When Neshama Carlebach sings, it’s as effortless and beautiful as silk blowing in the wind.
So it’s sad to report that her latest CD, “Higher and Higher,” recorded with The Green Pastures Baptist Church Choir, is a little disappointing.
At first blush, the concept behind the CD — one of the leading singers of Jewish spiritual music accompanied by a 27-member gospel choir — sounds intriguing. How could the marriage of two distinctly American styles of worshipful music miss?
Here’s how: Neshama’s silky voice is lost in the recordings. Oh, we can hear her, but, she must compete with the equally impressive sound of the Green Pastures choir, and the choir wins.
Maybe it’s because the sound of this Bronx-based choir, led by its soloists, Rev. Roger L., Vanesa and Ajanee Hambrick, and Q. Smith, is new and fresh to Neshama fans, though the choir did appear on two tracks for her 2008 release, “One and One.” Maybe it’s because we’re so focused on this different treat for the ears that we’re not focused on Neshama as we normally are.
Certainly it’s not the songs, most of which were recorded on Neshama’s earlier albums, though they were mixed very differently.
It’s simply that Neshama does not have the presence on this album as in the past.
It’s not that the “Higher and Higher” is a bad CD, but it’s not what Neshama’s fans expect to hear when they buy her music. We’re all for artists stretching themselves to find new forms of expression, just don’t dilute your own sound in the process.
(Lee Chottiner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)