Friday, June 29, 2007

ich hob veiter a bissel shtickel cowbell!

I just saw this crackup video over at PsychoToddler's blog (it was also linked to from Blog in Dm.) What a great way to start the day. In case it needs any explanation, it's an homage to a classic Saturday Night Live sketch.

"The Moshe Skier Band records its big hit, Adon Olam, with the help of legendary Jewish Music producer, Baruch Dickerstein. Yes, THE Baruch Dickerstein."

ich hob veiter a bissel shtickel cowbell!

And, just in case it needs any explanation, the Moshe Skier Band is a real band out of Milwaukee plays classic rock influenced Jewish music. They really do a version of Adon Olam. Check out their website and MySpace Page to hear more. For a real treat, also check out Kabbalah, an earlier incarnation of the band. How may Jewish bands have you heard that claim Duran Duran, Dire Straights, and Styx as influences? Moshe's blog 'PsychoToddler' is also a must read. It's a good-natured, but sardonic, look at Jewish music, parenting, and life.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Shondes

The Shondes!bum bum bang bang clank clank bum bum bang bang GUITAR SWIRLS BASS CHUGS clank clank violin rises I'M OKAY I'M OKAY!! BANG BANG!


The Shondes (Yiddish for 'a shame, a disgrace) are a Brooklyn punk band with "the drama of Patti Smith, the punch of Sleater Kinney, traditional Jewish melodies, and a songwriting style deeply rooted in Classical tradition." Yeah. that.

Anyway, I've mentioned this before but I was punk as a kid. Well, sort of (I looked like an idiot with a mohawk) but I've been to a lot of punk clubs and seen a lot of punk bands. And one of the best things about a real punk band is that they can wear their heart on their sleeve, tell it like it is, be totally earnest, and then grab their audience by the ear drums and demand they join. Punk isn't nice, but it is unapologetically passionate.

And the Shonde's are punk. And they're Jewish, and the Jewish isn't just a musical reference or a cultural nod. It's the basis for their band. There's been a lot of fury in progressive Jewish circles over Israel's treatment of the Palestinian's, but when was the last time you heard it wrapped in a snarling swirling song the evokes Lamentations and the fall of the Temple.

"remembering temples falling
i watched the wall ascending
i watched cities consume cities'
we can't see the chance that's there
to build temples everywhere
not in space but in time"
from 'I Watched the Temple Fall'

That's about as clear a statement of the Diasporist progressive stance as I've heard. And when the Shondes' plug in and grind, you have to listen. The Shonde's are participating in the Lollapolooza 'Last Band Standing.' Go vote for them.

The Shondes - Let's Go

hat tip to JewSchool

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Japanese Fiddler on the Roof

It takes a couple of minutes for the singing and dancing to start, but it's well worth the wait. It's strange hearing it in Japanese, but they do a great job with it. It makes me wonder how the themes of tradition and change resonate with their audience. Pretty well, I bet.

Japanese Fiddler on the Roof

hat/tip to Avielah and JewSchool


I've got a one track mind and will probably be posting a lot about the 'Contemporary Jewish Music' scene over the next week or so. I want to get my head around the core musicians and to see what's going on lately. I was starting to research Craig Taubman, founder of the Jewish music label Craig N Co, and a major player in the scene when I found out about OyBaby2. Oybaby is a DVD for Jewish tots. I love the concept. I'm not sure the video has me sold, mostly because I think my little ones are already too old for it. But check it out. It's a good idea that looks reasonably well executed (unlike many children's media projects I've seen). It looks to lean more toward standard set pieces (shabbat and Hanukkah candles) and simple Hebrew phrases than toward any real sense of Jewish values. Considering the target age group (young toddlers) that's probably ok. I've got a couple of toddler books like that. Some work well, some don't. Oybaby looks like it might.

