The Gangsta Rabbi – Excerpts La Symphonie Thrashe Du Professeur Juif Rebele – Album Review
It practically wouldn’t even count as a year here at SBS with The Gangsta Rabbi popping up at some point…I never exactly know when…but I’ve definitely learned to expect that, sooner or later, he’ll be back with another extremely massive album stocked full of massively extreme sounds…and here we are. Excerpts La Symphonie Thrashe Du Professeur Juif Rebele by The Gangsta Rabbi is out…and…I ain’t gonna lie to ya, there’s a whole bunch of French goin’ on in the titles of these tracks. Brackets come with most, which is good, cause otherwise I wouldn’t understand a single thing. “Je m’excuse,” I believe is the only phrase I ended up taking away from about three years of learning the language in school…the phrase I most often needed to navigate my way around Madame O’Leary, the most savage French teacher in all of the land, many moons ago back when this beard of mine had yet to grey. Anyhow.
Honestly…I mean, hey, look…I get it. Fundamentally, don’t get me wrong – I do get it – the music that The Gangsta Rabbi never has & never will be for everyone out there…that’s just the nature of Thrash/Punk music in general to begin with, but yes, he takes it into even more niche territory of his own design, every time. Whether or not you’ve ever been into the music – I still highly recommend that you read about every piece of this journey we’ve been on with The Gangsta Rabbi from the time it all started back with our first review in 2016, all the way up to the last one we did back in August last year. It’ll provide you with some context for sure…but it’ll also go on to prove that there is always more to this story. The Gangsta Rabbi, as regular readers would know, is also known as Steve Lieberman – a multi-instrumentational madman of music that continually pushes himself harder than just about every other musician out there in his own way…and he’s been doing all of this from “his dying days in the hospice” where he’s being cared for with a diagnosis of terminal cancer. I try not to dwell on this stuff, because I have written about it before…and I’ve also written about just how impossible it’s been for The Gangsta Rabbi to receive an honest critique of his music as a result of people knowing the story…human nature.
Anyhow…the real point I suppose is that Steve’s had more life in his veins over these past three years that I’ve gotten to known him, his music, his methods, and his madness…than most people discover in a full lifetime…and this time around here in review, we’re gonna show you a bit of what’s kept him going through a video he’s put together that’ll reveal how The Gangsta Rabbi gets his tunes recorded & how. It is also important to note one other significant change, albeit a very sad one – you’ll find within the credits for Excerpts La Symphonie Thrashe Du Professeur Juif Rebele that this record is dedicated to the memory of his wife of twenty-seven years, Linda Lieberman, who passed away earlier in 2019. Our sincere condolences to Steve, to the family of Linda & Steve, and to all those lucky enough to know her.
There’s never an easy segue out of relaying information like that…but that’s an issue that seems incredibly small compared to what anyone goes through in a situation of love & loss. We all deal with our pain & grief in our own ways. For the artistic & creative-types out there, a tribute is quite often the preferred method…a chance for catharsis…a chance for healing…a chance for a little bit of closure. However small that fragment may feel – there’s still comfort in knowing you took the time to say thank-you in the way that you could, that you should your loved-ones respect, and that you’ve maybe even given them the ultimate final gift of all, the ability to live on through art & music for the rest of time. That’s how I see/hear it…hopefully a few of you out there do too. I’ll leave it at that for now…nuff said.
Excerpts La Symphonie Thrashe Du Professeur Juif Rebele…
“1st SONATA – OPUS #33-L’ÉSPIRIT de REBELLION” starts out the record…and I can pretty much promise ya, there’s not too many experiences you’ll find where you get punched in the face so quickly with sound. Steve’s always got the inclination, time, and tendencies to add just about everything into the mix at once at some point (if not all), and he won’t even give you a single moment to collect your thoughts as he pounds and storms into the opening of his record. Is “1st SONATA – OPUS #33-L’ÉSPIRIT de REBELLION” fuller-than-full? Of course it is – that’s how The Gangsta Rabbi rolls. That being said – again, comparing this artist’s past work to now…if you’ve heard as much as I have, then truly, you do notice some key things that have certainly improved. Noticeably, just about everything that takes his breath away – as in the wind instruments, the brass & all that…usually those are the instruments I have found in the past that have suffered somewhat in tone, or provided a grating layer that most people out there couldn’t hang with; but as stuffed-full as this first cut may be, Steve’s on here. It’s always going to be tough for the average everyday listener to get their minds around everything that’s happening all at once…but separating out the elements out in your brain as an audiophile, you can actually dissect a track even as involved as this out, piece by piece, and hear that each element is making a valid contribution to the insanity of these ambitious ideas and the gigantic sound The Gangsta Rabbi creates.
