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Jewish music industry force Eli Gerstner reasserts presence with three simultaneous releases
By Yossi Zweig

I can remember reading about Eli's debut in a 1999 issue of Country Yossi magazine: New singer, composer coming out. My friend Yossi Newman had wrote a song on the album, so I picked up a copy in Borough Park at Eichler's before heading to Chicago for Purim. I popped it in the CD player—and what an album it was.

Today, mover and shaker Eli Gerstner, the man behind Jewish pop staples which include four Chevra albums, three Yeshiva Boys' Choir albums & a DVD, one Menucha, one Tek-noy, one Yosis Orchestra album, three personal solo albums, among his other productions; is releasing even more great Jewish music: a new YBC CD/DVD, Menucha's second album, and a solo debut CD for newcomer Dovid Stein, and all of this, at one time!

I ask him, “what music CD to video DVD production is like”? "You know, when I produced YBC Live, I promised to never do it again, and I'm doing it again," Gerstner laughingly notes. "When you go into a studio and record a song, if there's any mistake, you stop and do it over, you have time to fix mistakes, and you're only doing 10 songs. When you're doing a live album, you can't do any overdubs, you can't change anything, and you're doing 22 songs. People say to me, 'Oh, you're doing a live album? That's so much easier—you don't have to do anything!' If only they knew. It takes 10 times the amount of time, and that's just for the audio, before you even get to work on the video."

Gerstner dwells on video production's biggest time-consumer: deciding which shots to use when. "I sit together with Video Director Mario Costabile, we have all the camera shots in front of us on a big screen and say, 'Okay, go to Camera One, go to Camera Four, go to Camera Six'—deciding which shots go where. It was new experience, and it was a lot of fun."

The new album will feature several new firsts, including seven fully produced music videos (a la Kol Hamispallel & Ein on YBC Live 1), and a new song, Lazer's Niggun, which is a song that is already being requested at both Simchas & concerts. The more Gerstner & his groups sung Lazer’s Niggun, the more people liked it—including wunderkind Dovid Stein, who wanted it on the album Gerstner is producing for him.

Dovid Stein's solo debut will be Eli Gerstner's first-ever solo CD of a singer other than himself—which is exactly why he "didn't want someone who sounds like me or my style, like I did with Menucha, the Chevra, and my own stuff; I wanted someone outside of my box."

Mutual friend and long-time collaborator Yossi Newman, with whom the seasoned back-up vocalist had been singing, had introduced Gerstner to Stein. Stein had silently built up a lengthy career of singing behind the industry's top names, including Shwekey, Fried, and MBD—and when he started getting really popular on the wedding scene, Newman essentially pushed Stein into an already hyper-overworked Gerstner. "I was working crazy hours and there was no way I could take on another project, and Yossi just brought him to me and said 'You gotta take this guy,” After meeting with him & hearing him, Gerstner realized that this was the guy he was looking for.

Coming from a singer/composer/producer with plenty of industry clout, the placement of a new singer in the same league and style of Mordechai Ben David and Yaakov Shwekey is a high compliment, but one that Gerstner readily confers upon his new protégé. Gerstner is a big enough “Dovid Stein believer” to warrant composing eight of the songs on Muvtach Lo, including the eponymous title track, and co-writing another two with Yitzy Waldner, the creative songsmith behind some of Shwekey's biggest ballads (Mheiro, Shma Yisroel). Another album number is a contribution by the legendary composer Yossi Green.

The conversation then turns to Menucha, Gerstner's singing group that he sees as a mellowed-down counterbalance to the jumpy, frenetic and controversial style of his Chevra and Tek-noy productions. I ask how Menucha has changed.

Gerstner proceeds to explain that Menucha is more about the melody than the music, unlike his previous works. "I realize that people want to hear a niggun, but they don't want to fall asleep," he says. Accordingly, Menucha Vol. II will have its trademark-tempered sound to appeal to the Menucha fans, but will also feature what Gerstner refers to as "a shot of guitar, bass & drums to keep everyone moving”!

Inspiration is the ultimate goal in Gerstner's view as an artist. And with three new albums about to hit the stores, new inspiration is sure to break out everywhere. The only problem I will now have, is which one of these CDs to pop into the CD player first?


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