OyBaby is an exciting concept in children's Judaica. Our line of DVDs, VHS videos, and CDs combine stimulating imagery with beautiful and fun Hebrew songs to create a rich Jewish experience for children six months and up. See why the Cleveland Jewish News wrote "Every Jewish home will appreciate this addition. In OyBaby 2, The Schneiderman Sisters return on lead vocals with songs such as Modeh Ani, Shalom Rav, and Tumbalalaika. Guest musicians Craig Taubman and Rick Recht join in the fun as well. Check us out at

OyBaby 2 - The NEW DVD for Jewish Babies

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Rick Recht - The Hope

I got a lot response to my review of Beth Schafer's new album, 'Build that Bridge'. I got 8 people telling me I'm an idiot for not loving it. Oh well. I can take my lumps. And I think I'll get them occasionally because I want to cover and present as many aspects of Jewish music as I can, even though I won't like all of them. Most of the time I'll just pass on the music without any judgement, but sometimes I'll fess up if something doesn't work for me. And I'll get smacked, but that's ok.

So, as long as I'm getting smacked, I'd might as well get it off my chest that I don't really like Rick Recht either. Like Schafer, he's part of the 'Contemporary Jewish Music' scene. I'm not going to bother getting into why I'm not into Recht's music, read my comments on Schafer's album and most of them hold true for Recht (at least for what I've heard).

But he's well loved. He won the recent JVIBE poll, has got a pile of albums, tours like crazy, writes some solid hooks and is very very positive in message. His website describes him like this:

"Rick Recht is the top-touring musician in Jewish music playing over 150 concerts a year in the United States and abroad. Recht is widely recognized for his appeal to youth and family audiences not only as an exceptional musician, singer/songwriter, and entertainer, but as a role model for involvement in Jewish life. He has become an icon for Jewish youth in the United States, elevating the medium of Jewish music as a powerful and effective tool for developing Jewish pride and identity among the masses."

Here's one of his best known tunes:

The Hope

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Beth Schafer: The universal and the particular

Beth Schafer's 'Build that Bridge'Back in March I posted about the Jewess interview of Beth Schafer and noted that I didn't know much about Schafer's 'contemporary Jewish music' scene. After the post I got a nice note from Schafer offering to send me a CD that would help. She was as good as her word and last week I got an advance copy of her new album, 'Build That Bridge,' in the mail. Schafer's got a good voice, plays a good guitar, and has a sharp backing band. She describes her album, saying that "she learned a big lesson when she won the 2006 American Idol Underground Faith Based competition. What was the lesson? That universality in songs is key... If you believe in God, trust in the potential of humanity and want to bring about an era of peace, AND if you love upbeat, well-produced contemporary rock, THIS CD IS FOR YOU!"

Unfortunately, this album is definitely not for me. It misses on many levels. Partly, it's a style thing. I just don't enjoy this style of music. I find the arrangements bland in a sugary upbeat way. I hit fast-forward 11 times looking for a track that grabbed my attention. But more than that, I find the lyrics gratingly shallow, in an equally sugary upbeat way. The only song that I resonated with at all was the first verse or two of 'Good Enough.' (Her website currently has it available for free download.) "You don't need to think that you're better, you need to believe that you're good enough. You don't have to know all the answers, just ask the questions and that's good enough..." In general, I found the lyrics vague, trite, and not much more interesting than the umm, umm, la, la's that fill up many of the tracks.

After listening to it a few times, I think I figured out what bugs me so much about this album. Schafer's comment about 'universality' being 'the key' helped me understand her a lot. Schafer is singing to a wide audience and is proud of singing in "both mega-churches and synagogues." She wants to write positive anthems that these audiences can sing together. To get this universality, her lyrics include nothing that couldn't be sung happily by both groups. The cost: there is nothing particular about her songs. For me, what makes a song strong is it's idiosyncrasy, what it says that nothing else could say. That's what I resonate with. And I didn't see much. It was all very smooth and forgettable. I also looked hard to find any sense of who Schafer is and, other than her genuine positive energy, I couldn't find it. And if I don't know who she is, then how can any part of me connect to her?

