‘Twas The Night Before Hanukkah is the best of this year’s annual crop of holiday records. The record, which was released by the Idelsohn Society for Musical Preservation, is subtitled The Musical Battle Between Christmas and the Festival of Lights. The catch is that this record is anything but a musical battle. Rather, this record does exactly what music is said to do. It’s a unifier. It joins two distinctly different cultures through the medium of music. On a side note, The Idelsohn Society for those who perhaps may not know was named for its namesake, musicologist Abraham Zevi Idelsohn. Audiences can learn more about him and the Idelsohn Society’s website, http://idelsohnsociety.com/about-us/.
‘Twas The Night Before Hanukkah is just the latest in a series of releases from the Idelsohn Society For Musical Preservation. The compilation features thirty four tracks from across both the Jewish and Christian faiths. Those songs celebrate, as the subtitle notes, both Christmas and the just ended annual celebration of Hanukkah. What makes this double disc compilation even more interesting is that both the songs of the Jewish and Christian faiths are sung by both those in the Jewish community and those with Jewish roots. Among some of the more notable of those artists are the likes of: Mel Torme, Benny Goodman, Lou Reed, The Ramones, Bob Dylan, and Herb Alpert just to name some. Adding even more interest to this already worthwhile listen, the music presented by the variety of artists makes the record even more multi-cultural. Some songs are standards, while others are more original, crossing the cultural borders of the music industry.
All thirty-four tracks in this compilation present enjoyment thanks to their cultural variety. One of the most enjoyable and interesting of the songs in this compilation comes not from the Christmas side, but from the Hanukkah side. Gladys Gertwiz’s presentation of ‘A Chanukah Quiz’ is a wonderful starting point for young members of the Jewish community. Gerwitz sings to her audiences of a “Hanukkah riddle” of sorts. In reality, this song is a history lesson both of Hanukkah and of Jewish heritage. She tells parts of the history, and leaves parts blank for listeners to answer (in song form) back. It’s fun and creative. On a completely different tangent, ‘Twas The Night Before Hanukkah also offers a Latin style holiday song in the form of ‘El Die de la Navidad.’ It’s one more example of just how multicultural this record is. The upbeat sound alone makes this another enjoyable song. Add to the danceable sound the lyrical holiday celebration and listeners get another enjoyable addition to this release. It’s just one more of so many enjoyable songs included in a record that is simply put the best holiday record of the year. The album is available in stores and online now. It can be ordered online direct at the Idelsohn Society store at http://idelsohnsociety.com/store/albums/.
Rock and classical are as different in the musical world as Felix Unger and Oscar Madison from The Odd Couple. Yet when the two come together, they have shown to make some of the most memorable live experiences in modern music history. That’s been exemplified by the likes of both Metallica and KISS. Now, fellow music veteran Peter Gabriel has shown just how powerful classical and mainstream music can be together with his upcoming new live release on Eagle Rock Entertainment/RealWorld, “Live Blood.”
“Live Blood” takes the orchestra formed for Gabriel’s most recent studio album, “New Blood” out to a live setting. ”New Blood” was the second in a series of albums in which he and other artists re-interpreted each others’ songs. The first of those albums was the album, “Scratch My Back.” This new live performance of the New Blood orchestra does an amazing job of giving the songs from “Scratch My Back” and “New Blood” a whole new life of their own. The concert’s first disc offers up much of the more emotional sounds of the two albums, while the second disc in the set tends to pick things up just a little bit. The opener to the entire concert, ‘Intruder’ is a prime example of just how impressive this new live release is. The tension in the song makes it feel like it could have come right off of a horror movie soundtrack. ‘Digging’ in The Dirt’ has a similar feel. There’s also the joyous emotion expressed in ’Solsbury Hill.’ The gleeful hopping of the string sections really emphasize and compliment the happiness Gabriel expresses lyrically.
The performance’s up-tempo pieces aren’t all that stand out in this set. The covers of Lou Reed’s ‘The Power of The Heart’ and The Magnetic Fields’ ‘The Book of Love’ are even more impactful in this live setting than even on “Scratch My Back.” Again, the new Blood Orchestra gives these songs a whole new depth of emotion, with its dynamic contrasts. The same especially applies with Gabriel’s major hit, “Biko.” ”Biko” is given not only a whole new life, but an entirely new identity in this performance. The message is even more powerful than it could have ever been in its original studio release. Conductor Ben Foster and the entire New Blood Orchestra are to be commended for their work throughout the entire performance. Whether on the songs noted or the remainder of the songs that comprise the upcoming double disc set, the entire New Blood orchestra was the real star of this performance. This show was one more reminder that while rock and classical may be two entirely musical genres, when the pair come together, they make for some truly enjoyable and memorable songs.