Thursday, February 26, 2004

Public Service Announcement

Attention JM "stars", fellow blogger and sometimes poster designer Velvel notes: "If you're going to insist on wearing a modest, yet shtark black suit and velvet kippah, please don't take your publicity photos with a black background. It's very hard to cut out around you."

JM PR Watch

Here's some older PR from the December issue of Country Yossi featuring Eli Gerstner's Yeshivah Boys Choir:
"That virtually every one of his songs has become a classic is testament to the tremendous scope of his talent and creative artistry. Eli's musical masterpieces are the most requested in record stores, on JM radio shows and at simchas the world over."
To name any one favorite on this outstanding debut album is no easy feat. "Kol Hamispalell" features the same chord progression as "Yihei" and uses the same format. This opening song is destined to become a favorite of the thousands who love "Yihei."
One addition older example comes from the "Message From the Publisher" in the November issue of Country Yossi. The cover ad that month was for the Nafshenu Orchestra, and in his message, CY writes:
Nafshenu Orchestra's meteoric rise to Jewish music prominence has long been recognized and appreciated among the cognoscenti of the Jewish music industry. Under the dynamic direction of Aaron Applebaum and Jonathan Rimberg they had built a sterling reputation for their unsurpassed musicianship, consistent high quality, integrity, and professionalism. As a result, their fame began to spread among the masses, simcha by simcha, until today they are widely acknowledged as the pre-eminent name in Jewish Orchestras. We are honored and proud to feature Nafshenu Orchestra as our cover story this issue.

From the Mailbag

I've received a lot of interesting emails recently in response to some of my posts. I've been extremely busy, so I'm just going to "dump" a bunch of them here w/o my thoughts.

(Note: When I post reader email, it doesn't neccesarily mean I agree with it... just that I think it raises a point worthy of consideration.)

Here are some excerpts…
"HaRebbe M'Lubavitch Hu Moshiach - V'Hu Yigaleinu... That struck me. I didn't know Avi P. was a dyed-in-the-wool meshichist. I may have to stop listening to his music. Then again, I listen to gospel choirs, so it's the same thing, right?"
"I happen to agree that the Moshav Band CD is awesome. My question is: When did the JPost wake up? If I'm not mistaken, the CD has been out since at least Chanukah of 5763, over a year ago. Are they going to review the Beatle's White Album next?"
"They don't particularly care, do they, because the *audience* doesn't know how silly the articles look, either. In corresponding with people on the Yahoo! Jewish Music group, I found that they either don't know the difference between they're, there, and their, so they have no clue that the phrase 'heart-rendering melodies' is funny, or they willfully ignore the over-hype and silliness--they pretend the articles are real and the albums are all uniformly amazing--and buy the music anyway.People who know good writing aren't going to give any JM fluff piece the time of day, except maybe to make fun of it. It's a lose-lose situation, because if they raise the quality of the writing, nobody will notice."
"Just like the secular business, we now have musical ignorami running record labels pushing out the worst kind of over produced, under-talented schlock. The JM in the AM - Sameach Music- Shea Mendlowitz- Adam Melzer cycle just digs a deeper groove of mediocrity, as what was once a simple little corner of the music business that attempted to provide an outlet for a small ethnic market has become just another way for some untalented, unmusical, uneducated hacks to make money."
"My best story is when a guy did kedushah to "cats" memories."
"This does not mean the JM business model is proper, correct, ethical or al pi Torah (all synonyms, I couldn't agree with you more). Perhaps I feel that you hold your colleagues to a higher standard, perhaps because you feel you are struggling to make that higher standard the norm. I can understand the frustration of being a lone voice of reason; my sister left a job where several supposedly frum people were not acting al pi halacha. Clearly the right thing to do is act in an ethical manner. The question is what can be done to change the system, and that was essentially my second point. If you can blog about what's good, what's quality, or even critique in an unoffensive manner (it's possible!) about what's not, maybe I could actually start visiting the Jewish music aisle again based on your recommendations."
"Chas veshalom to justify the behavior. What I'm trying to say is that for me, not being a business owner, not knowing the hardships of trying to lure corporate advertisers, it is wrong to judge since you know al tadun es chavercha etc."
And this is just some of it...

