Intoxicated - Yiddish Songs of Love and Drinking
Intoxicated, privately released in 2003, is the debut CD by Fish Street Klezmer, the husband and wife duo of Klezmaniacs founder and members Ken Richmond and Shira Shazeer. Subtitled Yiddish Songs of Love and Drinking, the album concentrates mainly on traditional Yiddish songs occupied with those subjects, with a few instrumental klezmer tunes thrown in for seasoning.
Both Ken Richmond and Shira Shazeer prove themselves extremely versatile and eloquent players. Richmond on violin, guitar and piano, Shazeer on accordion, mandolin, and piano. Not only that, but both are excellent singers as well that harmonize very well together and clearly enjoy themselves.
One instrumental original each is contributed by Richmond and Shazeer, both excellent. The selection of mostly traditional Yiddish songs of love and drinking is somewhat eclectic and quite exquisite, mostly previously unknown to me and therefore doubly delightful. There are some real gems among this selection, melancholy as well as jolly. Fish Street Klezmer's arrangements are excellent throughout. With a generous nineteen tracks on Fish Street Klezmer's Intoxicated, commenting on each one individually might perhaps get a touch tedious, charming an album though Intoxicated is. Among the highlights, or perhaps, more fairly, personal favourites, are Margaritkes, a witty song on the theme of illicit young love, Mayn Lerer Yosele, a song of unrequited young love, Anniversary Waltz, a song of love enduring that is most touching and features a couple of verses sung in English, Somerviller Doyne, Ken Richmond's rhapsodic klezmer piece showing off his skills as a fidler beautifully, and the philosophical Mordechai Gebirtig song, Briderl, Lekhayim, about the difference a little wine can make to life. Fregt Vos Ikh Troyer is a bittersweet - more bitter than sweet - soliloquy to a bottle of vodka, while the lively Russian Freylekhs Medley, which opens with one of the best known Ukrainian Klezmer tunes, 7:40, is another fine instrumental klezmer track.
Excellent liner notes that include all lyrics in transliterated and translated form round off what is already a very attractive package. Ken Richmond and Shira Shazeer in their Fish Street Klezmer guise have come up with an immensely charming and enjoyable album in Intoxicated that for me beats more than 'a bisl vayn' any day.
Just by way of an aside, when I first played this album on a friend's high-end CD player, my first reaction was to conclude that the recording quality left something to be desired, in that the mixes seemed very uneven and moreover the gain between different tracks so variable that I had to hastily reach for the remote to adjust the volume from track to track. Yet, when I played it on a mid-range CD player, everything sounded perfect! I then decided to "test" play the album on more different equipment, which gave mixed results. On a DVD play-everything player, results were perfect, on several computers including a low-end desktop and a high-end audio workstation, results were catastrophic, mid-range equipment proved perfect. I have encountered this kind of phenomenon a fair few times in the past. Sometimes this turned out to be due to the particular copy, sometimes it happened with replacements as well. Just one of the idiosyncrasies of the CD format perhaps.
However, no-one should in any way be put off getting this excellent album on account of above observations, chances are it's going to be perfectly fine on your equipment. And I certainly wholeheartedly recommend Fish Street Klezmer's Intoxicated. It should be in any serious Yiddish song lover's collection.
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