Make your own free website on Tripod.com
The Rants and Ruminations Page

Look to this page for updates and opinions that will be refreshed regularly. If I have something to rant and rave about - you'll read it here.

Check my Web-world often!

My Home Page

My Resume

My Lower East Side Nosh News

My Dana Mase Article

My take on Jewish music today


Jewish Music News and Views

Plus some assorted rants and raves...
It's May 2003! Where the *&^$# have I been? Hey everyone -- I've already gotten quite a few complaints about my lack of fresh content here on the R&R page, and I'm sorry. I realize that this clever format of adding thoughts to the top of each page has taken off -- everyone's doing it now, and they're calling it BLOGS.

One blog that I think may be of interest is that of the Hasidic Rebel.

In music news, what can I tell you? Shwekey is another carbon-copy kvetcher. Bsamim and The Chevra and Shalsheles have sullied the waters even more than usual -- I tell people I can't listen to them because of Kol Isha. Their compositions represent the same regurgitating style of unimaginative hooks and riffs that has plagued JM for decades, and people in Flatbush still snap it up like starving people. And Godfather of Jewish Music Carmine D'amico agrees with me. He recently introduced me to a bandmate, saying "This guy writes the truth, even if nobody wants to hear it!" High praise.

In the meantime, alterna-cool-teen-rebel bands (following in the very big footsteps of the Moshav Band) have cropped up like weeds. Gideon Sword, Pey Dalid, Sparklifters, and all the rest are, in my opinion, still in the probationary stage. They have to prove themselves as professionals with something original and compelling to bring to the table, not just glorified garage bands. That's not to say I don't enjoy their stuff. Pey Dalid puts on a very enjoyable show.

And I want to add a shout-out to my friend and neighbor, guitar virtuoso Seth Glass! His work is worth a listen, both because he's a consummate professional and because he has some insightful and quirky takes on Jewish themes.

And seeing as how everyone wants me to recommend an album :), try "Friends Sing Reb Shlomo -- A Live Concert." This two-CD or two-cassette set came out in late 2002, and it's basically highlights from a huge concert that took place in Jerusalem. Reva L'sheva, BenZion Solomon and sons, Aaron Razel, Mendy Jerufi, Chaim Dovid, and violinist Daniel Ahaviel are all featured performers, and we get about three to four songs from each artist. I'd never heard Aaron Razel before, and he comes across as energetic, if a little contrived. And his voice tends toward hoarseness, too. Reva L'Sheva is always good, but frontman Yehuda Katz doesn't have the vocal range he needs to carry off most of the melodies. They're best when harmonizing -- Adam Wexler on bass and backup vocals does great high harmonies. Their Kah Ribon is nothing special, but their Mizmor L'David extended jam (Disc 2) is absolutely fantastic. Mendy Jerufi is the token yeshivish guy (I love that they have a token yeshivish guy!), and BenZion Solomon sings songs from his previous "Give Me Harmony" release. Chaim Dovid definitely has the strongest set (it's on Disc 2). Either way, this gives you a good sampling of who's who in the Carlebach-talmidim world. So it's a good introduction, and if you like a particular artist, you can follow up with their solo recordings.

So why don't I take a look at some blog sites and maybe move all the brilliant R&R below to one? That's not a bad idea, Mikey! Off I go. I'll alert you all when there's a blog place for us to go and rant about JM and other non-PC topics.


It's Chanukah 2002! I just met Ira Heller at a meeting of the Association of Jewish Communications Professionals. (PLEEEZ visit their Yahoo! club.) Ira is a fantastic singer, and a staunch and articulate advocate for Israel as well. His latest album ("Agudah") tends toward the usual yeshiva/Brooklyn style, but it has some stand-out tracks that are worth a look. He tackles some very personal and emotional material in a song called "My Little One," which is rare and very brave for a Jewish music performer. I think he'd be happiest doing a cantorial album (maybe he's the one to bring chazanus to the next generation) or more showtune-oriented release.

You must buy BenZion Solomon and Sons' new Nishmat Kol Chai CD. Buy it now! It's a must for anyone who wants to lead a Shlomo davening, and it's a must for any fan. The Solomons put a lot of effort and a lot of loving care into this recording, and it shows in the tracks and in the liner notes, written specifically to help budding 'baalei tfila.' One place you can pick these things up conveniently (and listen to samples) is Mostly Music.

And here's a link to check out: Oneg Shemesh.


