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    « About Time | Main | "Part Yellow, Part Gold, All Gustafer" »

    Review: Songs For Family, Friends & Frogs - Mr. "S"

    SongsForFamily.jpgI've received a lot more kids' music this year than I have time to review here on the site. There are many reasons why I don't review something -- it's absolutely awful, it's too far past its expiration date, it's not really kids' music -- all reasons that I'm willing to throw out the window at any time, I should note. But what about those albums that I'm, well, only lukewarm about?

    Case in point: this album.

    New York-based Mr. "S" (aka Ed Stankewick) recorded for several indie rock labels before becoming a schoolteacher and, eventually, releasing Songs For Family, Friends & Frogs, his 2006 kids' music debut.

    I really wanted to like the CD, but being a hopeful person I really want to like just about every CD I listen to. And there are components of the album that I did like, especially the solid musicianship of Stankewick and his Burnt Bottom Cookie Band. When they grab ahold of a good song, like the "everybody's a hero" pop-rocker "Superhero," the resulting energy is fun to listen to, as it is also in the gently insistent "Frankie the French Fry." The bluesy cuts ("Itchy Little Toe," for example) tend to be the strongest songs.

    But for the most part the songs just weren't that memorable to me. Some went on too long ("Take Your Medicine"), some were just a little too cheesy ("My Dog Sings the ABC Song"), and some... It's not that the songs were bad -- believe me, I've heard plenty of bad kids' songs, and these weren't it -- but they just left little impression on me, no compelling desire to go back and hear it again (even though I did so several times for the purpose of this review).

    The songs have a slightly goofy lyrical sense that would be most appropriate for kids ages 5 through 9. You can hear several cuts at the Mr. "S" website. Which I recommend doing, because maybe I just ate something bad, or I haven't been getting enough sleep, or something. And that's why I will sometimes review albums that just don't speak to me, especially if there's something worthwhile in there that could serve as the core for someone else's serious enjoyment. Whatever the case, while I could appreciate the musicianship on Songs For Family, Friends & Frogs and look forward to hearing what else Mr. "S" comes up with in the future, this album didn't speak to me.

    Reader Comments (7)

    Hey, I think any of us with kids could DEFinitely be getting more sleep. But if you liked every doggone thing, would we still trust you?

    I went and listened...The deli song made me smile. Surely nothing like that around right now. The bag of chips line was funny. And that polka-ish beat.

    But yeah, I thought most of the songs could be cut about in half, time-wise and be much better. But there sounds like there's potential in there. Great musicians, and some silliness that could be real fun.
    October 12, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterdeb in sf
    I did a Google search for Mr. “S” and came upon this review. I hope your readers take your advice and check this guy out for themselves. My sons (ages 3 and 5) received this CD as a gift a while back. We own lots of kids CD’s (by many of the artists covered on your site) and “S” is tops with my little ones. We traveled from Queens to see him play live a few weeks back and his live act was absolutely SMOKING! His band rocks and he an incredible showman. Funny! Sold out show of about 200 so I guess there are others like me who are really digging what he’s doing.

    October 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSusan
    I have a daughter who just loves Mr. "S." He plays a lot of parties out here on Long Island. His CD gets as much play in our car as the Dan Zanes stuff we have. My daughter's favorite song is "My Dog Sings the ABC's." I think that he got a bad rap in this review. I have never seen a professional review where the author talks about maybe being too sleepy to appreciate a CD. I don't think it's fair to the artist. Just my opinion!
    October 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAl Matlese
    Oh, hey, all viewpoints (expressed respectfully) are welcome here.

    Just wanted to note that I definitely wasn't sleepy when I listened to the CD several times over the span of a couple months before writing the review. It didn't speak to me.

    The comment was definitely made tongue-in-cheek (which I thought was obvious, but perhaps wasn't).
    October 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterStefan
    I definitely don't agree with Stefan's taste on some things (for example, I find his sense of humor peculiar), but I can respect that he writes what he feels, so no need to think him unfair or anything. It is, after all, one person's taste and not the "be all, end all" of artistic judgement.

    As it happens, I have the Mr. S. CD and generally agreed with Stefan on this one, and felt like it's not quite there yet for what it's trying to be. Though as Deb says, there is definitely potential and things to like about it.

    But as Susan said about his CD being tops for her kids... I have no doubt that's true, and why I think adults writing critiques of kids' music is somewhat inadequate. We need a bunch of three to ten year-old journalists to start a music review site, eh? But even that could end up being inadequate, as different kids have different tastes and senses of humor.

    I know a lot of kids who like my CDs better than (insert more well-known kids' artist), but then again, others would prefer (more well-known kids' artist) to me. Good thing there's a better variety out there today to choose from. Which I think is the great thing about what Stefan's doing, to highlight it all, or at least, as much as he can. And he always includes links in his reviews so we can judge for ourselves. We can't (or at least shouldn't) really decide how we feel about any art form until we experience it for ourselves.

    My very best to Mr. S., and I do look forward to hearing more from him in the future.

    October 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterEric Herman
    WOW! Look at the feedback for little old me. Zooglobble is tops! Even though I was a bit bummed at the review like my bio says I’ve been in the biz (the R & R not the kids) for many years and respect any review coming either way. Stefan didn’t slam it. I once had a critic say I made his Raman noodles come back up. Really! Like I told Stefan, I’m new at this and I thank him (and Eric who’s stuff is great by the way) for the advice. And it’s nice to see my fans writing in. That’s what this is all about. Most of all I’m my sons (2) favorite and that’s what matters most. Hope to blow ya all away with the next one. Rock Out!!!P.S. I was having an all Tom Waits week (in my car coming home from teaching in Brooklyn). Don’t ya think he’d make a great kid’s CD. Maybe he has.???? God bless. S-Man

    October 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterEddie Mr. "S"
    I appreciate Eric's comments (along with those of Susan and Al).

    One of my hopes with the Fids and Kamily poll is that it will encourage more people to write about kids' and family music so that there's a greater diversity of opinion out there about these albums.

    I also know that there will always be albums that are favorites of families, even if I don't like 'em, which I think is great. That does often relate, however, to being able to see the musician live, which, given the peculiarities of the kids' music audience (e.g., the fact that weekdays are not good times to find a big audience), can be difficult if you don't live nearby.
    October 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterStefan

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