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Tuning the Soul: Worlds of Jewish Sacred Music

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Album Review

Listening to this CD is essentially the same as listening to a religious service led by a very good cantor in a fairly large temple. Only two men collaborate on the album and, while they are both talented vocalists and instrumentalists, the songs tend to drag a bit at times, especially the songs where there are no backing instruments or vocals. Nor can the Californian duo re-create traditional regional music styles with a great deal of authenticity, although they have obviously tried. For example, except for its intro with a vaguely piano bar sound, "Zochreynu Chaim," which originated in South Asia, sounds much the same as the Syrian song "Eli Yah Eli." "Zochreynu" is the better song, though. In fact, it's one of the standouts on the CD. Another good one is the upbeat "Tiskabeyl," which originated in Poland. The lyrics are instantly recognizable ("Oseh shalom...shalom Yisrael...") and the jaunty klezmer style is fun. Most selections don't come anywhere near the energy level of "Tiskabeyl," however. The mood of the Eastern European track "Kinah" (it means "lament," and if you didn't know it already, you'd guess once you heard it) is exactly the same as "Niggun of the Besht." Both tracks are slow, melancholy, and sung a cappella. After listening to this album, it shouldn't come as any surprise when you discover that Richard Kaplan is in fact a cantor, while musical partner Michael Ziegler is a rabbi. The two have done a commendable job of digging up little-known melodies from far-flung parts of the world. Neither their respect for the subject matter nor their enthusiasm for the music can be denied. However, when all is said and done, this album is best taken as a lesson in Jewish music history or as a sampler of material for possible synagogue performance. ~ L. Katz, Rovi

Tuning the Soul: Worlds of Jewish Sacred Music, Richard Kaplan
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  • $9.99
  • Genres: World, Music
  • Released: 1999

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