An Enjoyable Album About Death

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Listening to this album for the first time and paying attention only to the music, not the lyrics, led me to three clear and happy conclusions: 1) It’s a lovely effort. 2) It’s so beautiful and rare to encounter an Israeli album that presents a relaxed, rolling musical movement, reminiscent of the feeling one gets from listening to the best country rock albums. 3) The voice and phrasing of the singer, Amos Funk, gives the impression that he experienced many things in his life. The mileage meter seems to show a six-digit number.

These were the conclusions from the first time round. Afterwards, one pays attention to the lyrics and internalizes the story they tell, and returns to the first three conclusions. 3) Funk definitely went through some experiences, since the album “Black Rose” deals from start to finish with loss: the loss of his beloved and the huge hole forged in his soul now that she is gone. 2) The fact that the album’s lyrical content bleeds pain only increases the admiration for its relaxed musical vitality. The loss could have led Funk to a somber and gloomy dead-end street, but he chose a different, livelier route. 1) A very enjoyable album? Can these words really be applied? Well, yes. It isn’t a fun album, but “Black Rose” is a very enjoyable album about death. Rhythm and Loss, perhaps, to borrow from the title of Lou Reed’s landmark album, Magic and Loss.

The tension between the heavy load of the content and the vital drive of the music is fully evident in the opening track, “Floor of the Ocean,” the place to which Funk feels he’s been hurled. In the second scene of the song, he feels his leg has been amputated. These are the days after the loss: “I’ve seen my little girl watch me, she didn’t cry,” Funk sings, and then delivers the song’s knock-out punch: “I wish god was still alive.” God could have helped, but for Funk, who is probably “painfully secular,” to quote Yankele Rotblit, god is dead, as is love. No one can save him, no one to lean on.

Is there, somehow, something to lean on? Can something help Funk release his dead lover? Could it be the music, their common love? The problem, formulated by Funk in the title track, is that “All the songs we used to play, I don’t hear them anymore.” Their “songs,” which constituted the playback of their common life, cannot comfort him. Access has been denied.

So what can one do? Write and compose new songs, which include the DNA of their “songs” in their core, which is, it seems, what Funk did. He ushered his private pain into existing molds of rock and country, and did so reasonably and sensitively, using his musical talent and, most importantly, without a touch of mimicry.

The title track, which includes the line, “the songs we used to play,” is a potent example. Funk uses the textual models of country to report his emotional state. In “Real Gone” he sings of his dead beloved: “but my heart keeps asking when you’re coming home.” In a seemingly paradoxical manner, the general tone of this line makes it all the more personal. Incidentally, speaking of existing models, I might have heard a melodic quote from Dylan’s “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go,” a song whose content, and even more so its title, makes the association with Funk’s mood.

Dylan isn’t present in Funk’s vocal cords, but other singers are. At times, one can sense Matt Johnson of The The, Nick Cave, Eddie Vedder or even Greg Dulli. Funk doesn’t sound like any of them, but one can hear where he’s coming from, who he likes to listen to, and what artists he and his lover listened to. More importantly: He’s a good singer. His singing is stable, bright and powerful, rife with emotion.

Funk’s accompanying band is also deserving of compliments. Moti Mizrachi on drums, Noam Vardi on bass and Oren Menashe on piano, and especially Ronen Kohavi, who produced the album with wisdom and talent, and played guitar in a manner that makes “Black Rose” a moving musical monument.

Amos Funk: “Black Rose,” Tzatlaplam recordings

Amos Funk: Good singer, stable, bright, strong, with plenty of feeling. Credit: Guy Kushi

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