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Recently in Hanukkah Category

Happy Hanukkah, yo

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A little something to kick off the Festival of Lights, starting tomorrow.

A Maccabeats Hanukkah, Maccabeats (self-issued)

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If you haven't encountered the Maccabeats before, they're a poppy a cappella group that specializes in Judaic music, setting traditional music to modern idioms and also performing modern compositions that fit their format. And that's pretty much the story of this seven-cut Hanukkah collection for 2015, which features five traditional tunes, "Al Hanissim (featuring The Orthobox)," "Mi Yemallel," "Hanerot Hallalu," "Maoz Tzur," and "Oh Hanukkah," along with Peter Yarrow's "Light One Candle" and Miami Boys Choir's "Light Up the Nights." This is pretty much in the tradition of Rockapella, the Blenders and the Nylons, only specializing in Jewish music. They previously had a Hanukkah tune in 2010 called "Candlelight," which garnered strong YouTube action, and in 2011 they covered Matisyahu's "Miracle." Probably should have included them with this collection, but I'm sure you can find them without too much help. Currently on iTunes, not Amazon, or you can just go to their website to link out to a purchase.

"The Chanukah Song," Haim (YouTube)

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Before Hanukkah completely passes us by, up-and-comers Haim channel Adam Sandler for us. This is from 2012, a performance for BBC Radio 6.

suckitxmas.jpgThis is mostly Jewish humor for other Jews, but with Hanukkah bearing down on us I thought I should hurry this onto the site. Rachel Bloom is a comic and actress who cuts lots of short videos for use on YouTube and other sites, and she gathered up a bunch of friends to throw together this short collection of Hanukkah-centric goodies. Highlights include "Chanukah Honey," a parody of "Santa Baby" with a NSFW twist in the very last line; "Happy Epic Chanukah," a heavy metal take on the story of the holiday; "Foreskin Angels," less about the holiday and more about, well, you know; "Judaica," an electro-pop tribute to shopping for Jewish heritage goodies while traveling; "Let Me Be the Cantor In Your Temple," a bit of Wild Man Fischer-inspired ranting (and oh, is that what the kids are calling it this year?); "What Would Hashem Do," a light-hearted look at the extreme punishments described in the Old Testament; and "Think About All the Dead Jews," a klezmer version of "finish your peas, the starving children in India would love them." There are three "Elders of Zion" spoken-word bits that are probably more funny if you're Jewish, as they snark on Jewish stereotypes. Here, check out "Chanukah Honey":

nighthanukkah.jpgThis came out in 2012, and it's an interesting bit of historical analysis cast as a double-disc set in which one disc is Hanukkah and the other is Christmas. The Idelsohn Society is a volunteer historical group that studies Jewish history via music, and they've done a very nice job of presenting it, although the heavy lifting was done in the extensive annotation, which includes an essay by Greil Marcus among others. There aren't any big surprises in the song selections, which cut across all pop genres on the Christmas disc, and of course every Christmas song was performed and written by Jewish artists. The Hanukkah disc has very little pop sensibility, although Woody Guthrie's "Hanukkah Dance" is here as well as Don McLean's "Dreidel," the latter reprised by Luther Dickinson, Jeremiah Lockwood and Ethan Miller in an almost soundalike arrangement for some reason. Most of the rest is more traditional Hanukkah music. The Christmas disc has very little rock, but they did manage to get the Ramones and Bob Dylan in, and Lou Reed delivers a spoken holiday greeting. Theo Bikel performs the folky "Sweetest Dreams Be Thine" and a comedy piece "The Problem" directly addresses the competition between the two holidays. The rest is old-school pop music by Mel Torme, Dinah Shore, Benny Goodman, Danny Kaye, Eddie Cantor, Eddie Fisher, The Ames Brothers, Mitch Miller and that noted klezmer band Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. I bring this to your attention not because it provides a source for your mix discs, but because it's an interesting look at the two holidays together. (Although in 2013 Hanukkah actually starts on Thanksgiving....) The art links to an Amazon download, but you may wish to check the society's site if you're interested in all the annotation or the hardcopy version.

