levees album cover 88.
(photo credit: )
How Do You Spell Channukkahh?
Guster's Adam Gardner and the Zambonis' Dave Schneider killed time writing Hanukka songs while their two bands were on tour together in 2004, and the Leevees were born. Within a few months, Interpol producer Peter Katis was overseeing sessions that eventually became the irreverent, fun and successful Hanukkah Rocks album, which was released for the winter holiday season a year ago. "You can hear [influences on the album] from the Beach Boys to the Clash to the Ramones, Kinks, R.E.M., Soul Coughing and the indie band Clem Snide," Gardner told The Jerusalem Post at the time.
The album made a relatively big splash on the Jewish music scene, largely thanks to the involvement of the non-profit JDub label, which has a track record of taking Judaism out of its traditional spaces and directing it at the masses via groundbreaking music.
The two core Leevees haven't left their main bands yet, but they are seeking to keep the Leevee momentum going with some new projects for Hanukka 2006, including a batch of cellphone ringtones, a Leevees-themed computer game, a five-date concert tour that spans December and a new EP available strictly as an iTunes download.
How Do You Spell Channukkahh? is not so much a new release as it is a repackaging of last year's full-length album. The four-song collection's cute "new" studio song, "Jewish Stars," sounds like it might be an outtake from the Rocks disc, while the title track is a straight-up duplicate of Rocks' "How Do You Spell Channukkah?" Two live acoustic versions of Rocks songs round out the EP, with "Latke Clan" receiving a cute and to-the-point spoken intro: "You know, we wrote these songs about Hanukka, but we're not preaching. We're really talking about food and fun. So this one's about the food angle."
Listeners who couldn't get enough Leevees after the band's debut CD will enjoy the 2006 EP, while those who haven't yet heard of the act might be better off starting with Hanukkah Rocks.
(One Soul Records)
Jewish children's performer Danna Banana (known in some circles as Dan Cohen) recently released this half-hour song cycle that mixes sing-along Hanukka classics ("S'vivon Sof Sof Sof," "Al Hanisim") with some endearing originals ("If I Were a Candle," the title track), all packaged together as a concept suite.
The unifying elements here - namely, the use of a children's choir, "news" reports from the Maccabean front and Danna Banana-voiced narration - make for an entertaining piece sure to captivate the younger generation, especially those with limited familiarity with the relevant folk standards. The greatest children's entertainment should appeal to all ages, and the disc is a mixed bag in this respect. Cohen's eagerness to turn the holiday into a big party is commendable and infectious, but his over-the-top characterizations hold limited appeal for older listeners.
Ben Jacobson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.