Although it has signed very 21st century artists such as Gustafer Yellowgold and Robbert Bobbert (Robert Schneider), Little Monster Records, the new kids' music imprint from V2/Artemis Records has chosen to look back 40 years for its first release, All Together Now: Beatles Stuff For Kids of All Ages. If this first release is any indication, Little Monster releases will be designed to encourage parent-youth interaction.
The release comes packaged with a storybook illustrated with kids' drawings, poems that are meant complement the lyrics, and Beatles facts which are probably familiar to the adults but won't be, of course, for the young'uns.
And what exactly will you be sharing with those young'uns, musically? Thirty minutes of covers of well-chosen if familiar Beatles songs. Producer/guitarist Kevin Salem has assembled a talented backup band for the versions, which are sung by New York Doll Steve Conte along with some guest stars, including Marshall Crenshaw, Jason Lytle (ex-Grandaddy), and the Bangles (with Matthew Sweet joining Susanna Hoffs once more on a fun "Good Day Sunshine"). The songs also feature a chorus of kids who, refreshingly, are neither Broadway-trained nor pitch-corrected. They sound like, well, your elementary school or church choir, in a good way (see the simple "Love Me Do"). If you're going to put kids on record, this is the way to do it.
As well-done as the whole package is, there's really nothing new here. The versions hew very closely to the originals. I realize that the idea behind the CD -- introducing the Beatles to another generation -- doesn't lend itself to massive reinterpretations of classic recordings, but there's little reason why your copies of the original Beatles CDs won't do just fine.
Given the ages of kids singing (they sound like they might be in 2nd or 3rd grade, generally), I'm going to peg the age range here at ages 4 through 9, though obviously Beatles music is OK for just about any age. Three of the tracks are available here. For the moment, the CD is available only at Barnes & Noble, though that will end at some point next year.
All Together Now is a nicely-assembled collection of Beatles tunes, attractively packaged and with nice thought put into it. As good as it is, I don't see it as being of great interest to people who already have some Beatles tunes in their collection. But I can't wait to see and hear what the team behind this album has up their sleeves when they turn their attention to some original songs.