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Music Review: David Broza – ‘The Set List’

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After 40 years of performing music, David Broza has a problem. It’s really difficult searching through the amount of material he’s produced to come up with a set list for any given tour. Titling his new greatest hits package The Set List, being released March 31 2017, is therefore rather appropriate. One could only assume this collection would contain the songs/performances he would like to include in all of his shows.

For those who don’t know, Broza is an institution in his home country of Israel. However, a good part of his early life was spent in Spain and England with his family, and these influences show up in his music, especially the former. You can’t help but hear the Flamenco influences in his guitar playing. It also won’t be much of a surprise to know one of his most recent recordings was a collection of songs from Andalusia dating back to the days prior to the expulsion of Jews and Muslims from Spain.

Unfortunately for Broza, this greatest hits collection could never be a set list, for there are performances included in here which would be very difficult to reproduce ever again. Take for example the live recording of the song he first became famous for, “Yihye Tov” (“Things Will Be Better”). While it was written in 1977 during the peace talks between Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat and has become an anthem of the Israeli peace movement, the version he has chosen for this release was recorded live at the biblical fortress of Masada in 2007 with special guests Jackson Browne and Shawn Colvin.

Broza is obviously held in high esteem by his fellow musicians around the world. Even though they had only met twice, and that on stage, after his death the late American country iconoclast Townes Van Zandt bequeathed Broza two shoe boxes of lyrics. Ten years later, Broza released Night Dawn: The Unpublished Poetry of Townes Van Zandt and has included the title song from that album on this release.

The second indication of the respect he’s held in comes from the tracks included from the 2013 release, East Jerusalem/West Jerusalem. Produced by Steve Earle and recorded over eight days in a Palestinian recording studio in East Jerusalem, Broza brought together musicians from both sides of the Jewish-Palestinian divide to create this record of covers and original material. (As an aside, a great documentary of the same name on the making of the album is currently showing on Netflix – a quick search of the service, no matter what country you’re in, should bring it up.)

The three songs included from those sessions on this disc include “One to Three”, a powerful indictment of the war mentality that exists in Israel; “Ramallah/Tel Aviv”, an homage to two of the largest cities in Palestine and Israel, respectively sung by Broza and Palestinian singer Mira Awad; the title song “East Jerusalem/West Jerusalem” sung with Haiti’s Wyclef Jean. Each of these songs represents another effort on his part to build hope for a better future for the two peoples of his country.

Whether the lyrics are in Hebrew, English, or Spanish, Broza’s songs are wonderful to listen to. Even if you don’t understand the words, the music itself is a wondrous mix of the Middle East, Spain, and points further afield. On this collection you’ll hear everything from Oud players to Steve Earle’s mandolin accompanying songs.

The Set List may never be performed in concert, but it offers a great retrospective of an amazing musician’s career. If you’ve never heard Broza before, this is a great opportunity to get to know the music and the man. If you’re already a fan, this is a chance to at least listen to what he would consider his ideal concert.

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About Richard Marcus

Richard Marcus is the author of two books commissioned by Ulysses Press, "What Will Happen In Eragon IV?" (2009) and "The Unofficial Heroes Of Olympus Companion". Aside from Blogcritics his work has appeared around the world in publications like the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine and the multilingual web site Qantara.de. He has been writing for Blogcritics.org since 2005 and has published around 1900 articles at the site.