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CHARMING HOSTESS

RIO/Avant-Prog • United States


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Charming Hostess biography
Charming Hostess is a RIO/Avant-Prog band based out of San Francisco, California. They are a result of a collaboration between three members of IDIOT FLESH and a group of female vocalists and dancers. These musicians got started at the infamous Barrington Hall in U.C. Berkeley along with bands such as ACID RAIN, 501 SPANISH VERBS and KING BEAVER. For Over a decade, Charming Hostess has been showcasing their take on World Music and mixing it with Balkan Folk music, A Capella, Judeo-Arabic praise songs, Pygmy counterpoint, doo-wop, Torah Chanting, American country, and tying it all together with their trademark female vocal harmonies. The band has released three studio albums: their debut Eat in 1999, Sarajevo Blues in 2004, and Punch in 2005. Many of the original members of Charming Hostess were also a part of the album Trilectic released in 2001. The inside booklet is actually subtitled as a Charming Hostess release. Three of the members of Charming Hostess - Nils Frykdahl, Dan Rathburn, and Carla Kihlstedt - would go on to form SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM.

=Bio by Evolutionary_Sleeper=

Charming Hostess official website

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Buy CHARMING HOSTESS Music


EatEat
Vaccination Records 1999
Audio CD$129.94
$30.60 (used)
Bowls ProjectBowls Project
Tzadik 2010
Audio CD$11.24
$10.99 (used)
Sarajevo BluesSarajevo Blues
Tzadik 2004
Audio CD$8.98
$3.98 (used)
PunchPunch
Rer USA 2005
Audio CD$11.98
$10.98 (used)
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CHARMING HOSTESS discography


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CHARMING HOSTESS top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.35 | 11 ratings
Eat
1999
3.86 | 6 ratings
Sarajevo Blues
2004
3.33 | 5 ratings
Punch
2005
3.77 | 3 ratings
The Bowls Project
2010

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CHARMING HOSTESS Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 The Bowls Project by CHARMING HOSTESS album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.77 | 3 ratings

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The Bowls Project
Charming Hostess RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by TheGazzardian
Prog Reviewer

4 stars In the early days, progressive rock was mostly about taking rock and infusing more artistic influences than you'd expect from a typical rock song, be they classical or jazz influences, or more complex song structures.

Well, in 2010, such a theology still has validity, and in the avant garde stream, you have acts like Charming Hostess, who create an eclectic mix of klezmer/traditional music, folk musics, rock, and avant garde music, in what could arguably be considered to be a continuation of the original spirit of progressive rock (if you are so inclined to view it that way). For sure, they are creating music that has rock context to it that is influenced largely by non-rock music. I doubt "progressive rock" was ever in mind as they made this album, however.

That being said, there is also a fair amount on this album that does not really have a lot to do with rock music, but is more related to the aforementioned traditional/folk aspect of the groups music. This is not new for the band, and some of the stronger tracks on this album (such as Hangman Devil Man) benefit as a result.

Once again, Charming Hostess present us with a concept album based on Babylonian demon bowls. These bowls were created by householders, and they would inscribe it with their secrets and desires and bury it under their doorway for protection. Basing the music of this album around these historical artifacts, Charming Hostess brings a long lost time and feel into the present in a way that is both respectful of its origins and pleasantly modern.

This album is a bit more rock than the bands other Tzadik release, Sarajevo Blues, and features more avant-garde elements to the music (listen to Bird of Rivers or Bound and Turned Aside, and you will know exactly what I mean). Gone are the beatboxing, and the vocal harmonies are less frequent, with the songs relying more on bandleader Jewlia Eisenberg's solo singing. Her voice is characteristic and her singing good, although not in a multi-octave stretched vocal chords kind of way. Her presence is in the passion and emotion she brings to her songs.

This album is seventeen songs long, and they vary in quality, but there are no duds. From the charming story songs, to the more tribal sounding songs, to the more avant garde to even the playful, this album covers a lot of ground, and it does so well. Definitely worth checking out.

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 Sarajevo Blues by CHARMING HOSTESS album cover Studio Album, 2004
3.86 | 6 ratings

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Sarajevo Blues
Charming Hostess RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by TheGazzardian
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Which describes this better: Avant-progressive rock featuring members of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum? Or Klezmer and Traditional music with lots of great vocal harmonies, influences from various other genres, and beatboxing?

Umm, both?

For sure, this album sits closer to the second description and the use of the word "Rock" to describe this music feels ill-advised from the beginning. But such considerations are irrelevant, because this is definitely a musical album - bandleader Jewlia Eisenberg presents her vision strongly and concisely. She is surrounded by a surprisingly high number of musicians, given how much space there is in the music here.

The music is largely lead by voice - both in the vocal harmonies, lead vocals, and the beatboxing present on a lot of tracks (I wasn't joking about that point above!). There's a great ethnic edge to this thanks to the use of various traditional musics.

