land disk 88 224.
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Singer-songwriter Ofer Golany is a veteran of Jerusalem's spiritual ethnic rock-activism scene, a niche that he basically invented and monopolizes. A prolific artist, Golany has released some 26 full-length albums of original material over the years. Plus, through his guns2guitars.org Web site, he employs Kabbalistic and hippie philosophies and imagery to empower those who prefer music to military service.
Loaded with contributions from guest musicians, including New York activist/songstress Aliza Hava, Golany's Vegetarian Wolf is a hodgepodge of the aforementioned realms. The disc opens with "Roots and Wings," a heady allegory whereby Bird and Tree reach an agreement to divide their territories. Like a laid-back Ben Harper version of the archetypal "Iko Iko" groove, "Rappin' Isiah 11" tells us of the end of days, when Lion mythically reclines alongside Lamb; "This is the moment / Behold, it's already here" goes the Hebrew refrain.
Nothing but reverbed-out steel guitar and female lead vocals, Golany's cover of the Beatles' "Strawberry Fields Forever," recalls Nancy Sinatra's "Bang Bang" more than the Lennon-McCartney original. "7x7x7," meanwhile, features layer upon layer of a repeated "Shma Yisrael" chant. Later, "Yankel" is a Yiddish-language list of excuses not to serve in the IDF, while Russian folk-song styles come to the fore in "Reb Zappa Sez."
While a whole slew of inspirations and styles can be heard on Wolf, the most memorable is that of harmonica-heavy Israeli children's songs from the Seventies. But this disc is clearly not targeted towards kids.
The closing "Davka Love" may directly address a kindergarten girl, explaining to her that "the messiah is already here," but it quickly dissolves into a whirlwind coda that sets up an untitled bonus track of priestly blessing recitations.
(Hidden Light Music)
Yehuda Kaplan has written jingles for mainstream brands like Ford, A&W root beer and the US Army, and he also produced and arranged Judy Collins's Bob Dylan tribute album. In the world of Jewish-themed music, he has produced for dos-pop stars Lev Tahor, and he composed soundtrack instrumentals for many of Rabbi Berel Wein's history education DVDs.
With his solo debut, Kaplan nods to Woody Guthrie as well as 80s pop-rock styles. The emblematic opening title track features the refrain, "From the Golan Heights to Gush Katif / Hashem gave this land to you and me." Somewhat connected to Yidishkeit but a staunch champion of the underdog, surely Guthrie would object to Israeli nationalism's hawkish inclinations were he around today - wouldn't he?
Many of the songs heard on Land are driven by piano parts, especially the clunky "Nobody Talks" and the Elvis Costello-like "Hodu L'Hashem," which can be summed up with the couplet, "We show You veneration / In every generation." History is explored in detail throughout "5,700 Years" before Kaplan goes existential on us via "By Design" (espousing that life is predestined) and "Last Chance" (espousing that life is fleeting and flawed).
The album closes with several instrumentals, including the niggun-like, flute-solo anchored, pseudo-funk-with-strings of "Moshiach" and the staccato-classical styled "Of Heaven and Earth."
Ben Jacobson can be reached at email@example.com.