Itty-Bitty Review: All I Want! - David Weinstone (Music for Aardvarks)

AllIWant.jpg While David Weinstone has been incredibly successful licensing his Music for Aardvarks classes, he has not done a lot of recording for the general public. Which is a little bit sad, because Weinstone is a pretty good songwriter. And on his latest album, All I Want!, he has a number of stellar songs. While some of the songs seem like they originated out of his MFA classes, many of the songs (for the most part, my favorites) sound like they were created outside of a class context. Like a number of artists, Weinstone attempts to cover a broad range of musical styles, from old-timey Dixieland ("I Want a Puppy!") to fuzzed-out Guided By Voices-style rock ("Mighty Milo") to a harmonica-accented waltz ("Beach Song"). "All I Want!" thrashes harder than any kids' song you'll all year, and probably most of the adult songs, too. Although the genre-hopping can be head-spinning, Weinstone's adept at all of it, while also channeling a bit of Barry Louis Polisar acerbic-kid humor (sample from "Better Keep Your Eye on Me!": "I like cell phones, they taste good / They're expensive, man they should.") The album will be most appreciated by kids ages 3 through 6. You can listen to a few songs here. All I Want isn't always an "album" as we might typically think of a coherent set of music, but as a collection of songs, it is a pretty good one. Even families who have never heard of MFA are bound to find a least a couple of songs that will tickle their fancy. Recommended. Disclosure: I received a copy of the album for possible review.

Respect My Author-itay

I'm an "authority" now. So says a YAKMA in tomorrow's Philadelphia Inquirer. Actually, my quotations look rather dull compared to Mr. Livewire himself, David Weinstone: "If I'm driving to Cape Cod with three kids in the back and have to listen to children's music, will it make me purposely crash the car into a tree? Or will we get there?" Zooglobble: Preventing car crashes and lowering your insurance rates since 2004.

Review: Park Slope Parents The Album (Vol. 1) - Various Artists

ParkSlopeParentsVol1.jpgCompilations are notoriously hard things to compile. Any fool can put together a CD of good or popular songs, but their appeal as a single entity often fades after time. (Really, who listens to those Now! CDs, like, six months later?) The key is finding some loosely unifying theme or spirit to guide the collection. Park Slope Parents The Album (Vol. 1) has just enough theme to carry the day. The 17-track collection plucks chooses songs old and new, released and not, from mainly New York City artists. There are a few tracks that deal with life in New York City -- David Weinstone (Music for Aardvarks) contributes his simple "Subway" ("Bing bong / the doors open on the train / bing bong / All the people pile in") while Michael Leyden has a more rocking take in "I Hear a Train." Any compilation should also be measured by how well it does in helping you to discover new artists, rediscover chestnuts from old artists, and getting new tracks from your favorite artists. In terms of discovering new artists, Courtney Kaiser and Benjamin Cartel's "The Season Song" is a perfect pop tune from an adult band (whose members both teach in schools) writing a kids' song (specifically for this album). Dan Zanes contributes the "The Monkey's Wedding" from his Parades and Panoramas disk while Daniel Schorr's "Good Boy with a Bad Reputation" (off his first album) is a great example of his countryfied Dwight Yoakam-esque rock. And the new tracks. These, my friends, are why you should get yourself on the CDBaby waiting list and order the disk. Smack dab in the middle of the disk are two great new cuts. The Deedle Deedle Dees contribute their ode to New York City roadways (had to balance out the public transportation songs, I suppose) with "Major Deegan," which was recorded for their upcoming album. The loping song sounds timeless, especially with those "whoo-whoo's". And The Quiet Two continue their surreal attack on kids' music with the loopy and giddy "When I Dream." AudraRox's reggae song of tolerance "Moms & Dads" and the sometimes-out-of-control (in a good way) "Drunken Sailor" contributed by Astrograss (with backing vocals from AudraRox's Audra and Jen) are just as good. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the sweetest track, the album closer "Fools Will Try." Somehow these Brooklyn parents got Ralph Covert to contribute a track from his 1997 album Birthday, and it's nothing less than some of the best advice you can give to a child. This is one of those songs that should appear on a lot of new parents' mix CDs... The album is probably most appropriate for kids 3 through 8 (who probably don't care less about the appropriateness of a compilation and who just care whether a CD has good songs, which this one does in spades). The album is a fundraiser for Park Slope Parents, an informational website for parents in Park Slope, Brooklyn. For those of you who don't live in New York City, I'd recommend the CDBaby page, where you can hear samples. (The cover, by the way, is by children's author and illustrator Mo Willems, who contributes drawings that are more "Knuffle Bunny" than "Pigeon.") Though collected for kids living in New York City, Park Slope Parents The Album (Vol. 1) is appropriate for families visiting New York City, learning about New York City, oh, heck, lovers of good music. It's a great collection of music and it's definitely recommended.

Review: Taxi - David Weinstone (Music for Aardvarks and Other Mammals)

Taxi.jpgNearly ten years ago, New York City musician (and parent) David Weinstone, dissatisfied with assorted kids music programs, decides to start one of his own. The result, Music For Aardvarks and Other Mammals, became a popular program in its own right in New York City, even expanding beyond New York City. Over those nearly ten, Weinstone's put together 10 CDs of original material to accompany the classes. This week sees the release of Taxi, one of three compilations of material from the first 10 CDs. (It reflects favorites of both Weinstone and class attendees.) I decided deliberately to listen to Taxi without finding out more about how the songs were used in MFA classes because I think the purpose of these CDs is to introduce the music to a much wider audience -- people like me who've never stepped foot inside a MFA class. So the question becomes, how does this hold up as an album? And the answer is, pretty good. Weinstone is definitely willing to write directly to kids' interests -- getting candy at the end of a doctor's visit in "Lollipop Doc" or the eternal fascination of the belly button in "Belly Button Song". But that wouldn't mean much if he weren't able to wrap those topics in appealing lyrics and a diverse range of musical styles. "Dirt," for example, folds lines such as "I like dirt. / Dirt's what I dig. / I like pokin' around, / with a big old twig" into a loping, brass-band march. "Have You Seen My Nose?" mixes silly lyrics about discovering one's nose (and mouth) with a laid-back Brazilian melody. "Big Boom Whacker" is a nonsensical synth-heavy tune that survives an Ah-nuld reference. My favorite track, "Ruby's Friends," is a folky waltz about pretending. (And I haven't even mentioned the Santana riff.) This isn't to say you can't tell the album's music class origins. Songs such as "Big Old Tree" and "Tango" have class participation and movement written all over them. And the "Hello" and "Goodbye" songs -- required for any kids music class -- are here, too. (They're perfectly fine to listen to.) But they don't overwhelm the album -- you could listen to them having never attended an MFA class and not feel puzzled. I think the album's most appropriate for kids ages 2 through 7. You can hear snippets of all the songs at the album's CDBaby page. While there are no songs here that absolutely stand out as immediate kids' songs classics, Taxi is a strong collection of kid-appropriate and parent-friendly songs. Whether you're hearing these repeatedly between MFA classes or occasionally in the CD changer, you'll probably find them worth your family's time. Recommended.