It's Winter 2001! Hereís a quick note about Sruli Willigerís new ďCarlebach Friday NightĒ recording. Why did he (and the Sameach distributorship) put this out? To capitalize on the sudden explosion of Shlomo-style minyanim, and to bring the nusach to those who donít usually shop in the alterna-chasidus aisle at their local Judaica store. (You know, the aisle that has BenZion Solomon, the Moshav Band, Soulfarm, Chaim Dovid, Reva LíSheva, et al.)

But why do we need to hear a kvetchy yeshivish voice (complete with yeshivish-sounding menís choir) do the Shlomo davening when we already have an excellent recording from BenZion Solomon and sons?? What does this one add to our appreciation or ability to lead a Shlomo davening?

In a word, nothing.

Actually, he does offer several niggunim for different stanzas of Lícha Dodi, which helps if you have zero ability to plug a niggun into the words without help. In my opinion, however, some of the niggunim he picks are ill-suited to Lícha Dodi, and he doesnít bother fitting them well. On an up note, I like the way Ahavas Olam fits into Lícha Dodi. Good point of reference. On a down note, the electric guitar is ALL WRONG. Canít stress that enough.

SO what should we expect? MBD and AF and Dedi (any relation to Dido?) coming out with their own Shlomo davenings? Or will it stay among the kleiner kindt Ė Dachs and Wald?

To sum up, I am not in favor of Yisroel Willigerís Carlebach Friday Night. Itís not sincere, itís not authentic, and itís not true to the spirit of Shlomo davenings. Despite what the artist, his handlers, or the liner notes may tell you.

I am, however, very much looking forward to the release of BenZion and Sonsí second volume in the Nusach Carlebach series Ė Shacharis for Shabbos, which will include Nishmas. Shlomo sang Nishmas to a chasidish niggun that can only be described as transcendent. Iím not exaggerating. Canít wait to have it in recorded form.

So zei gezint, music fans, and have a great Chanukah!!


It's summer 2001! Noticing how I haven't been in touch in some time? Things have been crazy. And the truth is, there's not much to report, except that the Jewish music scene has gotten worse. My article from December 1998 is getting some renewed attention, thanks to some kind Yahoo! Clubs members. I've gotten some very positive feedback from such musicians as Sam Glaser and Arkady Kofman, not to mention regular people just like you and me.


Before we go any further, here's a few new links to sites and bands that deserve your attention. I will make a links page soon, but in the meanwhile, here they are, in no particular order:

MOSHAV BAND!!

INASENSE is now called Soulfarm.

Check these guys out -- they deserve your patronage.


One reader commented that many 'Jewish Lifestyle' magazines feature music reviews that are always upbeat and positive and fawning. Fact is, the music reviews that appear in most Jewish magazines and newspapers are printed _directly_ in exchange for advertisements purchased by the artist or distributor. If you pay for a full-page ad, we'll run a review that you pay for and/or write -- if you pay for a full-page and a teaser box on the cover, we'll give you a longer review. That's the way Jewish Lifestyles works; I got burned when I wrote my Diaspora review and then found out the magazine wasn't going to print it unless Diaspora bought a full-page ad. And even then the magazine wouldn't pay me for the submission.

So it's a messy situation out there.

Truth is, work and life are taking up most of my time, but I am noticing that Suki and Ding are trying to eke their way back onto the scene. They had their 'All Stars' album -- which featured big stars and new guys singing songs that weren't good enough to put on their solo albums, and now they've got 'Hooked on Dedi,' which is Dedi singing many of the _same_ compositions that appear on the All Stars album! Go figure. And Ira Heller is coming out with a new album of songs written by Yitzy Bald. Guess what? They sound just like every other Yitzy Bald album out there. More to come!


Autumn is in the Air It's mid-October in the great city of New York, and there's a disctinct chill in the air. The holidays have come and gone, and we had a wonderful time. Now is often the time when Jewish artists release this year's crop, and true to form, Shloime Dachs presents us with K'ish Echod.

Don't buy this album!!
It's not a good album, boys and girls. It's not original in any sense. The arrangements are terrible. The producers (Yitzy Bald trying to resuscitate his portfolio and career) steal motifs from Avraham Fried and The Godfather -- but they don't credit their sources!! So if you want mindless dreck that's transparently tailor-made for the wedding circuit (and it will be played badly for the next few months until the bands get it straight or reject it), run out today! I noticed something else when listening to this tape. Real artists aren't in the business to get the next 'wedding hit.' They're in it to produce and play the music they love. So Shloime is being another good little gear in the vast Brooklyn machine with K'ish Echod, and we the dedicated freedom fighters must never let our guards down!! Surf over to Shloime's Web page to sign the guestbook and present your opinion. I did, and they deleted my posting within 12 hours. Yay for free speech!

