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30 January 2008

Review: Hodu

Review: Hodu

There seems to be a growing number of Jewish bands these days, and I find that to be very encouraging. One of these new groups is PHP, who has released their debut album, Hodu. PHP has a contemporary sound and a good range of material in both Hebrew and English. Their music is enjoyable and inspirational.

The opening song is Hema, a Hebrew song that has a great groove, slightly Reggae. The lyrics and vocal harmonies are great, and they bring in some very nice touches, such as flute, a horn section, a ripping guitar solo, and a very cool keyboard sound.

Malchus is another great song, featuring a horn section break, and a trombone solo at the end. As a trumpet player, I really enjoy the blend of the horns with the guitars and keyboard. A good arranger can use this to great effect, and it shows here.

Waiting is my favorite track on the album. Beyond the nice vocals and English lyrics, the musicianship of the band really shows with some tasty acoustic guitar at the beginning and end, acoustic piano in a jazz style that reminds me of Dave Grusin, a nice synth string section, and innovative percussion. The chorus has a nice hook. I found myself unable to resist singing along.

I was, however, a bit disappointed with the title track, Hodu. Another Reggae-influenced song, I found it repetitive, with a lack of excitement in the vocals. There is some nice electric guitar, though. I’m just not sure why this was selected as the title track.

PHP gets back in the groove, though, with a very good song, Shiru Lo. I found it to be the best vocal arrangement on the album with a nice backing vocal harmony. Nice instrumental work, too, especially the Keyboard solo. And the wind sound at the beginning and end adds a feeling of lonely desolation.

A-minor Nigun is unique among these songs. I haven’t heard a nigun that grooves as well as this. The vocal harmonies and horn arrangement add a sense of joy to the great melody. And there are some great guitar solos.

Yedid Nefesh and Yik’raini round out the vocal tunes. Both are nice songs that give us more of that great PHP sound.

There are two instrumental tracks, Hallway Jam and Cabin Jam (& Hidden Track). Hallway Jam is a fine interlude between the vocals and is a change of pace for PHP. It has an acoustic folk song quality with some talented guitar and percussion work, as well as a rainstick (always a nice touch). Cabin Jam, on the other hand, has a real open jam feel to it, and is very listrenable. I love this sort of thing, and wish it could have gone on longer. Hidden Track is a short, fun bit. I won’t give it away, but it’s definitely worth listening to.

On the technical side, I was very impressed with the engineering and production quality of Hodu. The mix is great, with the vocals nicely balanced and the instrumentals clean and distinct. It sounded great on my home theater setup as well as on headphones, earbuds, and small speakers.

As I have only the AAC files and album cover art, I don’t have the full album credits or song details. And I couldn’t find these on the PHP website. Only the band members are listed there-

Pinny Farkas ~ Drums; Payis
Doni Joszef ~ Rhythm Guitar; artwork
Aryeh Kunstler ~ Bass; Vocals
Ahron Rosenthal ~ Guitar; Lead Vocals

I like PHP very much and highly recommend Hodu to anyone with an interest in their Jewish Jam style. It’s a wonderful debut for them and I look forward to hearing more from these rising stars.

Keith Wolzinger
Klezmer Podcast

PHP Sameach Records


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