We then move onto “1st SONATA -OPUS #34-MANGE MERDE ET MEURENT” and into the next ELEVEN & A HALF minutes of Excerpts La Symphonie Thrashe Du Professeur Juif Rebele. Steve has, and I’d suspect will always be, on the side of ‘more is more’ – that applies to the songs, that applies to the length of a record…heck, I’m sure it applies to even making a sandwich when it comes to how he does his thang. But what’s this! Noticeable shifting from the lefts to the rights? A bit more dynamism in the production on “1st SONATA -OPUS #34-MANGE MERDE ET MEURENT” ends up benefitting this lengthy tune immensely. Many of The Gangsta Rabbi’s cuts are designed as such a wall of sound that it can be tough to get to the tiniest details of what he’s putting into his material…but he makes some noticeable moves throughout “1st SONATA -OPUS #34-MANGE MERDE ET MEURENT” both in its structure and production that give some of those moments a better chance to stand out this time around. And I’ll say it again…if only because I have ended up picking on his tone for the flutes & clarinets & whatnot in the past – but there’s noticeable improvement and stronger, bolder, lasting tones that are on-point all throughout the eleven-plus minutes of “1st SONATA -OPUS #34-MANGE MERDE ET MEURENT” – and that’s impressive. It’s thrashed-up and an endless barrage of sound…but you can still hear the components that create each layer fairly well if you’re listening intently…and at the length of this song, you get the opportunity to do that for sure. From what I’ve experienced in the past, to now, there is an undeniable improvement…it might be confined to his own world of music and knowing the catalog, but there’s absolutely better results happening in these past records he’s been putting out. It’s always going to be The Gangsta Rabbi & the way he chooses to jam & get all those instruments in there…but the clarity, even in something as thrash as this is, has definitely improved…and again, for those that know the material, I think it’ll really help you appreciate just how much work he’s put in. Both on the level of just how MUCH he ends up doing on each song, but also for the refinements he’s tweaked along the way.
Besides all that anyhow, it’s a symphony this time around right? So he’s allowed to get all the instruments he wants into this one purely by definition alone practically. “OPUS #7 DESCENDRE D’AUTOBUS (Get Off The Bus!)” continues the record, pounding itself immediately into place. I kind of went back & forth on this tune…there’s parts I dig, parts I admire for his ambition, and parts that somewhat remind me more of a children’s tune in the backing layers. I ain’t hatin’ on it…by comparison to the first two, probably not as high-up on my list perhaps, but it still has a couple of redeeming moments along the way. You’ll hear The Gangsta Rabbi on the mic in this tune…and quite honestly, I like what he’s done there too on this recording…the mix he’s got on his vocals & effects being used end up suiting this cut…likely some slight distortion & some reverb, but you’ll hear he’s really right in the thick of the mix itself, which ends up making his voice essentially become another instrument in the wall of sound that is “OPUS #7 DESCENDRE D’AUTOBUS (Get Off The Bus!).” For me, that worked out here – and to step once more into the realm of things that have improved, I’d argue his tone on the mic has as well; I think that what he’s doing on this song is likely to be tough for the average set of ears to really hear or appreciate in-full, but for what it’s worth, I can hear that the guy is on-point & singing strong.