Anthems are hard and, I think, misunderstood. The best anthems become universal because they are deeply anchored in a particular context. Springsteen's 'Born in the USA', probably the greatest accidental anthem in the last 30 years, gets it power from its lyric not its chorus. Sure, it's the chorus that's burned in everyone's brain, but it was his lyrics that set the context. "I had a buddy at Khe Sahn. Fighting off the Viet Cong. They're still there, he's all gone. He had a little girl in Saigon. I got a picture of him in her arms. I'm a long gone daddy in the USA, Born in the USA." It's the particular combination of pride, pain, bravado, and futility of the lyric that infuses all of our late-night drunk encores.

That's what I was hoping for from 'Build That Bridge.' What are the particulars? Why is it important that we build a bridge? Why is it so hard to do? And why should we care? I listened to the album about 5 times and I still don't. Sorry Beth. I tried.

Wow, there's a really lively discussion going on in the comments section for this review. Check it out and add your opinion.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

More Recent and Upcoming Albums

I ran out of steam last night, but hey, that was a lot of albums. The Jewish music scene's hopping.


New Paul Brody album "For the Moment" out on Tzadik - Radical Jewish Culture.

Paul Brody releases 'For the Moment'

" Paul Brody is a talented composer/performer based in Berlin. Touring Europe for several years to enthusiastic audiences, his band Sadawi has developed into a razor sharp ensemble, one of the very best to mix jazz with traditional Jewish music. His third CD for Tzadik is his best yet and features special guests Michael Alpert and John Zorn on selected tracks. Ten sparkling original compositions featuring dynamic solos, catchy melodies and driving rhythms by a fresh voice in New Jewish Music."

New Irving Fields Trio album 'My Yiddishe Mama's Favorites' out on Tzadik - Radical Jewish Culture.

Irving Fields Trio album 'My Yiddishe Mama's Favorites'

" The pioneer of Latin-Jewish fusion Irving Fields turns 92 this year and he is playing better than ever. Reworking Jewish classics into the Latin mold with the aid of Tzadik regulars Greg Cohen and Roberto Rodriguez, Irving has created a beautiful program of mambos, rumbas and solo pieces that will delight young and old. With an incredible depth of feeling and the touch and phrasing of an absolute master, My Yiddishe Mama shows us all where Radical Jewish Culture comes from and where it is going in one bold gesture. An absolute classic."

The Jewish Music Heritage Project releases 'The Musical Tradition of the Eastern European Synagogue'

The Musical Tradition of the Eastern European Synagogue

"This CD is part of an unprecedented historic effort to comprehensively document and record for posterity the great treasury of Eastern European synagogue music. It is one step in the long, arduous task of rescuing our once-glorious and centuries-old vast treasury of sacred music from otherwise near certain oblivion. Future plans include producing an estimated 75 CDs, which contain all of the music from the five-volume anthology. It is expected that there will be five sets of CDs, one set of companion recordings for each volume."

There are new albums coming out in the Othodox and Chassidic music scene all the time. Next time around I'll have a better listing of those albums.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Recent and Upcoming Albums


New Socalled album "Ghettoblaster" out on JDUB Records.

Socalled releases 'Ghettoblaster'

"The Montreal Renasissance man, SoCalled is back with the follow up to his 2005 SoCalled Seder. Ghettoblaster spans multiple genres, from rock to funk, Jewish and Jazz, all the while returning to and grounded by SoCalled's collage-like hip hop beats. This brilliant, eclectic album features a vast palette of musical influences, with guest appearances by underground MC C-Rayz Walz, James Brown's trombonist Fred Wesley, David Krakauer, hot shot producer Gonzales and many
more. "

I picked this one up already. It's a blast, though it didn't grab me as much as The Socalled Seder. Still a worthy album.

New Sara Aroeste Band album "Puertas" available at CD Baby.

