People constantly ask singer, composer, and producer Eli Gerstner for the date of his next album release. His answer is always the same: “On Chanukah.” One small detail he makes sure to omit: Chanukah of which year.
Gerstner, who 15 years ago revolutionized Jewish music by introducing multi-layered lushness, a pop sound, and rich harmonies – and gave us The Chevra, Menucha, Tek-Noy, and Yeshiva Boys Choir – was churning out one hit album after another at a minimum of one a year. Jewish radio listeners and Gerstner fans thirsted for the next recording featuring his trademarked fancy-shmancy overlays and heavy techno-beats.
But it’s been a while since his last recorded project – five years to be exact. In 2014, he released YBC6. Shortly thereafter, he was asked to produce the annual, sold-out HASC concerts. With his focus on multi-media productions, his album production got put on the back burner. In fact, the bulk of his newest CD/DVD release – Yeshiva Boys Choir: Our Greatest Hits Live! Tour – was recorded six years ago.
Gerstner’s desire to release this DVD was so strong, though, that he recently decided to revive the project. He re-recorded a couple of songs and released the whole package. He couldn’t resist because, as he put it, “it was so good.” And so good it is!
The viewer/listener is treated to a mix of older, beloved soloists as well as some new voices. Since this is a Gerstner production, it of course has a 2020 flash and modern sound. This CD/DVD also contains all the “hit songs,” as promised. How does a composer/producer who has recorded and performed hundreds of songs determine what constitutes a hit? Gerstner explains: “Based on requests at concerts, YouTube popularity, and, of course, feedback (read: screams and shrieks) from the crowd.”
Gerstner spared no expense filming the tour six years ago. He used 12 cameras, one camera per instrument – an investment and approach that was unheard of in Jewish music concert production at the time.
This isn’t the first Yeshiva Boys Choir “live” album. But this 25-song collection is the best of the best. Yossi Newman, Gerstner’s partner in this project, conducted the choir and did all the choreography. Fans of Eli’s brother – soloist Yaakov Mordechai Gerstner – will be pleased as he is featured prominently in this CD/DVD (“Daddy Come Home,” “In Song,” “Ad Olam”). He is now married and learning in kollel in Israel, and his voice has changed over the past six years, but absorbing this is exciting, and, I can assure you, all his energy, control, and command of the stage is still there.
As a bonus, the DVD has YouTube videos for those elements of the frum crowd who may otherwise not get a chance to see a Yeshiva Boys Choir video.
Gerstner is constantly pushing the envelope, and he will almost certainly continue to do so in projects currently in production, including new albums from Yeshiva Boys Choir, The Chevra, a solo album, and what Gerstner is most excited about, a new Sephardic Boys Choir.
All to be released on Chanukah. What year? We’ll have to wait and see.