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CD Review: Chaim Israel - The ultimate crossover artist

By Ben Bresky
9/11/2008, 12:00 AM

Chaim Israel is, in my opinion, the ultimate crossover artist. About half of his new album Someone to Rely On is smooth, light, slow songs based on Psalms and other religious sources. I could see each one being played on a contemporary pop station. The other tracks on the album are fast paced and exciting with a Mediterranean beat.

Chaim Israel has previously released similar sounding albums as well as albums of only Mizrachi and Yemenite music. On this new one he also has that typical twangy oud, Middle Eastern sounding horns and other Mizrachi elements. Some tracks are in the Mizrachi style alone while others mix that sound with an electronic dance beat. The title track incorporates a klezmer sounding clarinet and has an "oy yoi yoi" chorus laid over a dance beat, but the breakdown in the middle is Mizrachi sounding. I played it on my show this week. Another track has a chant of "na nach nachman me uman". 

I love that combination of styles. It reminds me a little of a hit from 2004 by Subliminal's TACT All Stars featuring HaTzel (The Shadow) called At Oti Shofetet which mixes Mizrachi singing and oud with rapped verses, hip-hop record scratches and a reggae chorus. 

Another Chaim Israel favorite of mine is Rak Elokim from his album Words of Prayer. He also has a couple Yiddish songs on other albums. 

The relatively young singer is a religious Israeli of Mizrachi / Sephardic background. He is a best seller at Gal Paz and other religious music stores in Israel. In the past couple months he has also released a two disc set of live tracks.