Lions of Zion, thriving in the studio

Probably the closest thing Israel has to a proper hippie jam band, Aharit Hayamim rocks on its own terms.

aharit disk 88 298 (photo credit: )
aharit disk 88 298
(photo credit: )
AHARIT HAYAMIM Aharit Hayamim (Self-release) The mainstream hit machine focuses on selling three-minute singles and glamour-shot imagery, an approach that doesn't have much to do with traditional jam bands. With rare exceptions like the Grateful Dead, the songs are too long and the faces too homely, with improvised concerts considered much more important than albums. Record labels don't have a clue how to market such acts, but the best jam bands have always found their own ways to build communities of fans. Probably the closest thing Israel has to a proper hippie jam band, Aharit Hayamim rocks on its own terms. In the band's four years of existence, the world-groove collective has played hundreds of shows, also hosting eight incarnations of its own Gush Etzion-based Aharit Hayamim Festival and selling thousands of copies of its self-published demo EP. The band spent over two years creating this eponymous studio debut, which was first sold at the Aharit Hayamim Festival this past fall. The title track introduces the band with a vengeance, hinting at Aharit Hayamim's capabilities in its live performances. The disc's lead-off reggae-flavored single, "Ein Ye'ush," is concise and funked-up. With its "Oh yeah!" refrain, "Bnei Tzion" is an upbeat, straightforward rock piece, while "Min Hametzar" sports some driving percussion work. "Lo Lefahed" is a rare new ballad making use of Rebbe Nahman's famous "The world is a very narrow bridge" parable, shifting gears part way through to become an Afro-beat chant mixed with breezy jazz parts. The closer, "Yerushalayim," builds on messianic prophecies to paint a reggae-infused picture of the Jerusalem to come, complete with an orchestra of shofar blasts. As with all studio projects from bands that live on the stage, this album's energy is a mere hint of Aharit Hayamim's live power. But the collection still proves these guys know how to energize their listeners - even when the band is confined to a format that by definition repels spontaneity. DUDU FISHER Standing Where You Are (JMG) Dudu Fisher has a strong background in the cantorial arts and Yiddish singing, but he is best known for his work on Broadway, where he appeared as Les Miserables' Jean Valjean. Fisher has performed for a number of royal families, including those in Britain and Thailand - he's also sung for the Clintons - and he scored hits with his 2000 one-man show and his Israeli children's video series, Bagan Shel Dudu (In Dudu's Kindergarten). Fisher's new CD, Standing Where You Are, is a collection of covers, almost all of them classic rock tunes from the Sixties and Seventies. He's backed by the Jerusalem Orchestra in a manner that is the stuff of crooners' dreams. The title track uses a choir to add a gospel feel that comes out a bit cheesy, while "Song for You" channels fellow cantor-gone-showman Neil Diamond. Burt Bacharach territory is explored frequently here as well, while punchy bass lines and violin- and woodwind-heavy orchestration dominate versions of Randy Crawford's "I'll Fly Away" and Boz Scaggs' "We're All Alone." The disc's only Hebrew song - and only overtly Jewish selection - is the closing "Shir Hamalot," presented as a medley of symphonic Grace after Meals sing-alongs. Ben Jacobson can be reached at