Cantor Bruce Benson

The Rock Service

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Using rock music to promote a religious message isn't a new idea -- it's been done in Christianity as well as Islam, Judaism, and Hinduism. There are Christian rockers who belong to Lutheran congregations, and there are members of the Hare Krishna sect who have united ancient Hindu songs with a rock beat. Some fundamentalist hardliners still find the idea objectionable, but more progressive thinkers of different religions see it as a logical way to celebrate their faith. One such forward thinker is Cantor Bruce Benson, whose The Rock Service combines a Jewish message with a modern pop/rock groove. The music is pop/rock; the words promote Judaism. This CD is a collaboration between Cantor Benson and Congregation B'nai Israel, a synagogue in Bridgeport, CT. B'nai Israel has a large children's choir -- over 100 kids are members -- and when Benson expressed interest in recording an album with them, members of the synagogue were enthusiastic (including Cantor Sheri E. Blum, who directs the choir, and Rabbi James Prosnit). The Rock Service finds Benson sharing the vocals with the children, and the pop/rock instrumentation is provided by the band Tzur Yisrael. The choir and Tzur Yisrael were actually recorded separately -- the kids at B'nai Israel in Connecticut, the band in a New Jersey studio. But the overdubbing sounds so natural that you would never know that the children and Tzur Yisrael weren't really together. The Rock Service is consistently fresh-sounding; even though Benson is hardly the first person to combine a pop/rock beat with a Jewish message, it isn't every day that a progressive Jewish artist has the chance to work with such a large children's choir. Although not for purists, The Rock Service is quite intriguing if you have a taste for modern Jewish music.

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