Benny and the Vildachayas / Get in Trouble

Album cover: Wild beast in trouble

Benny and the Vildachayas
Get in Trouble

Send a check or money order for $15.00 made out to Benny to:

P.O. Box 29740
Elkins Park, Pa. 19027
15 buckeroos will cover the disk and postage.

Last year I realized that the label "klezmer revival" was going to be giving me nothing but grief from here on out. For instance, here is a band that has a few klezmer licks, does a few horas, but doesn't fit any category close to the word, "Klezmer." My friend "der Pykler" describes it as a fusion of Mickey Katz and Sun Ra. That's a pretty accurate description, although I'd rephrase it as more of a fusion between the kids in Bar Mitzvah class and Sun Ra. You'll hear what I mean if you listen to "Yehudi Chofshi," an anthemic song with lyrics that may have been made up on the spot (which isn't to say that lines like, "I feel pretty fucking lucky to be any fucking where" don't resonate, even a generation after the Holocaust, but they're competing with "ani Yehudi chofshi / that's me"). "Shul Time," the other vocal number, fares better, and, quite frankly, the part of me that can be anti-ritual is ready to roll over laughing as I hear Benny begin, "I got stoned on Yom Kippur / spent kol nidre feeling mighty chipper." If you're going to alienate as many relatively straight (to very straight) Jews as possible as quickly as possible, it's hard to find a better beginning. I also like the refrain, "stand up / sing song / sit down / pray / ... lose it in the mumbling sway". But here, again, the rest of the lyrics are significantly less memorable. And even with a nice davening interlude, it is clear that Philip Roth needn't worry that his place in Jewish literature is about to be supplanted. (And, yes, I am making a point of the lyrics so that those to whom these words will be offensive can steer clear. The rest of us will enjoy.)

In between these couple of songs with words, and dominating the album, is some wonderful improvisation drawing from jazz, the street (the opening track is recorded at a club, of the audience, primarily), klezmer and Israeli melodies, and a joyous, fun, funky anarchy. Listening to the authoritative attack on traditional Jewish melodies on the opening "What Jew Want?" (here, with perhaps a touch of Mickey Katz, indeed) prepares one for what lies ahead. What follows is not an accident. Later, their anti-Freilach, contemplative "Freilach #AZ7R43B" contrasts wonderfully with the joyous "Klezmer Circus" with its fusion of full-tilt klez and movie soundtrack music. Sun Ra and Mickey Katz, indeed!

If anarchy and attitude and Jewish are things that matter (to me, they matter) then there is good reason to believe that you will really, really dig this album. I think it's time that there was more music just like this, drawing from both Jewish and non-Jewish sources, the whole melting pot of our lives, and then playing it like it matters. This is a damn good start. More to the point, there is some interesting attitude that occasionally obscures some very interesting, and often very danceable music. It's time for all of us to "get in trouble." Or, at least, to get, "Get in Trouble."

Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 1/1/98

The Vildachayas are:
Lou Abott: drums, pipe bags
Paul Butler: clarinet, wind synth, nasal whistle
Phyllis Chapell: vocals, stringed finch
Rich Iannacone: electric guitar, hair jive
John F. Kennedy: drums, garden hose
Ed Nardi: midi marimba, drums, two-headed didjeridoo
Jim Parker: sousaphone, kishka banger
Stan Slotter: trumpet, squeezy tweeter
Ken Ulansey: saxophone, electric flumple horn

Benny is:
Benjamin Laden: accordion, vocals, shofar, bells and whistles, floatilla hummer


  1. Parade (live from the Middle East)
  2. What Jew Want? (Benjamin Laden)
  3. Yehudi Chofshi (words/music Benjamin Laden
  4. Freilach #AZ7R43B (Benjamin Laden)
  5. Dror Yikra (trad.)
  6. Hora Na'an (trad.)
  7. Klezmer Circus (Benjamin Laden)
  8. Hava NaFriggin' Gila (trad.)
  9. Shul Time (Benjamin Laden)
  10. Ascension/Encounter (Benjamin Laden)

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