While voice is the predominant force on the album, the instrumental accompaniments are superb, enhancing the melody and mood of the album. Listen to the guitar and the violin on Tunnel - they create space for the music, emerging to emphasize the mood and the words. Superb!

A fair portion of the album (from The Tunnel to Zenica Blues) are part of the "Sarajevo Blues" part of the album. This album is based on a book of poems by the same name, based on the Bosnian Siege. This is a time when civilians would often be shot at by snipers - a concept that is important in two tracks, Death Is A Job (which asks the question: who is more evil, the sniper shooting people, or the photographer who tries to get a picture of it happening?), and A Relatively Calm Day (Snipers are in action / only a few have been killed / we're informed a relatively calm day has passed). For sure, this is the section of the album with the most punch and the most emotion to it.

The remaining tracks are split between a two other sections: The first two tracks are traditional Jewish songs, and the last three are labelled as Poem songs.

Great album, check it out!

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 Eat by CHARMING HOSTESS album cover Studio Album, 1999
4.35 | 11 ratings

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Eat
Charming Hostess RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by frippism
Collaborator RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team

4 stars I searched up "Charming Hostess" after searching around and learning more about one of my favorites "Sleepytime Gorilla Museum". The core of SGM: Carla Kihlstedt (vocals), Dan Rathbun (bass- some of his very best bass), and Nils Frykdahl (guitar and other stuff) are here, but this is noooooo SGM album. The main writer in this band is Jewish American Jewlia Eisenberg (Most Jewish name ever. The Jew is even in the name. I can make that remark. I'm Israeli. I win.). You can hear Jewlia likes reaching to her roots, and the roots of others. This album is very strongly influenced by world music, in particular: Klezmer, Samba, African music, and much more. There is also a very funky groovy feeling to this album, and a bit of a punk energy as well (the band calls itself funk-punk). To say this is Avant-Prog? No not really. It is just a very fun very well made and very smart album.

The lyrics are also very important here. The songs are also sung in English, Spanish and Bulgarian, possibly a few other languages are hidden here. Obesity, sex, mysticism, some socialist remarks (those Commies!), are topics here, very strange mix. They are very empowering and many times hilarious. In songs like "The Laws Of Physics"- I was almost on the floor. "I will smash you with my weight/ a skinny skinny boy is dead". Awesome.

Highlights in songs: "Dali Tzerni"- man what a freaky song. The few very obvious avant moments hear. This freaky klezmer wind section sounds like they're lying on the floor and an extremely obese man is constantly sitting on them and getting up again every few seconds. One hell of an opener. "Laws Of Physics"- as I said hilarious. "Mi Nuera" is an awesome freaky Samba songs with exemplary performance by the Hostesses (the three lead singers including Jewlia Eisenberg). "Ferret Said" is a funky folky song about homo sexuality, which is also rather hilarious. "Klezsex"- awesome, definitely should be checked out. "Elenke" some freaky cross between South African music and Eastern European classical. Probably my favorite on the album.

The few slower moments here are at times a bit weaker, though there are some great quiet songs ("Give Him A Little Time" is a beautiful song). "Mi Dimandas" could have had more variety. The song is all vocal harmonies by the Hostesses, and while all three are incredible singers (really just wow) the song is a bit tedious. "Oh Julie" suffers of the same faults unfortunately.

A few words on the musicians: Dan Rathbun's bass playing is the best I've heard him do- varied, groovy, interesting and powerful. Jenny Scheinman gives some great moments here on violin, add a very different flavor to the music. Wes Anderson is a great drummer who adds some very cool grooves, need to hear more from him. Nils is less featured here- and that's unfortunate. His voice (I've stated it many times: the best voice for metal, ever, and top 3 best vocalists of all time) is not heard hear except in the last song: "When Jesus Christ Was Here On Earth", where it's an a-Capella. Vocals though are definitely not a problem "the Hostesses" (one of them being SGM's Carla Kihlstedt) offer great vocal harmonies and all three of them have great voices.

A definite seal of approval by me (and you know that means a lot). 4 stars this album gets. Get it if your a fan of world music.

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 Punch by CHARMING HOSTESS album cover Studio Album, 2005
3.33 | 5 ratings

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Punch
Charming Hostess RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by snobb
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars Third Charming Hostess' album is a bit different from previous two. With bigger accent on Jewish traditional music - from klezmer to Middle Eastern - it contains some pure acoustic songs, some world fusion and some quite energetic compositions,melting post-punk and klezmer in one straightforward brew.

Band's debut was so excellent by its quirky music - same or similar components (there were much more folklore elements - from Eastern European to Latino-Spanish) were precisely combined to acoustic jewelery. On this album band openly simplifies musical structure, often to klezmer-punk or world fusion. Team of musician are almost the same, so musicianship level is hardly lower, I believe it's just a different concept.

With all my love to Jewlia Eisenberg's musical projects, I must to mention this album still being quite interesting one made a serious trend to easier accessible music, and it's hardly for good.

