Maxwell St. Days | Sweet Early Years
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This Chicago-based ensemble has put out the nicest album I have heard in years, perhaps the best since the ground-breaking first by the Klezmer Conservatory Band. As has become customary, this "Klez revival" band is more a "Jewish music revival" group, with a well-selected group of songs from klez, yiddish, and Israeli folk traditions. The vocals are excellent, including an awkwardly sung yiddish tune featuring the male vocalist (believe me! it's good). Opening with a soft flute version of the Hanukka tune "Mi Yimalel", the Maxwell Streeters are clearly not trying to blast the listener away (a welcome change from the usual klez revival fare). The mood is slightly quieter, slightly more serious than the average. The musicianship, which tends to the jazzier (as opposed to the klez bombast), is also on a higher level than one would expect. Easily the best from the huge group of albums released over the last year by Global Village Music.
Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 1986, reissue updating 9/14/2001
Sweet Early Years
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This is pretty standard, conservative fare. Playing is as good as on the first album, but this one doesn't really break any new ground. Nice solid klez for traditionalists, or for those who just want to do some dancing (which isn't a bad thing, at all, come to think about it). I do appreciate the Russian-Jewish Wedding medley and the validation of the contributions to klez by recent arrivals to this country from the former Soviet Union, and I enjoyed Flory Jagoda's Ladino Chanuka song for similar reasons. No one should ever complain loudly about an inclusive, well-produced and played, Jewish party album. This is one of those.
Note that the early version of this album is still being marketed by Global Village Music as "Wedding Party". There appears to be a breach of contract, and no royalties for that version are being paid to the musicians. You should avoid that version.
Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 1991, lengthened 7/23/95.