Sarah Aroeste releases 'Puertas'

"With Ancestral roots in Spain and Greece, American-born Sarah Aroeste has worked to reinvent Ladino and Sephardic music. The Sarah Aroeste Band is known for its style of mixing traditional Ladino songs with rock, funk, jazz and blues. Combining Sephardic folksongs from around the Mediterranean with contemporary sounds, their second album, Puertas, presents an updated take on traditional Ladino songs. With 10 tracks on Puertas ranging in sounds from funky pop beats, to flamenco-style strumming, hard electric rock riffs and driven Middle Eastern rhythms, “Puertas” is truly a unique blend of what is traditional and new in Sephardic music. "

"Ethnic eclecticism from a sultry warbler of Greek ancestry...(Shakira eat your heart out!)" -Village Voice

"Sarah Aroeste isn't just out to entertain, she wants to redefine "Jewish music." -The Forward

I haven't heard this one yet but I really enjoy her first album, A La Luna.

New Pharoh's Dauther album "Haran" available at Oyhoo.

Pharoh's Daughter releases 'Haran'

"Turkish hash bars meet Hasidic Brooklyn juke joints with ‘70's era psych rock well in tow. That is the perfect description of what's in store for a listener of the magical journey subtly titled "Haran". Raised among a religious upbringing, the bandleader and vocalist Basya Schechter evokes images of rebellion with her love of Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and the Rolling Stones. But its those rock heroes who've graciously lent their wisdom to her willing ears and lead her to help fashion one of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring worldbeat albums of the year. - J-Sin"

I haven't heard this one yet but I really enjoy two of their previous albums "Daddy's Pockets" and "Out of the Reeds".

Reboot Stereophonic to re-release Fred Katz 'Folk Songs for Far Out Folks' on July 10.

Fred Katz 'Folk Songs for Far Out Folks'

"Much like Gershon Kingsley, Fred Katz has had one of the more extraordinary, if offbeat, careers in contemporary music. A vet of Army bands and Hollywood orchestras, plus sessions with Lena Horne and Carmen McRae, Katz made his biggest mark by bringing the cello to the forefront of the jazz repertoire. He did this best as a member of the Chico Hamilton Quintet, the ever-experimental ensemble that dropped Zen, a Pacific jazz gem of Katz compositions. Of course, he also did all the arranging for Harpo Marx's Harpo in Hi-Fi LP, Ken Nordine's classic Word Jazz project, the original score to Little Shop of Horrors, and the ever-popular Sidney Poitier Reads Plato record. He did an A&R stint at Decca before settling into a longtime academic gig as a must-take music professor. The most admired (if under-discussed) Katz album is probably this one, which is dedicated to the idea that all jazz is born from "the roots of people." The roots explored here are folk songs--American, Hebrew, and African. "Baal Shem Tov" and "Rav's Nigun" feature guest appearances by Paul Horn on sax and legendary LA jazzman Buddy Collette on flute. The tracks, from 1959, sound prophetic--an avant tackle of jazz and Jewish tradition. "

Gail Javitt releases "Like a Braided Candle: Songs for Havdalah" available at CD Baby.

Like a Braided Candle: Songs for Havdalah

"A unique collection of songs from the Jewish ceremony of Havdalah, which takes place at the end of the Sabbath. Spans the centuries and the globe with songs both traditional and contemporary, in Hebrew, English, Yiddish, and Ladino."

You can find out more about Gail Javitt and "Like a Braided Candle" at her web site and in this Washington Jewish Week article.

Voices for Israel releases "Keeping the Faith"

Voices for Israel releases 'Keeping the Faith'

"VOICES FOR ISRAEL: KEEPING THE FAITH unites over 100 women from four continents, joining their voices for Israel. This ambitious double album and video brings together Jewish women of all backgrounds, from all over the world, to support Israel.

