horowitz disk 88 298.
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Eleven Doors Open
A Maine-based Reform Temple educational director, Sue Horowitz played with several pop groups in New York back in the Eighties. Now she has released Eleven Doors Open, a song cycle that was produced by up-and-coming Jewish popper Josh Nelson (whom she terms "a cutie, an awesome talent and a mensh" in the liner notes) and half co-composed with University of New Hampshire chaplain Rabbi Lev Baesh.
Eleven Doors Open is a classic example of an album that was put together with competence and good taste, but nothing that particularly excites the ear. Largely a foray into the much-trodden realm of adult contemporary breezy pop-rock, in general, the songs heard here are adequate but not much more. A few tracks, however, do break out of the mold. Rabbi Shlomo Halevi Alkabetz of Safed's beloved 16th century para-liturgical "Lecha Dodi" appears here as an elegant waltz thanks to Horowitz's original melody. Her own banjo picking also lends some authentic Americana flavor to "L'dor Vador." "Mah Tovu," traditionally recited upon entering the synagogue in the morning, is explored through a funk-derived groove. And "Pitchu Li" flexes its dramatic muscle, starting off small before flowering into something grandiose.
Academics stay valuable to their universities by maintaining their reputations in the world of print publications, while American cantors and other clergy feel the need to stay likewise valuable to their congregations by releasing CDs. There's nothing wrong with that, especially if these recordings help to add holy meaning in the lives of their congregants - it just doesn't always make for creatively trailblazing sounds.
B'tzavta 4: Almost Shabbat
One of Noam Productions's more tasteful products, B'tzavta isn't straight-up formulaic dos-pop. Here, Miki Rosenbaum invites Ehud Hatuka, his old pal from Bnei Akiva (Rishon Lezion branch), to explore that most magical of times in the Jewish week: the onset of the Sabbath.
The opening two tracks, "Bilvavi" (in my heart) and "Keshehaneshama Meira" (when the soul awakens), are marked by a brushed-snare lounge jazz-influenced pop style, only without the authentic Manhattan cool of David Morgan's arrangements for Neshama Carleach. Rosenbaum's own "Lekha Dodi" is a "Rawhide"-like slide country tune that descends into lame, piano-tinkled folk-rock, setting the stage for a spiritless cover of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach's "Yehi Shalom."
The disc closes with some variations on the breezy pop-rock, sing-along template, as "Tzion Tamati" (Zion my beauty) is drenched in Brian Wilson-style harmonies. B'tzavta's concluding track, "Rabot Banot, repeats a simple chant from King Solomon's "Woman of Valor" chapter from the book of Proverbs, over a casual acoustic strum.