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Rehearsing My Choir

Fiery Furnaces Audio CD
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 6.75
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Product Details


1. The Garfield El
2. The Wayward Granddaughter
3. A Candymaker’s Knife in my Bag
4. We Wrote Letters Everyday
5. Forty-Eight Twenty-Three Twenty-Second Street
6. Guns Under The Counter
7. Seven Silver Curses
8. Though Let’s Be Fair
9. Slavin’ Away
10. Rehearsing My Choir
11. Does It Remind You of When?

Product Description

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
3.3 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Beauty, Against All Odds April 7 2009
Format:Audio CD
When I first heard "Rehearsing My Choir," I thought it was absolutely ridiculous. I despised the grandmother's voice and I concluded that the Fiery Furnaces were simply being over-indulgent while coasting on the quirky success of "Blueberry Boat." I did recall my initial reaction to that album, however - quite shocked, though not appalled to the same extent - so I thought I would still give it a chance. I tried listening to it off and on for a month, tortured myself to lie in my bed and try to make it through the entire album without falling asleep or throwing up with disgust and/or disappointment. I understood Matt and Eleanor's love of language and the aesthetics of speech and syllables and I agreed that their words were both pleasurable and contained some degree of depth though I had trouble following any kind of storyline. My main problem was that the music was simply shoddy - the production did not have the sonic depth of "Blueberry Boat" and the erratic song structure seemed so forced and ugly and often so repetitive. I thought Matt had lost his composing skills and Eleanor had just gotten a bit obnoxious. I was angry, and I gave it up.

Somehow, sometime, somewhere, something hit me and I started to slowly admire the album. And now I simply love it - more than any of their subsequent releases.

"Rehearsing My Choir" is the most accurate portrayal of a life I have ever witnessed in music. It is undeniably literature. Sometimes the music seems too repetitive and gloomy and derived, but keep in mind that this is someone's life, and my life has certainly not been too poppy up to this point.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Rehearsing "Choir" Jan. 1 2006
By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Audio CD
You have to admit, not every band would make a concept album about their grandmother's life. But the Fiery Furnaces do that for their grandmother, octogenarian Olga Sarantos. And with granny's own help, too.

Their third full-length album, "Rehearsing My Choir," is a truly weird album full of reminiscences of Sarantos' life and thoughts. It's not musical in the usual sense.... so if you want to enjoy it, don't think of it as music. Think of it as an offbeat biographical piece of musical theatre.

It opens with a relentless piano melody, with Sarantos herself speaking in a smooth, deep voice about fudge, hammers, thumbtacks, lost loves and other offbeat stuff. Her granddaughter Eleanor Friedberger dips in occasionally, singing behind her grandmother's spoken word monologue.

This continues throughout the album, with Eleanor singing sweetly behind Olga's deep vocals, and sometimes talking for herself. "Once upon a time, there were two Kevins..."/"You mean two jerks!" they interrupt each other, before Eleanor starts off on a sweet ditty about her ex-boyfriends.

"Rehearsing My Choir" is probably the Furnaces' weakest work thus far, with its jumps in time and location. And if you don't know that it's all about, it will be completely confusing. And not in an fun indiepop-opera manner either.

Fortunately for Furnaces fans, even the weakest of their music is still pretty dang good. It's full of bright, affectionate, humorous anecdotes and a warm-hearted look on a very cool-sounding lady's life. The brother-sister duo (and Olga) manage to maintain a level of weirdness on par with their prior work.

In the lyrics, Olga's life is given a true Furnaces-style makeover, sort of a nightmare poetry spin.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Unlistenable... Nov. 21 2006
Format:Audio CD
I was going to review this album, but I found it completely unlistenable. I know musical taste is a very subjective thing, but can anybody really say they like this?

Is it worth spending money on? Absolutely not. My one star rating is generous.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  35 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very challenging and a true departure from earlier efforts, but a wonderfully unique album June 21 2006
By Robert Moore - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
I'm not going to pretend that this is consistently easy listening. That doesn't necessarily point to a vice. Captain Beefheart makes for difficult listening; Perry Como does not. Which performer would you like a CD by? This is challenging music, but challenging in a good way, and along the way there are hosts of wonderfully poetic moments. I will concede at this is not the Friedberger siblings best album, but one can love GALLOWSBIRD'S BARK and BLUEBERRY BOAT and enjoy this one as well.

As the editorial reviews indicate and as many fans already know, the guts of this album were supplied by the brother and sister's act grandmother, Olga Sarantos. Whether you love or hate this album, this is pretty much beyond doubt the greatest contribution ever to a rock album by anyone's grandmother. Her reflections on events from earlier decades are proclaimed by her in a surprisingly firm and expressive voice. This ain't your average grandma. The pieces (it is hard to call them songs) are marvelously evocative and always feel like expressions of actual, lived experiences. Nothing rote or hackneyed here. Many of the lyrics have a stream-of-consciousness feel and you will either find that moving or off putting. I lean towards the former.

