Hebrew School

Only 100 shopping days till Chanukkah
August 28, 2007, 7:20 am
Filed under: ebay, israel, jewish, psych, records

Get in my good graces now, people.  My arithmetic is impeccable…

Gaby Shoshan- Black Eyed Boy

Nissim Saroussi- S/T

Naomi Shemer- The Most Beautiful Songs By…

Jahn Teigen- The Lions of Judah

Danny Ben Israel- Bullshit 3 1/4

In other news, tonight I have the honor of playing guitar with Alicia Jo Rabins at the Rockwood Music Hall.  Alicia, in terms of her combination of skill and versatility, is probably one of the best violinists in this whole damn city, as far as I am concerned. She holds it down like you wouldn’t believe in the punk-klezmer outfit, Golem, with whom I occassionally appear. Tonight she’ll also be playing guitar and ukelele, and singing, as she lifts the veil on some much-anticipated solo material.


El-Al in-flight music
August 27, 2007, 7:27 am
Filed under: jewish, music

Nobody told me there’d be days like these / Strange days indeed. -John Lennon

Yeah, the ’70s, that happy and upbeat time when we could forget about a few wars, stop lamenting the demise of the Left and, well, you know, bungle in the jungle. To think that I was hardly born. And what better way for American Jews to soak in the revelry than with some in-flight entertainment slapped onto vinyl by El-Al airlines. One can only hope that the poor folks on Flight 219 that day had this piped in until Leila Khaled was overpowered– I’m sure they wouldn’t have been concerned in the slightest. In fact, upon my initial listen a few weeks ago, I haven’t felt a thing at all beyond a glazed-over, ambiguous sense of well-being.

There are a whole series of these El Al albums– put out in the States by CBS!– featuring popular Israeli artists of the day (Irv. Goodman, Geula Gill, Helena Hendel, Yehoram Gaon, Yaffa Yarkoni…). The material consists of all your standard Zionist and traditional classics, plus some original hits. Between this and your aunt Sylvia, there ain’t no way you’re not gonna make aliyah now…

RIP Grace Paley
August 23, 2007, 5:29 pm
Filed under: jews | Tags:

Grace Paley, short story writer and poet, and anarchist and anti-nuclear activist died yesterday.

NPR put together a bunch of clips of her today. The New York Times has a nice article on her too. They also have a collection of older articles on her here.

I first saw Grace Paley read at Sarah Lawrence and immediately fell in love.

Al Tijuana & His Jewish Brass

I’ve been looking for this one for a while, and, mah rabu ma-asecha Hashem (yep, Her creations clearly are wondrous), it appeared on the WFMU blog Sunday night (obviously sleep was a bad idea). It appeared along with a score of other Tijuana Brass wannabe bands. No, I did not realize there were so many. Al Tijuana, pictured, is none other than comedian Lou Jacobi, arguably known best for his role as a transvestite husband in Woody Allen’s Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask).

The album is a mix of TJB standards (“The Yellow Rose of Texas,” “Malaguena”), 50s and 60s popular songs, and Jewish classics (“Tsena, Tsena”), interspersed with periodic un-funny quips from Jacobi– “Never on a Sunday? Well we say never on a Saturday!” Compare with Mickey Katz, brilliant parodist and actual musician– admit it, David, you hate it.

Well, okay, but a few shining moments– the theme to Peter Gunn, “A Taste of Honey,” “It’s Not Unusual.”  Not, it’s not.

n.b. Lest you be deterred by the spate of easy listening posts these past few weeks, please remember that I can and do rock. (youtube link)

Not kosher, just delicious

Hopefully the first of many trayf posts..

At this point it may occur to some of you to think, “WTF? David is only into Jewish music.” Not so! In fact I’m only discovering most of it now… The reality is that I have been a full on nerdy music enthusiast since I was a wee lad, pretty much devouring everything, from my early love of the Beatles onward.

Yesterday, my friend Mr. Mother Earth and I went to see the amazing folk-psych duo Christy & Emily at Permanent Records in Greenpoint. There are a lot of cool little record stores in Greenpoint, though I had never been to Permanent. Cool selection of used vinyl (I head straight to the dollar bins and generally stay put) and a thoughtful offering of new indie CD’s somewhat beyond the usual.