Spring has sprung! It's mid-May in the great city of New York, and the weather has gone from 90-degree heat waves to 40-degree chills. What's going on upstairs? Your guess is probably better than mine.

But there's some great news on the Jewish music scene -- the release of L'chu N'ran'noh -- an album that features BenZion Solomon and sons singing Reb Shlomo's Friday night nusach (cantorial style). Believe me when I say that
THIS ALBUM IS FANTASTIC!!
Shabbos in Shomayim (also released as Malachei Elyon) is the title of Reb Shlomo's Friday night album, and it helps provide an introduction for the uninitiated and a refresher for those already familiar with the style. BenZion's album goes several steps farther: It features the entire service, it features choral arrangements that are easy to follow and replicate, and it features the incomparable voices of Moshav Band leader Yehuda Solomon, his brothers, and his legndary father.

Buy the album ASAP. It is a must for any fan of Reb Shlomo and anyone who wants to someday lead a Shlomo-style service. I can't recommend it enough. It's being distributed by Sameach Music in the U.S.

Search for BenZion's site (my link was broken -- sorry folks) for more on the talented Solomon family.

HAPPY 2000!! 5760 SAMEACH!

Y2K has come and gone -- and PC Magazine is occupying most of my time. I am working on a review of Reva L'Sheva's latest album, "Etz Chaim Hi." Our new neighborhood is great -- Shlomo-style davenings abound and we've already hosted half a dozen concerts and kumzitzes and events. The musical counterculture is alive and well! Needless to say, MBD and AF and Dedi and Dachs and Yeedle (I shudder at the thought) are still churning out pablum and burning up the charts, but there are still a few of us who know the truth. It's almost like a little secret society of geeks, a la X-Files, but real talent can't be ignored. Reva L'7 is never formulaic or boring -- their stuff is always fresh, always real, and always home-grown. I have some technical points I want to address with the band itself, and I'll keep you posted on how they turn out.

In other news, I am a big fan of the Moshav Band -- Yehuda and Meir Solomon and company are quickly rising stars in this new scene. If anyone has any info on some of the other, lesser-known "Jewish Rock" bands cropping up, please forward it my way. Happy Adar 1! Check out the Shlomo Site for some deep insights into this month!

Many doings in Fall 1999

Hey gang - we just bought a HOUSE!! In Suffern, NY - in the village of Wesley Hills, which can be considered, ahem, Greater Monsey. Though there's nothing all that great about Monsey, you are well aware.

So while we are very busy getting settled and shlepping boxes, I'll fill you in on some goodies.

A few weeks ago, I was e-mailed by The Godfather of Jewish Music, CARMINE D'AMICO. Carmine read my piece on the Diaspora concert(check it out), and wanted to tell me that he is also a big fan of Diaspora's style and enjoyed helping the band break into the 90s with new material. Carmine also revealed that when preparing for the concert, Diaspora was given a 10-minute sound check, while Dudu Fisher got a full hour. As I said to Carmine, this just underscores the problems with the Jewish music scene. This year, She'aris Yisrael didn't bother with Diaspora; they just had Dedi and Oif. Dedi, by the way, is last week's chopped liver, if you ask me. We haven't seen anything remotely worth listening to from him in the last two years. Oh well...

Be good in the meantime, and e-mail me with any comments or questions!! Assorted Observations in Summer 1999

Hey gang - I just realized that I have been so busy blasting the Miscreants of Mosaic Music that I haven't done a good job praising those acts and artists worth listening to.
Well, I will not let the situation go unremedied. Let me offer my strongest recommendations to Shimon 'C' Lanzbom and Noah Solomon of Inasense.


These guys are talented, innovative musicians and their vocal stylings are fresh and harmonious. Whether they're covering Carlebach tunes at a wedding or performing their original compositions at clubs throughout the country, this band knows how to rock with soul. C's solo 'Lanzbom Plays Carlebach' albums, "Beyond this World" and "From this Day Forward," are fine collections of spiritually uplifting instrumental songs. Inasense's "The Ride" contains original cuts, and "Live in Berlin" has a nice combination of the two. Check them out at Inasense.com.

