PRESS AND RECORD REVIEWS
To really understand what makes veteran singer Steve Lieberman, the Gangsta Rabbi tick musically, one needs to take a close look at the early years of punk rock. A slick, commercialized, stylized version of pop-punk enjoyed great commercial success in the 1990s and 2000s thanks to the emo trend, but early punk as envisioned by the Sex Pistols in the United Kingdom or Black Flag, Fear, the Dead Boys and the Germs in the United States was anything but slick. It was raw, crude, primal and totally in-your-face. And that type of mindset is very much at work on Blast-O-Rama, which Lieberman recorded in 2015. Listening to the noisy sensory assault of “The Double Clutch,” “Astroland 415” or “Bassett Hound Pull-Toy,” it is evident that Lieberman (who turned 57 on June 21, 2015) could care less about mainstream success and still identifies with the raw, defiant spirit of late 1970s and early 1980s punk.
Lieberman incorporates elements of marching band music and ska as well.
According to his publicity bio, Lieberman has been battling cancer since September 2011. A wide variety of musicians, over the years, have used music to cope with life-threatening illnesses, and the results were often contemplative, introspective and wistful. But Lieberman, on the other hand, keeps things harsh and abrasive on “The Popsicle Song,” “The Whole of the Moon” and other tracks. Having a major illness has not caused Lieberman to mellow musically: listening to “Transfusion Pole” or “Big Bad Carburetor 429,” it is evident that Lieberman is determined to rock as loudly and aggressively as ever.
Lieberman functions as a one-man band on Blast-O-Rama, which he produced himself. Traditionally, punk and metal have consisted of vocals, guitar, bass and drums. But on Blast-O-Rama, Lieberman plays not only standard punk and metal instruments, but also, wind instruments that include trombone, trumpet and flute. One might think of the trombone or the trumpet as instruments that are more appropriate for Tommy Dorsey tributes than for metal, punk or hardcore, but Blast-O-Rama demonstrates that they can work perfectly well in a loud, angry, guitar-heavy rock setting. Lieberman does not use wind instruments to make himself sound more polished; he uses them to add to the sensory assault. And in fact, polish is the last thing that he is going for on “The Popsicle Song,” “CC Sabathia” or “Driving a Stick Shift with a Hernia.” There are no signs of Lieberman softening his rough edges, which is a big part of this album’s brutal, uncompromising charm. Lieberman does not reach out to the mainstream on Blast-O-Rama; he proudly and defiantly rejects it.
Musicians as extreme as Lieberman are an acquired taste, to be sure. Anyone who complains about how noisy or abrasive these performances are totally misses the point: Lieberman thrives on primal energy, not polish. And those who have a taste for the extreme will find that his primal energy continues to serve him well on Blast-O-Rama.
Review by Alex Henderson
Cancer Ward (2014)
Upon first listen to Steve Lieberman’s Cancer Ward, it’s difficult to suppress the temptation to call this one ungodly mess. That is until you realize the album’s title is no joke: Lieberman was diagnosed with myelofibrosis leukemia in the spring of 2013.
One also gains more respect for the noise that is this album after realizing Lieberman is a bit of a musical legend. Known as the Gangsta Rabbi, Lieberman is a Jewish-American punk rocker from Freeport, New York. He’s shared concert bills with Weezer and Misfits, for instance. He also signed with Jewish indie label JDub Records, former home to Matisyahu. Although his day job is as a comptroller, Newsday once dubbed him the worlds only orthodox Jewish heavy metal musician with a record deal.
According to his press material, this is Lieberman’s 22nd full-length album. Sonically, this album doesn’t sound like Lieberman has learned over the years how to become a slick studio cat. Instead, many of these tracks sound like songs coming over AM radio when driving under a bridge and listening in the car. In other words, they kind of fade in and out. The musicianship is Not Quite Ready For The Garage Prime Time, as the guitars grind with dirty feedback, the bass bangs simplistic 4/4 notes and the drummer bashes right along.
