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FAME Review: Various Artists - Black Sabbath: The Secret Musical History of Black-Jewish Relations
Black Sabbath: The Secret Musical History of Black-Jewish Relations

Black Sabbath:
The Secret Musical History of
Black-Jewish Relations

Various Artists

Idelsohn Society

Available Sept. 14, 2010 from Idelsohn Society.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

I'd no idea how much an anthology like this was needed until I heard it. Forget the bizarre nomenclature leading you to believe the famed gods of metal have issued yet another slab, don't even get the faintest notion that there's any least hint of the satanism otherwise implied, and I suspect the Idelsohn Society, the institute issuing this gem, houses a wit of rather eccentric humors who was pleased to cross-connect a whole raft of unusual inferences just to grab the onlooker's eye and brain. Good thing, too, as Black Sabbath embodies a unique idea possessing more to it than even the well-done promo and literature hint at.

Klezmer is one of the world's great musics and has had far more influence than most critics are willing to admit. It's kindredness to Gaelic reels and jigs, from whence the Euro 'gigues' are drawn, is striking while separate. When in its highest form, the complexities are breathtaking, and this was not lost on black jazz musicians seeking influences on their own work. When the tempo is more melancholy, one hears modes not unlike ghazal, which is not unusual, considering the history and ancient location of the founding Sephardim. In fact, one might well suspect klezmer to be as subtle in its colorations in American roots musics as Irish influences. Ask Kinky Friedman, see what he thinks.

Here, Billie Holiday opens up with a growly version of My Yiddische Momma taken live just before Cab Calloway leaps into an irreverently reverent Utt Da Zay, tossing scat and arabesqued spiral-sing into the Yiddish refrains…with the usual superb big band backgrounds, of course. Aretha Franklin tips in a version of Swanee, Al Jolson's old cherry, an up cut sharply contrasting Cannonball Adderley's laconic Sabbath Prayer. Then there's the Temptations' Fiddler on the Roof Medley of very well known clips lovingly presented. Johnny Mathis ends the collection in a beautiful recitation of Kol Nidre in that honey-sweet voice of his.

You'd have to search long, far, and hard to locate all these cuts otherwise. I hadn't known most of them even existed, thus more than one revelation arose from this gatherum, but Black Sabbath is no accident and is part of an ongoing cultural effort—including such releases as Mazeltov Mis Amigos and Jewface—among others past, present, and future. As said, someone over at Idelsohn has a very unusual sense of humor—but isn't that at least a little reminiscent of the (Jewish) god of comedians, Lenny Bruce? Thus, the only closing comment that can be rendered is: Hot Hanooeh! (Enjoy!)

Track List:

  • Billie Holiday: My Yiddische Momma
  • Cab Calloway: Utt Da Zay
  • Johnny Hartman: That Old Black Magic
  • Libby Holman w/ Josh White: Baby, Baby
  • Alberta Hunter: Ich Hob Dich Tzufil Lieba
  • Eartha Kitt: Sholem
  • Marlena Shaw: Wher Can I Go?
  • Jimmy Scott: Exodus
  • Cannonball Adderly: Sabbath Prayer
  • Aretha Franklin: Swanee
  • Lena Horne: Now!
  • Slim Gaillard Quartet: Dunikn' Bagel
  • Nina Simone: Eretz Zavat Chalav
  • The Temptations: Fiddler On The Roof Medley
  • Johnny Mathis: Kol Nidre

Edited by: David N. Pyles


Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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