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

The Missing Song Lyrics


JM Interviews in Messianic Paper

This article was posted to the Yahoo Jewish Music group. It is the first of two parts that obviously were published in one of the "Meshichist" Lubavitch journals. The authors asked several JM performers three questions:
1) Do you have Moshiach songs in your repertoire, and if yes, how do
people respond to it?
2) Have you had a personal connection with the Rebbe or Chabad?
3) We are in the month of Adar, a month of joy and song. As a singer who brings joy to people, what do you think of Chassidic music today? Does the new sound we hear deserve the title of "Chassidic music?"

I think that the whole thing is quite revealing.

Here are some excerpts of their interview with Mordechai Ben David.
You popularized songs of Moshiach. What does your listening audience have to say about that?
I started it with "Moshiach, Moshiach," which was enormously popular throughout Eretz Yisroel, even among the nonobservant. I've said it before – the song's tremendous appeal is not altogether logical. The reason it became such a hit is simply because every Jew believes in the coming of Moshiach, so even when an nonobservant Jew hears the song, his spark is ignited. I am thrilled that the song was so well received by all sorts of people of all ages, including little children and seniors.
So you will certainly stand before Moshiach and sing. Have you composed a special song for the occasion?
Naturally, I will sing "Moshiach, Moshiach."
What do you think of Chassidic music today? Do you think it deserves the title "Chassidic?"
Unfortunately some music today is inappropriate. In my opinion it isn't only the style of the music, but also who is singing it. The first thing you have to know is who are the singers. Chassidus explains the effect a doer has on the person who receives. The early tzaddikim said that if you listen to a singer who is not a yerei Shamayim (G-d-fearing), it can have a negative influence.
I don't think I'm the biggest yerei Shamayim, but I try... I think that whoever loves music ought to be careful about this.
As far as the different musical styles today, I don't even have the time to listen to all the popular music. I try to get music back to its Chassidic roots.
Read the whole thing.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Recent Music Purchases

Picked up a bunch of CD's yesterday and listened to two so far.

Ben Perowsky's "Camp Songs" is an eclectic jazzy take on the tunes used for tefilah at the Jewish summer camp he attended as a child. The trio, led by Perowsky on drums, features my favorite pianist Uri Caine and bassist Drew Gress. Vocalists Oren Bloedow and Jennifer Charles (of goth pop group Elysian Fields) guest on "Birkat Hamazon." Standout tracks include "Yigdal" "Aleinu" and "Birkat Hamazon", but the whole thing is quite good.

Amazon has it here:

Tim Sparks' "Neshamah" features solo steel-string guitar explorations of traditional Jewish melodies from around the world. His arrangement of Brandwein's "Hora Mit Tzibeles" is beautiful.

"Meditations On The Ba'al Shem Tov's Melody" sounds like the tune I know as "Odom Harishon's Nigun", but his version of the A section is a little bit different from the way it is usually sung. The rehamonizations are interesting. "Freylich" is a tune I know as "Sherele", and the A section of his "The Shoemaker's Melody" is the same as the A section of Brandwein's "Terkishe Ya'ale V'yavo Tanz." This "sharing" of melodies is quite common in Klezmer. The Midde-Eastern and Balkan selections are nice too. According to Tim, despite being spread throughout so many regions, the genres covered retain a core harmonic vocabulary, and the tracks do all seem to fit together nicely.

Amazon has it here:

Both CD's are out on John Zorn's Tzadik record label, the musicianship is stellar, and I recommend both if you have an interest in Jewish themed jazz. Perowsky has reviews of Camp Songs on his website. Tim Sparks has reviews and sound clips on his website.

