Monday, September 25, 2006

First Disc Reviews of the New Year

In the mail... Baruch Levine's latest, "V'zakeini Legadel Banim", Ari Goldwag's "Flippin' In", and Avraham Fried's "Bein Kach U'bein Kach" ...a pair of discs by Sam Glaser and one from Lee Feldman.

Sam Glaser - Presence
I first discovered Sam Glaser's music when a friend whose father worked in Jewish education handed me a compilation cassette promoting a number of Jewish artists. I can't recall all of the artists on the compilation, but if I remember correctly, in addition to Sam's song, "Hineni," it included music by Safam, Craig Taubman, and Doug Cotler, among others. Shortly afterwards, I was given Sam's album, Hineni, which I liked a lot. It had a hip contemporary sound with slick LA-style production, something that, at the time, wasn't that common in Jewish music. Think adult contemporary pop with Jewish soul. That was about fifteen years ago. A dozen CDs later, Sam Glaser is still creating polished contemporary Jewish music.

Presence features fifteen of Glaser's original songs arranged in his signature style. Blending Hebrew lyrics from liturgy with his own English translations and original lyrics, Glaser creates a smooth mix of original Jewish pop, melding his polished vocals and layered keyboards with well-played backup playing by his band and glossy studio production technique. From opener "Ma Ashiv" to the pop-funk of "Presence" and "Sheyibane" to the contemplative sounds of "Boi V'shalom" this album is tasteful Jewish pop music. Incidentally, "Boi V'shalom," was recently nominated for best Jewish song of 2006 by Just Plain Folks.

The CD is available from Sam's website.

Sam Glaser & RebbeSoul - Nigun: Voice of the Soul
This project is a collaboration between Sam Glaser and guitarist Bruce Burger aka RebbeSoul. It's got nineteen tracks of nigunim. Most of these are original compositions by Glaser, with one by RebbeSoul and five covers. The covers are of a Breslover Tune, "Im Ata Ma'amin", a Modzitzer melody often called "Adam Harishon's Nigun", Carlebach's 'Mizmor L'David", and two Lubavitch melodies, Rabbi Feitel Levin's "Rosh Chodesh Kislev" march and the "Alter Rebbe's Nigun".

With no lyrics, other than yai dai's etc, these songs reflect the influences of nigunim past, but have a distinctly American-Jewish flavor. The musical sensibility is world-beat and draws from a nice range of influences. Glaser and Burger are well-matched for this outing. There are some guest musicians as well with Reuben Berci's accordion adding some especially nice color to the opening track,"Aliyah", a fun reggae-tinged number. The Carlebach tune, "Mizmor L'David", was arranged by the Moshav Band, who also contribute guitars and dumbek to the Middle-Eastern flavored track.

Guest vocalists include Dov Rosenblatt, Gershon Veroba, and Yehuda Solomon.

This CD is also available from Sam's website.

Lee Feldman - I've Forgotten Everything

This is not Jewish music per se, but Lee Feldman is a nice Jewish boy who sent me his latest CD.

I've Forgotten Everything is an eclectic CD that blends nice piano-based arrangements with Lee Feldman's Rhorsach-like lyrics. They're as deep as you want them to be. Blending irony and wit, seasoning with tasteful piano improvisations and grooves, Feldman and his band --a tight group-- sing and play sensitive songs about uncomfortable situations. Tin Pan Alley on Prozac.

You can buy Lee's CD's here.