Video: "One Shoe Blues" - Sandra Boynton (B.B. King)

I like Sandra Boynton's music, and this, her first video, for "One Shoe Blues" featuring B.B. King, is just as droll as the rest of her output. Not clear what NPR's favorite part was. I liked the stone-faced sock -- "Momsock" -- with glasses and purple hair. That is a sentence I'm pretty sure has never been written before. The video isn't embeddable, but here's a "making of" video that's, er, longer than the actual video.

Rhinos, Chickens, and Dogs For Sale (In Handy CD Format)

I don't normally point out sales on CDs here (OK, I don't think I've ever done so), but Kohl's is having a sale on Sandra Boynton book/CD collections. Not only are they just $5 apiece, but 100% of net profits supports Kohl's Cares for Kids, which provides "health and educational opportunities for children nationwide." Hey, it's for the kids! The kids, folks! Rhinoceros Tap Philadelphia Chickens (review) Dog Train (review) I found the last two a bit uneven, but there are pretty good tracks on each of 'em, and I know that some families adore 'em. There are plush stuffed animals for sale, too, but you'll have to find a different website to review those.

Review in Brief: Dog Train - Sandra Boynton

DogTrain.jpgFor those of you who adore Sandra Boynton's comically plaintive drawings of pets and her whimsical sense of humor, but found the Broadway show stylings of Philadelphia Chickens a little too, well, Broadway show-stylish, her 2005 album/book Dog Train really brings the rock. Or, well, as much as any album that features three separate episodes entitled "Cow Planet" can bring said rock. Boynton and her musical collaborator Michael Ford have recruited a... diverse collection of musical performers to perform their (mostly) humorous songs -- Alison Krauss, Hootie and the Blowfish, and Blues Traveler, among others. As is often the case with albums where a collection of performers tackle the work of another artist, the best work is done by the least expected -- the Screaming Trees' Mark Lanegan bringing his Tom Waits-esque voice to "Sneakers," or the energetic "Pots and Pans" built up to a percussive crescendo by the Bacon Brothers and Mickey Hart. The best song on the CD may be the most familiar -- the wonderful "I Need A Nap," which pairs "Weird Al" Yankovic with Kate Winslet ("this is Ms. Winslet and Mr. Yankovic's first duet together," the liner notes wryly comment). It takes a Titanic-worthy overwrought ballad and applies it to the overwrought words of a cranky kid. It's very meta, and very funny. Less successful, though, are the fairly straight songs (Alison Krauss sounds wonderful on "Evermore," but she'd sound wonderful singing the "Weekly Clipper") and the "Cow Planet" interludes. The album will probably be most appreciated by kids ages 4 through 8 and people of a certain age remembering the soundtrack to their high school and/or college years. (Hey, I liked the Hooters. And the Spin Doctors CD. And the Hootie CD. I'm just sayin'.) You can hear clips from all of Boynton's CDs here. Oh, and if you don't want the book/CD compilation, the CD by itself is scheduled to be released on August 8. Fans of Boynton's work won't be disappointed by Dog Train; newcomers may be surprised at the breadth of collaborators here and amused by the whimsy.

Review: Philadelphia Chickens - Sandra Boynton

It's funny what people remember from their youth. Meals at their grandparents, trips to Disneyland, their first kiss. One of my memories is of a white coffee mug with a cow with a befuddled expression standing on his (or her -- my memory isn't that good, nor was the drawing that detailed) hind legs on a patch of grass somewhere. On the other side, the text -- "For someone outstanding in their field" Still gets me everytime. The creator of that silly mug was illustrator and author Sandra Boynton, who besides countless children's books now has three albums of kid-friendly music to her credit. Her second album, Philadelphia Chickens, was created with her musical collaborator Michael Ford in 2002. Unsurprisingly, given Boynton's talent for anthropomorphizing animals, many of the songs revolve around animals. Some of the songs do so very clearly, such as "Please, Can I Keep It?," an amusing story-song about a ravenous stray pet. Others focus more on their owners, such as the slightly funky "Fifteen Animals." And some have nothing to do with animals at all-- "BusyBusyBusy." In the liner notes to the CD, Boynton mentions that the music came about as a result of her desire to make something a "little more nuanced" than the recordings of perky children's music her children were once given. She wanted to "create an album that would somewhat parallel the soundtrack that ran beneath [her] own childhood," including "Broadway show tunes." Some of the best songs on the album would be perfect in a Broadway review -- "Faraway Cookies" is a note-perfect song about longing. Longing about cookies, yes, but the emotion is surprisingly universal. Another sign that Boynton was really trying to create a Broadway review is the list of performers -- they're much more familiar to fans of the stage and screen than to readers of Billboard. Meryl Streep, Laura Linney, Kevin Kline, even Scott Bakula -- they were recruited to sell the songs. Their voices are pretty good, but the songs are better than you would expect. There's a wide variety of musical styles on the album, but you do have to have a tolerance for show tunes and moderate tempos. Kids aged 4 to 8 would probably appreciate this CD the most. You can either buy the CD separately or with an accompanying book with goofy Boynton drawings and sheet music that is just a bit too advanced for my rudimentary piano skills. The album is recommended, especially if you're looking for a change from your children's-oriented folk or rock music. Oh, and if you want to know the source of this blog's name, check out "Nobody Understands Me." It's not just the mug that stuck with me.