Vocally, Lieberman sings a lot like The Sex Pistols’ Johnny Rotten. Each phrase is delivered with equal parts rage and sarcasm. Unlike Rotten, though, you really can’t understand what Lieberman is singing. Whereas Rotten went to great lengths to make sure his angry rants were understood, Lieberman isn’t quite so articulate.
This album includes 18 tracks, with many of them dealing with Lieberman’s health issues. Some of these are quite tragic, too. “My Last Chanukah” and “”My Last Good Day,” for instance, have titles that strongly suggest impending death.
The album closes with a most unusual cover of Terry Jacks’ 1974 hit, “Seasons In The Sun.” That, you may recall, was a song where Rod McKuen put words to a Jacques Brel melody. In its original form, the song was a gentle meditation on facing death. In Lieberman’s hands, though, it’s an angry rage against the dying light.
Cancer Ward is a tough road to travel for anyone that’s a casual music listener. This music does not fit well into the background. You can’t hum along with it, nor can you dance to it. It’s a collection of confrontational sounds. Just as Lieberman must face up to his impending death, his music forces the listener to face this horror right along with him. It may not be pretty, but it’s no doubt real.
On a technical music level, this is not what one would call ‘great music.’ But as an artistic statement, it’s pretty darn good. Musical sounds should always fit their subject matter, and nothing matches the prospect of death better than angry punk rock music. Lieberman is a ranting and raving man, and with good reason. He wants to go out with a bang, not a whimper. It’s as if he’s saying, ‘Death, be not proud. Let me embarrass you one last time before I go.’
You probably won’t listen to this album over and over again. It doesn’t get any better or worse upon repeated listening. But it will make you stop and think and reconsider your own mortality. And perhaps that’s Lieberman’s true intention. Rather than skate through life thinking about trivial things, we should be aware that death is always right around the corner and maybe even closer than we think. These are sobering thoughts, indeed, but thoughts certainly worth taking into consideration.
Reviewer: Dan MacIntosh
My Magic Last Days (2012)
Mourn For Me Like The Prophet is the initial track on My Magic Last Days, and it is a track that blends together the gritty sound of late-eighties industrial with hints of psychedelic and new wave. What results is something that is always nuanced and requires a number of listens before listeners can get a full semblance of what is happening. The track keeps listeners firmly focused in, despite possessing a run time considerably longer than the bulk of the disc.
I feel that those tracks that possess more of a laser focus are those that succeed on this title; Lieberman’s version of Red Rubber Ball showcases a singularity of mind and effort that is fairly catchy. In fact, the groove that continues through the middle of the disc showcases a cohesive side to Lieberman that has been missing on prior albums. While there are 18 cuts on My Magic Last Days, I feel that there are more integral tracks here than there have been. Keith Gave Me a ½ Star Review has a bouncy feel that allows Lieberman’s pointed commentary and flutes to shine.
I Hate The State is a late-disc effort that tips the scales at nearly seven minutes. The momentum comes and goes, but Lieberman’s desire to keep things fresh should be lauded. My Magic Last Days is one of the best Lieberman titles that we’ve reviewed, and I feel that if ey can further polish eir overall output, a great album can follow. Check out Lieberman’s music and website, as well as our previous reviews of Lieberman’s work.
Top Tracks: Mourn For Me Like The Prophet, They Milked His Aorta La-La-La
The Rabbi Is Dead (2011)
The Gangsta Rabbi is back. New York's reigning king of garage punk, Steve Lieberman hits harder than ever on his 3rd album for J-Dub Records, The Rabbi Is Dead. Lieberman's insight into social, political and religious issues is as wonderfully skewed and-yet-somehow on the mark as always. With 50,000 albums sold, 2 million downloads and 100K YouTube views, The Gangsta Rabbi is an underground revolution.
The Rabbi Is Dead traverses the socio-political landscape, touching on subjects such as STDs, taxes, prejudice, puppies, the Police reunion and the fall of commercial radio. As always, you'll need a lyric sheet to have any idea what Lieberman is singing about, the music is entertaining, and Lieberman's lyrics deciphered offer a slightly twisted yet viable understanding of the world as it is, and perhaps how it should be. Highlights include the wild "A Dove Flies Over Baghdad", "Jewish Boy In The Moshpit", "Plus Sized Girls (Always Rock My World)" and "Over The Sea Of Reeds".