As with Voices For Israel's tremendously successful debut album, “Chazak Amenu: We Stand As One,” the objective of KEEPING THE FAITH is to express support for, and solidarity with, the people of Israel during these trying times, and to promote a global sense of Jewish unity and community.

VOICES FOR ISRAEL: KEEPING THE FAITH is a historic 2-CD compilation of 40 songs, in English and Hebrew, relating to Israel, Jewish unity and the enduring hope for peace. The CD set also includes an uplifting music video – put the CD in your computer and watch! – in addition to an informative 20-page booklet packed with full color photos of Israel. Profits benefit survivors of terrorism and war in Israel."

The Afro-Semitic Experience releases "Plea for Peace"

The Afro-Semitic experience releases 'Plea for Peace'

"After months and months of talking about it, it is finally here. We have just come out with a new recording, Plea for Peace and it is our strongest effort yet and really a group effort. On this album we ofer a program of pieces that encompass a wide range of sounds and styles--there are original compositions along with our distinctive arrangements of synagogue songs, gospel songs, hymns, West African, Cuban and Puerto Rican drum beats, jazz songs and cantorial music. We are a band that is proud of our religious and political message. Plea for Peace is a politically charged and spiritually centered cry for peace, world wide spiritual unity and communication."

Mare Winningham releases 'Refuge Rock Sublime' on Craig and Co.

Mare Winningham releases 'Refuge Rock Sublime

"Academy Award nominee and two-time Emmy winner Mare Winningham blazes a trail into the world of Jewish country bluegrass music on 'Refugue Rock Sublime', her first major CD release. Mare delivers a unique take on traditional Jewish themes in a voice with the smoothness of Alison Kraus and the edge of Aimee Mann, and a backup band that sounds like it could have come straight out of 'O Brother Where Art Thou?'.

I really like this album. Check out my review.

Blue Frige releases 'Whole World Lit Up' on Craig and Co.

Blue Fringe releases 'The Whole World Lit Up'

"With record-breaking CD sales and scores of sold-out performances, Blue Fringe is fast establishing itself as America's favorite Jewish rock band. Arranged, written, and recorded over the course of several months, 'The Whole World Lit Up', Blue Fringe's highly acclaimed third album, features a ten song collection of innovative approaches to traditional Jewish tune. Weaving familiar melodies with original lyrics about anti-Semitism, the ongoing war in Israel, and the Jewish response of prayer to 9/11, the album infuses new perspective into ancient liturgy and promises to be theirmost successful release yet.

I like this album, though if found it a bit flat in spots. Check out my review.

Konsonans Retro release 'A Pdoloian Affair' available at CD Babya>

Konsonans retro releases A Podolian Affair

"Konsonans Retro are a pretty old wedding brass band from Odessa region, Ukraine, and possibly the coolest and freshest new world music act to come out of Eastern Europe. For generations - and through countless hot nights - the Baranovsky family and their in-laws have been passionately playing the wild and sweet wedding music of Podolia, a powerful and soul-stirring blend of Moldavian, Ukrainian and unique Jewish tunes. And they sing - everywhere they are. That you have to hear for yourself…

Somewhere in 2005, the band met Berlin-based master clarinetist Christian Dawid (some think it was in Vienna). Soon plans were made – since then, the new Konsonans Retro have been performing for thousands of listeners at the Krakow Festival of Jewish Culture, at Vienna’s excellent Klezmore festival and have been touring through Germany, Switzerland and Ukraine.

Konsonans Retro have received enthusiastic response from audiences and fellow musicians alike. Illustrous artists like Steve Bernstein (Sex Mob), SoCalled, Lorin Sklamberg (The Klezmatics) or DJ Gurzhy (Russendisko) are raving about the band. Cosmopolitan cult singer Alec Kopyt (Poza, Amsterdam Klezmer Band) even called them ‘the best klezmer band in the world’. Not necessarily thinking of themselves as a klezmer band, they certainly party on every stage they play. Davai!"

