Review: Rocket Ship Beach - Dan Zanes and Friends

Rocket Ship Beach was the first Dan Zanes album I ever heard. This was maybe 4 years ago or so. I liked it, but it didn't quite grab me at the time the way his 3 subsequent albums did. In going back to the album for the purposes of this review, I tried to figure out why.

Let's start out with the stuff I liked then, and still do. You wouldn't think that "Bushel and a Peck" from the Broadway musical "Guys and Dolls" would be a great fit for a chorus of elementary school children (whom I generally dislike hearing on record), but they sound great in the song. It's 180 degrees different from the Olive Oyl-stylings of Faith Prince in the Broadway revival from a few years ago, but lots of fun. My other favorite track on the record is Suzanne Vega's take on the "Erie Canal," which is... well, I don't want to say "eerie" (that would be too easy), but Vega's voice and Zanes' lap steel guitar blend together in a wonderful duet.

The rest of the album is... maybe it's just too folk- and bluegrass-based for an entire album for my tastes. Yes, Father Goose and the Sandy Girls make their appearances, as does Barbara Brousal, but the overall feel of the album is definitely more "folk festival" than the other Zanes and Friends CDs. Maybe part of that is that there's only one Zanes original ("Hello," on which Brousal duets). In any case, the album is less diverse musically (if no less technically and musically accomplished).

Don't get me wrong, I like the CD and I'm glad to have it in my collection, but I guess unless you're a big folk music fan, I would recommend one of Zanes' other CDs (probably "House Party") as an introduction to his stuff. The CD is best for kids ages 3 through 7 or 8, though like all of Zanes' work, it's definitely appropriate for people of all ages. Zanes' music is available in most stores with a children's music section. Recommended.