Sunday, June 10, 2007

Veroba Variations (CD review)

What a hectic couple of weeks I had, a couple of weeks ago! We went straight from Shavuot to our son's graduation, followed by one of the worst weeks I've had in the office since I completed our last major project. By the time the following Shabbat (Sabbath) rolled 'round, I was too shot to rise and shine at a decent hour, so I was davenning Shacharit (praying the Morning Service) at twice my usual so-called speed in order to get to synagogue in time for k'riat haTorah. To console myself for my resultant nearly complete lack of kavanah (focus), I was singing short snatches of P'sukei d'Zimrah (Verses of Song, mostly a collection of psalms and other biblical quotations, sometimes called the Introductory Service) to myself. Imagine my surprise when I suddenly found myself singing--or at least trying to sing--a song I'd never sung in my life!

"Where on earth did that come from?," I asked myself. "Oh, yeah--it's from that new Gershon Veroba album."

Isn't it funny how music sometimes sneaks up on you? My first reaction to "Reach Out" was that the English lyrics of many of the songs on this CD were too hokey. There's also my obvious prejudice: Even though I'm currently limited to one and a half feet (so to speak) and a cane, I still react to music as a dancer, and the only song on this album that really makes me want to get up and dance is songwriter Elimelech Blumstein's delightful "Ana Avda." We heard Veroba sing that song at the Salute to Israel concert, and I danced through the whole thing, half the time with a hand on my trusty cane and the other half of the time with a hand on a security barrier. :). It doesn't hurt that the lead guitarist on this song is hard-rock guitar guru Yossi Piamenta. (His son Yehuda, who subbed for him at the Salute to Israel concert, is no slouch in the talent department either.)

Nevertheless, a few of the other songs seem to have made an impression. The one I was attempting to sing was Veroba's own "Va'ani," from Tehillim/Psalms 13:6 (last line), or, in the siddur/prayer book, at the very end of that long passage of miscellaneous quotes that follows Baruch Sheh-Amar. It reminds me a bit of a song that Veroba wrote and recorded with Shlock Rock some years ago, "K'vodo," about which Mark/PT, another sometime Shlock Rock band member, has said some very nice words. (You can catch a sample of Veroba's piano playing in his jazzy solo on Mark's "Someone Else's Place," also recorded with Shlock Rock--just scroll through the radio blog here 'til you find it.)

Another piece that I like is songwriter Elimelech Blumstein's "V'Ata Kisvu" (from Parshat Vayelech, Deuteronomy 31:19) . I think it's quite nice, once you get passed the shmaltzy/mawkish violin solo that opens the song, which is not to my personal taste.

You'll note my obvious preference for the Hebrew-language songs. That said, I did develop a liking for one of the English-language songs in spite of the hokeyness. "Man to Man," by Veroba, seems to have snuck past my anti-hoke barriers. It probably helps that I like the music, and that Veroba has a very fine voice.

Slowly but surely, I'm learning my lesson--don't dismiss a CD out of hand as "not quite to my taste." I never know when a song is going to "grow" on me. Hmm--time to take out some of those CDs that I decided I didn't like and give them another listen.


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