One of the 2007 albums that just missed making my list of 20 favorite kids music albums of 2007 was Campfire Sing-Along from the Bay Area band Orange Sherbet with some help from the band Hot Buttered Rum (here's the review). I've been a little sad that the CD didn't get more attention, so I'm happy to have an excuse to provide more attention myself. I've found a video that the band put together with the artist Sarah Klein. Klein is friends with Orange Sherbet singer-songwriter Tamsen Fynn and will be showing a couple of her short films at the San Francisco Bay Area International Children's Film Festival this weekend. You can see the hand-animated "On the Farm" here (direct link to broadband version) and the live-action bread-filled "Feed the Starter" here (again, direct link to broadband version). They're both cute, in different ways But those are from an older Orange Sherbet album, and I'm all about the new. (Usually.) So I'm most excited to find the hand-animated video for Campfire Sing-Along's leadoff track, "Campfire Song" (broadband link here). As you might expect, it involves a bear, which I always find to be a good thing.
I love what Enzo Garcia does, kids-musically. There are lots of kids' musicians who make great music for listening to, for dancing with, but it warms my heart knowing that flame of participatory kids music -- music that encourages singing along and interacting with the music and others -- still burns bright. Enzo Garcia is one of the best at keeping that fire going. With his latest release, Field Trip with Enzo, his tenth album of original songs, the San Francisco-based Garcia combines his all-hands-clapping approach with an abiding interest in the natural world. Songs about raccoons, squirrels, monkeys, and frogs -- two times -- are found on the disk, blended with other concepts. "Raccoon" is a Garcia original that's a bluesy counting song, while "Monkey Motions" is, as you might guess, a movement song encouraging the mimicking of different animals. "Side of a Mountain Top" is a rollicking movement song. This sounds a lot like prior Enzo disks -- folky, with an array of rustic instruments including banjo, accordion, jaw harp, slide flute, and, yes, the "enzotar." While almost all of the songs have some interactive component to them, there are a few tracks that sound sweet all by themselves -- Garcia's hypnotizing "Hand Over Hand" and the concluding lullaby "When the Sun Goes Down", and his duet with Erin "Mimi" Lucas on the traditional "The Green Grass Grows." The album will appeal most to kids ages 3 to 7. For the moment, it's just available at the Pokey Pup (hear samples here), though I believe that will change soon. You can also hear "Monkey Motions" at Garcia's Myspace page. I should also mention that longtime Zooglobble reader Deb in SF gets a nice shout-out from Garcia in the liner notes. As with all of Garcia's previous kids' CDs, Field Trip with Enzo will work best if you and your kids stand up and actually play along with the music. If you're not willing to do that, then this CD might not be for you (though I think it holds up OK even in that case). But if you're willing to follow Enzo on his trips, then I think you'll be pleased where you end up. Recommended.
Spend 2 minutes and 16 seconds, listening to "Educated Kid," the title track and leadoff single from the Bay Area trio The Hipwaders' latest CD, Educated Kid, and try not to move or sing along in some way. Go ahead, try. See, can't do it. It's a great example of a pure power-pop song retrofitted just enough to allow the kids to groove to it, even get something out of it lyrically ("pursue your passion / do what you love / perservere / you'll rise above"), while retaining enough musical flourishes (the "uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh" of the chorus, the handclaps) to make the older power-pop fan smile broadly. While the rest of the disk doesn't quite reach the sugary heights of the title track, there are a number of other good songs on the CD, which was released this week. "Little Baby Brother" has a snappy "ba-ba-bas," "whooooos" and a dead-on kids-eye view of a child's response to a little brother ("Please don't break my toys / And I'll love you forever"). "Aidan's Train" is a sweet Beatle-esque melody. A lot of the tracks have a very XTC vibe -- "The History of Declan Rae" sounds like something from XTC's later period while the angluar "Art Car" and "Speed of Love" have early XTC influences -- in other words, it sounds like a Futureheads kids CD. Guitarist and songwriter Tito Uquillas continues his fascination with sharing educational facts in some songs. It could drag the disk down but it usually doesn't -- the facts typically come off as "hey, here's this really cool fact!" rather than overly didactic and some songs ("History of Declan Rae," in particular) pull it off rather well. Kids ages 5 through 10 will most likely appreciate the songs and subject matter on the 39-minute CD. You can hear (and download) four of the tracks at the band's Myspace page or samples of all tracks at the album's CDBaby page. Educated Kid marks a big step forward for the band. In reviewing their previous, self-titled CD, I said "they're not at a Ralph's World level of polish and songcraft yet, but give The Hipwaders time. They may just get there. " Folks, they're getting pretty close. Definitely recommended.
