Everyone’s favorite up-and-coming Jewish singer, Simcha Leiner, just released his latest project. Well, it’s not exactly his project, but he did sing on it. It’s a new CD called Project Relax 3, and features both Baruch Levine and Simcha Leiner. (It’s produced by Yochi Briskman — you know, the same guy that produces Shwekey, Baruch Levine, Simcha Leiner, and so on — as a third installment in a rather old series.) I’ll buy anything with Simcha Leiner’s name on it, and that is what I did. So, here are my thoughts about the album…
For starters, the song selection on the album is great. There are no new tunes, but the CD is rather meant to be a sort of “best hits” of the last few years. It’s broken up into 25 different, rather short tracks, every few tracks making up a different, continuous medley. So, each individual song is only played for, usually, one loop, but it then blends right into the next song, and so on. And, like I said, the selection of songs on the album is quite good. A bunch of the best hits from the last little while, as well as some slightly lesser-known tracks — it all makes up for an incredibly melodious album. You hear some new takes on songs you surely already know and love, and you’ll probably learn a few new songs as well. All that being said, I have no idea why it is called Project Relax; the songs are not particularly slow or anything…
Anyway, in terms of the vocals they are, as is to be expected, nothing short of stellar. I say that, though, in regards to Simcha Leiner in particular. His voice is absolutely incredible — like one in a million. The guy is really, really talented. I’ve heard him live a few times, and his voice just fills a room like nobody else’s. He’s just the best. Rich, with a truly unbelievable range. You really just cannot get better. I can listen to him all day. (You can tell I’m a fan…) As to Baruch Levine — I always found his voice to be too shrill for my tastes. He’s obviously a talented guy — and if you like his sound, you’ll like him on this album — but to me, he’s sort of neutral. Now, if Shwekey was the other voice on this album, then we’d be talking. Alas, such is not the case. Levine and Leiner it is — which is really none too shabby a collaboration at all.
Finally, we come to the arrangements. Here, I have to say, I’m a little disappointed. As a whole, it’s pretty bland. Some songs have kids singing, others have a backup choir, and a few tracks have a great harmony between Leiner and Levine. But other than that, there’s really nothing much else going on here. You have two great voices (okay, one stellar voice, and one great voice) on this album, and most tracks go bye with nary a harmony to be heard! It’s nuts. The track Pischi Li has not one harmony. How can that be? Why were vocal ranges and talent not taken advantage of here? There are some tracks you listen to that just beg for a fuller arrangement, but you never get it. It’s a little disappointing.
This being the case, there are some tracks that stand out. I really like Melech Malchei, as well as Besheim Hashem, Lecha Dodi and, of course, Ve’yiyu Rachamecho. And, honestly, I like all of the songs on the album. Those were just a few of the ones that stand out to me right now. I should also say that, although they are mixed at too low a volume, Leiner’s harmonies towards the end of (the interestingly sped-up version of) Kol Berama are nothing short of exceptional. His range is just nuts.
In short, it’s a good CD. A solid buy, and a nice addition to any collection. A great thing to be able to play in the background. But nothing exceptional — which it really could have been, if they had taken advantage of all that they could have. So, good, not great. I’d say a B+.
Anyway, it’s nice to see Simcha popping up in more and more places. (If you haven’t seen some of the wedding videos he’s in, you’re seriously missing out.) And this is certainly a great album to hold you over until Simcha Leiner’s next studio album is coming out — which apparently is going to be pretty soon.