Beth Schafer soon to release 'A Build That Bridge'

Beth Schafer to releases Build That Bridge

"Songs that inspire hope, that rock with an undeniable spirit and that speak to listeners of ANY faith. Special guest, Larry Hoppen, wrote and recorded the title track with Beth. A MUST HAVE for listeners seeking positive music who want to be HAPPY!"

Beth is the winner of the American Idol Underground competition. She sent me an advance copy of the album and I'll be reviewing it soon.

Aviva released 'Songs for Carmen'

Aviva releases 'Songs for Carmen

"Songs For Carmen is inspired by George Bizet’s internationally acclaimed opera, Carmen. Many scholars believe the tale of this famous Gypsy was derived from the legend of the Petenera, a Jewish temptress who, because of her seductive power, was reported to be the “damnation of men.” These and other folklore have their origins in southern Spain at a time when the cultural and artistic alliances of Jewish and Muslim communities flourished. The language on this album is Ladino — an ancient form of Spanish spoken by the Jews of the region and nearly decimated after the expulsion of the Jews and Muslims in 1492. No Jews or Muslims were harmed in the making of this album."

'Out of Babylon' released on Celestial Harmonies

'Out of Bayblon' released on Celestial Harmonies

"Babylon became the spiritual centre of Judaism and was to remain so for over a thousand years. This legacy of Babylonian Jews was so profound that their descendants many of who migrated elsewhere yearned for Jerusalem in their prayers but considered Bagdhdad their home and that is where their culture took shape. There are fewer then 20 Jews left in Babylon ( Iraq) today. The songs in this compilation were chosen from field recordings collected separately by Professor Marageret Kartomi and Dr Sara Manasshe. This CD compilation is one of the outcomes of six years of research investigating a rare case of musical heritage maintained over two chains of migrations over the past 200 years or so, and focused on situations of culture contact in a series of Diasporas across a continent to Asia in the colonial era and eventually across several continents to Asia, Australia and North America The songs were recorded in a variety of acoustic environments, as dictated by field opportunities."

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Mare Winningham's Refuge Rock Sublime

Album cover art for Mare Winningham's Refuge Rock SublimeIs it possible to be big and small at the same time? Mare Winningham thinks so. In Refuge Rock Sublime, she, a convert, stands as if under Sinai at the giving of the Torah. And it makes her huge. And you can hear it in every note she plays. Her guitar and voice are passionate but restrained, small and yet so much larger. The best of the tracks, including the stand out Valley of the Dry Bones, have that quiet echo that country music does so well. But Winningham reminds us that such sounds can conjure more than loneliness. They can open us to the sublime and make us all huge.

This album is the kind of country I can handle, with none of the chest thumping boot stomping hysteria of TODAYS HOT COUNTRY radio. Musically it reminds me of Alison Kraus, Emmylou Harris, or Gillian Welch. It also reminds me of Andy Statman and David Grisman's albums "Songs of Our Fathers" and "New Shabbos Waltz." While not every track works for me (My Fixed Point and Oh Moses are a bit heavy handed) the best of them mix humility, passion, and love for God and Judaism with solid songwriting and musicianship.

I've said this a number of times, but I longed for this sort of thing when I was a teenager. I longed for some strong musician and song-writer to sing about things I cared about. I never got it then, but it's starting to happen more often lately. That's why I love this album and absolutely hate one song on it, the third track, What Would David Do. If you edit out the chorus, you'd have an adequate reflection on King David. Not fabulous, but adequate. But then the chorus kicks in "ask yourself, What Would David Do." I wince. I sweat. I shudder. I hit fast forward. C'mon Mare. In the middle of such a heartfelt Jewish album did you have latch onto one of the most trite Christian cliche's of the last decade? sigh.

