Here are a handful of new Christmas CDs that have crossed my desk that might be worth your time... and even possibly in time for you to listen to before, you know, Christmas... For the most part, the CDs below are going to be of greatest interest to the artists' fans, but if you're looking for a Christmas album that might be especially of interest to kids, you might want to start here. (If you're looking for Christmas CDs in general, by all means go here -- goodness, that is impressive.) Austin's Biscuit Brothers released their first Christmas CD, Have a Merry Musical Christmas, this year, and fans of the slightly goofy and slyly educational TV show will not be disappointed. For the most part, it's Biscuit Brothers originals -- a funny Tiny Scarecrow on "The Best Christmas Ever, " a sweet and jazzy "Together (a Christmas Waltz)," an expanded vocal role on "Have a Merry Musical Christmas." It's all appealingly goofy. Might not be the best entry point for a listener unfamiliar with the Brothers, but it's a fun cookie of a CD nonetheless. From the folks who brought you 2006's awesome Family Hootenanny CD comes Holiday Hootenanny, a 2007 collection of tunes from Detroit-area artists benefiting Detroit's Capuchin SoupKitchen. Definitely not a traditional CD in most senses of the word -- if you're looking for a swinging Ella Fitzgerald or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, keep looking because even the most traditional tunes sound off-kilter in Danny Crow-Haw's brief interludes here. While not as awesome as the first CD, the last 3 tracks -- American Mars' Dylanesque "The Little Baby Jesus," co-producer's Deanne Iovan's band the Come Ons' "More," and Ultimate Ovation's awesome rendition of "It's Christmas" (which reminds you where Motown was founded) -- are almost worth the price of the CD by themselves. Sample here. And there's more...
It's been awhile since I've talked about California-based musician Mr. David -- too long methinks -- but that doesn't mean he hasn't been busy. He's just posted "Rainbow of Butterflies," a mellow groove originally recorded last year as a fundraiser for a Bay Area preschool. It features a chorus of kids, some nifty guitar work, and if you like Mr. David at all, it's worth your time to check it out -- the track is at his Myspace page. Mr. David, who recently relocated to the Los Angeles area, also released a video for "She's a Good Dog," off his excellent Jump in the Jumpy House disk from '06. Pretty simple -- Mr. David, and a dog, and not much else -- but I think the song is one of the more idiosyncratic and affectionate portraits in song of a canine friend. (Tip: view the video in high quality -- "normal quality" looks a little chunky.) Mr. David - "She's a Good Dog"
How to describe Jump in the Jumpy House, the recently-released third CD for kids from San Jose, California-based artist Mr. David?.... How about... "this album sounds like nothing else you've heard all year." Well, yes, but that's what I said about his last album, The Great Adventures of Mr. David, so perhaps I need to find different words, because it doesn't sound like that CD, either. Whereas the previous album had a strong folk and folk-rock influence, the new album has more diversity of sound -- the garage rock of the title track, aided by the propulsive guitar work of Greg Lisher from Camper Van Beethoven; the gentle Spanish guitar on "Miss Pila"; the early New Wave sounds of "Hey! It's Lunchtime!" Mr. David (real name: David Alexandrou) does a passable Johnny Cash impression on "Them Devils," or at least is obviously inspired by him there. I also love the brief "Ragtime Honey," a sweet little ragtime instrumental that's a nice palate-cleansing (or aural-cleansing) at the center of this 31-minute album before plunging into the second side. In an interview here last year, Mr. David said he was proud of "putting out a kind of children’s music that really is different." There's no doubt he's doing that. There are times on this CD when I wonder if it really isn't a little too different. "Cabin Blues" is pretty abstract for a kids' song, about passing the days in a (vacation) cabin. The leadoff "Crocodiles Are Hungry" is almost stream-of-consciousness, barely touching on crocodiles and ending with a tribute to "John, Paul, George, and Ringo." (Favorite line: "People always ask me, 'How can you spend so much time up in your hammock?' / I say, 'Because man, I got pink lemonade!'") I think this is one of those albums that will probably divide listeners. Some families will absolutely adore this album for its adventurousness while others might think that "Jump in the Jumpy House" rocks and "Little Girl" is a sweet little song and the rest is just a little too weird. The album is probably most appropriate for kids ages 4 through 8. You can hear (and download) "Hey! It's Lunchtime" and "Jump in the Jumpy House" at Mr. David's Myspace page or hear samples of all the tracks here. Jump in the Jumpy House is another wildly imaginative album from Mr. David. It's got some fun beats and lyrical pictures. Even if the album isn't quite your family's cup of lemonade, though, you have to hand it to Mr. David for indeed stretching the boundaries of what kids music can be. Recommended.
I know that Mr. David has had a new tune -- "Hey It's Lunchtime" -- available for listening or downloading on his Myspace page for awhile. It's kind of an angular post-punk tune delivered in his loose style. That tune is growing on me, but his new single -- the title track from his upcoming Jump in the Jumpy House album (tentatively scheduled for an August release) -- is an immediately accessible and fun track. And, courtesy of Mr. David, I'm proud to offer it to you for your own enjoyment. Mr. David - Jump in the Jumpy House That nifty, insistent guitar lead comes courtesy of Greg Lisher from Camper Van Beethoven. If you, or someone you know, is getting one of those bouncy houses (sorry, I call 'em "bouncy houses") for a kids' birthday party, you need to have this as the soundtrack -- nails the pogoing aspect of those things to a T.
Yes, it's all about making punny headlines that don't really make sense in the context of the article around here. Anyway, for those of you wondering what's next on the plate of San Jose-based Mr. David, he notes on his show page that his next album, Jump in the Jumpy House, will be released in June 2007. And for those of you wanting to hear songs off the new album, get on over to Technology Credit Union in San Jose next Tuesday, March 6th to see Mr. David in concert. So... I'm wondering... is it "jumpy house" on the West Coast? Because we call 'em "bouncy houses" 'round these parts... Is this like a "cola"/"soda pop" thing here?
I'll have more words on Christmas albums old and young later in the month, but for now, a brief note -- Mr. David has a new song up at his Myspace site -- "Frosty the Snowman." Available for download, it's a laid-back, slightly spacy take on the song made famous by Jimmy Durante. Sounds exactly what you'd think "Frosty the Snowman" sung by Mr. David would sound like. (And that's a good thing.)