Obviously less successful of all three first band's release, it's still contains some interesting moments. But I would recommend Jewlia Eisenberg's solo album Trislectic (2001) even better that Punch is.

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 Eat by CHARMING HOSTESS album cover Studio Album, 1999
4.35 | 11 ratings

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Eat
Charming Hostess RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by snobb
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars My first ever Charming Hostess' album was their Tzadik-released "Sarajevo Blues" almost shocking collection of sad songs in part based on Bosnian war-time poet lyrics with Balkan folklore elements and downtown punk sharpness. I fell in love with the band after that album.

Their debut "Eat" came to me second. Aerial and quirky mix of excellent a Capella female vocals, deep bass, sax,violin,flutes,Eastern European/Jewish/Latin folklore mixed with always melodic post punk radical elements,everything played and recorded at the highest possible level! 14 quite short compositions with often shocking lyrics mostly in English (but in Spanish and one of Slavic languages as well), Balkan rhythms, klezmer light flavor and strong West Coast harmonies! Yes, from now I know I really love this band!

One of the best American RIO album I ever heard! Should attract wide circles of listeners (unless you're allergic to folklore in your music or some radical lyrics).Very recommended.

My rating is 4,5 rounded to 5!

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 Sarajevo Blues by CHARMING HOSTESS album cover Studio Album, 2004
3.86 | 6 ratings

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Sarajevo Blues
Charming Hostess RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by snobb
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars This is unusual album.

"Sarajevo Blues" is a book of poetry first published in 1992 during the siege of Sarajevo by Semezdin Mehmedinović, Bosnian poet. In this book Semezdin Mehmedinović tells the story of a city under siege during war in Bosnia in early 90-s, I believe for many it's difficult to believe such things could happen in Europe just less than 20 years ago!

The book was translated into English by Ammiel Alcalay in 1998 and was used as basis for this album by by Jewlia Eisenberg in 2004. Besides of that, some traditional Jewish songs from Balkans and North Africa are included as well.

Musically, this album is minimalistic,strongly based on a capella vocals, full of sadness, nerves and ... wish to live.

"War/ And nothing is going on?I go into town to beg for cigarettes I've always known your scent/but you've never been closer? It's cold in the morning, you/put my underwear on Your joy / at the packets of humanitarian aid/ makes me happy and sad at the same time. And I ask myself: where on earth do you find us coffee every night I was young and I didn't know/ that death's something a lot more common than is seems/so plain/ that anything you say about it sounds trite" " War/Back Then"

Almost fully acoustic, with vocals on English, Yiddish and Bosnian (with heavy accent, but perfectly understandable), this album is not a urban folk or Balkan folklore. This music is universal, and even if it uses many folklore elements, it sounds more NY downtown influenced by sound (still very Bosnian by atmosphere though). Formally this album could be tagged as avant world fusion, but it's really a bit more. Lyrics and atmosphere there are extremely important element.

"I'm running across and intersection to avoid the bullet of a sniper from the hill when I walk straight into some photographers: they're doing their job, in deep cover. If a bullet hit me they'd get a shot worth so much more than my life that I'm not even sure whom to hate: the Chetnik sniper or these monkeys with Nikons. For the Chetniks I'm just a simple target but those others confirm my utter helplessness and even want to take advantage of it. In Sarajevo, death is a job for all of them. Life has been narrowed down completely, reduced to gestures?a man covering his head with a newspaper as he runs across the same street, scared of a sniper's bullet" " Death Is A Job"

I believe this is very special album. I spent many days in Sarajevo, Mostar,even Srebrenica, and I feel this music by my skin. Possibly, just one listener of thousands could feel the same, but I believe many of listeners even without such background could feel that deep emotional field radiating from this music. In all cases, not the album for entertaining.

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 Punch by CHARMING HOSTESS album cover Studio Album, 2005
3.33 | 5 ratings

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Punch
Charming Hostess RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by progadicto

4 stars Charming Hostess third album is a great example of the "melodic" side of RIO showing in the 13 songs of this release very jazzy and proggy rhythmic sections but never losing the avant garde sense of music.

Beside the powerful rhythmical work full of jazzy, prog and tribal sections, Charming Hostess has a powerful talented duo of female singers which gives to the music a particular taste, even when the band plays songs like "Long Black Veil", an awsome track which works like a perfect country-rock-avant garde ballad...

The strong and complex work on guitars, bass, basoon and cello is the element which complete the characteristics that turns the music of Charming Hostess into an interesting and necessary album to any RIO fan.

Some highlights: "Aysh Ye Kdish", a jew/Eastern Euorpe folk song with a strong rhythmical base; "Torso", a powerful song full of surprising twists which reminds some Miriodor late works; "Street Of Tubing", the harder song of the album but also dark and thrilling; "Rise" maybe the songs that's closer to the "traditional" RIO from the 80's; "Lady Gay" the proggiest song of the album even when some twists that reminds early Gong works and suprising almost epical sections...

An underrated album that any prog music fan should have to listen, specially RIO lovers... 3.5+...

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