aimeepaul.jpgAimee's Christmas cred is beyond question at this point, with several holiday releases preceding her full Christmas album, and she's made live Christmas shows a permanent part of her performance schedule. This live cut is slight, but it's good for giggles, a Hanukkah Alert, and it's free from her website.
meshugga.jpgWell, the title surely dispenses with the need for a Hanukkah alert. These guys (and a gal) have been a going concern in the southern California region, playing traditional Jewish songs in the surf music style. (I love that the bass player's name is Steve Bacon, by the way.) For 2011 they tighten the focus of their schtick to the eight crazy nights of light, although a cursory look at their discography suggests they've put "Hava Nagila" on every one of their albums, including this one. They even slip a bit of it into "Shleppin' and Kvetchin'," which features a guest appearance by Duane Eddy (it's really his "Moovin' & Groovin") on those big low strings. Now I'm not Jewish, so I don't have a deep knowledge of the traditional Hebrew folk song repertoire, but I'm guessing that a number of the songs on here are either originals or have been renamed for entertainment's sake. For example, I doubt that "Czech Mate" is a traditional Yiddish song, at least under that name. Info at the website is a bit sketchy in regard to songwriting credits. But I'm pretty sure the title song is an original, which treads a little closer to the Beach Boys/Standells realm than the rest of the album, which is more like the kind of stuff Dick Dale does. Probably due to it being the only tune with vocals, unless you count the Jewish mother bit at the front of "Bubbie's Kitchen." And there's little doubt about the provenance of "Oh Hanukkah" or "Dreidel Dreidel." Eighteen songs may be a bit much for what is a one-joke concept, but there's plenty to like here.

"Miracle," Matisyahu (Epic)

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matisyahu.jpgDo I need to say Hanukkah alert? The popular Jewish reggae performer finally drops a single for the eight nights of light in 2010. It's a festive modern reggae performance with pertinent lyrics, though I probably could have written that without listening to it. Those of you who drop a Hanukkah tune into your mix discs routinely should enjoy having this, and of course those of you for whom Hanukkah is the main holiday should like it as well.
godsfire.jpgI don't know if Jack Black is Jewish -- there's a trivia nugget at that says he realized his acting talent while playing Freeze after a Passover seder -- but if he's heard about this 2009 album, he's probably kicking himself that he didn't think of it first. Gods of Fire are a working New York metal band that put together six original tunes and added two traditional songs to create a Hanukkah album -- one that sounds a lot like what a Hanukkah album by Tenacious D would sound like. Actually, I'm surprised there hasn't been more in the way of metal Hanukkah music, as the genre tends to gravitate toward material with epic storytelling potential, and Hanukkah does provide an epic story. The Gods are an excellent band in their genre, and their songs do a good job of depicting the story of the holiday, from disc opener "Eight Days of Victory" to closer "Taking the Temple." It's just that, well, metal is one of those genres that is rooted to a specific time period -- mid- to late-70s to mid-80s -- and seeing and hearing these guys is sort of like going to a Renaissance Faire set in that time period. A visit to their MySpace page reveals the band roster as "Prometheus (Vocals), DJ Blood Sacrifice (7 String Guitars, Keyboards), Saucy Jack (6 String Guitars), Helios (Drums), Evil Thunder (Bass)." And they address their blog posts to "Mortals." In the modern day, they would be well advised to shake off the cliches of the metal style and let the music speak for itself.
A delightful Hanukkah Alert we have here from 2005, a punk rocker for those who would be glad "if Rudolph were a Maccabee." It's a download from this Seattle-based pop-rock singer-songwriter and parodist's website. If you like the song, pick up one of her mugs with the song title on it. Or you can just watch/listen to it here:

Menorah Mashups, various artists (djBC)

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MenMash.jpgHearing from Mojochronic reminded me it was time to go hunting for another Santastic compilation, but apparently there's not going to be one for 2009. Bad news, or it would be if not for the fact that djBC, the compiler of the Santastic compilations, has instead compiled Menorah Mashups for 2009. And what's not to like, I ask you? Well, the liberal use of vinyl record surface noise on "Dreidl Bells" is a bit of a turnoff to my ears, but that's mostly because it's been a cliche ever since the CD era began -- Matthew Sweet used needle-drop noises on his Girlfriend album in 1990, for crying out loud. "O Chanukah Dubstep Bassline Remix" puts tons of bass on the traditional holiday song, "House of Klezmer" puts rap and hip-hop moves on the Yiddish folk music style, while "Dreidel All the Way" simply mashes up everything it can get its hands on, from The Simpsons and South Park to Adam Sandler to the actual "Dreidel Song" itself. The forehead-slapper from this collection is "Challahback Girl," in which Gwen Stefani meets "Hava Nagilah." Good stuff, and a free download besides.

