[6 July 2009]
In the February of 1968 the Israeli singer Esther Ofarim and her husband Abi spent three weeks at number one on the UK charts with a cover of a knockabout novelty song called “Cinderella Rockerfella”. Four years later and divorced she released this solo album. Again she was covering songs in English but this time none of them were novelties and there was nothing knockabout in her voice. It comes through the speakers like a silver arrow, like clear water. Several of the songs were the work of Leonard Cohen, one was by John Denver. “Morning has Broken” had been a hit, a year earlier, for Cat Stevens. Roberta Flack was already beginning to construct a career around the foundation stone of “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”. Ofarim wasn’t taking a risk with unknown material, but Esther Ofarim in London isn’t about that kind of risk. It’s about the risk a human being takes when she opens her mouth and, out of the usual human mess of her flesh, squashed muscles and mortal bones, puts together a noise that is so clean it’s almost surreal.