Kosher Nostra - Jewish Gangsters' Greatest Hits
The Shantel and Oz Almog produced compilation Kosher Nostra - Jewish Gangster's Greatest Hits was released earlier this year on the German Essay Recordings label and features a large number of various artists, some more than well-known to the general music public, others perhaps better known to specialist audiences.
The CD comes in a simple slip case, but with an immense sixty page booklet. But forget the packaging at once, it's the music and the booklet that count. The concept and subject of Kosher Nostra - Jewish Gangster's Greatest Hits is a fascinating one. It - more or less - correlates the Yiddish music and Yiddish derived/influenced music of the first half of the twentieth century (and a bit) to the great Jewish gangsters of the United States of the period. Gangsters such as Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Siegel, Lepke Buchalter and Dutch Schultz, sometimes collectively referred to as the Kosher Nostra - a pun on the Cosa Nostra.
Artist Oz Almog, curator of the Jewish Museum in Vienna, addressed this world of the Jewish underworld in a high-profile exhibition that also included his own paintings. Shantel wrote his undergrad thesis on the topic of organised crime, and also thoroughly researched the 'Kosher Nostra' and its influence on US musical culture to compile this anthology charting the hidden history of Jewish organised crime in the US. This is reflected in music such as American-Yiddish song, Yiddish swing - a 'fusion' of swing and Eastern European Jewish klezmer. The formers wider popularity and influence well into the 1960s can be gleaned from the fact that we have an example of Tom Jones singing about his Yiddishe Mamme!
The selection of tracks and artists is as fascinating as the concept of Kosher Nostra - Jewish Gangster's Greatest Hits. It includes aforementioned Tom Jones and ranges, via Connie Francis and The Andrews Sisters - all pretty much 'mainstream' - to such stars of the Jewish musical scene as the unforgettable Molly Picon, The Bagelmann Sisters, The Barry Sisters and Aaron Lebedeff and Alexander Olshanetzky, to name but a few. This selection consists entirely of individual musical gems, and even if the concept of correlation to the 'Kosher Nostra' doesn't grab you, these alone certainly should.
Shantel and Oz Almog are to be congratulated - and, indeed, thanked! - for their splendid efforts. For any collection of US-American Jewish music alone, Kosher Nostra - Jewish Gangster's Greatest Hits has to be a must have, and equally so if the idea of the 'Kosher Nostra' interests even in the slightest. Not forgetting, of course, the sheer nostalgia factor of this compilation.
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1. Connie Francis - Anniversary Song (Trad.) - 2:58
2. Tom Jones - My Yiddishe Mamme (Pollack, Yellen) - 2:07
3. The Andrews Sisters - Bei Mir Bistu Sheyn (Cahn, Chaplin, Jacobs, Secunda) - 3:07
4. Chubby Checker - Misirlou (Trad.) - 2:45
5. Solomon Schwartz et son Orchestra - Hava Nagila (Trad.) - 1:54
6. The Bagelmann Sisters with Abe Ellstein Orchester - A Vaibele, A Tsien (Lillian, Rumshinsky) - 2:44
7. Leonid Utjossow - Mu Mu (Utjossow) - 2:24
8. Al Jolson & The Andrews Sisters - The Old Piano Roll Blues (Coben) - 3:01
9. Connie Francis - Shein Vi De Levone (Rumshinsky, Tauber) - 2:03
10. Barry Sisters - Zug Es Meir Noch Amool (Ellstein, Jacobskammen) - 2:07
11. Molly Picon - Es Fehlt Ihr Die Rozinke (Kalich, Rumshinsky) - 2:54
12. Aaron Lebedeff & Alexander Olshanetzky's Orchestra - What Can you Mach?-S'is America (Lebedeff) - 3:19
13. Sophie Tucker - My Yiddish Mamme (Pollack, Yellen) - 5:44
14. Yiddish Swing Orchestra - The Bridegroom Special (Trad.) - 3:23
15. The Barry Sisters - Vyoch Tyoch Tyoch - 3:12
16. The Gild Edged Four - Yiddisher Charleston (Trad.) - 3:03
17. Cleo Brown - When Hollywood Goes Black And Tan (Brown, Rene, Rene) - 2:45
18. Sophie Tucker - Some Of These Days (Brooks) - 2:41
19. Wilmoth Houdini - Black But Sweet (Hendricks) - 2:30
20. Connie Francis - O Mein Papa (Amstein, Burkhard, Charell, Gilbert, Parsons, Turner) - 4:27
21. Roza Eshkenazy - Hariklaki (Toundas) - 2:34
Compiled & Produced by Shantel & Oz Almog
Kosher Nostra - Jewish Gangsters' Greatest Hits can be purchased:
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