Thursday, April 13, 2006

Yom Tov to Moog

Play it: Gershon Kingsley The Fifth Cup
Play it: More highlights from God is a Moog
Why would I be afraid of death? My whole life is on iTunes.
-Gershon Kingsley
Today marks the first day of Passover (פסח or Pesah,) and to celebrate I'm offering you the mind-bending Fifth Cup, an Electro-Rock Passover album (think Haggadah meets Hair) by Gershon Kingsley, from the compilation on the Reboot Stereophonic label called God is a Moog. This compilation looks at his work between 1968 to 1974, when he combined his love of machines and the divine together for results that truly sound like nothing else.

Who's Gershon Kingsley you say? Kingsley's responsible for much of the popularization of the Moog and with electronic music in general. His first splash was with Jean-Jacques Perrey with the album The In Sound From Way Out!* which is widely considered the first-ever mainstream electronic music album (it was even used on several episodes of Sesame Street in the 70's, so many of us were definitely exposed!) Other songs from Perrey & Kingsley you might have heard include "The Savers" (which became the theme song for the game show Joker's Wild, play sample) and "Baroque Hoedown" (play sample) - which was reworked to become the theme song for Disneyland, and still used today at Disney's California Adventure Park.

The song that he's most known for though (and you've heard it, whether you realize it or not) is "Popcorn" and was the first big electronica international hit. Composed by Kingsley, it became a huge hit for the artist Hot Butter in the 70's and since has been covered by everyone from Kraftwerk to Herb Albert (play sample) to even Crazy Frog (play sample.)

In 1968, Kingsley began his experimentation of merging machine and religion, and wrote a electro-prog album for the Shabbat called Shabbat For Today (I put this on recently for my wife and it sent her into a Judaic haze that lasted for hours afterwards.) 1974, he took the concept even further, with the Jesus Christ Superstar-like heights of The Fifth Cup, which is meant to accompany a Passover seder. In it Kingsley takes Passover’s liberation-from-slavery themes and Elijah messianism to get the world ready for George Orwell’s 1984. It draws on a traditional Haggadah, but takes the readings of the Seder (by Jewish folk singer Theodore Bikel) and turns them on itself:
Bitter herbs are like prison chains that physically weave you into a hole, into a hole, into a hole, into a hole that ties your body and soul till your free spirit is through.
- "Second Question—Bitter Herbs" - Gershon Kingsley from The Fifth Cup
So take it from the Goy least likely to: after you've finished your fourth cup of wine tonight (the Mishnah says that even the poorest man has an obligation to drink!) slip on Kingsley's The Fifth Cup (and all of God is a Moog for that matter) and get get ready to feel a bit more tipsy.

*The Beastie Boys asked Kingsley's permission to use this title, in homage to him, for their instrumental EP of the same name.

More:
Article in this months New Yorker on Kingsley, by Sasha Frere-Jones
NPR's Weekend America did a piece on God is a Moog (10/08/2006) (Audio)
Full story on Kingsley at Reboot Stereophonic

Previously:
Chrismukkah Bar Mitz-vahkkah Schmitz-vakkah (Bar Mitzvah Disco editors (Roger Bennett and Jules Shell) also behind Reboot Stereophonic)

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3 comments:

drake leLane said...

Gershon Kingsley The Fifth Cup

1. "1984- One, One Is One"
2. "Ode To Life To Celebrate Our Freedom"
3. "First Question - Poverty Ballad; Second Question - Bitter Herbs; Third Question - Superstition"
4. "Wise Men Say"
5. "What Does It Take (The Ten Plagues)"
6. "Security Song"
7. "Grace"

drake leLane said...

Other Highlights from God is a Moog

1. "Maven On The Moog #1"
2. "Maven On The Moog #5"
3. "Jewish Experience Part 4"
4. "What Is Creativity?"
5. "The First Commandment"
6. "Is There Only ONE?"
7. "Micho Mochu" (Shabbat For Today)
8. "S'u Sh'oreem" (Shabbat For Today)
9. "SL'cho Adonoy" (Shabbat For Today)
10. "Interlude/ Vaanachnu/ Bayom Hahu" (Shabbat For Today)
11. "But Still The World Keeps Rolling On" (Shabbat For Today)

J Shifty said...

Well, I'm a week late and a comment short, but I finally got this into my Play tab. And I'm quite happily confused and inspired.

I keep trying to picture the roomful of professional singers belting this out with a straight face. Certainly an original vision. Yahweh bless America!