SHESHET is considered one of the most important Israeli progressive rock bands in history and one of the top groups during the mid-phase of the classic 70s. 1977 was, more precisely, the year when a group of six important musicians, led essentially by SHEM-TOV LEVI, made the one-shot called, just like the band, Sheshet. Ultimately though, the way the band was founded, its connections inside the Israeli scene, plus the ideals that the founder and much of the group shared strongly, all these things ensure, in one way, SHESHET's affiliation to the entire Prog Rock register from Israel. Once you take a deep breath and plunge into this country's progressive incredible history, SHESHET can hardly be forgotten, among early and mid-70s names such as ASHQELON QUILT, DANNY BEN ISRAEL, ZINGALE, ATMOSPHERE and such. Shem-Tov Levi, mildly the same way, can be placed along SHLOMO GRONICH and other minds, the two having even collaborated, founding the equally important and beautiful experience KTZAT ACHERET, about two years before SHESHET's arch.
It is conventional to say that SHESHET started off after Shem-Tov Levi finished recording his own solo debut (and the year of that was 1976). YEHUDITH (Judith) RAVITZ is noted, sometimes, as founder of SHESHET as well. Essentially, what Levi did was to summon some of the best musicians of that time, writing meanwhile the music. Thus, SHESHET also included in the end Schmulik Aroch (bass, percussion and vocals), Shmulik Budagov (guitars and vocals), Ikie Levi (drums) and Adi Renert (keyboards and vocals). Just like any other major (prog) musician or group, the sextet wanted to offer something highly artistic, an orientation bracketed automatically as experimental, unusual and completely opposite to commercial compromises (nowadays instead, any biographer can probably name this, in just two words, "ideally progressive"). The feedback on this ideal was, unfortunately, disastrous, the music selling poorly or finding little audience attraction - the SHESHET ensemble became frustrated by this, just like other 70s artists felt disillusioned. (Turning it a bit off-topic, it seems the authentic/original prog rock in Israel, the one so valorous yet so low received, has its correspondence with prog from Italy and maybe also Germany)
The abovementioned frustration led to a first split, without anything having been recorded. Fortunately though, a reunion concert brought them to the attention of a manager, who persuaded them to finally put something on tape: so did the sextet record Sheshet. The love for prog was taken beyond words, the rich blend of jazz-rock, fusion, prog, Canterbury, folk and traditional elements being a major reason for the album's value. As far as influences go, they include symphonic giants like GENESIS, but the sound, on this side, rather reflects CAMEL. HATFIELD AND THE NORTH is one other reference, as far as Canterbury would be concerned. Prog musicians from Israel have searched deep into GENTLE GIANT's music, and the affinity seems present here as well. The jazz & fusion can be more subjectively discussed, as it is by far an intricate style, but it is interesting to note that the group admired the first works by RETURN TO FOREVER, contrary to other artists of the 70s who were dazzled by MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA. As for a deeper incision into what could SHESHET's correspondences in prog be, I'll just quote Steve Hegede's special impression: "It's hard to compare Sheshet with another band or album, but Cuba's Sintesis is a close comparison. Judith Ravitz's vocals, which are the album's highlight, also somehow reminds me of Jane Duboc's style on Bacamarte's debut album" Containing, equally fruitful, melodic traditional songs, with powerful Hebrew lyrics, on one hand, and instrumental prog, jazz and fusion (with Oriental and Latin extras) - the flute and Rhodes resonating more special -, on the other, Sheshet can take its listeners into something beautiful, bright and with unique bits.
There is a second SHESHET work to be mentioned, recorded around then, only unreleased and super-rare: we're talking about a soundtrack made for the film "The Stretcher Mark", a cult movie that explored the post-Yom Kippur War social, moral, political and cultural process of re-visioning the country's values and future. Gidi God, lead actor in it, also contributed with vocals on one piece. In addition, there is one album that's considered a fine follow-up to SHESHET's music - though not so progressive in its fiber: Once And Forever by Yoni Rechter and Yehudit Ravitz. Ravitz, furthermore, became a highly popular singer.
Shem-Tov Levi apparently never reunited with a musician from SHESHET to do some more music, but has instead recorded again with KTZAT ACHERET-colleague Shlomo Gronich, in 1983, releasing Happy Family.
SHESHET, to re-emphasize, are one of the many top prog bands that you need to listen to, out of Israel's own classic age of progressive rock.
Main sources: Steve Hegede's notes on Sheshet and Gil Keltch study "A History Of Israeli Progressive Rock", from GEPR Webzine Issue #2, plus notes and reviews over Sheshet's music
:::Ricochet (Victor "Philip" Parau):::
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