Past songs that tell us how to live now

December 22, 2009

A woman stands with a fat sack of bagels before her, selling her wares on an East End Street in the monochrome days of the early 20th century. Little did she know that a century later her image would be called upon for the cover of a new CD of klezmer instrumentals and rediscovered Yiddish song, Whitechapel Mayn Vaytshepl (Whitechapel My Whitechapel).


The rock survivor who leads Morrissey's favourite band

By Robert Collins, December 3, 2009

The New York Dolls’ arrival in Britain this week signals another joyous chapter in arguably the most uplifting musical comeback story of the 21st century. For guitarist Sylvain Sylvain, turning a legacy as part of one of rock’s most influential, yet commercially unsuccessful, bands into a thriving career in his fifties is reason for celebration. He is doing what he loves.


(Israeli) anarchy in the UK

By Robert Collins, November 12, 2009

‘I had a steel trash can thrown at my head in Athens, Georgia,” says Yonatan Gat, guitarist for the Tel Aviv band Monotonix. “Ami broke both shoulders in New York. Haggai got a disco ball in the face. It’s part of the job.”

When Monotonix’s perpetual world tour reaches the UK this November it is unlikely its three members, Gat, singer Ami Shalev and drummer Haggai Fershtman will emerge without further injury. Monotonix are more than Israel’s wildest musical export. They are arguably the most wilfully chaotic live band on the face of the earth.


Rivka Golani: queen of the viola

By Alex Kasriel, November 12, 2009

Rivka Golani has suddenly gone quiet. The viola virtuoso was describing how her parents fled Eastern Europe to escape antisemitism and find a better life in pre-1948 Palestine.

Golani is now regarded as one of the finest musicians in the world, an accomplished soloist who has had 65 concertos written for her. But asked to comment on how proud her parents must have been of achievements, she falls silent. Over the telephone it is hard to tell whether she is simply lost for words or choked with emotion.


'They pinch our cheeks at gigs'

By Stephanie Brickman, November 5, 2009

‘Excuse me dear, but you weren’t singing in English were you?” says a concerned elderly man, who has come to speak to me at the end of a gig. “No,” I reply, “that was Yiddish.”

“Oh, that’s all right then,” he says, relieved, “I thought my hearing aid was playing up.”


Interview: Leslie Mendelson

By Paul Lester, October 28, 2009

When Ellie Greenwich, the co-writer of 1960s hits like Leader of the Pack and Da Doo Ron Ron died recently, the subtext of many of the obituaries was: where have all the classic female songwriters gone? As though to answer that question, here comes Leslie Mendelson, hailed by Jac Holzman, the legendary record label owner, as a new take on the all-time greats.


Michael Feinstein brings Broadway to… Radlett

By John Nathan, October 22, 2009

For many music lovers, Michael Feinstein is the greatest performer of the Great American Songbook singing today. For the past 25 years, his acclaimed recordings have preserved and refreshed that well-loved catalogue of numbers written between the 1920s and the 1960s. His New York club is probably the classiest attraction on the city’s cabaret circuit and next year he will return to Broadway with his own show. But before that Broadway date, the five-times Grammy-nominated artist and his piano arrive at the slightly less showbiz destination of… Radlett.


Interview: Matisyahu

By Alex Kasriel, October 8, 2009

Critics might have initially dismissed him as a novelty act, but five years after Chasidic pop star Matisyahu emerged on the scene, he has proved he is not just grabbing attention because of his peyot and black hat.

Popular with the music press, he has picked up thousands of devoted fans across the world, making huge sales and regularly topping the Billboard charts in the United States. This success cannot be just because he does not conform with the usual swaggering rock and reggae stars that normally grace the stage and MTV screen.


Hallelujah! Leonard Cohen’s Israeli triumph

By Jenni Frazer, October 1, 2009

When Leonard Cohen drew back from the stage slightly at the end of his marathon three-and-a-half-hour set in Ramat Gan, and recited the Birkat Cohanim — the blessing of the priests — complete with outstretched arms of benediction, there was a collective sigh from the enraptured crowd.

It was a sign that Israel’s often battered sense of itself still had a moral basis. Here, after all, was one of our own, come back in triumph.


Review: Barbra

By Paul Lester, October 1, 2009

Love Is The Answer
Sony Music

With 140 million records sold, Barbra Streisand is the world’s most popular Jewish entertainer. She is also arguably the most popular entertainer among the world’s Jews. For a generation of a certain age she is unquestionably the last word in class and sophistication, and she has endured because she has continued to release music of quality and distinction without pandering to trends. Anyone expecting an album of high-tech R&B should probably alight here.