Tuesday, January 08, 2013

"Jews Keep Rockin" (or more fun with Mark's music)

In the good olde days, when Mark Skier used to post and comment frequently, I clicked through an interesting comment of his to read his blog, and, a bit later, clicked through his blog to his music website.  I've been a fan of his music ever since.    Unfortunately for Mark/Moshe, I've been a rather high-maintenance fan--since my knowledge of Jewish texts is rather limited, I can't tell you how many times I've e-mailed him to ask which text he was quoting in his songs.  Most of the time, he's been kind enough to reply with the information, but sometimes, being a part-time musician, a full-time physician, and the father of six has put a limit on his time, and I've been left to fend for myself.  With the recent release of Jews Keep Rockin, though, and, perhaps, a slight increase in my technical know-how, I decided to try to spare Mark the trouble and see whether I could answer my own question--I typed the first line of "Al Tirah" into a search window, instead.  "Al tira, ish chamudot" yielded this, which, after a bit of reading, led me to Daniel, 10:19.  Cool!

The rest of the lyrics are an entirely different story, literally.  And that story goes back to the days when our local synagogue still had enough congregants who were both alive and well enough to make a minyan every morning.  On Mondays and Thursdays, when one recites the long version of the Tachanun prayer, we would follow a suggestion presented by the old Conservative Silverman Siddur (prayer book) and recite just a selection from the longer section at the beginning.  Never having been either a fast Hebrew reader, as my long-time readers are well aware (based on my numerous published complaints) or a great fan of Tachanun, I found that Selection One was quite enough for me.  But when I tried to duplicate that reading using the Koren Sacks Siddur, I was dismayed to discovered that the second paragraph of the longer section at the beginning was two sentences longer in the Koren Sacks.  Sigh.  So, rather than stopping where I used to stop, I learned the additional two sentences.  It must have been bashert (destined, fated) that I would learn those sentences, because the minute I heard the second sentence of "Al Tirah," I recognized the text immediately--the only place I can remember ever having seen the words "sh'ma-a" and "hakshivah" is in the last of those two additional sentences from the Long Tachanun that I just learned within the past three years or so!

So nu, enough about the lyrics--what about the music, already?  "Al Tirah" is a wonderful song.  Mendel Appel's guitar positively growls, buzzes, echoes, and . . . well, not being a guitarist, I have no idea how he plays what he plays, but it sounds great!  I really enjoy listening to Mark playing under and/or dancing around the melody line on bass.  (Check out the bass line that first appears with the third and fourth "lines" of singing.)  Del Bennett keeps everything moving in the drumming department, and Elana Skier has a delightful short solo on what Mark told me via e-mail me was a "software piano."  (I'm taking a wild guess, here--a software piano is one that's "activated" by "playing" a virtual keyboard that appears on a tablet computer screen?)  And the singing is jolly good.  I think you'll enjoy this song, and for that matter, the others on this, er, in this download.  (The name cdbaby.com is already outdated.  :) ) 

Among my other other personal favorites from "Jews Keep Rockin" are Mark's "Hakel," the lyrics to which I know well from hearing my husband chant them as he leads P'sukei D'Zimsrah.  (Of course, I also know the lyrics from when I lead P'sukei D'Zimrah.)  Brian Gelfand, previously known for his work on the "Kabbalah Kollection" and "Rock of Sages" recordings also featured on Mark's website (keep scrolling down to where the page says "Store," or check cdbaby.com or iTunes), has a very nice piano solo here, with a touch of electric keyboard at the end, too.  I also enjoy Mendel's "Pella" and "Jews Keep Rockin," both of which feature his signature white-hot guitar playing.  And for something completely different, there's Mendel's "Prelude in E Minor" and Mark's lullaby, "Shomer Yisrael."

While you're checking out CDs or downloads, you might want to consider not only the "Kabbalah Kollection" (a favorite: the outstanding and rockin' "Ashrei") and "Rock of Sages" (containing the gorgeous songs "Ani Maamin" by Mark and "Lecha Ezbach" by guitarist Izzy Botnick), which are quite possibly among the Jewish music world's earliest rock recordings,* but also the Moshe Skier Band's first formal recording, "Light Up the World," which has a knock-your-socks-off version of the previously-informally-released "Shoshanas Yaakov."  My recommendation:  Go there and do that!  And while you're there, don't forget to check out "Mehairo," the "single" that Mark wrote in honor of his daughter's wedding.  Mazal tov!

*See here for a little Jewish rock history from the founder and leader of Shlock Rock.  See here for the history of the Kabbalah Band in Mark's own words.


Blogger s(b.) said...

awesome. thanks!

Mon Jan 14, 11:02:00 PM 2013  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

You're welcome. I'm glad you enjoyed my post, and hope you'll enjoy Mark's music.

Tue Jan 15, 01:36:00 PM 2013  

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