Unwrap Me, Chevonne (SendSpace)

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chevonne.jpgAs near as I can tell, this 2009 EP is this artist's first-ever musical release, and it's pretty entertaining; an r'nb-funk look at the holidays by a sexy, and sex-obsessed, singer. Hanukkah actually takes the lead here, if the single "My Menorah" is anything to go by. Plenty of single-entendres -- "I'll hot-oil you up and dance like a hora" -- and the chorus "My menorah, light me up for eight nights at a time," all done in a slow-jams tempo. "Single Bells" takes things to the dance floor, when she hangs "a disco ball on the Christmas tree," then she announces "I Hung a Mistletoe" in her cleavage. Topping off the collection is "Ball Drop," a New Year's tune with a bit of Cameo's "Word Up" in the tempo and a lot of exhibitionism in the lyrics. At her website, her bio namechecks Betty Davis as an influence, and you'll note I didn't link to the famous actress there -- the Betty referenced here was a former wife of Miles Davis who recorded risque tunes in the 70s. Check out "My Menorah" here:

"Digital Dreidel," olkovikas (self-issued)

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digdreid.jpgThis is a fairly minimal-sounding bit of electronica dedicated to the notion of the title toy. So minimal that only the word "dreidel" and a bit of the melody suggests anything related to Hanukkah. Nevertheless, it's a neat-sounding bit of dance floor business. Found this on iTunes. From 2009.

casyshea.jpgShea is a young singer-songwriter from New York by way of the south who sounds like he learned music from listening to a lot of 60s folk-rock. The apparent A-side, "A Very Merry Christmas," is a ballad very much in that tradition, jangling bells and chimes over acoustic guitar strumming and lots of la-la-las to boot. It's a bit of a dirge-y tempo, however, belying the lyrical sentiment. In another old-school musical tradition, the B-side, "My Holiday Song" kicks off with a spoken word bit about making latkes for Hanukkah, followed by lyrics about how "you don't care about my holidays/We were raised in two different ways." The divergence of the Judeo- from the -Christian is played for giggles here. Yes, we're issuing a Hannukah alert.
hanukey.jpgWe've had hip-hop Hanukkahs on the site before, though they were fairly tongue-in-cheek. This one isn't playing the combination for laughs so much, although you can be forgiven for thinking that, as Cohen is the brother of "Ali G" himself, Sasha Baron Cohen. It's a collection of traditional folk songs for the holiday, many rendered in a kind of klezmer-funk fusion, making room for traditional instruments behind modern percussion and bass, and throwing in a bit of reggae and rap as well. "Hanukkah Oh Hannukah," "Dreidel," "Ocho Kandalikas," "My Hanukkah," and more all get this sort of treatment. As this Cohen brother (not to be confused with a Coen brother) is a composer and DJ, it's the approach you might expect. Coming along for the ride are international singing stars like Yasmin Levy, Jules Brookes, Y-Love, Dana Kerstein and Idan Raichel. All told, it's a lively compilation and an enjoyable listening experience.
chanukt2.jpgFollowing on from this musical charity's Volume I a few years back is this second American music tribute to Hanukkah (yeah, I know how they spelled it, but I'm trying to be consistent here) from 2006. Deanna Bogert kicks things off with a solo boogie piano version of "Dreidel Dreidel," the Bobwhites turn "Blue Christmas" into "Blue Hanukkah," Klezcentricity do a nearly bluegrass version of "Ballad of Chanukah," The Alexandria Kleztet do "Eight Days of Peace" as a rock ballad, and Mark Rubin and His Ridgetop Syncopaters revisit "The Dreydl Song" in "Texas style," Bob Wills that is. David Grover and the Big Bear Band offer an original, "Latkes," about the potato pancake, and Dr. Louie presents his own "Hanukkah in Boston," a boogie-woogie tune. The rest of the performances are traditional songs for the Jewish holidays rendered in more traditional musical styles.