Lieberman fleshes out the sound this time around, adding six-string guitar into the mix, augmenting the usual drums, bass and flute sound and giving his songs more sonic weight and density. It would be nice to listen to a Gangsta Rabbi record without a lyric sheet, but it somehow just wouldn't be right. The Rabbi Is Dead is certainly an acquired taste, but if you really get it, you'll love it.
Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)
DiKtatoR 17 (2009,2010)
Have you ever heard a song on the radio and wondered how that artist managed to get a record contract? That’s the feeling that Steve Lieberman The Gangsta Rabbi’s newest album, DikTatoR 17, leaves the listener with.
Shake the Missile Base (2007)
Steve Lieberman — Shake the Missile Base Buy it at Amazon Buy it from InSound One of my favorite independent avant garde artists out there, Steve Lieberman, also known as the Gangsta Rabbi, has written me a song. Yes, all of my pleadings finally made him succumb to putting pen to paper, flute to mouth, and guitar plug to amp. A heavily distorted album as is the usual Lieberman fare, he distances himself from the more sunshine-laden lyrics for angry words of rage, heartache, suicide, and depression. “Editor’s Pick” is the one written for me, and it’s yet another dazzling display of musicianship and the off-kilter oddness that makes Steve really shine; ironically enough the song is about all the idiot reviewers that didn’t give him the time of day, or shrugged him off because they just didn’t get it. Well, I’m not sure if I necessarily always get everything that Mr. Lieberman is trying to espouse but damn if I want to. That’s why I listen, intently, to every damn word, note, and flute craziness that comprises “Shake the Missile Base” and more. “J-Sin made me the editor’s pick!” You’re damn right buddy! - J-Sin Technorati tags: Steve Lieberman, Shake the Missile Base, metal, experimental.
Jewish Riot Oy Oy Oy (2005)
Strange anti-rock, live recording of one-man freakout. Wesley Willis meets Jethro Tull in the local psycho ward. Sounds like pre-programmed drums with him bashing out on fuzz bass or guitar, flute, with his omnipresent bizzarre vocals, sung like that of a fucking retard on crystal meth. Bordering on "Outsider Music", but also on the genius of Culturcide, The Residents, Killdozer, or even Zappa-like. If you think this sucks, well, you are certainly entitled to your opinion in this instance. I just love how its obvious theres like 5 people in the audience while this guy gives the performance of his life. It just does'nt get any better
Arbeiter At The Gate (2004)
Studio release by our favorite “gangsta rabbi”. Combines programmed drums with driving fuzz bass, insane flutes and really strange vocals with lyrical themes covering anti-Semitism to all kinds of crazy stuff. Either this guy is not all there or he does a great job of faking it. Totally lovable and adorable, like Wesley Willis. I’ve said it before, will say it again: this is like Wesley Willis crossed with Jethro Tull on a bad acid trip. Borderline “outsider music”, definitely genius in some parallel universe, alternate dimension.
When Reagan kicked all the loonies onto the street in the early 80’s, relatively cheap home 4 track style recording had just been made available, but the new technology was still limited to 400 dollar Tascam and Fostex cassette decks. Today, super cheap recording AND CD-R technology is as commonplace as crazy fuckers riding MUNI. Winner.....us! This sounds like some guy who replaced his meds with a mic, playing all the instruments (fuzzy guits, bass, electronic drums, and a persistent omnipresent Flute) and taking the moniker “Gangsta Rabbi”. I think dubbing this a cross between Wesly Willis and Jethro Tull isn’t too far off the mark. Throw in some Killdozer, Culturcide for good measure. Its altogether fucked up, fascinating, and GOOD. Check it out. Check it out, cuz when the mentally ill
Viva The Gangsta Rabbi (2006)
Steve Lieberman is a true rocker through and through – and one of the last to have been recorded at the now defunct Downtown in Farmingdale. This live disc was recorded when he opened for the Viva La Bam show. Lieberman is all over the place, borrowing a bit from experimental rockers Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart, British punk rock, such as the Sex Pistols and even ’80s hair metal, creating his own unique sound.
