razel disk 88 298.
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Live in Jerusalem
Ordained as a master of musical composition by Bar Ilan University and a "friend" by the Carlebach Foundation, Nahlaot's Aaron Razel is an accomplished and creative force in the realm of contemporary Jewish rock.
Razel's four studio albums have showcased the folk-rocker's flair for soothing songwriting and musicianship, but they have been most effective as advertisements for his concerts. Fans swear that only on stage do Razel's charisma and upbeat energy truly become infectious, an assertion backed up by his new release, Live in Jerusalem.
Razel's "Song of Zion" appears here as a set opener, showcasing his Paul Simon-like, soft vocal touch with energy. On "Bnei Ha'neurim," Razel's vocal approach shows that he's not afraid to miss the high notes, which is in this case a strength, since we can hear on the recording how much fun he is having reaching above his range.
The ecstatic "Two Sugar One Coffee" starts out as a power-chord-heavy wedding jam, with chants of "mazal tov," but the song soon switches gears and becomes lighter. "The Fire and the Wood" is an interesting philosophical query, quoting scripture from a verse commonly cited by scholars to indicate that Isaac knew that his father intended to sacrifice him and walked alongside him up the hill nonetheless.
CANTOR MIKE STEIN
Shabbat in Swing Time!
Member of the clergy team at the Los Angeles-area's Temple Aliyah, Cantor Mike Stein has maintained an active and accomplished musical career outside of Judaism. As a teenager, he appeared in the original cast of Broadway's "Jesus Christ Superstar," and he went on to write and record the wildly successful series of "Dinorock" children's recordings, which even garnered him a Grammy. His family band, The Rolling Steins, tours the US extensively, and he also plays the violin on Craig Taubman recordings.
Stein's new album, Shabbat in Swing Time!, is surprisingly exactly what the title claims - a collection of Sabbath-themed original melodies, almost all of which are presented in a jazzy, homey rhythm. Both the opening "Shalom Aleichem" and the evening service-inspired "Ahavat Olam" showcase Stein's version of laid-back shuffle-beats well. Other styles explored here include lounge crooning ("Or Zauua"), hazzanut ("Mi Chamocha") and blues ("Shalom Rav"). The goofiness of the cover art reverberates on "Refaenu," while the Cantor's "Barechu" is transformed into a call and answer-structured exercise in scat whimsy.
Ben Jacobson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.