Sunday, December 10, 2006

(Link>) CD review: "T'nu Lanu Siman--Give Us A Sign," by Shlock Rock

This review is way overdue--I actually bought this CD at the Shlock Rock concert in September. But hey, better late than never.

I originally purchased this CD because of the second song thereon, which Shlock Rock's founder/bandleader/keyboard player/lead singer and principal songwriter Lenny Solomon sang at the concert. He said that it had gotten a lot of "air time" on Hebrew-language Israeli radio stations, and I can see why--who can argue about a song with lyrics like these?

"Ani Yehudi

When they ask me who am I (I will say)

I am not Ashkenazi, Sefaradi, Taimani [Yemenite] or Tzarfati [French]

I am not Morrocan, American, or Russian

Chorus: I am a Jew"

And the music's very nice, indeed.

"Laasok" has a similar theme. This is the one song on this CD that is not sung by Lenny. As he said in the CD-liner notes, "This song guest stars Yehuda Dim and Ohum Hatuka [one of his back-up singers] as I wanted authentic Chassidic and Mizrachi singing voices." "Laasok" is basically a musical debate about whether Ashkenazi or Sefardi pronunciation should be used in prayers and/or biblical quotations. (Boy, was I surprised when both the Chassid and the Mizrachi pronounced "aleihem" with the accent on the third syllable. In the Ashkenazi synagogue of my childhood, "aleihem" was pronounced with the accent on the second syllable. We crazy Ashkenazim can't even agree among ourselves about how to pronounce Hebrew. :) ) The verdict is that both sides are right. "Laasok" is another call for tolerance and mutual respect, and fun to listen to.

"S'u Sh'arim" is a song that Lenny wrote in 1987 for his old band, Kesher. It's harmony heaven for an ex-synagogue-choir singer like me. I love it!

Not being learnèd enough to be able to look up a psalm directly in a Tehillim/Book of Psalms, I had to look for it the roundabout way, by checking a siddur/prayerbook, in which I know exactly where to find it--it's the psalm sung when returning the Torah scroll to the Aron Kodesh/Holy Ark every(?) day except Shabbat/Sabbath. Long story short: The lyrics of "S'u Sh'arim" are the four final verses of Psalm 24.

One of the fringe benefits of having sung in a synagogue choir for over a decade is that I got to know the services for the Yamim Noraim/High Holidays much better than I would have as a regular Jo. A month of twice-weekly rehearsals every August for more than ten years, not to mention being expected to stay glued in place in the choir box for most of every High Holiday service, will do that. (Thank goodness it wasn't a hidden choir box--I hate those things!--and it was on the main floor, so we always felt that we were part of the congregation.) So here's the deal: According to the Hebrew side of the liner notes for "V'Zarchati", the lyrics are from Parshat (weekly Torah-reading portion) B'chukotai, but my ability to read numbers written in Hebrew letters doesn't exist, so I can't give you chapter and verse. (Check your Chumash.) As a former synagogue-choir singer, though, I can almost guarantee that these words also appear in the Zichronot section of the Amidah prayer for Rosh Hashanah/Jewish New Year.

In my humble opinion, "V'Zacharti" is the most beautiful song on this CD. Wow!

And now for the fun. Lenny says that "Yedid Nefesh" is "hora style." Humph, that's what he thinks--he only wrote the music. :) :) :) But he's a singer, and I'm a dancer. And I say (and the Punster, who first got me into Israeli folk dancing and used to teach it, agrees) that, while the "ai, dai, di dee, di, dee, dum" section is certainly hora style, the rest is, if not exactly Yemenite, perhaps Mediterranean Sefardi. Mystery of the day: Why do I hear what sounds suspiciously like a stringed instrument called a bouzouki, typical of Greek music, when there isn't one listed in the credits? (The same sound shows up in "V'Samachta," as well.) If I were a good enough choreographer to be able to choreograph anything this long--I gave up trying to choreograph a wonderful old Shlock Rock song called "Tzofeh V'yodeah" from the Songs of the Morning/Shirei Boker album for the same reason--I'd do the "dai di dai" section as a "grapevine" step with a "direction-reverse" in the middle (see here during the piano solo) and the rest in a mishmash of movements of the Yemenite, debka, and anything-else-Mizrachi-that-I-could-think-of schools of Israeli dance.

This CD, full of wonderful music, brings to mind the words of a certain singer/songwriter of the Jewish blogosphere's acquaintance, who's been around long enough to have played bass for both Lenny's old band, Kesher, and his current band, Shlock Rock (keep scrolling--there are videos of one of Mark's gigs with Shlock Rock there). Mark once said that Lenny didn't get enough credit for his contribution to Jewish music. Buy this album, and you'll hear why I agree.

Sunday, December 17, 2006 update: I'm not going to change the title of this post, because I already sent the link to Lenny. But the other day, when I was "ripping" the CD to my office computer (the better to tolerate several boring hours of stuffing envelopes), I finally noticed that this CD is labeled a Lenny Solomon recording, not a Shlock Rock one. I guess Shlock Rock, being a Yiddish-English hybrid name, isn't really an Israeli-sounding "brand name," and is recognizable only to English-speaking olim (immigrants). Sorry about the error, Lenny.


Blogger PsychoToddler said...

Ani Yehudi is an awesome song. We've played it at the last few shows I was at.

Tue Dec 12, 01:22:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

"Awesome" is a good description. What a wonderful song!

Who's the "we?" Has your own band played it yet, or are you talking about your gigs with Shlock Rock?

Tue Dec 12, 10:38:00 PM 2006  

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