Anyway, this album is a keeper. My wife's swiped my copy already and has it in heavy rotation in the car. You should check it out. You can find it at Craig N Co's website and at Amazon. And, of course, on YouTube:

Valley of the Dry Bones

Matisyahu on CNN

Matisyahu CNN

hat/tip to Apple770

Monday, June 18, 2007

Phish and Avinu Malkenu

Phish Concert Poster from the Phish Poster ArchiceI got an email this weekend from my brother Nate about the band Phish. Nate and his wife Sara are big Phish fans. He wanted me to know that Phish plays Avinu Malkenu in concert. For those of you not familiar with Phish, they're a rock jam band in the tradition of the Grateful Dead. They pack stadiums and inspire fans like my brother and sister-in-law to drive all over the place to see their shows.

The story of how a Rosh Hashana prayer became part of regular set-list of one of the most popular bands in the country is exactly the kind that I was talking about last month when I wrote about the 'Jewish fringe' bands The Jewish Legend, A Silver Mt. Zion, and The Silver Jews. The Phish bass player, Mike Gordon, is Jewish and willing to connect his and the band's public identity with Judaism. According to an article written by Jacob Horowitz for JVibe, Gordon grew up in Newton, Mass attending a Conservative synagouge and a Solomon Schechter day school. Later on, he introduces his Phish bandmates to Avinu Malkenu and other Jewish and Hebrew songs. And this introduction was not just because he was fond of the music. According to the JVibe article, Gordon has an "effortless spirituality" and a deep connection with Judaism.

"Music," he explains, "fills many of the holes that religion leaves open. The philosophical feeling behind religion, a religious upbringing, and even the notion of praying to God is very abstract. This transfers directly to my relationship with music. While you cannot necessarily touch music, you can feel it and it is something to believe in." "I've always compared my movements on stage to davening [praying]," he added. "To me, music has always served as that type of religious release."

When I was growing up in the 80's, I was constantly awash with pop music full of Christian imagery and themes. I dealt with it, but always wondered why a popular music so full of Jewish musicians never seemed to slip in some Jewish material. It seems like it's finally happening. About time.

Phish 1999-10-03TMWSIY Avenu Malkenu

By the way, if you want to see some very well meaning, non-Jewish, Phish fans puzzling over Avinu Malkenu, check out this Phish FAQ page. I find it fascinating.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Beyond the Pale's "Jamaican-Jewish Wedding"

According to the YouTube blurb this is Beyond the Pale's first video. It was directed by David Stein, and featurs Michael Alpert, Zev Feldman, Alan Kaeja, and David Smith. The dancing is great fun to watch and the music is lovely. I was hoping for a bit more Jamaican influence, though.

Hattip to Michael Makiri on the Jewish Music Mailing list.

Epstien Brothers

Fiddling around on YouTube this morning I found a cache of videos featuring the Epstien Brothers. The videos mix some great Klezmer music and some documentary insights into the Jewish simcha (party) music scence in the 60's. The Brothers were klezmer musicians in New York in the 1960's and were the subject of the film "A Tickle in the Heart." I'm not sure if these videos are from 'Tickle' or not. YouTube won't let me embed the video's, but you can go check them out on the YouTube site. Here are couple great ones.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Blue Fringe's "The Whole World Lit Up" sounds nice and the boys have nice voices

Blue Fringe's 'The Whole World Lit Up' Album CoverI guess I'm a real music blog now. A nice fellow at Craig & Co. sent me a copy of Blue Fringe's latest "The Whole World Lit Up" and Mare Winningham's "Refuge Rock Sublime." He hoped I might mention them on my blog. That was four weeks ago, so I'd probably should get at it.

I've got a couple of impressions about the Blue Fringe album and I'll get to them in a minute. The first thing I want to say is that my daughter really likes them. Now, she's four and not necessarily a great judge of music (her usual favorite include the Dora the Explorer album and Sandra Boynton's 'Dog Train".) but she hears a lot of 'Papa' music and usually wrinkles her nose at it. 'The Whole World Lit Up,' though, she liked enough that she's asked me to play it. When I asked her why, she summed up the whole review I'd been assembling in about 10 words.