Fiddler Faddle?

The NY Post reports on the controversy over the B'way remake of Fiddler. Appearently, some feel it's not Jewish enough.

Via Jewschool

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

"American Chazzan" comes to FOX

The Knish reports, you decide!

Hot Time In The Old Heimishtown Tonight!

Heimishtown wants to hook Blog in Dm up with Aryeh Dworkin because she loves his music reviews. She's a little late, though. We blogged the Yanni 'dis she mentions over a month ago. In fact, we linked to a great JM article by Dworken last August. No shadchonus for you!

She also wants to know if anyone else feels that the cheese in my bagel each morning is spoiled.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Talk About Tasteless!

Yahoo News reports:"Advertising writers in Florida were planning to pitch hemorrhoid-relief products with a commercial featuring the Johnny Cash classic 'Ring of Fire,' but Cash's family said there's no way they will let it happen."

And While We're On The Subject


The Guitar's Technological Crossroads

Interesting Tech Central Station article on evolutions in electric guitar technology.

Chevra Update

Following up on their concert at Brooklyn College last Sunday, "The Chevra" appeared live on JM in the AM this morning.

Here's some of the dialogue between host Nochum Segal and Chevra producer Eli Gerstner.

Note: The transcription isn't precisely word for word, but the substance is accurate.
Listen for yourself in the archives on the JM in the AM website. (of special interest is the one-man-band version of Yehai.

N: You sound much farther away then you are.
E: Broadcasted live from heaven.
N: Some would say the Chevra sounds heavenly

E: The concert was great!
E: Unbelievable crowd!
N: How were sales?
E: We only see the first two rows. Based on ticket sales we don't know exactly what it did/didn't sell.

N: Unbelievable! Those of you who that there's any type of machinery or gimmick that can make someone's voice sound a little different on a Chevra album, Eli Gerstner, I think we just proved that that's not the case.
E: [Sarcastically] We recorded the whole album in actually a couple of hours.

E: I knew we made it when a "chossonkallah" [Apparently it's one word. Ed.] said "two songs you can't play at my wedding – Yidden and Yehai. Yisroel Lamm told me that. He said "Eli, you made it." … If we're on the same level as Yidden, that's ok!

In related news…

Blog in Dm's YU Seforim Sale correspondent reports that the overwhelming female response to the Chevra 2 cover is "oh, my G-d, look how fat they've gotten!!!"

In general, we wouldn't comment about JM performers weight, but since the entire marketing/promotion of the Chevra has been geared towards objectifying the members and creating a "Jewish Boy Band", we feel that this is quite relevant.

Here's a favorable review of the show that notes
It was far from a sold out concert; the womens' section was practically empty and the balcony wasn't filled either, but the orchestra section was packed. The first few rows were full of overly enthusiastic girls who were waving hands and banners throughout.
Here's a less favorable review.

In fact, many of the follow-up comments on the Yahoo JM Group are of interest as well.

Finally, we've noted the rude behavior of many JM concert attendees before (for instance, here). Here's one person's description of their experience at Sunday's Chevra concert.

Monday, February 16, 2004

Look Who's Booking Gigs Now!

Online Tribute to William Hung a.k.a. Hong Kong Ricky Martin
Rumor has it he's angling for a slot in an upcoming Gerstner project.
A little "Auto-tune" should do the trick!

YU Seforim Sale

Stopped by the YU Seforim Sale today. Once again, the music section is selling rock CD's. I think that it's quite inappropriate. The fact that a band includes a Hebrew song or two on some of their albums and has released albums of Carlebach music ought not "kasher" a straight ahead rock CD; especially when the cover art uses immodest imagery that also incorporates elements of Avoda Zara and drug culture.

