The high point in my list of the best kids music of 2011 is this, my list of my favorite kids music albums of the year. By "year," again, I mean albums with Nov. 1, 2010 through Oct. 31, 2011 release dates available to the general public. That means albums like Laura Veirs' Tumble Bee, with a Nov. 8, 2011 release date, have to wait another 12 months before appearing in this list. (I would be shocked -- albeit incredibly delighted -- if there were 25 albums better than that particular one in the next year.) I do use the word "favorite" advisedly. I receive something approaching 300 family music albums every year. I review maybe 20% of those. Last year I picked out 20 albums, and cutting off this list this year at 20 just seemed cruel. But, as it turns out, increasing the number on the list to 25 didn't make things any easier. Albums from folks like Laura Doherty, Chip Taylor, Todd McHatton, and ScribbleMonster -- albums I genuinely liked -- didn't make the list. That's what happens when albums in the top 10% of everything I heard this year can't fit into the number of slots available; I had probably about 40 albums I was seriously considering for this list. So the difference between what goes in this list and what stays off is as much about personal preferences as it is about "objective" quality. (That's why I came up with the idea for Fids and Kamily, thinking that the personal preferences of many folks would be a much better approximation of "best.") In any case, here are those 25 albums, ranked from most favorite to a little less most favorite, that I (and we) most appreciated this year. (As always, the top 10 reflects my Fids and Kamily ballot.) 1. Caspar Babypants Sing Along! [Review] "I really, really like Sing Along! -- the Caspar Babypants disks have been favorites at our house for a long time, and I see no reason why this new album won't join its predecessors in heavy rotation. If he can keep it up, Chris Ballew might just create a body of work for preschoolers to rival Raffi's."
While the concept of Richard Perlmutter's Beethoven's Wig is kinda genius -- take famous classical melodies and attach often-funny lyrics to them -- I'd kinda found the past couple entries a little lacking, at least compared to the first couple albums. It was the Die Hard of kids music -- starting out strong, but no longer essential. Well, John McClane won't head back to theatres for a fifth time until February 2013, but Perlmutter is bringing back his own creation for a fifth time in the recently-released Sing Along Piano Classics. If this new album is any indication, you may want to keep that weekend free for moviegoing because
Bruce Willis Richard Perlmutter brings back his "A" game.
As the title suggests, Perlmutter uses famous piano melodies as the basis for his "Weird Al"-like parodies, and many of them hit the mark. "A Piano Is Stuck in the Door" reworks Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer" to amusing effect, while "Poor Uncle Joe" appropriately talks about death in Frederic Chopin's Funeral March. A death of a car, but still. Most of the melodies are very familiar, and Perlmutter tweaks that familiarity on that in some cases -- lots of nonsense syllables in his version of W.A. Mozart's Sonata in C Major, or a clucking chicken in "My Little Chicken." And his take on Mozart's "Alla Turca" (unfamiliar name, but a familiar melody), which he calls "Mozart Makes Kids Smart," is slyly sarcastic ("Instantly / kids can be / the Little Einsteins we expect now / Did you know / with more Mozart / there'd be no child left behind?").
Given the occasionally tricky wordplay, the album is most appropriate for kids ages 6 and up. The 45-minute album features both versions with and without the lyrics; you can hear samples here. Ironically, given his gentle mocking of the "Mozart Effect," Sing Along Piano Classics is actually a pretty good introduction to some famous classical melodies, pairing some well-loved (and in some cases, centuries-old) melodies with smart and silly lyrics. It's a lot of fun. Yippee-ki-yay, Mozart-lover. Definitely recommended.
What do you get when you cross Seven Brides with Seven Brothers with musically destructive poultry? I have no idea. But while you're pondering that, distract your kids for a minute or so by letting them watch the first video from the upcoming Beethoven's Wig album Sing Along Piano Classics, out next month. It's called "My Little Chicken," but you probably know the base melody as "Chopsticks." It's amusing. Perhaps your kids will be able to answer the question I've posed above. Beethoven's Wig - "My Liittle Chicken (Chopsticks)" [YouTube]
Richard Perlmutter's Beethoven's Wig crashed through the 2-sequel barrier that seems to be the limit with most popular entertainment with the release a couple weeks ago of Beethoven's Wig 4:
Live Free or Die Hard Dance-Along Symphonies. You might not think goofy lyrical adaptations of classical music showhorses would lend themselves to YouTube, but I think this does the job about as well as could be expected, with a blend of in-concert performance and animation...
I know that bar on the right side of the main homepage is a bit on the long side, but it's time for some updates... Planet KidVid is a new enterprise from longtime Friend of Zooglobble Monty Harper and kids' musician Mr. Billy. If they keep up with the posts, this could be a website that causes lots of families to go over their allocated "screen time." The Harper family is evidently trying to take over the web as Monty's wife Lisa and her daughter Evalyn have established the Kids Music Planet podcast. What is slightly different about this podcast from many other kids' music radio shows is that they play multiple selections from a few albums. So if for some reason my review of an album isn't clear enough you can decide for yourself. ;-) Belinda and Hova finally seem to have settled on a new internet location for their Greasy Kid Stuff playlists. If you go to their website, you can also find out all about their Mar. 18th "Grease Ball" with Captain Bogg & Salty, The Jellydots, and The Sprockettes. You can also hear They Might Be Giants' penned-just-for-Belinda-and-Hova "Greasy Kid Stuff." I've also added Fred Koch's new children's music-related blog to the sidebar. Fred is another longtime listener and reviewer of kids music and I'm glad to see him start up a blog. Regular readers will certainly be aware of Amy's appearance on WNYC's Soundcheck on Tuesday. Amy made a lot of excellent points (and ones I mostly agree with) and is to be commended for always sounding coherent, a not at all easy thing to do live on the air. Listen to the 20-minute segment here. Finally, children's media publicist (and, well, fan) Beth Blenz-Clucas talked about a couple of her clients and other kids' musicians and topics on Vicky and Jen's Grammy-related podcast. The podcast also includes discussions with Richard Perlmutter (he's working on Beethoven's Wig 4, apparently), Dan Zanes, and Ezra Idlet from Trout Fishing in America. (Beth was also kind enough to mention this website as a good resource...)
The nominations for the 49th Annual Grammy Awards were released today and, as always, they included two children's-related fields. Regular readers of the site will have a "one of these things is not like the other" moment.