are two strands so closely woven that they could be a braided challah. They
are entertainers, a word which too often has a negative connotation, at least
when it is used as a whip used to divide entertainment from "art."
But most of us like a good time, and entertainment does not equal kitsch.
Stereophonic's logo: "History sounds different when you know where to
We start with
the Bagelman Sisters of The Bronx, changed to Barry even though their Jewishness
is their stock in trade. In the 'forties, they were hits on the Yiddish
Melodies In Swing radio program. They never stopped touring and performing,
and Claire continued to sing after Myrna's death in 1976. The excellent booklet
is chockfull of fascinating info and biography, all of it previous unknown
I was weaned
on their 1960s Roulette album Shalom (SR 25157, LP, now reissued within
one of a trio of Barry Sisters twofers by Collectables). That one contained
mostly Yiddish favorites, but also offered some pop hits of its time, "Exodus"
and "Never On A Sunday," also sung in Yiddish. The disc at hand
is a reissue of a 1973 Mainstream (now owned by Capitol/EMI) elpee. The sound
is clear, although I suspect a wee top has been trimmed to reduce hiss.
is clearly a 'seventies album. Their cover of "Raindrops Keep Fallling
On My Head," here called "Trop'ns Fin Regen Oif Mein Kop,"
begins a series of ten tracks of charm which steer clear of schmaltz. (I'm
using schmaltz as a negative term in this instance.) The "trop, trop,
trop" coda arrangement is very skillful.
The great Andrews
Sisters' smash, "Bei Mir Bist Du Schön, which I like to translate
as "By Me, You're Swell," has an intro with a jazz trio, and they
swing it well, the hornings coming in veering towards Dixie, but come back
to solid Big Band. The lyrics have been yiddishized a little further, and
speakers of that language can enjoy some punning. A very clever arrangement
of the refrain half-way through finds their vocal lines braided again, but
Claire and Myrna give the Andrews Sisters a run for their gelt.
nearly nothing any artist can do about the song "My Way," its schlock
is built-in, and the only one in which the voices betray them slightly; here
they are just singing, not feeling. One sister does a ondes-martenot-like
vocalise with a tremolo as wide as the Negev desert (grant me poetic license
here), with an echo, even, this against the solo vocal of the other sister;
amazing! The coda, just the sisters and a piano, returns us to beautiful sound.
starts with a soft piano intro and the girls' vocies enter delicately, and
yes, the orchestration does cresce, but not to much and it redeems a song
which has always demanded insulin.
Two" uses a crazy tack piano, but otherwise is a touch schlocky. "Mame,"
as well, plays it pretty straight, and brings little to the song, but the
sentimental standard "Alice Blue Gown" is a perfect selection, ideal
for the Barry Sisters' voices.
like "My Way" has built-in shmaltz, and the sisters navigate it
for what it's worth. "To Life (L'Chaim)," from Fiddler On The Roof,
makes a perfect closer, of course, to any set, and it is joyful.
See if you can
find a sample online; taste "Raindrops," "Alice Blue Gown,"
or "L'Chaim" and you're likely to bite.
A request: I
once asked the honchos at Mosaic to reissue all the Mickey Katz albums in
one set. They laughed at me, saying that I would be the only one to actually
buy such a thing. Reboot Stereophonic, how about it? Meanwhile, check out
their other reissues of Jewish music such as Gershon Kingsley's God Is
A Moog, and Bagels and Bongos by the Irving Fields Trio, or better
yet, take a leap of faith and get the archival anthology Jewface. Their
website will tell you more.