Joel Grey

Songs My Father Taught Me

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AllMusic Review by

As detailed as is Joel Grey's filmic and theatrical career, very little has been written about his musical recording career. Most have heard his original cast recording albums, but few know that he has also released his own albums not related to Broadway shows. The most personal is Songs My Father Taught Me, which is perhaps the most unexpected and rewarding musical trip for Grey's fans. The album, released by Capitol Records, comes labeled with instructions to "file under: Jewish Music." Though that seems insultingly simplistic, it is an accurate representation of the content of Songs My Father Taught Me. The album includes 12 examples of the Jewish folk music that Grey heard while growing up the son of Mickey Katz. "Roumania, Roumania" is a zany, energetic romp that Grey first heard as recorded by famous Yiddish actor Aaron Lebedoff. The musical accompaniment is brassy, which fits Grey's exciting Broadway-like performance. "Schluf, Yingele, Schluf" (Sleep Little Boy, Sleep) was written especially for this album by Grey's aunt Jean Schneider, and incorporates a timeless melody similar to the other folk songs on the album. One of the standout tracks on Songs My Father Taught Me is the Israeli harvest song "Artsa Alinu" (Our Land), which captures an indomitable spirit in its hopeful lyrics. "Papa Play for Me" is one of the more personal selections on the album, as described by Grey in the liner notes: "Whenever there was a family get-together in our house, 'Papa' would always get out his clarinet and play this particular frailach (happy song). Everybody sang and danced, and they tell me that it was on those happy occasions that the 'ham' in me first began to show." Songs My Father Taught Me is a gem of an album. A true find, it reflects Joel Grey's deep appreciation for the music that surrounded his youth. The liner notes describe the performances as "warmhearted," which perfectly captures the nature of this bold, personal album of ethnic celebration and family heritage. The record's harvest songs, lullabies, and humorous tunes are among the most essential recordings. Highly recommended for fans of the Broadway and film star who want to understand more about the artist's background.

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