Amazon has one album I'm referring to here

The White Stuff

The BBC News is reporting that EMI has blocked distribution of "The Grey Album."
A DJ who has remixed The Beatles' White Album and rapper Jay-Z's Black Album to make The Grey Album has been ordered by record label EMI to stop it being sold. DJ Danger Mouse created The Grey Album using Jay-Z's vocals and beats made by sampling music on The White Album.

eBay Item Update


The buyer also bought this! Think he'll be satisified?

Is There A Doctor In The House?

This week's Hamodia has an ad for One-Man-Band Elimelech Adler with a "Surgeon General's warning: music by Elimelech Adler has been found to cause 'Tanz all nightis'".

Shabbas Comes Alive Review

George Robinson, writing for the Jewish Week reviews Shabbas Comes Alive (Sameach).
OK, like Walt Whitman I contradict myself. For over five years I’ve railed against soft-rock Jewish music with good reason. So I ought to hate this pop confection of standard Shabbat music performed by Sameach stalwarts Avraham Solomon and Kol Zimra with the BaRock Orchestra, nu? In fact, it’s a set with considerable charm. Solomon sings soulfully — in every sense of that word — and Kol Zimra sounds like The Association on one of their good days. English-language material is flimsy at best but the rest is very pleasant listening indeed. Rating: 4 stars.
We've noted some other reviews by Robinson here.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Reader Email

A reader sent in the following:
My 12 year-old daughter's counselor called my wife the other day offering to take my daughter to the Chevra concert. After discussing it with me we decided, "thanks but no thanks". We got rid of our TV to try to protect our children's neshamas from vulgar secular influences. Why would we subject her to this vulgar garbage.
By the way, you really can't make the PR up!!
I find it interesting that many who wouldn't dream of allowing their kids to listen to "Jewish Rock" performers seem to have no problem with the Chevra's music, while others who have no problem with "Jewish Rock" (i.e. Diaspora) are ideologically opposed to the Chevra. I understand where the latter group is coming from, but the first position seems incomprehensible to me.

JM PR Watch

From the same article as our previous post on the subject:
"I can honestly say that each one of us has totally exceeded our potential on this album, both professionally and as far as our voice range."

Useless MP3 Player

This doesn't seem to be practical.

Interesting Review

Seth Rogovy on the Klez Dispensers.

Their arrangement of "Der Heyser Bulgar" sounds interesting.

Men's Choir

This gives new meaning to the term "shout chorus!"

50 Shekel follow up

Here's an update on rapper 50 Shekel's search for his L'il Spenda we noted a while back.
Originally, Cohen planned to add a female sidekick to the act, whom he had already named "Lil' Spenda," but has stopped looking for her because he found himself getting too personally involved with the search. A female counterpart, he adds, should ideally be his wife, since they would be spending so much time together.
Thanks, E!

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Cantor Gerstner?

Funny, but this doesn't *look* like Eli Gerstner...

JM PR Watch

Blog in Dm is launching a new feature called "JM PR Watch." Here we will reproduce actual JM PR for your amusement. No punch lines required! No "fisking" necessary! As we've noted in the past, (for example, here and here) we just can't make this stuff up!

All of the following are taken verbatim from the "Cover Story" about the upcoming Eli Gerstner/Chevra/Menucha concert in the current issue of Country Yossi magazine.

So, without further ado….
"If we could coin a phrase, then let us say that this concert promises to be truly "Gerstneresque" in every sense of the word."
"Brooklyn College employees better be forewarned. By the time this magazine hits the newsstands, a considerable line will already be forming at the box office with die-hard Gerstner fans shivering in the freezing cold, making sure that they have their tickets firmly in hand. Experts predict that this concert will sell out within days of ticket availability. It's not often that a surefire lineup such as this one is offered to us right in our own neighborhood."
"But even the old songs will be revamped and remastered just for this occasion."
"In honor of the concert, the Chevra will be releasing its new album, Chevra II!
"But, after considerable grilling, we did manage to extricate some interesting information."
"In the tradition of 'Yehai', Eli offers us 'Lecha'. This is a song that will make an instant connection, and offer mass appeal to audiences of every age and every background."
If you see any 'blogworthy' JM PR, please be sure to pass it on.

