Ready to Go the Extra Mile

It was a match made through song. In September 2019, when Mordechai Ben David sang the hit song “Sukkale” together with his son Yeedle on the first album of Reb Cheskie Weisz’s compositions, Lev el Haneshamah, he developed a strong rapport with the composer and an interest in his warm, stirring songs. Yeedle, who was also struck by the quality of Reb Cheskie’s material, immediately offered his help to produce another album when the composer was ready.

“At the time, we imagined that there might be another all-star album in the future,” Reb Cheskie says, “but afterward I realized that the process of working on another album with 12 or 14 artists involved was overwhelming, complex, and not what I wanted. So I asked Yeedle if maybe his father would sing a solo album of my songs. MBD didn’t say no, but he didn’t say yes either.”

It took some months for MBD to listen to all the available material, make the decision to go ahead, and select 11 songs from a choice of a few dozen that would make it onto the new HASHPuOS album. Since the 1982 release of Ich Hob Gevart, a collection of Reb Yom Tov Ehrlich’s songs, MBD has never sung a complete album of any one composer’s works.

“The album was created in a very customized way,” Weisz continues. “The norm is for the producer to send each song to one particular arranger, but in this case, working with Yeedle, who is a perfectionist in the musical sense, we wanted several options for each arrangement, gathering ideas of possible orchestrations, possible intros, and possible interludes, in order to select what we felt was a perfect fit. The biggest challenge for the production team was the final track, “Pnei Meshichecha.”  They were deliberating over arrangements from some veteran arrangers, when one day Weisz found himself looking through old WhatsApp messages and came across a sketch of an arrangement that Israeli composer Yehuda Galili had sent him a year earlier. “Why didn’t you send me this before?!” Yeedle exclaimed, both agreeing that the find was a winner.

Once he had committed to the project, MBD was fully invested, even putting aside other projects to record the songs for Hashpuos. He said he loved the hartz in them, and was prepared to invest to go the extra mile to make the songs come alive.

“Just two weeks before our release date, with the tracks almost ready for mixing, Mordche decided to redo all of his vocals for Track 6, “Racheim Al Tzion,” because he thought he could do better. That was after hours upon hours of recording, with Yeedle’s insistence that each detail, each teniyeh, shine. This time, I think he absolutely nailed it.”

Another late change was on a moving song called “She’arecha.” Eli Lishinsky, the mixing engineer, felt that there was a stretch in the music that begged for more words. Yeedle sent the track to Lipa Schmeltzer, who right away agreed with Lishinsky and even suggested some additional Yiddish words to open the song. MBD cut and tweaked Lipa’s lines and the final version of the song opens with this under-the-wire addition. It’s actually this last-minute song that Reb Cheskie says he finds himself most drawn to. “It has a lot of neshamah, and those are the songs I enjoy the most.”


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 910)

Mordechai Ben David