While the recording isn’t the best – his vocals are muffled much of the time – his musical prowess, his searing and playful guitar styling, shines through. He kicked off the night with “Garbage Man” before launching into “Punkifier” with its crunchy guitar, simple melody and incredibly raw, in-your-face, rock vocals.
He paid homage to The Ramones, playing a medley of “Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment” and “Blitzkrieg Bop.” However, he gave the tunes more of a British punk feel. He opened up the tune “Bonkey on the Donkey” playing the flute, giving the song a bit of a Jethro Tull sound.
He closed the album with another medley of covers, this time paying tribute to Green Day. He played “American Idiot” and “Good Riddance” along with “St. Jimmy.” He definitely makes the songs his own and his vocals are much more punk rock than Billie Joe.
|CONTACT ME HERE, OK? email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com see y'all soon--sha'lom, ok?
"J'ai achete' un autre Bombard/Recorded on the 15th Track/Punk-Rock Medieval Oboe??: Here comes the critic's attack!!--Steve Lieberman (2002) from "Another Bombard"
In the old days (the whole 1990's(3440"s) and before, it would be totally impossible for indie artists like myself to get on any chart of musical or for that matter any variety. Enter the internet chart. Although most of them even the most 'stable' fail to make a whole lot of sense given my probability and statistics background, this is what we live for. It's almost impossible to sell our cd's this way (or any other way for that matter-i think Bad'lania Rising just broke the magic '50' number (perhaps platinum or at least gold for indies) our success is measured by people downloading and streaming our songs There are thousands of peoplle all over this good green earth who know what a 'Bad'lania" is and can even hum the lead flute part of "Big Carburetor 29'. because of the mp3's and the internet. i first uploaded to mp3.com on 6/24/2002 as soon as i figured out how and made my first chart appearance the next day. "Big Carburetor 29 was #215 on industrial rock" while " Puppy" bottomed the top 200.Boppin' on the BopSide", then placed in the highly competieve pop punk genre debuted at 2828. i have a daily ritual 6 days a week to go on the still cumbersome artist admin section of mp3.com and write down in my ledger books where i stand amongst the 3,000,000 plus songs on their roster as i push a totoal of 34,000 plays on that site alone!!!
Here are some songs i have there and where they peaked on mp3.com streaming charts for each prospective genre:
"ASTROLAND SPRING-GREEN '415" #2 for 7 Days(Garage Punk)
"BIG CARBURETOR 29" #2 for 9 days (Industrial Rock)
"BOPPIN' ON THE BOP SIDE " #33 (Garage Punk)
"DIE LIKE A MACCABEE" - #4 (Jewish-Israeli)
"DONNA MARTIN" #116(Hardcore Punk)
"IAN ANDERSON" #47 (Prog-Rock)
"FOR BUTTONS BAT-SHEVA BERECH'IAH" #5 (Garage Punk)
"GANGSTA RABBI" - #1 for 8 days -(Jewish-Israeli)
"GARBAGE MAN" #33 (speed -metal/thrash)
"GINOT FOR BASS,FLUTES AND BOMBARDS" #21 (Jewish-Israeli)
"GLAD I AM A VEGETARIAN" #58 -(lo-fi/Indie pop)
"HEBREW FLUTE PLAYER IN KRAKOW, 1943" #19 -((Jewish/ Israeli)
"INDUSTRIAL GIRL" #54 (Industrial Rock)
"ISOLATIONIST PUP"- #34 (Prog-Rock)
"JEREMIAH OF ANA'TOTH" #4 (Jewish/ Israeli)
"MARIKA" #32 (Prog-rock)
"P-E-R ABEK'AH" #29 (General Children's)
"PINBALL MACHINE" #56 (Alt. Country)
"PUNK ROCK CHANNU'KAH" #1 for 7 days (Jewish/Israeli)
"PUPPY" #20 (Garage Punk)
"RADIO ZION/PSALM 151 #6 (Jewish/Israeli)
"SEVER THE WIRE(SEARCH & RESCUE MISSION) #59 (industrial rock)
"SHOUT IN MIZRA'IM" #1 for 8 days (Jewish/Israeli)
"STREET CORNER PREACHER" #19 (jEWISH iSRAELI)
and FROM THE BOP BOP BIGGER BAB-'eL site
"BOPSIDE" #55 (Industrial Rock)
"HIPPY IN THE HOOD" #40 (left field)
"AT THE PUBLIC KENNEL" #111 (Experimental/Post-Rock)
"LAMENTATION 3449 PART 2" #25 (Jewish/ Israeli)
"YIZ'KOR '394 #39 (Darkwave)
|THE REVIEWS (1993-2003)|
"...A CHEERFUL DISREGARD FOR THE RULES..."