Two is better than one. Or, in this particular case, fifty-one is better than two. Fifty-one is, as best as I can tell, the total number of people singing or playing on Campfire Sing-Along, the recently-released fourth album by the Bay Area duo Orange Sherbet. You might be thinking, last time I checked, "duo" meant, well, two people. And, yes, Jill Pierce and Tamsen Fynn are indeed a duo. But they've pulled in a whole host of family and friends to sing a collection of campfire sing-along favorites. Sometimes the friends are older (such as Charity Kahn from Charity and the JAMband, who makes an appearance on "Sippin' Cider"), sometimes they're younger (the chorus of kids who appear on old chestnuts like "Make New Friends" or "Down by the Bay"). Most are fun, or at least an excellent reminder of songs you can sing at your own campfire. What turns this album into more than a very enjoyable version of a "Wee Sing" CD is the presence of the Northern California roots/bluegrass band Hot Buttered Rum, who join forces with Orange Sherbet and, occasionally, the rest of the 51 for great versions of traditional sing-alongs -- "Down By the Riverside," "She'll Be Coming Round the Mountain," "Frog Went A Courtin'," among others. Making the CD stand out, however, are the originals, contributed by members of both bands -- "Bit By Bit" is an awesome song about how little things make a difference, while "Marshmallow" is a fun sing-along that could've been written 70 years ago. It's in the originals most especially that the combination sounds very much like a West Coast version of Dog on Fleas. It's a wholly winning sound. (Oh, and I almost forgot. All this plus Dan Zanes. Yep -- Zanes makes an appearance on an original called "One Man Band," revealing a heretofore unknown skill in humorous spoken-word poetry. It's hardly a Zanes-ian essential, but it's amusing listening.) The 48-minute album is appropriate for all ages, though kids able to sing along, ages 3 through 9, are probably more likely to enjoy the CD. You can listen to samples or at the album's CDBaby page (at which you can hear some of "Bit By Bit"). The best parts of Campfire Sing-Along are where Orange Sherbet and Hot Buttered Rum combine to make timeless songs sound fresh and new songs sound like they've been part of the canon forever. (Who would've thought orange sherbet and hot buttered rum would taste so good together?) There are enough such moments here to make this recommended, even if you don't plan to get any closer to the great outdoors than your local park.
Y'know, now that kids' music is the bee's knees, the cat's pajamas, and the kangaroo's Underoos, you can't take three steps without running into some new kids' music program. Except now they're moving into even older or less traditional locations. Such examples (and suggested alternative locations) include: Enzo Garcia -- playing at Golden Gate National Park's Crissy Field. If your kids don't like the show, you can always tell them that Alcatraz is but a short ferry ride away. (Uh, wait. They'd probably like that. Never mind.) SteveSongs -- playing at the Life is Good Festival in Fenway Park. No word on whether he'll do "Sweet Caroline" for the kiddos. Please take this opportunity to tell your kids how inferior Fever Pitch the movie is compared to Fever Pitch the book. Hot Peas 'n Butter, Little Nashville, and Babaloo -- playing at the On the Waterfront festival in Rockford, Illinois. If your oldest kid keeps complaining about his brother and how he coulda been a contender over and over and over, just explain to him that you'd be glad to Leave. This. Stage. Right. Now. and take him to see "The New Cars" (playing Saturday night) and explain to him ad nauseam how there's no way that can be better than the original lineup. Also, you had to listen to music at home on something called a stereo when you were his age and so can he please take off the headphones right now.
We've been looking for activities for the kids this summer (we can only come up with so many art projects and trips to non-commercial air-conditioned locales), so I looked at the news of the "JAMbledance Camp" with interest. Art? Music? Yoga? Reading? With the participation of Charity Kahn? Our daughter would love that. We can fit that into the activities budget, right? But, oh yeah, we live in Phoenix. The commute to and from San Francisco would be a bear, no? Oh, and that's the first week of school for our daughter. Other than those things, though, we are so there.