ERIC BERMAN II (NMC) Eric Berman's new album again spotlights the lyrics. If the listener can't speak Hebrew, much of the meaning here will be lost. Like on his debut CD, Berman is crafty with his words and serves up tongue-in-cheek satire. He often employs rhyme in his lyrics. He manages to steer clear of clichés, but he does use a similar buildup to his punch lines in every song. Berman stands out from other singers in that he sings things not usually said aloud (sex-related, chauvinistic remarks). His songwriting skills are good, but there doesn't seem to be a clear message in any of his songs. As for his music, it is a blend of styles including soft rock, pop and country. There's nothing wrong with it, there's just nothing daring. Whereas Berman's fresh and original style created a great hullabaloo in 2007 with the release of his debut, he presents something very similar with his follow-up in 2009. On the one hand, he has a proven songwriting-singing niche which he again presents here. On the other hand, it doesn't sound as if he's developed in any way. Like on his first album, his songs are always about two topics: either himself or sexy women. Still, Berman has managed to keep the buzz about him. Singles "Hagshama Atzmit" and "Hasigaria Ha'ahrona" were quick to be picked up by radio stations. This reviewer best liked the ballad "Shir LeYaeli #34." But his concerts are also sold-out in advance, so he must be doing something right. RIKI GAL Ro'im et Hashanim (Seeing the Years) (Hed Arzi) When Riki Gal releases a new album, the local music world takes note. Eight years after her last studio album, Gal came out this month with Seeing the Years. It's an album of 10 songs - nine of them written and composed by Liran Nadal. Gal makes Nadal's words her own. On the track "Besof Hayom Ani Tzricha Otcha," Gal - who is just shy of 60 - shows her voice hasn't wavered over the years. She still sounds rich and dominant. On the title track, she proves her astuteness to the lyrics, and one can all but hear her smiling at the end of the song. The most unusual song on the album is "Imazman" - the title is a play on words as well, ima (mom), zman (time), im hazman (with time). This song is a tribute to Gal's mother. It kicks off with words from the popular song "Que Sera, Sera" (Whatever Will Be, Will Be) and then continues in Spanish. It is one of the most touching songs on the album as well. Music-wise, Gal includes a bit of blues and folk with pop. All the songs are enjoyable, some more upbeat than others. Gal's star shone brightest in the 1980s. But she shows here that she still has what it takes to wow listeners. Belleli, Ravitz, Ravikovitz (Helicon) Four years after poet Dahlia Ravikovitz passed away, composer Avi Belleli (of Tractor's Revenge fame) and popular singer Yehudit Ravitz give new meaning to her words. This album is enlightening and surprising. Belleli's compositions are unexpected and often mysterious, while Ravitz's voice is emotionally charged. There are 12 poems put to music here. On "Window," Belleli and Ravitz accurately observe the sadness of the poem. Hearing Ravikovitz speaking near the end of the track is spine tingling. It is interesting to think what Ravikovitz might have thought of the track "Hazman Hanitzud Bereshet." Belleli offers a totally unanticipated loud score to this poem and Ravitz brings the oomph. It's a successful song, even if not what one would expect. Ravikovitz's first poems appeared in the 1950s. She was considered one of the country's leading young native-born poets. She published 10 books of poetry, three collections of short stories and seven children's books. Among her awards were the Bialik Prize (1987), the Israel Prize (1998) and the Prime Minister`s Prize (2005). Her poetry has been published in 23 languages. This is not the first time Ravikovitz's poems have been set to music. But these songs are among the more fascinating renditions.

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