Kobi Aflalo Ba Min Hashtika (Coming from Silence) (NMC) Singer Kobi Aflalo couldn't have produced a better debut album. More than half the 12 songs on this CD have gone on to become popular singles, and he has been riding the radio charts continuously. From his title track single to "Shir Gaaguim" to "Ma Shehalev Bachar," these soft-hearted songs are appealing lyrically and musically. Aflalo is optimistic in his songs, and comes across as thoughtful as he sings mainly about love. While the theme has been written about ad infinitum, Aflalo does not employ clichÃ©s. He seems to speak from the heart, and in doing so has won a much wider audience than most oriental singers. Aflalo claims his music is not limited to one specific genre, though most of the tunes fit into the ethnic-Mizrahi style. His voice is smooth and sensuous. And while not many people heard about this 31-year-old from Ma'alot before his debut album, he is not new to the music scene. He led the group Shimona for six years, but even after the band released an album, breaking beyond the limelight of the northern communities seemed a very distant notion. All the while, Aflalo penned songs for himself and stored them away. He first released "Ba Min Hashtika" as an independent artist and the song went nowhere. After some revision, and help from producer Amos Ben David (music producer of A Star Is Born) and Gai Bokati (musician for Arik Einstein), the song was ready for commercial success. During the Second Lebanon War, Aflalo sat in his shelter while his single topped all the radio charts. The full album was released only after Aflalo put in months of intensive studio work. Since then, it has been smooth sailing as media and listeners alike continue to praise the CD. Eyal Golan Hoze Otach Muli (Imagine You Facing Me) (Play Records/Liam Production) Though the Mediterranean music genre is flooded with newcomers, Eyal Golan proves on his latest release that competition doesn't affect his standing. It took just two days for his eleventh album, Hoze Otach Muli, to go gold. Hits from the album include "Halev Sheli" and "Pitzrika," a Greek duet with Triponas. Although Golan's album has rung up the registers, the bulk of the CD is rather dire. The opening track, "Hoze Otach Muli," is by far the best song on the album. It is wise to ignore the lyrics (which are cheesy and poorly written) and simply concentrate on the wonderful musical composition of depressing yet hopeful notes. The musical arrangements for this song were done by Papadopulos Kiriakos, a Greek Pontian composer, who proves to the rest of Golan's collaborators that he has a Midas touch. Though other hits have emerged from the album, it totters downwards from the second song onwards. The ballad "Mitzta'er" sounds forced while "At Sheli Ani Shelach" is a pop-dance-Mizrahi mess. The lyrics are uniformly pathetic and clichÃ©d. As for the music, instead of keeping true to the traditional oriental beats and letting Golan's voice soar, his songs are infused with dance and pop arrangements that all but drown him out. The fun hit, "Pitzrika," is an exception. While the album starts out on good footing, it seems the producers wanted an album that would attract listeners from all genres. Instead of winning listeners, Hoze Otach Muli offers a musical muddle. Itzik Shamli Self-titled (Tact Records) Singer-songwriter Itzik Shamli offers up 15 original songs of Mizrahi tunes with R&B and hip hop beats on his eponymous debut album. A member of the TACT hip-hop/rap ensemble, listeners have heard Shamli as a back-up singer before, but not as the front man. Shamli has also written for other artists including Eyal Golan. With some experience behind him, the soulful singer decided it was now time to take center stage. The CD opens on a fast-paced note, with rapper Subliminal putting in a guest appearance on the track "Mi Zeh Bah". Subliminal even dubbed Shamli as the "new Zohar Argov," making reference to one of the genre's best loved singers. After the boisterous introduction, things calm down a bit and Shamli's truer singing style is highlighted. His high-pitched voice is typical of the Mizrahi genre. Yet while traditional Mediterranean musical lyrics are taken from liturgical texts and classic Hebrew literature, Shamli's lyrics are wholly original. He sings about his life ("Musica"), love ("Alifut"), and his childhood ("Ani Zocher"). He lays out who he is on "Ani Atzliach" (I Will Succeed) as he sings about his drive to do well in the world. Musically, the tempo picks up on the songs in which Shamli shares the microphone with guest performers including Gabriel Butler, Buskilz, and Shlomi Shabat. Overall, the album offers fans of the music style a good quality, modern Mizrahi CD.