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Kabbalah, continued:

Having just recorded a great little demo, which included a guest performance by Lenny Solomon, and which was getting airplay on WYUR, we started to perform shows.

There was a variety of different venues.  We played Upstairs at J2, a little "nightclub" above a pizza place.  We did a great show in the Morgenstern Lounge at YU.  We played as opening acts for Mordechai Ben David, The Piamentas, and Kesher.  We opened for a puppet show.  (If I told them once, I've told them a thousand times to put "Kabbalah" first and "Puppet Show" last.)  We played a girls' High School.  We played an NCSY Shabbaton in Manhattan where the PA blew up on stage (true story).

Kabbalah was for me an evolution of my concept of Jewish Rock.  Like my experience with Tohu Vavohu, it was not a gimmick or an act of rebellion, but more what we thought the natural direction of Jewish Music should be.  Our goal was to put the music first, to write and perform the type of music we enjoyed listening to, with Jewish Themes.  The level of musicianship in Kabbalah allowed me a type of freedom that I didn't have with my prior band.  We really didn't have any limits.  Whatever style of music we wanted to do, we could.  Rock, New Wave, Ballad, Reggae, Blues...  If we wanted to do song that sounded like Rush, we wrote one.  If we wanted to sound like the Police, or Dire Straits, or Elvis Costello, we could do that too.

Our demo tape made the rounds and was noticed by Gershon Veroba, who had been playing the Chicago NCSY events.  I guess he picked up on some of my songs sounding a little like the band Squeeze, which we both liked.  He recommended that Kabbalah play in Chicago when he wasn't available.  And so we found ourselves on a plane to Chicago in December, 1985.

L-R: Simcha, Moish, Mark and IzzyI should mention that during this time I was also playing in a band called Kesher, and we were also playing NCSY events in NY, Allentown PA, Cherry Hill NJ and Philadelphia, so I had some familiarity with the organization, but nothing really prepared me for the reception we received when we got off the plane in O'Hare.

They literally treated us like rock stars.  We had our own "handlers".  We had people to bring us things like "tea" and "food." (I eventually married one of these "handlers."  This is where the "life changing" thing comes in.  She stopped bringing me tea after a while).  We played for 5 days.  Breakfast, lunch, supper, kumzitz, ruach and of course a full blown concert.  They really thought the Jewish Rock thing was pretty cool.  We even had plenty of time to just sit and jam, and think of new material.

When we got home, it was clear to us that we needed  a full album that was representative of our sound.  A few days after coming back, Lenny Solomon asked me to play on an album he was planning to record.  We did this over winter break.  All the sessions were in the middle of the night.  We recorded a bunch of song parodies of classic rock songs at a place called 39th Street Sound.  A fellow named E. David Friedman was doing the arrangements.   This was my first time in a "real" recording studio.  We called this album "Shlock Rock", and I soon found that I had joined yet another band.  (I was also playing with Izzy in a band called Kol Rom which did Shabbatons and eventually released an album).

I used the experience I had gained from the first few demos and the Shlock Rock album to put together the first Kabbalah album.  We worked with several people, including E. David, Gershon Veroba, and Moshe Antellis.  We recorded it at Calliope Productions, a luxurious studio located in a penthouse suite on 39th street.  We had a view of the Empire State Building through the huge windows.

I'll spare you the stories about the midnight ice cream runs, or when the microwave in the studio caught fire,  or the time Simcha emerged from the drum booth dressed in a bunny suit.  This was a serious production!

Our goal, as before, was to produce a Jewish music album that didn't sound like a Jewish music album.  We wanted people to be able to listen to the basic tracks and think, "this is a cool rock song."  Again we avoided studio musicians and did all the playing ourselves, with the exception of guest appearances by my friends, Steve Gold and Lenny Solomon, on a few piano tracks.

I had budgeted the recording for 100 hours, and we came in at 111 I think.  Not too bad.  You can sample the album here.

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