Monday, February 09, 2004

Official Song of the Rebellion

All together now:"I Blocked My MTV!"

Moshav Band Review

Here's the Jerusalem Post review of the Moshav Band's latest album.

This is the kind of album description I think Sameach should try to emulate in their music mag. It gives the reader a good idea of what the album is about, what the band sounds like, and of what's unique about it -- all without the over the top hyperbole and foolishness that the typical JM promo pieces contain.

eBay item

Give it up already!!!

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Wanna Be A Songwriter?

Here's a review of Off the Charts: The Song Poem Story.

You can watch a clip here.

Reader Email

A reader mocks the advertising for JM concerts:
Well, im yirtzeh hashem, boruch hashem, it's already a sellout, and if it is not, thats ok, because I will lie about it anyway, or maybe hashem himself will buy up all the blocks of unsold tickets, im yirtzeh hashem, and donate them to the dead firemen and cops who gave their lives on 9/11 so that smarmy entertainers could wring every last bit of bathos from a tragedy they don't even understand, and concerns people they never would have associated with had they been given the choice.
Whew, I feel like Dennis Miller.
You have to wonder if these performers and producers realize how foolish they sound. But don't take my word for it; listen for yourself in the archives here.


In case you were wondering, here's a discussion on "How to get the Dr. Who Theme lead sound?"

Tower Records to Seek Chapter 11

Here's a report that Tower Records is going into Chapter Eleven.

It's probably because they didn't carry the really hot-selling items like Yeshiva Boys Choir and The Chevra.

Beatle Z'man!


Matrix Generator

Arrangers: Need help with that twelve tone row arrangement you're working on for that new Hassidisco album? This Matrix Generator might be a real time saver.

Oh, and you're welcome.

BBC Article

Finally, a non-biased BBC News article!


Odd Coupling?

I never thought I'd see a Film Credit acknowledging John Zorn and Shlomo Carlebach.
The palm card I saw reads: "Music by Shlomo Carlebach and John Zorn.

I'm not familiar with the vocalist in Zorn's ensemble, but the other musicians -- all Downtown mainstays -- are quite good.

Write Stuff?

JMWC Announcements has a call for papers on the Eurovision contest from a wide range of historical, sociological, and theoretical perspectives.
Specific historical, sociological, and theoretical perspectives might address the following:- How are changing aspects of "Europe" reflected in the Eurovision Song Contest since its founding in the post-war decade, or since Europe's post-Wall expansion? - Case studies on participating countries, performers, songs, musical styles, language choice, cultural references, voting results, critical reception - The notion of border-crossing: political, musical, linguistic, aesthetic, or otherwise - Theoretical approaches to media spectacle, popular music, nationality, performativity - Technologies of fan culture: television broadcasting, telephone voting, record collecting, Internet websites - Europop aesthetics: kitsch or camp, humor and parody, tribute bands - Comparable institutions: The San Remo Song Festival (founded in 1951), Intervision (the former East Bloc answer to Eurovision), World Pop Idol, etc.
How about one on the German pop influence on the Brooklyn Jewish music scene?

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

More reader email

One reader emails this post:
I worked with a vocalist recently, who decided to take my wireless mic and sing from the other side of the hall. I guess for "shtick" or some such thing. (like no one has ever seen a wireless before, right? 2004? Huh?) As you know, and any experienced singer SHOULD know, sound takes time to travel, so there's a slight delay from the time he sings into his mic till the time he hears himself. Likewise, he hears the music on a slight delay. So he kept singing according to what he heard, throwing the whole band off tempo...the band would adjust to accomodate the singer's change, and the singer would hear THAT change with a delay, hence a vicious cycle was unleashed.
Speaking of wireless mics... I did one gig where one of the bride's relatives --in a black hat and payos-- was standing in front of the band the entire first dance set. This fellow was gesturing towards the guitarist, and playing air guitar, pretty much the entire set.

