November 14, 2018

Ten Must Have Jewish Vinyl Records

Let’s face it, there are some of us left that still love buying vinyl, and not just for the pretty covers, which might make us look cool when we walk around with them. Rather we do it because we are addicted to our record collection, and more importantly to the music that it lets us enjoy.

Yet, amid the Def Leppard, Liberace, and odd Billy Joel record you might actually find some Jewish gems -sometimes they are rare- sometimes you can’t wait until you skip through all the bad Barbra Streisand LPs that never seem to end, but they exist.

I have been collecting for a while now, and every time a Jewish artist, or even just plain Jewish music comes up I pick it up just to give it a try. Out of the dozens that I picked up across the few years, I have amalgamated a list of the best ones.

10. Marty Levitt Orchestra’s “Bar Mitzvah Favorites”

Self-described as “an album of emotions”, this beautiful compilation of great Jewish songs that are perfect for a traditional Bar Mitzvah, has it all- humour, sadness, and just enough whimsy for the perfect party. The reason I actually picked this up is simply because it featured Harriet Kane, whose voice is just something else. This record is for everyone: “from bubeleh to babenuh, and from zindele to zaydenuh”.

9. Barbra Streisand’s “My Name is Barbra”

Was I just making fun of Streisand? Well forget that, despite a lot of her albums just not being up to par, this is one which truly reminds us that her talent as a singer can not be downplayed. Produced by the great Robert Mersey, and arranged by Peter Matz, this record definitely deserves to be on this list, especially with songs like “My Pa”, and “Where is the Wonder” to soothe the soul.

8. “Stars For Jerusalem”

Perhaps one of the most important compilation albums featuring both Jewish, and non-Jewish artists such as Johnny Cash, Odetta and many more that play beautiful Jewish epics. Created and produced by The International Cultural Center for Youth in Jerusalem in the 1970’s, this two-record set is a myriad of talent that translates into beautiful waving rhythms, all in the theme of Eretz Yisrael. Teddy Kollek, Mayor of Jerusalem in the early 70’s wrote a public letter thanking all of the artists and the foundation for creating such a beautiful album, that graced the city of Jerusalem.

7. Jewish Rhapsodies For Those in Love” by The Israeli Strings

“Ikh hob dikh lieb!” is something that you will definitely hear on this record once in a while, and why not? Considering that it is meant for couples to listen together, even made more clear by its description that reads: “Lovers Everywhere, Listen…Enjoy!”. That is one thing that is hard not to do when The Israeli Strings are involved. This duo performs songs such as “My Yiddishe Momme” and “To Be In Love” so perfectly that they make you fall in love with their voices.

6. Mantovani's “Exodus”

I think there are very few Jews, or really any self-respecting movie buffs who have not seen Exodus, the 1960 epic that introduced Zionism to the world, at least the pop-culture one. To be honest I did not know that this soundtrack record actually existed, but when I did find it, I was not that surprised considering the beauty of Mantovani’s work in the movie itself. As we know Mantovani was not Jewish, he was an Italian-American with an exceptional voice yet this work deserves to be here simply due to the fact that The Exodus was such a great film.

5. Barbra Streisand’s  “Yentl:The Original Movie Soundtrack”

Yet another Streisand record, and a soundtrack for that matter, yet what a gem! Yentl touched a lot of hearts around the world, not just with the story but the music that intertwined itself perfectly with the narrative- one of struggle, drudgery, but finally happiness. Yet because I have watched the movie more than is healthy for a normal human being, I can no longer ever put it on-for a while at least. I still listen to the music however which is why the soundtrack is so perfect.

4. “Notes From Underground” by The Klezmorium

You were probably expecting this entire list to be filled with klezmer. To be honest so was I, and it almost did, but regardless of how much I enjoy klezmer and how many records I actually own, I could not put all of them up so I decided to put up my favorite. The Klezmorim is a modern take on klezmer but with just enough traditional elements to keep it really dynamic. Recorded in the  1980’s this find is perhaps one of the few hidden gems out there.

3.Yehudi Menuhin and Camerata Lysy’s “Vivaldi:The Four Seasons”

If you do not know who Yehudi Menuhin is then you have been living under a rock all your life. The most important Jewish violinist of all time- actually the greatest violinist of the 20th century period, tackles Vivaldi’s Four Seasons beautifully along with Camerata Lysy. Although this is not Jewish music, obviously, there is still something in Menuhin’s violin that is inherently Jewish, and cannot be ever removed. The sounds that emanate from this piece of vinyl are simply unbelievable. I picked it up for $1 dollar.

2. Fiddler on the Roof: The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Recording

What can I say? “Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match!”. There is truly not much to say about this Jewish epic. Perhaps the greatest if not the most important Jewish-themed movie out there on a two set record collection. It follows the entire movie track by track until the great Finale. Isaac Stern is the soloist. That is all you need to know.

1. Zero Mostel’s “Fiddler on the Roof”

I have had many verbal altercations with people over why I pick Zero Mostel’s Fiddler on the Roof: The Original Broadway Cast Recording over the movie soundtrack, and none of them amounted to any concrete conclusions. Although I love the movie soundtrack, this version is just a little bit better in terms of performance, timing, and just awesomeness. This obviously was recorded in 1964, a  few years before the movie soundtrack.

Ten vinyl records that embody a great deal of the breadth of Jewish music in the past few decades, but certainly not all of it. Jewish vinyl, as I call it, seems to be losing the war against the countless egregious 80’s synth records that keep piling up around record stores, as a result of no one buying them, but there will always be good finds, if you are lucky.

Photos of record taken by Milad Doroudian.