Well, of course not. I mean, I'm sure a Halloween kids music video will come out next year that will knock number 5 below out of the list. [Ed.: Heck, I forgot one already, added as #6, that should've been in the top 5.] But they're
five videos six worth your family's 15 minutes or so.
5. John Hadfield - "Robot Monkey Head" [YouTube]
OK, technically speaking this isn't a Halloween video. But it darn well should be.
The list continues...
... actually, they don't walk into a bar at all. But Uncle Rock and Ben Rudnick get quoted and they all are mentioned in an article on the kids music resurgence in this week's Metroland, an Albany, NY-area alternative weekly. (And, hey, I'm quoted.) I also like, in the last paragraph, the justification for family music:
As 21st-century parents, we expect musicians not just to entertain our kids, but us too. That may sound self- indulgent, and to some extent it is. But as entertainment companies beam their offerings to narrower and narrower demographic slices, the idea of parents and kids listening to the same music starts to sound pretty good.
New York's Robert Burke Warren, AKA Uncle Rock, has always worn his heart upon his embroidered sleeve, and that's certainly apparent on his latest album The Big Picture. The title is deliberate, as many of the songs here deal with environmental concerns (the duet with Elizabeth Mitchell on the waltz "There Is No Away", for example, or "Garbage Barge"), or the "shop local" movement (which "Stop at a Mom n' Pop" thankfully doesn't actually use that phrase). "Leave the Bees Be," which from the title sounds like it might be in that camp, is sillier than that -- it features a "buzzing" solo, after all. It's reflective of the general approach that Warren with his producer Dean Jones takes -- very loose roots-rock with some nice touches (the cello on "There Is No Away," or the bells and horns on "Leave the Bees Be"). My favorite track from the album, the full-on rocker "Shake It Off!," features an energetic vocal turn Ralph & Ralph's KT Legnini. It's all about recovering from injury or mistakes, even aping Billy Joel's similarly-themed "You're Only Human" by leaving in the final mix laughter that couldn't have been planned. The album is most appropriate for kids ages 3 through 8; listen to clips here. Even at 38 minutes in length, the album still feels stuffed full (and probably would have been OK without the last 2 tracks). The Big Picture has things to say and opinions to share, and that probably isn't for every family, some of whom like their kids music... fluffier. But it says those things and shares those opinions with verve and good humor, and that's enough for a lot of us. Recommended.
I don't talk a lot about Earth Day here at Zooglobble, not because I hate the Earth ("dude, what a loser planet that is") but because much of the Earth Day-related music that crosses my desk is dull, tuneless, and/or unbearably preachy. One of the exceptions is Uncle Rock's "There Is No Away," a graceful waltz about the permanence of trash featuring stringed accompaniment and Elizabeth Mitchell. I suppose Robert could sing the classifieds accompanied by strings and Elizabeth Mitchell and and I'd probably write about it here, but the gracefulness of the song helps keep it away from the "unbearably preachy" camp. (It fits well within the big picture of the latest Uncle Rock album, er, The Big Picture, which has a few more songs with an environmental awareness.) Even better, for a limited time, you can download the mp3 for free from Uncle Rock's homepage. Mp3s are mostly waste-free after all (more so, I suppose, if you're solar-powered).
There's so much holiday music in the kids music genre that just listening to it all this year was a daunting task. I've got eight albums that grabbed my attention in one way or another; one of them is bound to please your family (unless you're looking for a solstice, Kwanzaa, or Festivus album). Let's start out with my 3 favorite albums of this particular season... The most ambitious kids music holiday album of the year comes courtesy of The Hipwaders, whose A Kindie Christmas isn't so much an album of Christmas music as much as it is a Christmas concept album, covering the emotions and anticipation of the season. It's a collection of all-original tunes, done in the Hipwaders power-pop/rock style. "It's Wintertime" is a great dance tune, and "Santa's Train" sounds like an outtake to a Johnny Cash Christmas album, but my favorite track here, maybe of the season, is "There's Too Much Good," a very affirming sentiment at this time of year. To say that the collaboration of Danny Adlerman, Kevin Kameraad, and Yosi finally bridges the divide between Christian and Jewish holiday traditions makes ...And a Happy New Year sound a lot duller than it really is. In reality, the three kids rockers mostly take turns in providing songs, alternately deeply sincere ("Starlight" and "Two Sets of Footprints") and goofy (the "12 Days of Christmas" reworking "A Pickle for my Christmas Tree" and a cover of Tom Lehrer's "I'm Spending Hanukkah in Santa Monica"). Featuring the season's hardest-rocking tune, the trio's cover of "Frosty the Snowman," it's an interfaith collection worth exploring regardless of whether you light menorah or advent candles. Robert Burke Warren, AKA Uncle Rock, spent time in London's West End performing a Broadway show but also rocked in far earthier terms. On Express Your Elf, Warren taps into both of those performing personalities. On the one hand, he offers a crooning take on "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" and a peaceful "My Favorite Things" (a perfect holiday song, when you think about it). Those tracks share space with the rootsy
original long-lost nugget "Santa's Coming in a Whirlybird" and a cover of "Feliz Navidad" that neatly weaves "La Bamba" into the mix. It's a tough (and close) call, but it's my favorite kids music holiday disk of the year.
There are others for your listening pleasure. Read on for more...
... or, in more search-friendly terms, writing about music -- ie, blogs -- by kids musicians. I know that Warren covered this last week, but I've had this on my to-do list for awhile, so I'm going to press forward with a highlighting of another wave of kids musicians turning their thoughts to the blogosphere. Some have a lot to do with the kids music genre, some very little. But I'm guessing at least one of 'em will be of interest to most of you and/or your RSS reader... -- Ann Torralba, best known as Little Miss Ann, is trying her hand writing about kids music at littleshouldersmusic, focusing in particular about music in the Chicago area where Ann lives. -- Bill Harley has long been one of the most talented wordsmiths in the kids music field, so I'm glad to see that he's started a blog. He tells his stories very well, and anyone interested about the arts and school culture generally will find this of value. -- Robert Burke Warren had a long career making music for adults before starting to make music for kids as Uncle Rock. Now he's got a blog in which he's every bit as thoughtful on paper as he is in person. -- Debbie Cavalier records music for kids under the moniker Debbie and Friends but her day job (OK, other day job) is Dean of Continuing Education at Berklee College, so, uh, yeah, she knows something about music education. She has not one, but two blogs. One, on Music, Education and Technology, is geared more toward Berklee's students, but occasionally deals with stuff of interest to a broader audience, while the other, Kid's Music Matters, is a pretty good example of an artist blog, mixing self-promotional stuff with more behind-the-scenes stuff.