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Jewish Journal

Music: All ‘Transport Systems’ are ‘go’ for Ari Gold’s album vision

by Nick Street

October 4, 2007 | 8:00 pm

Ari Gold

Ari Gold

"I'm feeling shtetl fabulous," singer Ari Gold confesses on the opening track of "Transport Systems," his fourth studio album and the first to reflect his creative vision from concept to completion.

That bit of glittery self-satisfaction is well deserved. Threading through the album's nicely paced mix of pop and R & B tunes is the autobiography of a gay man on the cusp of his 30th year, one who has learned that chasing his muse is the surest way to outpace his demons.

"It's kind of my theme song at the moment," Gold says of "Where the Music Takes You," the pop-inflected first single from the album. "It just makes me feel good."

That good feeling is no less apparent but more hard-won on some of the album's meatier tracks.

"When can I let go of those disappointments, unmet needs," Gold croons against the backdrop of a lush, '70s-style horn riff at the beginning of "Play It Back," a reflection on what it means to be possessed by the past. "I'm tired of always having two minds about it all."

Gold can be forgiven the occasional moment of ambivalence. A child singing star who began performing jingles and voiceovers at an age when most of us were still learning not to eat glue, Gold was also steeped in the Orthodox Judaism of his parents' home in the Bronx.

"I'd have to take my yarmulke off when I went into the recording studio," Gold recalls. "Learning to transition between those worlds was helpful -- some of the other showbiz kids around me were obsessed, but my identity as a Jew gave something else that was also important to me."

Gold says that while inhabiting the dual and sometimes dueling influences of his childhood could be confusing, it also helped him to cultivate the skills he would need as an artist who brings a clear political perspective to his work.

"Moving from one social space into another allowed me to take a step back and get a better look at both of them," he says.

Gold's sharp-eyed social critic gets to take center stage in "Mr. Mistress," a talk-to-the-hand farewell to a married man who's chasing gay booty on the down low, and "Feeding the Fire," one of the rare songs about addiction that manages to be serious without becoming shrill.

But on the album's most satisfying tracks, Gold turns the bright light of his mind's eye inward to take a closer look at his own experience. The sonic buzz-saw edge of "Soul Killer" rips into the closet door of internalized homophobia, and "I Can Forgive You," a ballad suffused with the feeling of release that comes with letting go of regret, features the singer at his most vocally expressive.

"['I Can Forgive You'] was initially about the end of a five-year romantic relationship," Gold says, "but now when I sing it, it's more about family and what it means to heal those relationships."

Keeping his muse in sight has helped Gold navigate troubled waters. It has also allowed him to create honest and distinctly original work in a business where "breaking the rules" is generally a ploy for packaging a product, not producing it.

"I've reached a place in my life that I like," Gold says. "I don't have to choose between having a social consciousness and making some really good grooves."

"Transport Systems" is now available in stores.

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