Oy To the World, The Klezmonauts (Satire)

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OyWorld.jpgThis band offers a sort of reverse-Hanukkah alert, in that klezmer music is a Yiddish folk form yet almost all the songs on this 1998 album are standard Christmas carols in klezmer style. "Deck the Halls," "Jingle Bells," "We Three Kings," the title carol, "Little Drummer Boy," and so on. One novelty tune appears here, "Santa Gey Gesunderheit," the only vocal, in which a Jewish haberdasher marvels at a certain North Pole's resident's ability to execute his Christmas Eve route. A one-joke album, handicapped further by the fact that The Three Weissmen executed funnier versions of "Deck" and "Jingle" in the same vein on the long-out-of-print Blame It On Christmas. Nevertheless, this has its charms, in that it's an original idea nobody else appears to have tried.
hungryhn.jpgWe've told the Hungry For Music story elsewhere, and it all applies here to their 2004 collection of Hanukkah-related tunes. Traditional Yiddish folk songs line up here among a fair number of originals, covering a wide range of styles from actual klezmer to jazz, blues and rock. The Alexander Kleztet keep it real with three traditional selections, Lox and Vodka repurpose the old gospel tune "This Little Light of Mine" into "These Chanukah Lights are a Sign," the Jew-Bop All Stars jazz up "I Have a Little Dreydl," and the Hip Hop Hoodios syncopate "Ocho Kandelikas" with a bit of rock crunch in the middle. Honky Tonk Confidential give us "Honky Tonk Hanukkah," but it's more of a waltz, followed by Evan Johns and Dr. Louie's bluesy "Feel the Holiday Cheer." Chuck Brodsky's "On Christmas I Got Nothing" features a Dylan impression, and then Mark Novak aka MC Macabee gives us the hip-hop "If You're a Macabee (Then You're a Hammer)," and Mikhail Horowitz and Gilles Malkine bring it all back home with the comedic "Hebrew Blues." George Winston throws in a harmonica solo, "Variations on Rebbe Elimelech." This collection treads a fine line between observant and irreverent, so it may be too serious for some of you folks out there, but it's pretty good listening no matter what religion you are.
feslight.jpgThis 1999 compilation was the second of two albums composed to put a contemporary spin on Hanukkah music. Some of the songs are traditional, others are originals written in the spirit of the holiday. Contemporary and stately is definitely the order of the day; the only break in the mood comes from They Might Be Giants' "Feast of Lights," with its toy piano, rock beat and gentle satire of Jewishness: "You never write, you never call..." Check it out below. Serious stuff from such artists as David Koz, Robin Holcomb, Peter Himmelman, The Klezmatics with Chana Alberstein, Wayne Horvitz, Continuo, Neshama Carlebach and others. The first volume in this series is similar and featured Jane Siberry, Marc Cohn, The Covenant, David Torn, Frank London and John Leventhal. On that one, the only pop-rock move comes from "Lighting Up the World" by Peter Himmelman and David Broza. Overall, a little serious for Mistletunes' purposes, but good for folks who want a more modern sound to their Hanukkah celebrations.

A delightful Hanukkah Alert we have here for 2005, a punk rocker for those who would be glad "if Rudolph were a Maccabee." It's a download from this Seattle-based pop-rock singer-songwriter and parodist's website. If you like the song, pick up one of her mugs with the song title on it. (While the title is censored, the song most assuredly is not.) UPDATE: There's a video of it now.

Christmas Jews, 2 Live Jews (Kosher)

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livejews.jpgThis comedy duo has been doing the same Jewish-stereotype parody schtick for years, ever since they took off on 2 Live Crew with "As Kosher As You Wanna Be." From 1998, this is their fourth album, keyed in on the holidays (Christmas and Hanukkah, of course), and they jam it full of parodies like "Happy Chanukah" set to the tune of "Feliz Navidad," "Bagel Rock" instead of "Jingle Bell Rock" and "New False Teeth" based on "All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth." You'll probably be able to connect the dots yourself on most of them: "Walking On Miami Beach Sand," "Deck the Broad," "Twelve Days on South Beach" and so on. Note the album begins with "The Jewish Follies Christmas Megamix," which is a medley of numerous cuts from the album and may be all you need.
chutzpah.jpgThis 2005 album isn't dedicated to Hanukkah -- it covers a lot of Jewish ground while parodying the conventions of rap and hip-hop. But Master Tav, Jewdah, Dr. Dreck, MC Meshugenah and the boys do give us "Chanukah's Da Bomb," an entertaining rap that gives us the "Menorah-ty Report" on the holiday. If this is enough for you, you can download just the track from iTunes. Other great song titles that can apply, or not, as you see fit, include "Da Lost Tribe," "Shiksa Goddess," "Tsuris," "Super Jew" and "The Shtetl," or as they sing it here, "the funky, funky Shtetl." You might miss the fact that Dr. Dreck is portrayed by George Segal, but it should be more obvious on the DVD version of this, "Chutzpah This Is?," in which he's joined by Gary Oldman, Debi Mazar, Viv Campbell of Def Leppard and Sharon Osbourne. Check out the holiday song here:

