Jewish love song compilation fails to set the romantic mood

After an intimate Shabbat dinner, you and your beshert head into the living room. Next to a roaring fireplace, with glasses of Manischewitz in hand, you gaze lovingly into each other's eyes….

"Celebrate Jewish Love Songs" aims to be the soundtrack for that moment.

Unfortunately, "Celebrate" falls prey to the classic fault of recordings organized by mood or something beyond musical style: The songs simply don't flow well together. The transitions are distracting.

And the last thing you want on a romantic evening is distraction, right?

Here is an example of the stylistic transitions:

Things begin in the realm of 1980s piano power ballads with a cut by Moshe Schacter. He may be a hit in Israel, but to these American ears, he sounds like a second-rate Hebrew-singing Phil Collins.

The retro-'80s easy listening sounds continue disconcertingly on the second track as a guitar part straight out of "Every Breath You Take" by The Police pops out of the speakers. "Kumi Lach" by the Israeli band Eighteen is a mid-tempo rocker remarkably lacking in passion for a tune whose lyrics quote from Song of Songs.

A rich solo piano emerges next, accompanying the melancholy voice of Tanja Solnik. While the song is pleasant, even setting an appropriate mood, its strongest characteristic is that it evokes another non-Jewish artist: Tori Amos.

And now for something entirely different: The Klezmatics explode with a lively Middle Eastern jazz jam filled with strange instruments and a voice warbling with exotic inflection. The cut is certainly distinctive, but it violates whatever romantic continuum the CD had been building. The distraction begins.

Earnest folk music with plucked acoustic guitar and string instruments assaults the listener in Hebrew and English as The Klezmatics end. The song by Craig Taubman, the disc's mastermind, is reminiscent of hippie-inspired Reform synagogue music from the 1970s. Taubman's voice has that songleader quality — appealing in certain contexts but certainly wrong for a night of intimacy.

Deft classical guitar and Judeo-Spanish lyrics from Judy Frankel sound sharp and intense after Taubman's mushy delivery. The song is concise and sad, in a good way, but definitely distracting in sequence.

The Middle Eastern exotic returns, floating out of the stereo next, with RebbeSoul emerging as if from a room filled with scented hookah smoke. A fine tune, but a strange choice for a love song.

Jon Simon follows with an emotive George Winston-esque instrumental treatment of "Dodi Li." At best this feels out of place in the already awkwardly ordered collection.

It's next to impossible to encapsulate a universal Jewish style anymore because "Jewish culture" is so fragmented. "Celebrate Jewish Love Songs" could have worked with more specific restrictions on the type of material included on the disc. As it is, the collection communicates discordance rather then the unity and peacefulness that define romance.

"Celebrate Jewish Love Songs" is available for $15 from Craig and Company: (800) 6 CRAIG-8, or P.O. Box 6061-115, Sherman Oaks, CA 91423.