“OPUS #16-LE JARDIN DES CHIENS (Dogpark)” – as full as the sound continually is throughout this record, you can hear the definition in the parts of a song like this a bit more than most. You’ll get some defined chops, some moments where a layer or two might have a second or more to ring out a little on their own, and of course, a whole lotta lovin’ from every instrument combined for the majority of the song. Structurally, I felt like The Gangsta Rabbi made some bigger moves & took a few more risks here that paid off…like much of what he does, Excerpts La Symphonie Thrashe Du Professeur Juif Rebele plays like a singular experience from pushing play to the very end of the record, but it’s tracks like “OPUS #16-LE JARDIN DES CHIENS (Dogpark)” that seemed to have a bit more identity in the uniqueness of the overall ideas on this record. Would I remember it by name? Of course not – all the names are in French & we’ve already been over that…so no, no I would not. But there’s a strong chance I’d be able to tell ya this was track number four on the new album from The Gangsta Rabbi…you do get more of a noticeably tangible movement & definition in this composition that separates it a little from the rest of the album. He’s got his vocals in there eventually too – once again sunken deep into the mix; this is a much more noticeable shift – and honestly, I think it’s one of the best moves he’s made…of all things, I really like where he’s got them set in the mix and how what he’s doing on the mic strengthens the sound/melody. I mean…still a thrashed & savaged melody of course, but it still counts…it exists…it’s there.
“OPUS #20-QUARTRIÈME DIáSPORA (4th Diaspora)” will probably be the cut where, if you were hanging on by a thread of your sanity to this point, you’ll likely fall off from here. If you love it, soldier on – there’s still a ton to come at ya over the course of this tune. Dude loves his flutes & all that…sometimes I’m into it, sometimes not as much…sometimes a song or two could probably use an instrument or two less to help it all stand out a bit more…I know he’s going for the whole symphony-deal this time around & the intention is to get it ALL in there…I get that…still don’t make it much easier on the listening-end of the situation, it’s still a TON for the average set of ears to take in. Considering how long each tune is, I’m more than realistic about whether or not people can hang with a record of this scope & magnitude – the likely answer is no of course, but the good Rabbi is plenty used to that as a reaction – he’s found more than enough people out there on the internet & through playing live that dig what he does & there’s always room on the bandwagon if you want to climb aboard still. “OPUS #20-QUARTRIÈME DIáSPORA (4th Diaspora)” is probably a bit closer to music I’ve heard from The Gangsta Rabbi in the past than the first four cuts on this album have been so far…so if you’ve been a fan from way back, this one’s for you.
He certainly never shies away from sound, that’s for sure. On “OPUS #8 MA DERNIèRE ANNéE (My Very Last Year)” he steps back into a more theatrically-inclined melody at the root of it all…it’s got a bit of that kids-like birthday-carnival that’s broken out into all-out punk mayhem added in here once again. It actually DOES end up fitting the theme & sound of this cut a lil’ more…there’s a celebratory spirit that runs through “OPUS #8 MA DERNIèRE ANNéE (My Very Last Year)” – like Steve’s providing his own send-off in a way, which perhaps could have been a grim place to go…but remarkably, it sounds like he’s having the time of his life. I’m pretty sure that’s the case whenever he’s making music if I’m being honest with ya…whether everyone out there hears that or not, I couldn’t tell ya one way or the other, but it’s always been plenty clear to me. Steve lives for music and has completely surrounded himself with instruments to do what he does daily – and it’s about time we gave you a glimpse into what that all looks like – for real. Check out a video he’s put together right there in his own studio where the magic happens & get a glimpse into what’s absolutely been one of the most unique characters of our world here at SBS over these past several years…he’ll tour you through the instruments & methods behind the scenes that end up creating cuts like “OPUS #8 MA DERNIèRE ANNéE (My Very Last Year)” and the rest of what you’ll hear on The Gangsta Rabbi’s Excerpts La Symphonie Thrashe Du Professeur Juif Rebele.
“OPUS #9-LE PROFESSEUR (Teacher)” probably flexes a bit more definition in style/structure than a lot of these cuts…still the wall of sound method in many ways, but with more identity in the song overall that would allow you to pick this one out of a lineup. Heck, I could probably even remember the title of this one…that’s simple enough French that even I can understand this one. I’ll admit that a lot of “OPUS #9-LE PROFESSEUR (Teacher)” comes through in what sounds like sonic burst of static comin’ atcha for a lot of it…but you’ll also hear some really intense moments of psychedelically-influenced wildness and some creative moments you won’t hear in any other tune on this record. Couple moments within the five-six moments where it feels like “OPUS #9-LE PROFESSEUR (Teacher)” is getting stretched a bit thin to keep this idea raging to its full eight-minute capacity…but The Gangsta Rabbi rebounds fairly strongly for those final two-minutes to right the ship and steer this crazy boat of sound back on course by the end.
