fast tune (it’s a niggun) with a background choir, it’s actually a combination niggun from Karlin, Ger and Dzshikev. Surprisingly MBD doesn’t come in for over 2 minutes. Background's nice, choir is pretty good. 3 stars – it’s not bad.
#13 Werdyger Meledy. A rich slow tune with MDB’s crying sound, strong background singers and a boy joining in. It’s a beautiful rendition, a decent song for contemplative moods. 3 stars – it’s ok.
#14 Ashreini. A fasted paced edition of this classic song with a boys choir and MBD. The background pace and music is almost ok but not a good match for the singers (a bit muzak like salsa-ish). 2 stars – I wouldn’t rush to turn it off but wouldn’t choose to turn it on.
Overall I consider this to be a weak album for the current Jewish music market. While it’s a high quality production, the music wasn’t anything special. It’s more what I would consider MBD’s filler songs for his previous hit albums. Certainly there is nothing on there that’s going to be enjoyed by the under 30 crowd. Or maybe not by the under 60 crowd.
I wish MBD a happy retirement (as stated at the beginning, he as said this is his last album), and he should merit many blessings for the powerful and stirring music he brought to Klal Yisroel over a generation. This album, unfortunately, is not among them.
Overall Rating – 2 out of 5 stars.