It was back in 2011 that singer-songwriter Jeremy Schonfeld would create a rather personal release called Iron & Coal. Just recently, Schonfeld made the album current and relative once again as the release was given new life as a staged production. You might recognize Jeremy Schonfeld from his role as “Daniel” from the 2009 film Clear Blue Tuesday, the film revolving around several people who just had their lives ripped apart because of 9/11. And along with adding his acting talents, Schonfeld contributed “The Fuck-Up Song” to the soundtrack of the movie as well as the big group number entitled “The Ritual”. After taking on such a powerful role as the one he played in that powerful movie, it was natural for Schonfeld to want to explore his own family and where he came from. This is where his 2011 album of Iron & Coal came from.
A lot of people refer to making an album as a “project”. For Jeremy Schonfeld, that is just what Iron & Coal is. The singer/piano player created this album that centers on his feelings for those relatives who survived the holocaust in World War II. Each of the songs on the release helps promote his own thoughts about the experiences of his family members. This album feels very personal as you listen to the 13 tracks that help create the release.
The Iron & Coal release begins with “Mourner’s Kaddish”. The track brings a little of the feeling of sorrow and remembrance to the release. The piano-based track is very powerful and beautiful. Part of the reason for that comes from the beginning of the track that acts much like a prayer as Schonfeld is joined by a choir as singer and chorus create a moment together. About halfway through the track, the feel of the song changes dramatically. The track takes on a Pop-Rock feel reminiscent of something from someone like Bruce Hornsby as the resulting music and lyrical content from Schonfeld about remembering his father and the times they shared create this particular track. This split song is a very powerful lead-in for the rest of the album that is a very personal recording, as the song is a message from a son to his father.
“Dead Beat Heart” picks up the pace and adds more energy to the new release from Jeremy Schonfeld. Where the previous track was piano-based with a Pop-Rock approach, “Dead Beat Heart” comes with a stronger Rock and Roll feel. That increase in energy comes from the electric guitar at the beginning of the track. Soon, Schonfeld’s piano returns to the music. What is created is a piano-based track with some guitar included in the mix that feels like a stronger version of music created by the likes of, say, Ben Folds Five. The upbeat tempo of the song helps downplay the slightly pessimistic lyrics that go along with the memories of days gone by. Compared to the track it follows, “Dead Beat Heart” feels like it could be released as a single off of the album.
On “Good Stuff,” Schonfeld creates the first real moment on the release where you really get to experience the power in his voice. The song is also the first moment where the listener gets to enjoy some real strong rock and roll. The track features a straight-out Power Rock feel to the music with some of the strongest guitar on the entire release. The guitar-led Rock and Roll music feels like it would have been right at home on radio formats such as 80’s Power Rock. With the playing of the musicians, the power of the music and the positive message of the lyrics about looking for only the good in life, “Good Stuff” is easily the best and most commercial track on the 2011 Iron & Coal release from Jeremy Schonfeld.
The song “Save Me” is another track that contains a very strong rock approach in the music. This time, the music blends together some strong Rock and Roll influences with an equal amount of Funk. That energetic feeling in the music is a good match for the lyrics as the words of the song are interesting to listen to. The lyrics to “Save Me” have two different interpretations at once: One, the singer wants to be saved from the actual people that were running after him. And two, the singer wants to be saved from the nightmares that were left over from those actions years later after the situation was over. The strong feel of the music really reinforces the feeling one gets from a nightmare.
“Yedid Nefesh/Good Man” changes the feel of the release. The track brings back the piano-based approach found on the track “Mourner’s Kaddish”. The song about doubting one’s self because of someone else’s actions goes from a classical feel with a chorus and strings to a song with a slightly jazzy feel as the song changes directions and languages. And much like that initial track of the album, “Yedid Nefesh/Good Man” features a split feel to the music with the same easy feeling at the beginning and stronger musical approach for the second half of the song. The second half of the song features an almost Latin flavor to the music as Schonfeld sings about the self-doubt that his family members must have felt as they experienced the pain they suffered through during World War 2.
Jeremy Schonfeld pairs the classical and Latin approaches from the track “Yedid Nefesh/Good Man” with the stronger feel of the “Bad Man,” the next track of the album. With this track, Schonfeld combines a Funk approach to the music with a strong Gospel feel to the music, in much the same way Marc Cohn had created his track “Walking in Memphis,” except that “Bad Man” from Jeremy Schonfeld is a lot closer to Rock and Roll than Gospel. The lyrical content of the song “Bad Man” continues the same kind of self-doubt that was present on the previous track but kicks up the energy level with more of a rock and roll feel to the music of this track.