Then there’s “2nd SONATA OPUS #23-LA FUSÉE D’ENTREJAMBE(CrotchRocket).” First of all, I’d like to say thanks! I’ve always wanted to know how to say CrotchRocket en francais, and now I do! Cheers to that. You can see what’s comin’ atcha on this cut (and many) through the shapes of the wavs as they play from his page at Soundcloud…” 2nd SONATA OPUS #23-LA FUSÉE D’ENTREJAMBE(CrotchRocket)” is once again packed from wall-to-wall with sound and never quits on the pace throughout its nearly eight & a half-minutes. The low-end sounds of this cut end up making the biggest impact I’d say…there’s additional melodies & instrumentation upon the surface you can easily get to as well, but it’s what’s happening underneath that drives the majority of the structure & sound of “2nd SONATA OPUS #23-LA FUSÉE D’ENTREJAMBE(CrotchRocket).” Dude’s givin’ it on the drums…and if you watched that video up top, you know he loves to add that thrash element to his sound by making sure he gets right in there to supply the beat with…well…usually with a whole lot more beats, like he is on this cut. Although he tends to slide into a lot of clips & snippets of past scales, structures, and movements you’ll find in a lot of his songs, “2nd SONATA OPUS #23-LA FUSÉE D’ENTREJAMBE(CrotchRocket)” also makes a distinct effort to switch it up through which instrument is playing what part, which I’ll admit, does make a difference. I dig the distance between the surface layers & what’s happening underneath’em on this tune…for me personally, “2nd SONATA OPUS #23-LA FUSÉE D’ENTREJAMBE(CrotchRocket)” was one of the better tunes on The Gangsta Rabbi’s Excerpts La Symphonie Thrashe Du Professeur Juif Rebele for sure.
“OPUS #22-HOLOCAUSTE (Holocaust)” – I honestly couldn’t tell ya one way or the other how I feel about this track to be truthful…unsettled maybe? I mean, look, The Gangsta Rabbi is a man of Jewish faith…and I have zero doubt that the tragedy & injustices of the holocaust probably run much closer to his family lines than they did mine – so I couldn’t tell you from my own experience how personal this track is/isn’t to him in that respect. What I can tell you…is that oddly, the same spirited energy and celebratory style of The Gangsta Rabbi is of course, still fully on display, just as you’d expect to find it in every song he’s done from the beginning of his career I’d assume. The title of any given song is rarely, if ever, going to make a difference in how we listen to something…but just like we ‘eat with our eyes’ – we can be influenced in one direction or another in terms of what you might expect to find based on the implications of what those words in a title could be…essentially, we can ‘hear with our eyes’ as well. From my personal perspective…if you’re going to title a track like “OPUS #22-HOLOCAUSTE (Holocaust)” – I dunno…I thought I’d find a more somber or…maybe melancholy approach to this song at the very least I guess…this is one of those rare times where a title does make a difference, because that’s such a powerful word that instantly triggers a lot of horrific imagery and one of the worst times our world has experienced. Lyrically, it could reflect that…I couldn’t honestly say one way or the other, it’s always extremely tough to get at the words of what The Gangsta Rabbi is shoutin’ at ya & make them out clearly…so this song may well go there. As to whether or not the surrounding jamboree of somewhat gleeful sound…I gotta say, it actually ended up making me quite uncomfortable, based on the title. I’m hoping for a deeper meaning that I couldn’t get to based-on my own experience in life…maybe this is a way of taking back such a terrible part of humanity and reclaiming it…I’m honestly not sure, but maybe?