" ....HIDING OR AT LEAST DISGUISING HIS SHODDY PRODUCTION VALUES UNDER THE "EXPERIMENTAL" LABEL..."
" SOUNDS LIKE IT WAS RECORDED THROUGH A TELEPHONE RECEIVER THROUGH AN AM TRANSISTOR RADIO..I CAN'T REVIEW THIS...'
THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE UGLY AND THE TOTALLY INSULTING...WHAT THE CRITICS HAD TO SAY ABOUT STEVE LIEBERMAN
"Imagine you've gone to a concert to see Jethro Tull...Instead of Ian (Anderson) singing, he's off to the side, playing his flute like he's tweeking on crank, and nailing everything. Meanwhile, you have a vocalist who doesn't sound like John Lydon but is nevertheless possessed by his spirit. Oh, and the boys from Motorhead are on stage for a guest appearance, kicking out the rhythms as fast as they can...Commercial appeal of not, there is some real innovation here...Rogue On The Net (9/2002)
"Steve Lieberman is as much as a Bass-hero as Billy Sheehan, Steve Harris, Les Claypool or anybody...a trail-blazing jumbling of alternative styles--His lyrics are great, too---(Mario Rienzo-"Clawmarks" fanzine Fall 1993)
"Steve Lieberman---the man with a message---" (Marilyn Goldstein-"Newsday" 12/4/1994)
---" a fearless hardcore treat of buzzing bass guitars and drum machines---" (***)("The Music Paper" May, 1995)
" Steve Lieberman is no stranger to live, loud, raw-as-roadkill political, religious punk music--true underground punk---my favorites are "Radio Zion", " Die Like A Maccabee" and every skinhead's nightmare, "Punk-Rock Chanukkah" Spunky!!!(****)( "The Musician's Exchange -April 1996)
" True Primal Power!---I had a vision of Steve Lieberman playing Bass---Awesome!!( "Scoop-net January, 1998)
" If the late '60's Power Rock groups had songs like Steve Lieberman's, they would be remembered as more than a memory---almost a blend of heavy metal and Scottish folk music--(Island Songwriters' Showcase- May 2000)
"Once again, Steve Lieberman strikes me as a guy coming from the exact same place as the Beastie Boys did. The production is dirty, in your face, aggressive and could be best described as "Flute 'n' Bass." Lieberman never fails to surprise me with his musical set-up. And judging from his chart positions, it's digged by a lot of people-(Ken Warp 1/2003)
"More insanity from Mr Lieberman. it may be a stretch to call this Jewish World music, but what the hell.This tune has the characteristic excellent manic flute/fuzzy bass combination. i love the bass sound---I feel silly offering production tips, he's a madman. That's a compliment!" (Pitchfork) 2/2003
"In what has become the modus operandi for the Steve Lieberman group (GROUP???), we are treated once again to a piece of music that has been run in its entirety through an overdrive pedal. unfortunately it doesn't make for a very interesting composition, unless this is the first time you heard the group.(GROUP???)---it doesn't impress you like it used to-(OUCCCCCH!!!)Scott Griffin(1/2003)
"Vocals are very muddy, the production is sub-par in the sense that the field is not balanced. interesting concept." -Elle (2/2003)
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