Theodore Bikel has entered his 90th year of life and can look back on a career extending back over six decades. He was in the original Broadway production of My Fair Lady, and his film career included such classics as The African Queen, My Fair Lady, and an Oscar nomination for The Defiant Ones.
His recording career included 36 albums. He was at heart a traditional folk singer who included some show tunes in his repertoire. Real Gone Music has now issued Treasury Of Yiddish Folk & Theatre Songs, which includes three complete albums; Theodore Bikel Sings Yiddish Theatre & Folk Songs (1964), Theodore Bikel Sings More Jewish Folk Songs (1959), and Theodore Bikel Sings Jewish Folk Songs (1958).
The album and its music will appeal to a niche audience as was the case over 50 years ago. Bikel’s approach is to sing a song in English and then the same song in Yiddish. The music is an exploration of a heritage and while it may sound a bit dated today; the music still comes across with passion and sincerity. To those interested it has meaning, to those not attracted by the music, it is at best quaint.
Bikel has a gentle approach. The focus is on his voice, guitar, and the lyrics. The melodies and stories vary so as not to get stuck in a rut. His style is very much Broadway as his annunciation is precise. The clarity of the remastered production brings the music to life and gives it an intimate feeling.
As with most all of the Real Gone releases, there is a booklet that not only provides a nice history of the music written by Bikel but also presents the lyrics to each song in both English and Yiddish.
Treasury Of Yiddish Folk & Theatre Songs falls into the interesting and historical categories. It will probably find a limited audience but if you are so inclined, it is a long-awaited for reissue.