Jerusalem-based rock act Hamakor has survived a series of transformations over the few years that the band has been active. Fronted by Nachman Solomon (from the Solomon family that has brought you leading spiritual rock acts like Moshav and Soulfarm), the band's sound took shape through guitarist Lazer Grunwald's love of axe heroics along the lines of Joe Satriani and Stevie Ray Vaughn. Within a few months, Hamakor had found new directions under the pranksterism of noodler Yakir Hyman.
A mini-tour of the US later, the band was ready to gel, and they set up shop for a series of regular gigs at Jerusalem's Pargod Theater in the winter of 2006-07. At the same time, they kicked into high gear with recording sessions that led to The Source, their debut. Along the way to completing the album, Hyman was drafted to the IDF, lead guitarist Jason Reich took his place and keyboard player Ben "Silicon Monk" Frimmer, an alum of the American electronic fusion jam band Signal Path, was thrown into the mix.
By the time The Source officially went on sale at a packed release party late this past spring at the Yellow Submarine club, Hamakor had emerged as one of the city's most elastic yet tight acts. The disc showcases the band's versatility and eclectic interests - swirling rave-infused synths, Jewish themes, Nineties guitar rock motifs - but it's executed with such crispness that it somehow avoids feeling like too much.
With its probing, introspective verses and triumphant "Welcome to the source!" chorus, the opening title track doubles as the band's calling card. Anchored by a lengthy trance interlude, the Grunwald-penned "Lost Man" finds us swimming in Frimmerland. On "Just Smile," Hyman does a mean Trey Anastasio impression while drummer Jono "on the one" Landon hits some unlikely accents. "Should've Known" and "Dizzy," meanwhile, rank up there with the best songwriting of grunge's heyday.
Hamakor recently returned from a marathon tour of Poland, set up through the leadership of the Jewish community there, with Bruce "RebbeSoul" Burger in tow. Under new management and considering still new creative directions, the band that cut The Source may already be a relic. But with the core chemistry between Frimmer, Solomon and Landon going strong, it's hard to imagine Hamakor going astray.
On the Road
Not to be confused with Jerusalem's Red Heifer steak restaurant, the nationalist guitar rockers of Para Aduma have been gigging for some five years. Once major players in the stable of acts that promoter Jonty Zwebner regularly books for his Beit Shemesh Festival and other blockbuster Jewish rock events, Para Aduma is now working independently, having released On the Road largely under the production and tutelage of Reva L'Sheva front man Yehudah Katz.
The disc runs the gamut of styles, including reggae ("Uva Lezion"), Eighties glam rock ("Modeh Ani"), piano ballads ("Mayim Rabim"), dos-pop ("Hineh Mah Tov"), Latin jazz ("Tov Lehodot"), funk rap ("Samahti") and even West Coast punk ("Shir Lama'alot," performed here to the tune of Green Day's wildly popular "Basket Case").
On the Road doesn't present its diverse self with the same authority as Hamakor's offering, but it is a promising debut nonetheless. Strangely, the album is at its strongest when the band is experimenting with wedding-themed material, as in the cases of the hassidic-flavored, over-the-top "Mehera" and "Yassis," with its scat yelping over a tribal beat, punctuated by flute flourishes courtesy of Avi Piamenta.
Ben Jacobson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.