Like, by comparison, a song like “OPUS #36-DÉSPISEURS DANS MA COUR(Skinheads In my Yard-Oy Vey!)” kind of carries a bit more of a serious thread in the vibe of sound that makes it a bit more suited to the theme, even if the title itself is a somewhat sarcastic crack & has a mocking punk tone to it. So there you have it…I mean, I’m definitely comfortable with The Gangsta Rabbi ‘going there’ if skinheads and the holocaust are subjects he wants to tackle…I’ll follow anyone down the rabbit-hole of what interests them. All I was looking for in “OPUS #22-HOLOCAUSTE (Holocaust)” was a bit more of what I feel you do get in “OPUS #36-DÉSPISEURS DANS MA COUR(Skinheads In my Yard-Oy Vey!),” which is perhaps a bit more low-end, a bit more menace in the tone, to communicate the seriousness of such themes…but that’s again, based largely upon my own personal views and how I see this moment of history & how ridiculously shameful it was. Because I’ll tell ya what the world sure doesn’t need – it doesn’t need any skinheads in The Gangsta Rabbi’s yard – you feel me? And if The Gangsta Rabbi’s method of combatting those A-holes is creating this wild level of noise through his music and turning this right the f*** up to get the existing ones off his lawn, I’m 100% completely in favor of it. Rock on.
There’s a good chance I’d put “OPUS #37-HALL’EL SOIXANT-TROIS (Hal’lel 63)” up there with the best you’ll find on this record…again, it’s the tiny details that can often make that difference. Though he won’t use it too much, there are a couple of really killer riffs in this cut that make a big impact through the hooks they have…I believe you’ll find’em in the guitars of this tune. In many ways, “OPUS #37-HALL’EL SOIXANT-TROIS (Hal’lel 63)” reaches further into an exploratory sound than The Gangsta Rabbi is typically found at several points, and packs in a significant amount of groove to the thrashing signature sound you’ve come to know from this man. Right from the drop though, you can hear that “OPUS #37-HALL’EL SOIXANT-TROIS (Hal’lel 63)” has a twist on TGR’s sound, just enough so that it gives you a different access point as a listener & a new gateway into his music…there’s some pretty kickass stuff happening on this track that definitely has it set apart from the rest in terms of atmosphere & vibe.
So like I was saying earlier about the holocaust stuff, or even the childlike-melodies that I’ve pointed out in the earlier tunes as well…when it makes sense, it makes sense – and I’m cool with that. So hearing the latter, the childlike wonder & wildness crawl back into the mix on “OPUS #14-CHIEN DE BASSETTE JOUET DE TIRER(BassetHoundPull-Toy)” – I felt like it was a lot more appropriate. I mean, if the good Rabbi is willing to be so inspired by a ‘Basset Hound Pull-Toy’ and want to write a song about it, then HEY MAN, let the guy have some FUN will ya? The record noticeably brightens-up with the sounds of “OPUS #14-CHIEN DE BASSETTE JOUET DE TIRER(BassetHoundPull-Toy)” from where it’s been over the past couple cuts, still rocking tunes that are over eight-minutes and making sure that your speakers are so stuffed full of sound that you couldn’t possibly fit any more into’em, but a bit more joyful here at this point of the album once again for sure. Even for a trained set of seasoned music-veteran ears like I’ve got, I know the effort it can take to stick with The Gangsta Rabbi over such massive stretches of time & similar sounds & methods applied to each tune…it can feel like you’re in a never-ending loop at times. These slight switches in direction, cadence, attitude, or atmosphere, all end up making a huge difference in allowing us the opportunity & possibility of keeping up with him without having to take a full-on break to catch your thoughts, regain what’s left of your sanity, or attempt to remember what day it was when you started listening to whenever it is now. I appreciate the passion & joy this guy brings to his music – perhaps best represented through the fun he’s clearly having on “OPUS #14-CHIEN DE BASSETTE JOUET DE TIRER(BassetHoundPull-Toy)” – I say play on brother-man, play on, play on.
