Craig Taubman as lounge lizard? Seems unlikely that the popular singer/songwriter, who came to prominence over the last 25 years largely through his children’s albums, would take on a new persona at this late date. But there it is.
Taubman, a Los Angeles native from a Conservative Jewish family, came on the music scene much as did his predecessor Debbie Friedman — through the summer camp and youth movements. Taubman also augmented his musical interests with a strong educational background, attending the University of Judaism in his hometown, followed by two years at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
No less Jewish in orientation than his earlier work, his most recent CDs, “Friday Night Live,” “The Hanukkah Lounge” and now “The Passover Lounge,” aim at a slightly older crowd — those in their 20s and 30s — while retaining the musicality and charm of his earlier work.
Billed as “eclectic chillout music for the holidays,” Taubman’s Craig N Co. production team has tweaked the traditional Passover melodies for this disk and, for the most part, come up with winners.
“The Passover Lounge” begins a little strangely, with ringing doorbells and crowd sounds as background to a gradually building jazz beat. Next, a deep voice intones an almost hypnotic “Halachmanya.”
And then the fun begins. An instrumental “Ma Nishtana” sounds like it might be more at home at a poolside bar in the Caribbean than at your grandmother’s seder table. “V’hee Sh’amda” really is lounge music that in an earlier day might have been called “cool jazz.” (Taubman’s publicists call him “the master of Jew Age Music.”)
But it’s not all in the backup. Chanukah has a tune or two and Purim as well but you’ve got to admit that Pesach is the singin’-est holiday on the Jewish calendar. Taubman, along with fellow vocalists Todd Herzog and Erin Tozour, makes the most of that fact. In “Plagues,” the same deep voice that welcomed guests into the “lounge” on the first track, intones the list of dread punishments upon the Egyptian slave-masters to a dirge-like tune, nice and slow so you can drip the drops of wine onto that little plate, hopefully missing the tablecloth. This is followed by an upbeat, but fairly traditional “Dayenu.”
Taubman and his group deliver an appropriately otherworldly take on “Eliyahu Hanavi,” and so it goes, on though the Haggadah, with “Adir Hu,” a vaguely Latin rockin’ “Echad Me Yodea” and that fun one about the little goat. Some melodies have been changed enough so that you might control the urge to sing along, but all are familiar at the core.
The whole thing ends with a nice Israeli tune, “Lishana Ha’baah.” And then it gets weird again with “Crickets” — real cricket sounds that seem to have less to do with Passover than the fact that, if we wait long enough, summer will arrive. Or maybe the crickets are meant to be the locusts of the plague.
It matters little. This is not a compilation aimed at increasing your understanding of Judaism or giving rise to deep philosophical thoughts. It goes down real easy with a glass of Manischewitz. Don’t forget to lean to the left. Or is it the right? Whatever.
“The Passover Lounge” ($15) is available through Craig N Co., (800) 627-2448 or www.craignco.com.