Hanukkah Rocks, The LeeVees (Reprise)

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leevees.jpgThe LeeVees are the brainchild of Guster's Adam Gardner and the Zambonis' Dave Schneider. The fact that they're opening for Barenaked Ladies on dates in December tells me everything I need to know about them. The BNLs treated us to a Christmas CD in 2004 leavened with a few Hanukkah tunes, and now for 2005 these guys give us the full pop-rock treatment for the Yiddish observance, no Christmas allowed. Happily, they dispense with any pretense at authenticity in favor of social commentary and lots of humor. You'll want to buy this just after reading the song titles: "At the Timeshare," "Goyim Friends," "How Do You Spell Channukkahh?," "Gelt Melts," "Kugel" and "Jewish Girls (At the Matzoh Ball)." And you'll be right -- the tunes all live up to the titles. UPDATE: There's a downloadable EP based around "How Do You Spell Channukkahh?" with some alternate versions of the songs from the album. Here's a live version of that song:

poppas2.jpgNothing hard about this 2006 album, the title says it all. "Hanukkah (Say It Loud, Sing It Proud)" starts the show in a standard Seventies rock groove, then there's more of the same in the title song ("There's Ed Shapiro/He plays guitar like a rockin' hero)." "Hanukkah Is Right Around the Bend" is a ballad backed with chiming synth and shakers, and then "Burning Flame," an ode to menorahs and their meaning, shifts between country and rock. "Oy Veh Blues" takes a Jewish approach to the three-chord musical style, and the whole thing wraps up with "Rededication." Overall, a workmanlike approach that will appeal to folks who want something a little different for Hanukkah.

klezmatc.jpgThis could easily be the subject of one of those "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" quizzes in which they tell three unlikely stories and you have to pick which one would be true. And I guarantee you, only Guthrie scholars would have gotten this one right -- that Woody wrote an album's worth of Hanukkah tunes during his lifetime. The Klezmatics were granted access to his notebooks to ferret these tunes out and add music to them (except for "The Many and the Few" and "Hanuka Dance," which Woody wrote in total) in the vein of the fine Wilco/Billy Bragg Mermaid Avenue discs. Woody didn't go all Sufjan Stevens on the holiday mind you, so the disc is fattened up with originals like "Gilad and Ziv's Sirba," "(Do the) Latke Flip-Flip," "Groovy's Freylekhs," and "Spin Dreydl Spin." Not exactly rock 'n roll, I'll grant you, but klezmer is perfectly fine party music, after all.
outaclay.jpgI'm embarrassed to have not caught up with this 1999 album until recently. The backstory to this Hanukkah Alert is that a then-16-year-old Shirley Braha compiled this grouping of 20 original performances of indie-pop-rock odes to the Jewish holiday. There's kind of an amateur touch to a lot of performances, but a lot of folks will consider that a feature rather than a bug, as they say in the software biz, as the garage pop ethos rules here. It starts out promisingly with "Verhanukkah," a parody of Elvis Costello's "Veronica" by Kisswhistle, and "Menorah Mall" by Winterbrief, a slap at the commericialization of the holiday that repurposes the "12 Days" into eight. And who wouldn't want to spend "Hanukkah in Brazil" with Jumprope, complete with the mellow syncopation of this tune? Josh Bloom gives us a kind of Jonathan Richman/Rubinoos take on "Hanukkah Night," while the Casino Ashtrays' "The Relatives Song" takes on a universal situation from the Hanukkah standpoint. Chariots of Tuna give "I Found Me" a cool Nuggets treatment, while Metronome tries to bridge the religious gap for his "Hanukkah Girl." And even though it barely fits the theme, Bruce fans will want The Teacups' "Max Weinberg," about the E Street drummer and Conan O'Brien bandleader, not to mention The Rosenbergs' "Puff Daddy Isn't Kosher." Great fun for everyone, but unfortunately, Shirley warns us there are but a few fresh copies left of this. UPDATE: Long out of print by now, and meanwhile Shirley has gone on to bigger and better things.
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