Yehuda Eder has a problem uttering the word “singer,” or even thinking about it. He seems not to see the connection between it and him. Between songs in a recent performance at Zappa in Tel Aviv, he told the audience, “Besides being the guitarist and songwriter, now I’ll also be the emcee.” Just a minute – you forgot something. The singer, you know? This is, after all, a gig to launch your new solo album, where you sing all the songs. So, not only are you allowed to think of yourself as a singer, you’re obliged.
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Actually, it’s perfectly clear why Eder has a hard time with that word and what it stands for. At the age of 64, he’s just released his second album, “Moon Rising,” eight years after the first. He’s a lot of things – guitarist, producer, arranger, teacher, member of two legendary bands (three if you count the Nahal Brigade entertainment troupe during his army service) – before he’s a singer. And if we’re already on the subject, he really is limited as a vocalist. There’s a bit too much gravel in his voice. If, along with all the satisfying elements, there was one disappointing aspect in the launch show, it was Eder’s singing. In one case it even threatened to wreck a song – the Hebrew-language version of Bob Dylan’s marvelous and gentle “Make You Feel My Love.” Eder rode roughshod over it and blocked the fountain of emotion.
But in the other numbers the singing wasn’t grating; in some of them (especially those with a light country-blues gait) it dovetailed well; and in any event it didn’t focus the audience’s attention. The songs themselves are also not of the “Pay attention to us!” type. Small and unpretentious, they succeed in conveying a few grams of emotion, a few centimeters of thought. As Eder says in one of them, “Not grabbing anything, not grabbing anything, just touching.”
That the songs were touching was due in large measure to the instrumentalists. It was a pleasure to listen to Eder and his band, the guitars especially. Three of the four band members played guitars – Eder, Gilad Meir and Ethan Gedron, who also played electric guitar and bass. All three played both lead and accompanying guitar, without any hierarchy between them, and all three were excellent (each in his own way), without showing off. It’s only fair to say that if “Make You Feel My Love” was a vocal disappointment, Eder’s guitar solo was superb. Liberated and resonant, it wasn’t so much played as sprayed. It’s the most emotional guitar solo that’s been heard on local stages for a long time.
An emotional and surprisingly good performance was also provided by the guest singer, Shalom Hanoch, in “Can’t Sleep Now,” as part of the reunion of the Tamouz band, which sang material written by Eder. (Tamouz, a legendary 1970s group, consisted of Eder, Gedron, Hanoch, Ariel Zilber and Meir Israel.) I have three things to say about this part of the show. First, it was excellent, great songs joyously rendered with delighted audience participation, a win-win situation.
Second, thoughts arose when Tamouz played its iconic song “End of the Orange Season.” Suddenly the band’s ultra-masculine essence came across. There are the recorded versions, of course, but somehow in live performance the feeling was of a testosterone overdose, despite the advanced age of the band’s members. Before Tamouz came onstage, the Israeli-music expert Yoav Kutner related that after Tamouz’s first concerts, the singer Arik Einstein came backstage and told them, “You’re going to get a lot of fucks.” It’s clear how that deep insight occurred to him.
Was this masculinity a key element in Tamouz’s overall activity? Was it attractive or repugnant? Questions for someone’s future research. In the Zappa show I saw, it was just there. It was pretty surprising, and it gave exhilarating justification to the segment in which Hanoch led the crowd in gorilla-like roars. After all, what is the human male if not a cultured ape?
The last thing that needs to be said about the Tamouz part of the show is that it was amazingly proportional. Three songs, no more, in a proper, gradually ascending, order of crescendo. “Let me remind you that this was the launch of Yehuda Eder’s new album,” Kutner told the audience at the end. He needn’t have bothered. The terrific Tamouz mini reunion was the perfect conclusion to the evening: it didn’t steal Eder’s show.