RebbeSoul

Rebbe

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AllMusic Review by

At the time when he created the first Rebbe Soul album, Bruce Burger had doubts about whether or not the Hebrew tracks would be well received by the American public; as a result, he included only a few of them. Ironically, these songs were the most popular ones on the album. However, the Hebrew songs aren't Westernized, and it works to their advantage. The old, melancholy Far Eastern melodies are 180 degrees opposite of most pop/rock music. The words are either very simple or, in the case of "Avinu," left off the track altogether, leaving the focus on Burger's skilled and emotive guitar playing. (Interestingly, "Avinu" was the song that received an all-time record number of phone calls when played on San Francisco's jazz station KKSF.) Burger's original songs are clearly influenced by his love of traditional Middle Eastern and world music, but, melodically, they follow the rules of rock & roll. Instrumentally, though, Burger was ready to bust out of the Western mold. He threw in South American, Caribbean, and Middle Eastern instruments, often pairing wailing electric guitar with the more unusual sounds of the balalaika or conga. The vaguely Dylanesque vocals added one more layer -- and, in some cases, it all made for an odd combination. An example is "Junkman's Son." The song is half-reggae, half-Ashkenazi in the intro. When the bluesy vocals and electric guitar come in, it turns into something different altogether. The overall effect is mildly confusing but still plenty of fun -- just like the album as a whole.

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