Various Artists

Great Jewish Music: Marc Bolan

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Part of the Tzadik label's Radical Jewish Culture Series, which sought to highlight great music by Jews (instead of focusing on music with distinct Jewish cultural influences, though the two are not mutually exclusive), Great Jewish Music: Marc Bolan is also part of a smaller series of tribute albums put out by the label. The diverse lineup of honored artists, which includes Serge Gainsbourg and Burt Bacharach, is presented on albums that feature interpretations by some of the avant-garde and experimental community's most talented musicians. Bolan may seem like the gritty odd-man-out in such company, but John Zorn, the creative force holding the reins at Tzadik, knows an influential musician when he sees one. Indeed, ripples of the impact that Marc Bolan and his band T. Rex had on punk and rock musicians can still be felt more than two decades after his death. His delicious creepiness is all over this album, especially on Kramer's version of "Get It On," where a child's voice singing over up-tempo drums and jangly guitar (with flute, drum machine, and string elements thrown in) lends an almost pedophiliac edge to Bolan's swampy sexual lure. Rebecca Moore's "Telegram Sam" is also reverently disturbing, with guttural utterances alternating between the atmospheric moaning, wailing, and buzzing of guitar and synth, like the last breath of someone who has given up fighting her own demons. The Tall Dwarfs' version of "Ride a White Swan" shows off Bolan's penchant for sounding raw and groovy at the same time, and Eszter Balint's rendition of "Mambo Sun" shows how a love song can be both sweet and angry. Overall, this is a great compilation, which instead of merely parroting Bolan's music, does what the best of tributes do -- captures the elements that made him wonderful, while letting the creativity and uniqueness of the artists performing the songs shine through.

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