Thursday, March 22, 2007

Pre-Sefirah music madness, 2007 edition

Once upon a time, I promised not to listen to my Jewish rock CDs from ever Pesach until Lag B'Omer. So I'm taking this final glorious opportunity to buy and listen to everything in sight. :) (For those who missed last year's pre-Pesach CD fest, here's the link.)
Knowing that I was facing a deadline, I finally got myself over to Jewish Jukebox, "Sameach Music's Home on the Web," and ordered "U'Shmuel B'korei Sh'mo," the album that MOChassid recently produced, with the participation of some of his musician friends, in memory of his late father, a cantor. While I was there, I also ordered the new Blue Fringe album, "The Whole World Lit Up." Much to my pleasant surprise, JewishJukebox tossed in The Diaspora Yeshiva Band's "Live at Carnegie Hall" Reunion album for free.
Then I picked up the Moshav Band's "Misplaced" the other night at their concert.
So let me try to write up a little review.
The Diaspora Yeshiva Band: "Live at Carnegie Hall" (the Reunion album)
Nu, what's not to like about the wonderful and incredibly talented musicians of the (original) Diaspora Yeshiva Band? Go, buy, listen, enjoy! And while you're at it, pick up the two-CD set "The Diaspora Collection. " Great stuff! Eventually, I really must get around to buying more of the recordings made by members of the band since they went their own individual ways.
Blue Fringe: "The Whole World Lit Up"
My favorites on this album are "Etz Chayim" (traditional prayer, contemporary arrangement), and, best of the batch (in my opinion), "Anayni" (traditional prayer, plus original lyrics in English by drummer Danny Zwillenberg). As to the rest of the songs, to be honest, the band seems to be moving in a musical direction that's not quite so much to my own personal taste. (Personally, I'm not sure how I feel about musical arrangements in which a guitarist plays the same chords and/or sequence of notes over and over for roughly three minutes straight, as in their arrangement of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach's "V'Shamru." If I'm in the mood to be mezmerized, I find it mezmerizing. If not, I find it boring.)
But don't let that stop you. Check them out for yourselves on their website or their MySpace page. They may be just right for you.
Moshav Band: "Misplaced"
Moshav is pretty diverse. One minute, they're singing something middle-eastern-tinged, the next, it's country-western-sounding, cantorial, folk-rock, or reggae, sometimes with somewhat unusual rhythms and/or rhythm changes, often with more than one musical genre, not to mention language (English, Hebrew, and/or Arabic) in the same song, with the occasional political commentary. "When I'm Gone" morphs from country to cantorial to Arabic-language middle-eastern and back to country, and ends in Hebrew.) Try going from "Hallelu," which I'm not even sure I can describe (middle-eastern plus rock?), to the mostly-reggae English/Hebrew of "Lift Up Your Head." All the more fun. The album closes with "Dream Again," a piano-and-solo-voice folk ballad that sounds to me like an apology to a sister that I'm not sure he has. Run, do not walk, and buy this album ASAP.
U'Shmuel B'korei Sh'mo (MOChassid's musical anthology of friends' music, produced in memory of his father)
I don't think there's anything on this CD that I don't like. With so many different singers, songwriters, and musical styles, there's something on this CD for everyone, from Ben Zion Solomon (described in the liner notes as "one of the world's foremost experts on Breslov music") singing a Breslover "L'cha Dodi" to Aron Razel singing both a Latin-American/jazz "Yom Shabason" (Yona Matz'a) of his in Ashkenazi Hebrew and, just to get me thoroughly confused, a ballad of his in Sefardi Hebrew. (The first time I heard the MP3 samples of Razel's songs on the Internet, my husband had to convince me that these two songs were both being sung by the same person. :) ). Personally, I think Yosef Karduner's folk ballad "Ha'aleinu" (singer and back-up singer, plus lead and rhythm guitars, with only a hint of other instruments), is gorgeous, as is Chaim Dovid's folk ballad "Brach Dodi," especially the Spanish-sounding chorus (though I think that song could be a bit shorter).
Hint: Jewish Jukebox delivered my three CDs literally within days of my order. If you still have enough money left from Passover shopping (oy) to place your order tonight (no pressure :) ), you could have just about a week to enjoy a new CD or two before Sefirah.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