I'm not usually a fan of albums driven by synthesized keyboards, with the obvious exception of Brian Eno, but I find this musically compelling. They've obviously ingested a lot of Beefheart, Eno, Zappa, Can, and others, though with a bit more of a pop feel than all of those except the early Eno.

REHEARSING MY CHOIR, as many reviewers have noted, was one of two albums of 2005 that focused heavily on Chicago in its subject matter. Sufjan Stevens's ILLINOISE was the more popular and more lavishly praised of the two, and I concur with that. But purely as an album about Chicago (leaving all musical questions aside), this one is much more successful. Stevens's album is a great one, but the songs seem a tad aloof from the actual Chicago. (I don't know if Stevens will actually complete all or even much of his proposed album-cycle about the United States, with one album dedicated to each of the nation's fifty states, but I wonder if and when he gets around to my home state of Arkansas--Illinois is merely my adopted state--whether I will recognize the place of my childhood.) The Chicago if ILLINOISE feels to me like those travel guides written by someone who barely knows a place, hitting all the high points familiar to tourists, but not the places especially familiar to residents. But the Chicago of REHEARSING THE CHOIR feels concrete and actual, even if the concreteness belongs to another decade.

All in all I find this a deeply effecting and moving album. If you want easier listening definitely go elsewhere. Even go to the two earlier Fiery Furnaces albums or their eponymous EP. But if you are in the mood for an utterly unique album that will leave you both moved and challenged, please give this a try.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sing it Feb. 21 2006
By E. A Solinas - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
You have to admit, not every band would make a concept album about their grandmother's life. But the Fiery Furnaces do that for their grandmother, octogenarian Olga Sarantos. And with granny's own help, too.

Their third full-length album, "Rehearsing My Choir," is a truly weird album full of reminiscences of Sarantos' life and thoughts. It's not musical in the usual sense.... so if you want to enjoy it, don't think of it as music. Think of it as an offbeat biographical piece of musical theatre.

It opens with a relentless piano melody, with Sarantos herself speaking in a smooth, deep voice about fudge, hammers, thumbtacks, lost loves and other offbeat stuff. Her granddaughter Eleanor Friedberger dips in occasionally, singing behind her grandmother's spoken word monologue.

This continues throughout the album, with Eleanor singing sweetly behind Olga's deep vocals, and sometimes talking for herself. "Once upon a time, there were two Kevins..."/"You mean two jerks!" they interrupt each other, before Eleanor starts off on a sweet ditty about her ex-boyfriends.

"Rehearsing My Choir" is probably the Furnaces' weakest work thus far, with its jumps in time and location. And if you don't know that it's all about, it will be completely confusing. And not in an fun indiepop-opera manner either.

Fortunately for Furnaces fans, even the weakest of their music is still pretty dang good. It's full of bright, affectionate, humorous anecdotes and a warm-hearted look on a very cool-sounding lady's life. The brother-sister duo (and Olga) manage to maintain a level of weirdness on par with their prior work.

In the lyrics, Olga's life is given a true Furnaces-style makeover, sort of a nightmare poetry spin. This IS the band that wrote a whole song about a dog taking a religious turn. "Zapped by the zombie! Zapped by the zombie!/Zapped by the zombie in the two-door Dodge/Twice baked brioche and Danish pastry pockets/And lock it's two-door Dodge," Olga and Eleanor sing, after an extended noodling session. Gypsies, night schools, weddings, boyfriends and family love are all woven into the songs.

And they also maintain the musical peculiarities, with sprawling melodies that spill over with synth, organ, piano, and splatterings of electric guitar, Latin flavour, computer blips and bursts of electric guitar. It's Jackson Pollock music. It's by no means their tightest work, but it is plenty of fun. Even if you don't listen to the vocals, the music is worth it alone.

While "Rehearsing My Choir" is probably the weakest work the Fiery Furnaces have done, the offbeat melodies and quirky lyrics prove that they still have what it takes.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Flawed but not the mess they're saying Dec 13 2005
By anonymous - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Critics and fans both hate when an artist turns their back on them, and The Fiery Furnaces have done it again, polarizing both groups with this album like nothing I've seen in ages. Nobody likes to be surprised, and the Furnace's radical shift on this cd has given the middle finger to people's expectations and had them coughing up blood since word of the concept leaked out. Truth is, this album isn't all that different from Blueberry Boat. It doesn't reach quite the same heights (or with such frequency) as Blueberry Boat or match its epic scope, but their collage of dissociated genres is intact. In fact, if not for one factor, many of those who derided Blueberry Boat as a bloated, patchy and overreaching mess would have probably embraced its more compact song and total length as a tighter collection of songs that combines Blueberry Boats blender effect with the terse and sharp dynamics of Gallowbird's Bark.

