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Our Way (Tahka-Tahka).

Reboot Sterephonic. 32:05.
Review by Steve Koenig

Their voices 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 start listening."

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 to me.

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.

Our Way 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.

Okay, there's 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.

"It's Impossible" 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.

"Tea For 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.

"Love Story," 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.

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