ganim disk 88 298.
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Asaph Neve Shalom
To Wander in Gardens
A student of music therapy, Asaph Neve Shalom has performed extensively in Israel, playing Melaveh Malkah parties at Jerusalem's Yakar Synagogue, functions sponsored by the Jerusalem municipality and benefit shows for the Melabev and Emunah organizations. His debut album is a laid-back affair that combines poetic and Biblically inspired odes to faith with piano-driven songwriting. Neve Shalom's vocals are of the imprecise, relaxed variety, and while the style works well on many of the tracks, the disc could have been mastered with more polish to further embed his singing with the other sounds.
The opening "Maon Beitcha" (Dwelling of Your Home), which sets verses from the Psalms to an old Irish folk melody, is a relatively strong composition, and Neve Shalom echoes the Irish influence elsewhere, with prominent, soaring flute parts heard on "Ta'amu Ure'u" (Taste and See) and the waltz of "Hashir Shel Haboker Haba" (Song of the Next Morning), which borrows from a haunting Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach melody. He even references fun, Gershwin-esque jazz on "Heyoti Kashur," an expression of longing for inspiration.
Inspired: The Best of Sam Glaser
Sam Glaser was already an accomplished musician before 1992, when he released his first full-length Jewish-themed album, Hineni (Here I Am). He had written jingles for the LA Lakers and the WB television network, as well as musicals called Paradise University and Lift My Eyes. But since the early Nineties, he's focused his efforts on nine discs' worth of songs about Jewish prayers, holidays, social action and cultural tradition. "Before you know it, I was on the Jewish music circuit [in] 50 cities a year," he's said of his career transformation. "My venues changed from smoky clubs, where people would be talking through the set, to synagogues, where 500 people would be sharing a peak spiritual experience."
The Californian's most recent album, a collaboration with RebbeSoul called Niggun: The Voice of the Soul, drew from classic meditative Hassidic chants to take the listener to new spiritual places. Now the groundbreaking and Grammy-winning JMG label has released Inspired, a Glaser best-of collection that looks back at and sometimes remixes the songwriter-performer's canon to date, sadly omitting selections from Niggun.
Most of Glaser's work draws from Bruce Hornsby territory - it's theatrical pop with plenty of saxophone and piano flourishes. It's a sound heard throughout Inspired, most notably on "Hineni," "Learning Machine," "In Israel" and the anthem "Letter in the Torah."
Elsewhere, Glaser goes for Latin dance rhythms on his version of the "Od Yishama" wedding standard, barbershop harmonies on the goofy but good-natured "Shabbas" and klezmer/house thump fusion on "Asher Bara." The most contemporary-sounding track on Inspired, ironically, is a version of Israel's national anthem, "Hatikva," presented here in a smooth techno treatment that was originally commissioned by the American children's publication BabagaNewz