Since the early Nineties, American Jewish rock act Ev n Sh'siyah has been making religious guitar rock that takes its cues from the Allman Brothers, the Moody Blues and the Grateful Dead. Kol Fusion, a brand new group from New York, is doing something similar, but with the addition of dixie, calypso and niggun elements. At the heart of Kol Fusion is the duo of Eric and Dovid, close friends of many years.
Many of the sessions for Kol Fusion's debut disc, Eternal Drive, were overseen by Elie Massias, whose visionary studio work has brought to life the sounds of Manhattan piyut ambassadors Asefa and Yemenite-American guitar-rockers Heedoosh.
Another key contributor here is progressive Brooklyn guitar master Jon Madof, whose Rashanim ensemble recently released Shalosh on the Tzadik music label. Rashanim's Masada Rock and Heedoosh's Meumkah Delibah were among the best Jewish music albums of the past year, and Kol Fusion can be seen as another supergroup in the genre.
Eternal Drive's dominant flavor is folky, upbeat classic rock carried by Dovid's driving drum-work, which is used most effectively on the rhythmic, catchy "I Will Follow You." "Yabiu" sports some tasty, Allmans-like guitar licks care of Madof, while "My Heart Breaks" is a ballad that echoes Phish's "If I Could." Later, "Modeh Ani" uses steel drums to create a Caribbean sound, while "Shimon's Niggun" starts off with acoustic guitar and darbuka slapping but soon morphs into a lazy dixie-klez jam.
As with many debut recordings, this disc's admirably eclectic nature threatens to undermine the cohesiveness of its sound. But the grab-bag element here only makes the listener more eager to hear where Kol Fusion will go from here.
Eternal Drive provides good fun marked by some creative musicianship. Kol Fusion's first release reveals a lot of potential; this is an ensemble that deserves to be more than a side project for its members.
Religious songwriter and vocalist David Klir has teamed up with arranger and programmer Victor Berjinsky to create Kumi Ori, one of the Noam label's rare new releases of original material. The palm trees swaying in the breeze on the album's cover are apt indeed - the disc operates in pure "Kokomo" territory, offering sunny, adult-oriented Eighties-style pop.
"Eshet Hayil," the opening "Kol Tzofayikh" and "Hegid Lekha Adam" are all charmingly happy numbers. But Klir and Berjinsky go decidedly astray elsewhere on the disc, particularly with the misguided, strangely soulless calypso of the title track and the xylophone synthesizer riffing on "Ve'atah Yisrael."
Ben Jacobson can be reached at email@example.com.