Don’t know for sure or not if that ‘Basset Hound Pull-Toy’ had kids or not, but the next song in the lineup is “OPUS #38-Trois petits chiots (Three Little Puppies)” – so maybe? I kid, I kid, I kid (pun completely intended) – the title’s real, but I have no evidence of any toys having toddlers. One of the shortest cuts on this record at just over seven-minutes in length, it’s also another tune that features several highlights for what The Gangsta Rabbi is known for…those bursts of sound, those strange layers interacting and jamming together…all that’s in there for sure. But you’ll also hear some pretty innovative moments in those layers as well that you won’t always find on every other TGR tune, specifically in the wind-instruments and he’ll also contribute in pretty gnarly ways on the microphone in this track as well. He’s so inside of the thick of the mix here, you almost lose him inside of the brass sounds & low-end surrounding & attempting to swallow him (and us) whole – but it’s actually quite a cool part of this tune that really works well underneath the surface of the savage layer of sound that stays prevalent throughout “OPUS #38-Trois petits chiots (Three Little Puppies).” Bizarre as ever, but pretty rad at times too…as much as it ever feels like you might have heard it all from this guy, he still finds more than a few clever ways to surprise you in what he does if you’re paying close attention & can break-down that wall of sound in your mind as you listen.
“OPUS #2-#1 POUMON D’ AQUA 1st AND 2ND (1st &2nd Aqualung)” puts The Gangsta Rabbi spin on the Jethro Tull classic…and if you’ve been listening, you’d get the idea on how that might come out sounding. Ambitious for sure…you can definitely make out some of the key elements of the originals in the mix, even through the thrashing sounds of TGR’s brash sonic style…he definitely takes it all in a much different direction than you’ll find in Jethro Tull for sure, but there is additional value in having parts of the song you know recognizably pop-up along the way. As in, for the majority, The Gangsta Rabbi makes this his own thing, but every so often throughout the intensity of this cover & tributary track, you’ll hear moments that’ll make you go – ‘hey, I remember that part’ as you recall the originals. And hey man, fundamentally, I’m all about it…I think if you’ve going to cover a song to begin with, you want to bring something of your own to it as well…and you definitely can’t deny that TGR accomplishes that. As to whether or not fans of the originals would instantly accept “OPUS #2-#1 POUMON D’ AQUA 1st AND 2ND (1st &2nd Aqualung)” that’s a much tougher question to answer…chances are this cover still appeals to The Gangsta Rabbi’s fan-base more than it might convert a Jethro Tull fan into his own. That being said, there’s no doubt that this is a much more explorative tune through the depth of the twists, turns, and transitions throughout the structure & gnarly sounds of “OPUS #2-#1 POUMON D’ AQUA 1st AND 2ND (1st &2nd Aqualung).” Never forget, this combined cut is over twelve-minutes long – ALL these tunes are incredibly involved on this album…and it’s all coming from one dude, The Gangsta Rabbi, happy as a clam right there in his own studio, surrounded by all his instruments & ready to play.
The final song on the new record is titled “OPUS #27-LE PROFESSEUR-JUIF EST MORT(The Rabbi Is Dead)” – which certainly implies a full conclusion, does it not? He’ll give ya one, without question, and bring everything he’s got left in the tank to this last track on Excerpts La Symphonie Thrashe Du Professeur Juif Rebele. The listed credits up at Soundcloud include him playing guitar, bass, melodica, flutes, trombones, trumpet, clarinet, talabard and euphonium – and of course, through the video posted way above in this article, you’ve seen there’s even more instruments involved in the mix. The Gangsta Rabbi reminds you one last time on “OPUS #27-LE PROFESSEUR-JUIF EST MORT(The Rabbi Is Dead)” just who he is an artist and what he’s all about with his thrashing style of music kicking furiously and revealing just how much spark, energy, and desire TGR still possesses to this very day. As I’ve mentioned many times in my reviews on his music…regardless of which way you feel about what he creates, the sheer size, scope, and continual release of material is endlessly inspiring. He takes you into gritty-rock terrain with his signature progressive tendencies leading the way structurally on “OPUS #27-LE PROFESSEUR-JUIF EST MORT(The Rabbi Is Dead)” and wraps up his new record as truly only this man could. For fans of The Gangsta Rabbi, you get a whole lot more of what you love here.
Long may you run my brother.
Find out more about The Gangsta Rabbi at his official homepage: http://www.gangstarabbi.com
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