"It sounds nice. The boys have nice voices"

And they do sound nice and they do have nice voices. I haven't heard Blue Fringe live (I'm told they are a great live band) and haven't hear their ealier albums (I'm told they're a lot grungier) so I can't compare, but this is a nice album. I'm not usually a big fan of nice albums, I tend toward things a bit scruffier or more complicated than nice but 'The Whole World Lit Up" has been in heavier rotation than I would have expected. I guess I needed a little nice lately.

While the guys aren't song writer's per se, only getting credit for English lyrics on a couple of the tracks, there are some really interesting and enjoyable arrangements. The lead off tracks 'Etz Chaim' and "Eshett Chayil" are great fun, as is "Anayni". Some of the other tracks are a bit bland for me, but pleasant enough.

I was particularly surprised by their cover of the Flaming Lips "Do You Realize." It's a fabulous song. I find it pretty soul wrenching, but in a postive way and well worth covering. The Lip's have a very off-kilter, rock and roll carnival, kind of sound that give their arrangement a court jester, only the fool can tell the truth, feeling. Blue Fringe's arrangement, and it's placement on an album with an unapologetically religious context, allows the spiritual qualities of the song come foward. Unfortunately, their nicer, smoother, arrangement waters down much of the musical tension in the song by adding some unnecessary 'ooh's' and "ahhs" that really annoyed me. Just a bit too nice.

You can catch clips of "The Whole World Lit Up" at the Samaech Music website. There are, as there should be, lots of just two Blue Fringe videos at YouTube and you can also check out the Flaming Lips original 'Do You Realize' arrangement on YouTube. Here' a live video of Blue Fringe performing Eishet Chayil from "The Whole World Lit Up" for Samaech's Podcast.

Blue Fringe - Eishet Chayil - Sameach Podcast

Nice, right?

Thanks to Julie for pointing out that there are only two Blue Fringe videos and for pointing me to the Blue Fringe website for the track "My Awakening" from their first album. It's pretty cool and gives me a better idea about where they've been, musically. I like how the song builds and releases tension. I bet that one's great to hear live. What's really interesting is that the website has two additional, hidden, tracks after "My Awakening." The first is a live track. I didn't catch the title but it's the best thing I've heard from Blue Fringe yet. These guys can really tight and really jam. I see why they're so popular live. The second is a great out-take from a recording session. Good stuff. It's acoustic with a rawer sound that works better for me. Darn. Now I'll have to go out and buy the album. Double darn. I just listened to title track to their second album '70 Faces.' It's outstanding. It's got this crazy 70's funk rhythm and horns and I am so a sucker for that. Now I'll need both albums.

back from vacation

Things have been a bit quiet around Teruah the last couple of weeks. I've been on a family vacation and before that was slammed with a bunch of work. sigh. Anyway, I'm back and hopefully things will be picking up again.

All the best,


Monday, June 4, 2007

Lullabies of the world

Lullabies of the WorldI ran into the website for 'Lullabies of the World' back when I was researching Jewish lullabies. The creators of the site have selected and animated a set of lullabies from around the world. Here's how they describe their project...

METRONOME FILM presents 'Lullabies of the world' - a collection of animated films based on lullabies of different nations. Our movies are made for everybody, but mostly for children. The viewer will feel as if he is lulled by a loving mother. Every lullaby is performed in its original language. The plot of the movie is based on the story told in the lullaby. Visual images reflect the lifestyle and traditions of each nation.
Their site, at least the English language version, doesn't work very well and I never could find the Jewish (Yiddish) lullaby. A recent post on the Jewish Music mailing list from Konsonans Retro, though, pointed out that all of the videos have been posted on YouTube. I should have guessed. Konsonans also pointed out that 'Efim Chorny is the featured artist for the Jewish song.' Other videos from the collection are also on YouTube. Check them out.