Various Artists

Songs of the Jewish-American Jet Set: The Tikva Records Story 1950-1973

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New York's Tikva label concentrated on the music of the great American -- particularly New York City's -- Jewish diaspora. Unlike any other company that released Jewish music, Tikva didn't restrict itself to one style or genre. It offered them all, from the most traditional cantorial songs to klezmer, seasonal music, cabaret and nightclub pop, jazz, comedy, folk, and rock, to name a few. Songs for the Jewish-American Jet Set: The Tikva Records Story 1950-1973 is a brilliant 20-track collection of known and obscure artists and tunes assembled by the Idelsohn Society for Musical Preservation. (They've released two previous compilations that are excellent as well: Black Sabbath: The Secret Musical History of Black-Jewish Relations; and Jewface, a collection of wax cylinder recordings from the vaudeville age.) This set is lavishly packaged in a longbox format with photos of the original recordings, exhaustive annotations about the artists and material, and a tribute to the label by Sire Records founder Seymour Stein. The sequencing of this diverse collection is spot-on. Beginning with the sophisticated jazz vocals of Leo Fuld's "Mazzel" through the irreverent but sophisticated comedic pop of Bernie Knee's "Orthodox, Conservative, or Reformed" to the album's third cut, a stomping garage rocker entitled "Ho Yaldoney" by the Sabras, Tivka's mission is made clear to the listener. (Speaking of Knee, his "Passover Time on the Range" predates Kinky Friedman by a decade in a voice reminiscent of Merle Haggard at his best.) Moroccan-born Jo Amar's "Ani Ladodi" is a sublime song of the Sephardic tradition and an album standout. "Orcha Bamidbar" by Avram Grobard is an utterly wild meld of Latin groove, French chanson, American folk, Ennio Morricone soundtrack vocal music, and Greek rembetika! This is no exaggeration. Of course, there are killer klezmer jams from the great Sam Musiker and Dave Tarras to boot. Leo Fuchs' "Shalom Pardner" is pure Yiddish comedic theater and the Yemenite Trio's "Kaduri on the Haliel" is a gorgeous flute-and-dumbek duet -- the group also plays Jewish-Latin on its cover of "Esperanza" and Farfisa-fueled AM pop on another set highlight, "Weep No More." For any fan or serious collector of American music, this set is essential listening.

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