sameach should give you a commission :-)

i also reviewed 2 outta the 4 you wrote about (moshav's and BF's. life-of-rubin actually posted a link to my review on his blog). it's funny - we had similar impressions. i also seriously love "misplaced." pure genius. i think this is their strongest album to date. BF on the other hand... oy. there are some truly stellar moments (the ones you mentioned but i also love "eichah" and "eshet chayil") but some leaves much to be desired. i'm also not too thrilled with the direction they're moving in but i hope they don't stray too far away artistically from a place i can relate to. ah well, such is life.

so shira - are you on myspace? cuz y'know, there is a plethora of undiscovered talent on there. i discovered so many cool artists there - i just went to see one of them live last nite in a tiny venue in jerusalem. it was captivating. if you're up for recommendations, lemme know. i'd be more than happy to share 'em.

shabbat shalom u'mevorach,

Fri Mar 23, 09:32:00 AM 2007  
Blogger Elie said...


This post is a good illustration of the fact that all those classifications like "Orthodox", "Frum", etc. are rather meaningless. I am labeled "Orthodox" and you are not, yet you avoid listening to even non-live music during sefira, and I do listen to it! Guess the point is that we're all individuals, and each of us chooses the areas of Torah to be stricter and less strict about. In the end, we're all striving for the same goal.

Fri Mar 23, 10:04:00 AM 2007  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Julie, I can't seem to click through your link to your blog. What's the URL?

"Pure genius" sounds like a pretty good description for Moshav's "Misplaced."

I got an ID for MySpace so that I could comment, but I'm not sure uploading my dances there would be a good idea--my office blocks MySpace as an "adult" (ahem) site, so I can't access it from work.

Oh, yeah, please do share your recommendations! Any place where I can go where people actually *listen to the music,* as opposed to using it as a background for meeting and mating, is good for me, provided that I don't need a car to get there.

Elie, I chose this path more out of respect for the musicians, many of whom wouldn't listen to their own music during Sefirah, than out of personal religious conviction. I'm still pretty ambivalent about the necessity of mourning during Sefirah, especially since I understand that Nissan was originally supposed to be a month of rejoicing in our liberation from slavery. I decided, after foregoing Israeli folk dancing from Pesach until Lag B'Omer last year, that I would not do that again. So I guess mine is not exactly a full-fledged observance, but a nod of respect.

Fri Mar 23, 05:01:00 PM 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


recommendations coming soon...

Sat Mar 24, 07:55:00 PM 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Julie - I know what your thinking! :-)

Let me explain why I havent reviewed Moshav's CD yet ... aside from me being a lazy shlub.

The CD is amazing. The production on that CD is out of this galaxy good. The problem I have is that I just have a hard time getting into it. I loved Things You Can't Afford and Lost Time. I also liked Return Again, in a different way. But this CD I just can't pin down. At times I love it, at times I just don't get it. The CD is all over the place artistically so it's hard to listen all the way through. It evokes so many different musical moods it's hard to enjoy as a complete piece.

Shira great reviews,a ll good cd's. I really liked MoChassids CD.

Mon Mar 26, 10:42:00 AM 2007  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Chaim, you're talking Moshav's *previous* album--the songs you mentioned are all from the 2005 CD "The Best of the Moshav Band." (Judging by the title, presumably Moshav recorded all of these previously.) That one was certainly an excellent album, as well. So, nu, how about a review for *this* one? (No pressure. :) )

I kind of get a kick out of the fact that Moshav's repertoire is so varied. And how 'bout that Aron Razel? You can't get much farther apart style-wise than the two songs he wrote and sings on "U-Sh'muel B'korei Sh'mo."

Mon Mar 26, 07:13:00 PM 2007  

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