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Chicago's Even Sh'siyah band has been playing classic rock-style Jewish jams for about 15 years now, which places them in the generation of musicians who preceded the current Jewish music boom.
The band shares duties on lead vocals and composing, with bassist David Margulis and guitarist Ely Cooper having written most of the melodies on Wake Up, their third album.
Wake Up is mostly comprised of Jewish classical texts set to the tunes of Seventies guitar rock flavors. The songwriting here is not mind-blowing but it's certainly stirring. Yet it's the good ol' rock and roll stance that makes the album memorable. The strongest songs are "Falling By the Wayside" and "Redemption," two low-tempo, melodic tunes that each close out a half of the disc. "Shakla V'tarya" is a killer hippie funk instrumental, while "Lishuas'cha" follows an unlikely, laid-back melody progression.
In addition, many of the songs sound like tributes to the pantheon of Seventies rock, with specific influences often clearly discernable. Even Sh'siyah's refreshing "Mi Hu Zeh" features Allmans-style double lead noodling guitars, while the title track's three-part harmonies evoke the ballads of Moody Blues. Later, "Take This Rock to Heart of Stone"'s harmonica riffs, punchy bassline and licking lead guitar sound more than a little like early Tom Petty.
Change the World With a Sound
(33rd Street Records)
The stage name of Los Angeles' Bruce Burger is RebbeSoul, a play on words based on the Beatles' immortal Rubber Soul album title - itself a play on words referring to footwear.
Burger's RebbeSoul persona is a project manager extraordinaire, having overseen production, programming and sampling for this album. He performed most of the vocals and main instruments as well, with the help of an army of multi-cultural session players.
Change is a high-concept project. Originally released in 2003, it was recently repackaged and reissued. Burger has crafted an infectious mixture of sounds and ideas to make a post-Hassidic, pan-spiritualist electronic world-beat meditation suite.
He has accomplished this thanks to an approach that echoes Shotei Hanevuah's mixtures of ethnic, folk and hip-hop influences, upbeat, often silly chant styles, and rich, multi-layered production value. On "Tzamah L'Cha Nafshi," a high-pitched choir, Eastern instruments and an electronic beat set the stage for Prophet X's guest rap.
With its acoustic guitar - and accordion-driven balladry, "Rock of Ages" is one of the few straightforward songs on the disc. Carlebach's "Esa Enai" is completely revamped and given a synthed-out thump beat arrangement, with Neshama Carlebach providing an effective guest vocal.
The album closes with a Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi-read monologue on the "Reincarnation of a Melody," which feels like a Hassidic legend written by Allen Ginsberg and leads into an the phoenix of resurrected melodies, a Pink Floyd-like "Avinu [Malkenu]."
Ben Jacobson can be reached at [email protected].