As you may have guessed from the lack of updates - I have been too busy to keep recording my thoughts and activities here. HOWEVER - I have two items to point out, both of which involve my topic of the year: Jewish Music.

First off - Michoel Schnitzler has a new tape, called "Simcha Chassidit" (A Hasidic Simcha), on which he includes some original compositions, and quite a few covers. All the latest wedding tunes from MBD, Dedi, Dachs, Fried and the rest are jumbled into Schnitzler's medleys. He's entitled - Yochi Briskman (the producer of 'Simcha') has been doing similar work with Neginah Orchestras and the Project X series of albums. Needless to say, Briskman credits each composer on the album insert.

Except for one song. And the song is unmistakable. It is Ata Takum by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, zt"l. The album's producers credit "Traditional" with composing this tune. I find this extremely insulting and egregious. If they don't want to associate Reb Shlomo's name with the album - they shouldn't use the song. I think everyone with a shred of conscience should prevail upon Yochi Briskman and Michoel Schnitzler to rectify this mistake. It's not just stealing; it's stealing from the departed.

SECONDLY...

On Nachum Segal's Jewish Moments in the Morning radio broadcast today, the subject of Mordechai Ben David's 25th anniversary show was discussed at length. MBD will be singing (on Sukkot) to benefit Priority One, a fine community service organization. I have no major problem with MBD, except for his last five or so releases, but he didn't compose the drivel; he just sang it.

My problem is that Segal, in his infinite wisdom, said some of his listeners expressed disappointment that they'd be in Israel for the holiday, and would thus miss the MBD show. I think that comment ranks number one in the "Missed The Point" department. 'Nuff said.

Assorted Observations in July-August 1998

Well folks, it's been a while since my last update - and much has happened.
While I have been working very hard on Computer Retail Week's Web sites and newspaper, Michelle has been preparing her curriculum and materials for the coming school year.
I have been published - both on the CRW Web sites and in the magazine - and you can see my work in the latest issue of the Lower East Side Voice as well. The September issue of the VOICE will include stories about Mandy Patinkin's Mamaloshen concert, the Lower East Side Conservancy project, and lots of other interesting topics - all written by me. Stay tuned for links to these stories.
We have also just completed a vacation - a road trip from New York to Chicago - complete with stops in Sandusky, Ohio and Williamsport, Pa. The trip was wonderful, and exciting, and rejuvenating and everything a good vacation should be. Details to come...

Assorted Observations in June

On June 7, Michelle and I saw the new Jim Carrey movie, The Truman Show.

**SEE THIS MOVIE!!!**

It is thought-provoking and frightening and funny all at once. It offers biting commentary on many different levels.

Truman Burbank is the first child to be adopted by a corporation, for the purpose of placing him in a completely manufactured environment. TV viewers can watch his life, broadcast 24 hours a day 7 days a week, from over 5,000 cameras placed in his idyllic TV town of Seahaven. As the film progresses, however, we learn how the directors manipulate Truman's surroundings and peers to subjugate and control his every waking moment. It is reality-based TV that is totally unreal, and Truman is the prisoner stuck in the grand show.

Our attitudes about TV and life and programming protocols are all called into question, and the greater overtones of a "creator" running our everyday lives are obvious.
I think everyone should check this out and think about what it's saying. The ending, I might add, is a MASTER stroke. E-mail me with questions or ideas. We'll discuss.

Shavuot

- the Jewish holiday celebrating G-d's giving us the Torah on Mt. Sinai around 3,300 years ago, fell May 31 - June 1 this year.

My wife and I spent the holiday with my parents, in my old neighborhood of New Hempstead, NY.

The main goal of the holiday is to emphasize the importance of learning - constantly and consistently, for your whole life. This is observed by staying up all night engaged in Torah study.

I spent the night in shul (synagogue) with a bunch of rowdy youth whom I worked with in the Jewish Education Program.

These boys are not bad, just a little wild. And having them stay up all night without parental supervision is like asking a Jerry Springer guest to calmly express his opinion:

Disaster will ensue.

Parents, if you're reading this, TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR KIDS. There's nothing wrong with setting limits, and if your child is not ready (or old enough) to buckle down and appreciate the meaning and depth of a holiday custom, DON'T LET THEM. Chinuch (education) is a fine and noble excuse... but only if the adults are THERE.

E-Mail me with any questions or comments!

m_steinhart@hotmail.com
Michael Steinhart