Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Off the Review Stack...

Mesivta of Waterbury - Stay With Me

This new release, featuring songs composed and performed by students and alumni of the Mesivta of Waterbury (with some guest musicians), is quite a pleasant surprise, with nice vocals and understated production. I really like the approach the guys took on this one.

The album captures a nice folk-rock blend that sounds like the Rabbis' Sons meets Yosef Karduner. These are nice contemporary settings of mainly the usual types of liturgical texts like Ani Ma'amin, Gam Ki Elech, Oseh Shalom, Hashem Melech, etc. with two (and a half) original English songs.

The arrangements are largely guitar based, although there are some nice guest turns on percussion, violin, and clarinet on some tracks. There's also a nice vibraphone solo on "Hold On." All in all, a very tastefully done project. And, you can tell that at least some of the people involved have an appreciation/love for older Jewish music.

Fave tracks include "Hashem Melech" with a great acoustic guitar intro, and "Mishoich", which really captures a Karduner vibe with strong rhythmic acoustic guitar, and percussion, but no drum set.

Amazon has the album here:

SoCalled - Peoplewatching

Josh Dolgin aka SoCalled first came to my attention with his "SoCalled Seder" project. He followed that up with "Ghettoblaster", a nice album including a homage to Jewish Cowboys as well as a slammin’ version of that Yiddish classic "Belz", which you can hear over the closing credits to "Midlife Crisis", a Yiddish Seinfeldesque mini-series on YouTube. He was a also a key member of "Abraham Inc." A klez-funk collab he did with clarinetist David Krakauer and trombonist Fred Wesley. SoCalled has been on the faculty of various Klezmer programs as well as performed for numerous Jewish music festivals. 

His recent recordings are more pop-oriented dance music, rather than specifically Jewish, albeit with diverse influences including klezmer in the mix. That said, you can’t take the Jewish out of SoCalled’s music, no matter how upbeat and danceable it might be.

On "Peoplewatching", Socalled takes a look at the Good Book and learns from the stories that “It’s not enough that I succeed; everyone else must fail.” Another good lyric: An eye for an iPad/slaves of the phone/land of the imprisoned/ and home of the drones

"Peoplewatching": Nice funky horns on this track! "So many greedy ones/causing all the needy ones."

"Never See You Again" has some profanity as well as a nice trombone solo

In "Extra Ordinary", Socalled confesses that “It’s not kosher, but sometimes I’m a pig.” He also claims to be a door-to-door Wikipedia salesman, among other things.

"Fire on Hutchison Street" is a song about how Shabbos candles caught a curtain on fire at an apartment across the street from Socalled’s place…

“An audience assembles across Hudson Street to watch/Hasids there to see the fire blazing/movies and TV forbidden/ so this is the show to watch/ police cars, smoke, and fireman quite amazing"

Fave tracks include “Everyone Must Fail”, “Peoplewatching”, “Extra Ordinary” and “Fire on Hutchinson Street”.

Lots of fun wordplay! Forget the Grammy, Socalled's "gonna wait for the whole Ounce-y."

Amazon has the album here:

Mames Babegenush: Mames Babegenush

This a gorgeous klezmer project from Denmark. It's a nice pop/klez hybrid with Balkan overtones and an experimental bent. The band also cites influences from Michael Jackson, Brian Eno, and Phillip Glass.

I liked this one. The musicianship and arrangements are superb! 

Fave tracks include"Isortok Nights", "La Loteria en Babylonia","Hanganu", and "Gathering Nigun", but the whole thing is excellent!

Sergio Mendes - Magic
This Grammy nominated album has no Jewish content whatsoever, but is nevertheless a fun album. Nice Latin piano/keys from Sergio Mendes, mainly on upbeat dance collaborations with various guest vocalists. Bossa/Samba/jazz/dance pop.Not the sort of album I typically get here for review, but fun nonetheless.

Fave tracks include "Simbora", "Don't Say Goodbye" (featuring John Legend), and "Samba de Roda".

Amazon has the album here: