Debate is more Jewish that bagels and knishes. It is the fountain that we drink from. So it is as no surprise that Jews disagree on the new Reb Matis album. Some are elated and some feel betrayed. Some agree with the flat-worlders in New York [some people were hurt by that, sorry, it is meant as a joke. They just think the world ends in Jersey. No really, folks, JK, please its meant as a friendly jibe…] that feel that the Youth album should have sounded just like the last one. Some out here in the West understand that musicians can only grow and diversify their audience, by constantly reinventing their sound and being creative.
But we are talking about a young Chasidic Yid, with a brilliance and creativity unlike any Jewish musician in decades. Think Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, and not The Chevre. No offense meant to any Jewish musicians, a group I sometimes fall into. But Reb Matis is something far larger and universal.
So here is the Official West Coast Long Beach Jewish Campus Rabbi Review of the new album, that regardless of what we all think, is going to be the number one album in the country very soon. Yup, you heard it here. Youth will be number one, so it really doesn’t matter much what us heebs think. Reb Matis has put together, with the help of creative group of musicians and producers, one of the most listenable albums in years.
YOUTH! Is not a Jewish album in the way that Avraham Fried is Jewish. Matis said it himself, if one was listening at Jewlicious@TheBeach, during the Shabbat Afternoon Panel discussion, Jewish Music in the Age of Matisyahu. Allow me to paraphrase Reb Matis because we couldn’t record on Shabbat. He said “I make music. The Jewish themes are an extension of who I am, but my music is not Jewish music.” And in a recent interview he said â€œI never aimed for the Jewish community. I aimed for a mainstream audience, because that’s the world that I come out of.â€ He said it. Then everyone gets all their knickers in a twist that its not Jewish enough. Reb Matis has wanted to become a major superstar his whole life.
There are music purists out there that feel betrayed because it doesn’t have that â€œthis was mixed by a seventh grader at Emerson Middle School sound.â€ It is very popular oriented. He brought in Ill Factor, a hit generator who knows how to bring some serious sound. He used a major producer, who has produced big movers and shakers of music. So of course, his album won’t sound like it was mixed on someone’s laptop. We all loved Shake of the Dust. That was cool. This is cool too, just in a different way.
I love the song Jerusalem. So catchy, so about what is right now the most contested city. Reb Matis, sing it brother, and sing it loud.! As for each other song, well, I will spare you my notes. Enough to say, it was worth the 14.99 I paid at Virgin Megastore in Orange. Well Well worth the money. And his fans in California love it. Now here are some more sophisticated reviews from people who actually do this for a living….
From the Dailynews.com: With his band’s third album, the Brooklyn-based singer revisits his bread-and-butter themes of spirituality, fidelity and the search for fulfillment with a clean, studio-produced sound. The disc certainly offers variety. There are moments of pure Bob Marley (“What I’m Fighting For”), hip-hop (“Jerusalem”) and Phil Collins-esque moral solitude (“Late Night in Zion”)â€¦.. You don’t come to Matisyahu for nuance, but in some ways he is a welcome relief from the oiled honeys and faux punk bands on MTV.
Matisyahu does not reinvent the wheel, but he connects the dots with virtuoso skill on his first major studio album following the still-hot “Live at Stubb’s.” The Hasidic reggae singer/rapper is from Crown Heights, a dense square mile of Brooklyn, N.Y., shared by thousands of orthodox Jews, West Indians and more than a few reggae-loving Rastafarians. It is easy to hear the give-and-take between Jewish vocal tradition, scripture and Rasta iconography in Matisyahu’s words and music: Opener “Fire of Heaven/Altar of Earth” is replete with widely, though perhaps differently, understood references to Zion and Babylon. Themes of exile, hope and redemption suffuse this musically varied collection. Permeating the songs is the search for life’s meaning in a dangerous, material world. Matisyahu’s vehicle for exploration is classic reggae, dub and toasting, elevated by his Roots Tonic band and his own authoritative, richly nuanced delivery. â€”Wayne Robins
by Jim Harrington
The recent success of Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley’s Grammy-winning “Welcome to Jamrock” has certainly piqued the mainstream’s curiosity in reggae music. Matisyahu (music)’s “Youth” is the CD that should take that interest to the next level.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Matisyahu provides an intriguing storyline. There aren’t many–if any–other Hasidic Jews out there toasting about the joys of Judaism over hot semi-traditional reggae and dancehall grooves. But the novelty aspect of Matisyahu’s shtick is growing less significant. What matters more is just how amazingly talented he is a vocalist.
“Youth” is solid from start to finish, and it’s diverse enough to appeal to several different groups of music fans. Slick tracks like “Time of Your Song” have definite Top-40 potential. Hip-hop heads will appreciate the beatboxing and the rap-like delivery found on tunes like “Dispatch the Troups.” The opener, “Fire of Heaven/Altar of Earth,” possesses a jam-band-friendly vibe that should draw fans of Phish, a band that Matisyahu once followed. And just about everything on the disc sounds like it would work in the dance club.
Learn how to pronounce this artist’s name–“Mah-tis-yah-who”–you’ll be reading it often in 2006.
Barnes & Noble
The most unusual breakout artist of 2005, Matisyahu capitalizes on the heat generated by “King Without a Crown” — the MTV hit spawned by his Live at Stubb’s disc — with Youth, an album that expands his sound and roundly dismisses the novelty of an Orthodox Jewish reggae DJ. Based in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, the spiritual headquarters of the Lubavitch sect of Hasidism he extols, Matis and his band saw most of the rest of the world through incessant touring, gaining more and more fans and pushing “King” further and further up the charts. The Matisyahu sound incorporates rock-solid reggae riddim, beatboxing, Hasidic chant, and heavy guitar, but it’s his deeply spiritual message that seems to draw folks: In an era when everything’s up for questioning, Matt Miller’s unapologetic orthodoxy is bracingly radical. The title track quotes the Rabbi Menachem Schneersohn (regarded by Lubavitchers as the Messiah): “Youth is the engine of the world,” and Matisyahu counsels those lost in a soulless society to seize power and “make the right move.” The sentiment could come from Linkin Park, but Miller is free of self-pity and angst. Like any Jew, he doubts: On “Late Night in Zion” he wonders “I’m dried up like the desert earth / How could these seeds give birth?” But he always finds his way back to his mission, to open eyes (and ears) to make the world a better place. Youth offers an olive branch with “Shalom / Salaam,” featuring rapper Youssou, and prominently features African instruments and rhythms alongside its dubwise flow. Producer Bill Laswell lays back, punching up the bass and allowing these young zealots room to breathe — at the same time, you can expect radio-ready tracks such as “Time of Your Song,” “Youth,” and “Jerusalem” to connect with an audience hungry for clarity. Mark Schwartz
All Music Guide
An orthodox Jew who kicks it dancehall style, Matisyahu may seem a gimmick, but he’s the real deal. Unfortunately, he’s struggling with the sophomore jinx on Youth, an album that expands upon his debut, 2004’s Shake Off the Dust… Arise, without capturing its immediacy or excitement, thanks in large part to producer Bill Laswell. No stranger to genre-combining — he’s remixed Bob Marley and Miles Davis and is always up for any world music versus electronica excursion he’s offered — Laswell treats Matisyahu like so many of his previous subjects. He can’t resist adding a sound effect swoop and other studio trickery to most tracks, and he often makes Matisyahu’s band sound gigantic and polished when they’re really tight and free. While the whole affair is great for showing off bass-heavy speakers, the live and exciting Matisyahu that makes the jam band crowd go crazy is hard to find and the tasteful studio touches of his home-brewed debut are absent. His material is also going through some growing pains, but there is growth and for every song that wanders a bit too much, there’s a revelation that fleshes out the artist. The spiritual message was always bigger than the man before, but the sparse “What I’m Fighting For” is a surprisingly intimate track while “Dispatch the Troops” flippantly quotes the Police, an unexpected twist from a man who always seemed stately to a fault, even when he was doing the human beatbox thing. At the time of Youth’s release, Shake Off the Dust… Arise was out of print and one has to wonder if Matisyahu’s new label, Sony, was behind it. Arise’s great “King Without a Crown” appears again here and Sony decides to push the single as if this is Matisyahu’s grand entrance. That’s a total misrepresentation of Youth, which is really more about a talented artist struggling with the pressures of topping his brilliant first album. Even if he didn’t, and even if he or the label chose the wrong producer for the undertaking, Youth is meaty enough to suggest this man is no gimmick but an artist with his eye on the long haul. David Jeffries