That one factor is Olga Sarantos. Critics have come up with a lot of cosmic pedantic reasons as to why this album is a failure, mostly derivatives of it being an esoteric exercise with no regards to music craft, or the telling of the story to be an exercise in literary narcissism. But the truth is Sarantos just creeps them out, plain an simple. People can't take her creepy voice disrupting these songs, especially when Eleanor's never sounded better, and come up with other explanations that won't disturb the illusion that music criticism is an artcraft (it's not). And it's true that this is a significant factor that robs the album of some of its greatness (many of these songs certainly sounded better when the Furnaces performed them live this fall without Olga). But that doesn't make the album a wreck like the fans and critics who expected something made for them would have you believe. The hard truth is that they can't stand that the Furnaces sound like they've made something for themselves without regards to pleasing anyone else. This in fact, is where the best art comes from. It still has the craft, grace and beauty we've come to expect from them. Perhaps the new form takes getting used to, because like Blueberry Boat, Choir demands repeated listenings to truely appreciate, but too many people are giving up because they can't get past grandma's voice.

I like this album more each time I listen too it, and more people should give it a chance before swinging the ax with their final judgement.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sing it, "Choir" Nov. 28 2005
By E. A Solinas - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
You have to admit, not every band would make a concept album about their grandmother's life. But the Fiery Furnaces do that for their grandmother, octogenarian Olga Sarantos. And with granny's own help, too.

Their third full-length album, "Rehearsing My Choir," is a truly weird album full of reminiscences of Sarantos' life and thoughts. It's not musical in the usual sense.... so if you want to enjoy it, don't think of it as music. Think of it as an offbeat biographical piece of musical theatre.

It opens with a relentless piano melody, with Sarantos herself speaking in a smooth, deep voice about fudge, hammers, thumbtacks, lost loves and other offbeat stuff. Her granddaughter Eleanor Friedberger dips in occasionally, singing behind her grandmother's spoken word monologue.

This continues throughout the album, with Eleanor singing sweetly behind Olga's deep vocals, and sometimes talking for herself. "Once upon a time, there were two Kevins..."/"You mean two jerks!" they interrupt each other, before Eleanor starts off on a sweet ditty about her ex-boyfriends.

"Rehearsing My Choir" is probably the Furnaces' weakest work thus far, with its jumps in time and location. And if you don't know that it's all about, it will be completely confusing. And not in an fun indiepop-opera manner either.

Fortunately for Furnaces fans, even the weakest of their music is still pretty dang good. It's full of bright, affectionate, humorous anecdotes and a warm-hearted look on a very cool-sounding lady's life. The brother-sister duo (and Olga) manage to maintain a level of weirdness on par with their prior work.

In the lyrics, Olga's life is given a true Furnaces-style makeover, sort of a nightmare poetry spin. This IS the band that wrote a whole song about a dog taking a religious turn. "Zapped by the zombie! Zapped by the zombie!/Zapped by the zombie in the two-door Dodge/Twice baked brioche and Danish pastry pockets/And lock it's two-door Dodge," Olga and Eleanor sing, after an extended noodling session. Gypsies, night schools, weddings, boyfriends and family love are all woven into the songs.

And they also maintain the musical peculiarities, with sprawling melodies that spill over with synth, organ, piano, and splatterings of electric guitar, Latin flavour, computer blips and bursts of electric guitar. It's Jackson Pollock music. It's by no means their tightest work, but it is plenty of fun. Even if you don't listen to the vocals, the music is worth it alone.

While "Rehearsing My Choir" is not the tightest work the Fiery Furnaces have done, the offbeat melodies and quirky lyrics prove that they still have what it takes.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The latte of heaven Oct. 16 2007
By K. D. Kelly - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
I feel like I'm spying on a baggy relative during a particularly intimate and confusing moment. And somebody next door with lockjaw is sewing fluorescent lightbulbs into their teethgaps. This tilt-a-whirl needs tightening and my pantsleeves leave red welts the size, shape and scent of bedbugs on my ankles and crotchtop. The bedridden are obsessed with various forms of water. The wishing well is clogged up with cotton candy and artificial intelligence. This is Willy Wonka at the VFW, dribbling mothball nougat. William Hickey dueting with the Shangri-Las, and interruptions from Judge Reinhold clowning it up over at the pinball machine as usual. By the sixth minute of "Seven Silver Curses," I ate nine ten.

There is wizardry, a looking-glass wormhole, in the way Fiery Furnaces' bubblegum-prog ditties elevate the ramblings of Olga Sarantos, the siblings' grandmother, who, throughout "Rehearsing the Choir," offers up her strange take on a rather mundane life spent as a stodgy choir director/homemaker -- even down to mixing an organ solo with the sounds of somebody vacuuming. To their credit, Furnaces maintain a self-depreciating sense of humor throughout, a bit Flash Gordon on the archbishop's entrance, insults from Sarantos over her grandkids' singing, a doctor who apparently uses donut-making materials to perform surgery, and synapse-licking lines casually tossed out such as, "Uncle Sam in the back row" and "blackberry filling that came straight from Peter Pan's lunchbag."
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