When the band was about to begin the second dance, he pulled out a wireless headset mic and asked if he could sing with the band. The band owner decided to let him sing because"nobody minds" and so we plugged in his mic and began the second dance set with the Belzer hora. This singer --who does ocasionally perform at gigs -- immediately began dancing and clutching at his headset mic ala Michael Jackson/Britney Spears. The sight of a guy in a suit, black hat, and payos dancing like this was enough to cause all of the musicians to "lose it" laughing, but then the singing began. I never thought I'd hear the Belzer Nigun "sung" with rap inflections and phrasing, but this guy proceeded to do it. We were all laughing so hard the regular vocalists couldn't sing. And of course, everyone kept looking at the band as though this was our idea. He "rapped" through the entire hora set -- I never laughed so hard for so long at a gig. I'd never allow it on my own gig, but it was quite funny.

Jewish Rapper Update

The Yada Blog reports that Etan G. took home the bling-bling on PAX networks "Shop Till You Drop."

What Is Jewish Music?

Here's an interesting article on the Milken Archive of American Jewish Music CD project with Naxos.

Concert Review

Here's a concert review of Jon Madof's Rashanim and the Jason Caplan Quartet, by Roger Reid.

Here's the diss:
So much of the popular music in frum communities ends up being the familiar old Yossi Green or Suki and Ding cookie cutter synth pop kretch-kvetch with simplistic religious messages pasted poorly onto seemingly unrelated pop melodies - always with the key change in that last verse. But I digress.

Lip-synching Article

Here's an interesting article about pop stars lip-synching.

Notable 'graph:
Consider the Super Bowl halftime show. Last year, outraged viewers accused Shania Twain of lip-synching her performance (she sang; the instrumentals were canned). But these purists missed a far more intriguing development. According to Paul Liszewski, the project manager for the broadcast's audio operations, one performer's vocals - Liszewski wouldn't say whose - were electronically altered, in real time, to correct off-key notes just as they were coming out of the singer's mouth.
How long before the Jewish boy bands start doing this? Some of them need all the help they can get.

Shpil Klezmer, Shpil!

Yale Strom has compiled a KLEZMER - MUSIC MINUS ONE book/CD package that comes with practice tracks recorded by his band "Hot Pstromi."

The book contains five tunes -- three traditional ones and two Strom originals -- and is available for several different instruments. This sounds like a great idea, although I think the song selection could have been better.


Monday, February 02, 2004

eBay item

Again! It would be more cost effective if he'd just throw this out!

Shlock Rock On Steroids

Jewschool has a link to "Jewdriver", a spoof band which parodies the anti-semitic punk band Skrewdriver by reworking their songs with Jewish nationalist lyrics.

The band members stage names include:
Ian Stuartstein - vocals (a send-up of Skrewdriver leader Ian Stewart)
Max Bagels - guitar, backup vocals
Kilgore Gefilte - lead guitar, backup vocals
Aryan Sharon - bass
He-Brew Who Cannot Be Named - drums

Up next, a Jewish Resistance Records???

Note the comments to Jewschool's post where bandleader Ian Stuartstien writes:
"we really are just a joke band, we have no nationalist interests whatsoever and truly would like to see peace in the Middle East someday, a very sad state of affairs-complicated and frustrating for all peace loving Jews around the world."

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Reader email

A reader writes in to ask:
A point for you to ponder at some point in the future: why is a song only a hit if it is played at weddings, and why do songs that really suck need to be played at simchas, just because some dude put it on a cd in the first place? (ie, if i wrote Tamid B'simcha, it would be the crappy song that it is, but since MBD wrote it, it's a hit!)
Any comments?

Sweet Children of Mine

Look folks, it's a kiddie GN'R tribute band!

Aww... Nachas fun kinder!