What’s the point of an EP? I never quite got it. It seems to be a relic of the vinyl past. But for whatever reason, EPs occasionally pop up, and sometimes with quite good music. Here are two recent albums that are worth a look, despite their short setlist.
Isaac Bitton’s Generation Redemption:
Isaac Bitton is a member of a rare breed in the Jewish music world – a composer, singer and virtuoso drummer. It’s worth your time to check out his fascinating backstory on his website, www.isaacbitton.com, but suffice it to say that he was the leader of a successful 70’s rock band in France, Les Variations, which toured the US with the likes of The Who. After becoming observant, he released two great albums and then basically disappeared. The album he just released, Generation Redemption, was originally recorded in the mid ‘90’s but never finished. While the setlist tells you that there are 6 songs, there are actually 3 – Hashem Malach and Utechaye Lanu I and II is one continuous song. (While I understand the split, they should have actually split that song at 2:12 of Utechaye Lanu I.) That’s what caused me to label it an EP, despite the fact that it is being sold as a full length album. Timewise, it makes up 45 minutes of solid music, so consider it whatever you wish.
I find myself connecting most to Utechaye Lanu II, with its snazzy beats, belting harmonies and power drumming, but I love the instrumentation all the way through the album. There’s clarity in the music that is truly awesome, with credit as much due to the studio engineers as to the brilliant musicians. The wild guitar/violin duets that old fans remember are still there, as are Bitton’s master percussive sounds.
Practically speaking, this is a depiction of Sephardic sensibility with infusions of classic rock and bits of Africa and the Caribbean. You pick up real moments of greatness, making me pine for more. (Particularly, why didn’t they include the tenth song of Songs for a Brother 1, which has not been released to the digital age? In an album that begs for more tracks, this would have been an easy fix.) It’s simply a pity that there’s not more music here.
With all that, you still have 45 minutes of solid, sometimes dominating music. The sizzling beat gives you head-bobbing madness, and the crisp sound of the wailing guitar is real musical pleasure. The English lyrics are given most of their character by Bitton’s deep, resonant voice and Moroccan/Sephardic inflection (as it did to his classic songs, Holy Man and In the Field). Old fans will find what to dig deep into here, while I’d suggest that those as of yet unacquainted with Bitton should start with his first, highly recommended album and only then acquire this EP, as it is best appreciated within the body of his entire work rather than on its own.
Eden’s Knock at the Door:
For a Jewish rock trio, bridging the gap between grunge and punk rock is usually not attempted. Eden ventures out there successfully with this solid EP of six songs. Eden had produced one earlier album about five years ago, called Break of Dawn. That record is decent in its own right, but quite sophomoric in comparison with the bold and thick sounds produced on this EP.
Yigdal begins the album with heavy and heady sounds, creating a thick Pearl Jam-like sound with the words of the classic prayer. This easy-to-follow but heavy song is my favorite on the EP, despite the fact that this genre doesn’t always speak to me. The guitar solo towards the end of the tune flows easily and while it doesn’t quite reach transcendent, it is executed professionally. The next number, The One Above, is an exploration of Shema. Good lyrics, but my take on it is that they spend too much time and energy on the hook. Lo Yisa Goy reaches lighter to a degree. I like the chest-driven vocals, again, with a good message amid the power of the drums and bass. A little silence and stretched notes within the solo would have taken this piece up a notch, but it’s good nonetheless. The Angels’ Prelude is a cool instrumental piece straight out of Seattle performed to heavenly perfection, but just too short, as it’s just a prelude to Lecha Dodi. That song takes a while to get started, but eventually explodes into cacophonous guitar and drum riffs. The tune remains weak, but Eden gets points for their spirited performance. The last tune, Kadish, belongs on their first album, with an unfinished composition and less than stellar production.
This is an excellent pickup for someone looking for something on the heavier side of Jewish music. Check it out at www.EdenMusic.net.