Esther & Abi Ofarim,
Songs of Our Life
(Universal/Polygram, 1998)

It is always dangerous to judge anybody's music by one hit, however big, and Esther and Abi Ofarim prove that.

They were an Israeli couple who had a lot of success in Germany in the 1960s with their traditional folk music (nicely updated for the '60s, without spoiling it), usually singing in English, but also in other languages. They sang a variety of songs from all over Europe, many of them obscure to me. They also recorded contemporary material, but even when they did, it sounds like traditional folk music.

So, you will find covers of two Bee Gees songs, the obscure "Morning of My Life" (which is on their Best of, Vol. 2) and the really obscure "Garden of My Home" (which I've never heard before), along with Donovan's "Lord of the Reedy River," Bob Dylan's "Tomorrow is a Long Time," Peter Paul & Mary's "Hush-a-Bye" and "Tell It on the Mountain," Ewan McColl's "Dirty Old Town" and more.

The song they call "Bonnie Boat" is very famous, but not with that title. It is a traditional Scottish song that begins "Speed, bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing..." -- yes, it's really the "Skye Boat Song."

Whatever success they had in Germany (and maybe other countries in mainland Europe), none of this made any impact in Britain. In 1968, they topped the British charts for a month with a novelty dance song called "Cinderella Rockefella." A lot of people think this is truly awful, and I can see why, but it's OK by me. It's certainly not as bad as (say) "Boom Bang a Bang" (by Lulu, who's best music is pure magic) and it should not put you off buying this, because it's not like the other 35 tracks, which are sensational. It begins CD 2 so it's easy to skip if you wish.

Esther does nearly all the singing and has a really lovely voice, well suited to the songs and the music. If you like traditional folk with a '60s feel, it doesn't come any better than this.

- Rambles
written by Peter D. Harris
published 13 September 2003

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