Jewish World Review June 25, 2001 / 4 Tamuz, 5761

Detail from Even Sh'siyah

A blast from the electric shofar

By Paul Wieder -- From Bob Dylan and Neil Diamond through Paul Simon and Lou Reed right up to Jack Black and Beck, Jews have been key players in rock-n-roll history. We have contributed to such hallmark groups as Steely Dan (Donald Fagen), The Grateful Dead (Mickey Hart), Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band (Roy Bittan and Max Weinberg), and Phish (Mike Gordon and Jonathan Fishman). Many young gragger-grinders grew into professional noisemakers, joining Van Halen (David Lee Roth), Jefferson Airplane (Marty Balin), Red Hot Chili Peppers (Hillel Slovak), and even KISS (Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley); Perry Farrell of Jane's Addiction now performs as DJ Peretz, his Hebrew name.

Jews have also been active behind the scenes; think how different rock music would be without Brian Epstein, Phil Spector, Bill Graham or Leiber and Stoller. Even Max Yasgur, whose farm became Woodstock, was warned away from the brown gefilte fish.

So much for Jewish rock stars. What about Jewish rock? Well, here's a sampling of today's crop of the loud, proud, and Jewish... just in time for summer:

Jon and Josh Nelson are brothers who trade the singing and songwriting duties for this Boston-based, Beatles-besotted band. Their second release, "All This Comes From You," features original ruminations on their Jewish heritage alongside very danceable renditions of "Adon Olam," "Shalom Aleichem," and "Utzu Etza." The album is relentlessly upbeat, sunny, and good-natured. It is also proof that the kids are getting the message. Recommended summer use: Beach party.

Their Hebrew name means "a quarter to seven," but there is no bad time for this band's sinewy sound. Their m.o. is equal parts Carlebach, Sephardic, and Grateful Dead. And their liturgy-based lyrics reach beyond the usual "take one line and run it into the ground" approach of Jewish music by integrating related passages from different sources with each other in the same song. Recommended summer use: Backyard barbecue .

Yossi Piamenta, one of "Rolling Stone" magazine's Top Ten Guitarists, has been called the Sephardic Santana, but his sound is actually more Mizrachi in origin. Still, just as Santana merges rock and Latin music, Piamenta melds Middle-Eastern sonics with sweet and spicy electric guitar. His brother Avi chimes in with some Ian-Anderson-worthy flute, too. Recommended summer use: Those long drives with the top down.


Yom Hadash
Even Sh'siyah
Rick Recht
Wolf Krakowski

click on title. Sales help fund JWR

Bounding out of Australia like Mad Max on a nuclear kangaroo comes... YIDcore, possibly the first Jewish-punk band. They shred songs from Naomi Shemer, "Fiddler on the Roof," and the yom-tov songbook. They shock, offend, and sometimes sicken with their snide, sneering approach to these beloved classics. In other words, they are a fine tribute to their form. As Mark Twain said, "Sacred cows make the best hamburger." Recommended summer use: Rave

With "The Way Jews Rock," this Chicago band stakes its claim from Lake Michigan to the bayou. Combining the spirit of Reb Shlomo with the soul of Duane and Gregg, this six-some swoops and soars on the wings of Mitch Jacoby's eloquent guitar. You gotta love an album with a track like "Blues for Kaballah," and they do to "Hatikva" what Hendrix did for the U.S. anthem. Recommended summer use: Campouts

His next CD is supposed to be a children's album, so us grownups are going to have to make do a bit longer with his debut, "Tov." That's fine, because Recht's work will never age. The alt-rock presented here may be the best thing to come out of a cellar studio since "The Basement Tapes." Imagine Counting Crows times Dave Matthews- but Jewish- and you're close. Recommended summer use: Washing the car (just turn it louder than the vacuum).

Yiddish rock? Nu, why not? Born in an Austrian displaced person's camp, Wolf Krawkowski absorbed the musical styles of a dozen countries on his route to adulthood. From country-rock to reggae, they all show up in "Transmigrations," his first release. Somehow, his crack band keeps up with him- and even if you can't, you'll have fun trying. Recommended summer use: The big family picnic.

While picking up your Jewish rock CDs, you'd better buy a spare boom box, too- by the end of the summer, you're going to wear out the one you have.

JWR contributor Paul Wieder is a public relations associate at the Jewish United Fund and a columnist for JUF News. Contact the author or the magazine by either clicking here, or calling (312) 444-2853.


© 2001, JUF News