visions disk 88 298.
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Light of Dawn
Girl groups are a staple of today's popular music scene, and now Judaism-themed pop has its very own version in the form of Visions, a trio from Florida.
Now finishing up their undergraduate degrees at various universities in the southern US, Amy Turner, Andra London and Talia Osteen first became an ensemble when their Orlando synagogue's Cantor Allan Robuck noticed that each of the three had displayed exceptional vocal talents at their recent Bat Mitzvah celebrations.
To this day serving as Visions's music director, Robuck wrote an arrangement for a segment of the High Holy Day services, and in the fall of 1997, Visions premiered.
As suggested by the moniker, Visions is as much about spectacle as it is about the music. The young ladies are certainly attractive enough to warrant such an angle, and their CD cover art and packaging was designed accordingly. The group's Web site (at visionstrio.com) even features an extensive photo gallery that includes shots of the Floridian post-teens blowing kisses at the camera and indulging in pillow fights, the type of girl group photography one might just as easily see in mainstream magazines like Rolling Stone.
On "Gotta Know" and "I Hope You Dance," Visions establishes what they do best: R&B-flavored pop-lite that showcases vocal harmonies and easy-to-swallow Jewish values, such as peace.
Two tracks in the middle even include some chamber music-esque, stripped-down arrangements that add integrity to the album.
Moshe Shur and Sons
A Shur Thing
Rabbi Moshe Shur is currently the director of the Hillel House at Queens College, and was a founding member of Seventies act Diaspora Yeshiva Band, the godfathers of Jewish Rock.
Together with sons Eliyahu Dov (a Bat Ayin alum who is currently teaching at a yeshiva in Israel), Yehuda and Mutty, papa Shur has recently released A Shur Thing, a collection of amiable new compositions in a style that combines contemporary Hassidic with atmospheric acoustic folk.
The highlight of the album is the drumming of Larry Steppler, whose very cool, snare-heavy beats can be heard best on "Sing Me the Song," "Hafachta" and the closing "Medley."
"Masai" starts off as a hazanut vehicle but quickly goes cha-cha, while "Boee" sports a funky bass line and breathy vocals. Producer Mark Fineberg's splashy horn arrangements add to the wall of sound, but they weigh heavy on the ear at times. Later, the spacious, open phrasing and Melegant melodies of "Mizmor" and the Eliyahu Dov-penned "Ein Omer" bring the listener to the album's end smoothly.
Ben Jacobson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org