One of the most emotional tracks on Iron & Coal from Jeremy Schonfeld is the song “If Ever”. The music features not only Schonfeld’s piano but also a very powerful orchestration that helps add a lot of beauty to a release that already contains a lot of pain and suffering. The track begins with a musical approach that immediately brings to mind the musical portion of the song “Orinoco Flow (Sail Away)” from Enya. The reason is because the strings on both songs contain the same New Age feel to them. Before long, that New Age feel turns into a Pop-Rock sound as Schonfeld and Company add a generous amount of Rock and Roll sound to the track, as well as plenty of strings due to the aforementioned addition of the strings. With this track, Schonfeld creates lyrics about a man singing to his love interest about what might happen if and/or when the two become separated. While there is still a hint of pain in the lyrics, the beauty in the music and words for “If Ever” is a nice change from the outright pain that Schonfeld had been expressing in the tracks that had come before.
The title track from Jeremy Schonfeld’s new album, “Iron and Coal/I Gotta Song,” is one of the best tracks on the release. The quiet prayer for a better life from someone in a very difficult situation begins with only Schonfeld and his piano. Eventually, the track builds to a climax that includes the sound of strings features Schonfeld letting loose while stretching his vocal cords and showing the strength of his voice. When the track transitions from the “Iron and Coal” half to the “I Gotta Song” half, Jeremy Schonfeld declares that he must let the joy in his heart out in the form of a song. The inclusion of the bells and strings at the end of the track bring a little more beauty to this release.
Jeremy Schonfeld’s 2011 album, Iron and Coal, comes to an end with the song entitled “Epilogue: The Story of Love”. The final track of the release comes complete with a musical feel that feels like the ending song of a Hollywood movie. Of course, as the album had been created in a way that felt as if Jeremy Schonfeld was telling a story that makes perfect sense. And much like the earlier track of “Save Me” that featured lyrics that could be interpreted in two ways from two different angles, this track has lyrics very much like that. On the track, the lyrics Schonfeld sings feel like a man singing a love song to his lady. Of course, as the entire release is a tribute to the struggles his family went through, the actual interpretation of the lyrics is a lot more personal than that as the track is a love song to his relatives.
Iron and Coal from Jeremy Schonfeld was a project that was based around the experiences of his father. Unfortunately, Mr. Schonfeld never got to experience what his son Jeremy had achieved in this album as he passed away the day Iron and Coal was sent away to be mastered.
From the lyrics based around the family history of Jeremy Schonfeld to his very own talent as a singer, piano player and songwriter, there are many different aspects to this release. And then, there is the layout that comes in the booklet included in the Iron & Coal release that adds to the overall experience that the listener will take with them after the music comes to an end. Whatever it is that attracts you to this solid release from Jeremy Schonfeld, there is much to see, hear and overall experience that will keep your attention and keep you entertained.
What you have just read was a rewriting of the review for Iron and Coal from Jeremy Schonfeld, a review that I had originally created back in 2011. The original review was only around 700 words total. And while Iron and Coal from Jeremy Schonfeld was first released back in 2011, the album has becomes very relevant in today’s world as the album has been given new life. That new life comes in the form of a staged performance of the album. Jeremy Schonfeld and Company are currently finishing up preparations for the stage show that will be taking place in New York City. As soon as Jeremy informed me about these upcoming performances, I knew I needed to help promote the show. And so, I revisited the album, expanded the review, and am now publishing the expanded review here as a way of helping to get the word out for the show.
Very late in 2019, Jeremy Schonfeld reached out to inform me about the upcoming dates for the performances. In his own words, here is what Schonfeld says about the Iron & Coal show:
“Cut to January 10-11! Iron & Coal will be produced in New York as part of the prestigious Prototype Festival. Conducted by David Bloom, Iron & Coal features the Contemporaneous Ensemble, Brooklyn Youth Choir, and Mastervoices. All told, about 175 performers this time! Additionally, joining me on stage will be Rinde Eckert (playing the older version of my father), and Daniel Rowan (playing the younger version of my father). I am very excited to bring this to NYC! Beth Morrison, our producer, is one of the festival’s founders, and her enthusiastic and supportive team continues to lead the charge for I&C. Ideally, this is just the next chapter in a journey that began many years ago.
The big concert events are on January 10-11. If those two showcases at the Prototype Festival were the last big event performances I played of the show as a whole, I would truly be satisfied that I have achieved all I needed to on a personal level. Obviously, my hope is to be able to roll this machine out to the world, but honestly, I’m already incredibly proud of the work I/we have done!”
As I just stated, the staged production of Iron and Coal from Jeremy Schonfeld is currently wrapping up preparations for the dates of January 10th and 11th of 2020. For complete information about Iron & Coal taking place at the Prototype Festival and featuring the Contemporaneous Ensemble, Brooklyn Youth Choir, and Mastervoices, visit the website for the event HERE. (Photo of Jeremy Schonfeld taken from http://www.jeremyschonfeld.com/)
For a just a taste of the music from the staged production of Iron and Coal, check out the song “If Ever” from the show.