Upon ringing up with perhaps a regrettably large armload, I noticed a counter display of the latest Sundazed reissues. There on top was a re-release of Smokey and his Sister’s Columbia lp (not to be confused with their later Warner release, also eponymous). It goes without saying that I got a little giddy and school-girly, having first read about them/heard them here (this link refers to the Warner lp).

It’s up-beat in a different way than the Warner recordings (if you could even use that adjective to describe them at all), with really strong song writing and lush orchestration. Hebrew School particularly likes the opening track, “Losing,” as well as “Creators of Rain” and “A Far Better Thing (Alternate Version).” More here.

Other finds from yesterday:

(It’s all about the cover, the record is from 1985 and is crap.)


Tonight I play a wedding with astounding guitarist and good friend the Jar, aka Jeremy Parzen, aka Calvino di Maggio. Befriend this man at your own risk– you may never drink Turning Leaf again!

Jew-tube roundup, summer ’07
August 13, 2007, 5:35 am
Filed under: jewish, music, youtube

Adon Olam is a standard song in Jewish liturgy. Because of its even number of syllables and phrasing, it is able to be sung in endlessly different melodies, making it particularly susceptible to pop music. (I sang Adon Olam to the tune of “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” at my Bar Mitzvah.) Two more examples below:

I know that the above melody is a somehwat of a standard among Israeli pop songsters, though I have no idea who any of these soulful crooners are… Any help? (Lapidot, wasn’t he in the Irgun?)

If only this guy had been my Hebrew school teacher (yes, and yes).

And more:

The Miami Boys Choir, from Manhattan (duh). Cool choreography!

Not Jews, just nerds, bending circuits (who knew that Tommy Chong was the godfather of the movement??):

And finally, the winner of Eurovision ’78:The title, “A-Ba-Ni-Bi,” as I understand it, is Hebrew ubbi dubbi for “ani,” which means “I.”

Jewish Blues
August 7, 2007, 5:47 pm
Filed under: jewish, records | Tags: , , ,

Another fascinating entry in the annals of Jewish rock history (or, at least, my own version of that history).

The notion of an axe-wielding Jewish dude emerging from the bush to bear his soul in rock prayer is a little bit too worrisome for me to go into here. Nevertheless, Steve Simenowitz– the curly-haired fellow above who hopefully did not get any of those pointy-sticky things on his polyester-wool pants after trudging through the wilderness– appears to me to be one part visionary, one part sappy late-70s songster, and one part Long Island schlock-rocker extraordinaire. The liner notes kinda say it all: “Many long and lonely hours went into this album. Now that is has finally blossomed it is dedicated with love to the woman without whom this dream would have never become reality — my wife, Sue.”

The album vacillates between prayer in the guise of 70s love ballads (or is that the other way around?), banjo hootenanny (jewtenanny?) pastiche, and riff-driven balls-out rock songs. And speaking of Islanders, there’s even a reggae number on here, some 30 years before the name Matisyahu would call to mind anyone but the hero of the Jews on Chanukah. Either way, this is absolute genius, forward- and backward-looking in all the right ways.

Simenowitz recently surfaced over on Blog in Dm, responding to an inquiry by someone trying to track down a copy of Out of the Woods, and a rumor of a copy going for $80 on ebay. His reemergence served to announce that he has gone back into the woods since his more storied days in the music biz. Now known as Rabbi Shmuel Simenowitz, he lives on a Vermont farm making maple syrup, singing and playing guitar for kids and adults alike as he goes.

Reflecting on some other Jewish music coming out at the time, he wrote [correction– see Rabbi Shmuel’s comment below] in another post on Dm, “It was one of those albums […] that made us realize that Jewish Rock was viable. I think before those albums, many of us with guitar chops were not in any way considering playing Jewish Music.” Pretty inspiring stuff!

Notable tracks: “Hinei Mah Tov,” a slow rock-blues number with some proto-Stevie Ray Vaughn bravado; and “Hino Adon Olam” with a ground-shaking Clapton-esque guitar hook. (Both of these in original form are common songs of Jewish worship.)

Also of note: An appearance by Roy Buchanan, an original member of the band that would become The Band, and teacher of the immortal Robbie Robertson.