Review: The Great Green Squishy Mean Concert CD - Monty Harper

"Don't judge a book by its cover," goes an adage I tend to ignore when it comes to CDs. The aura of competence regarding album covers and inserts is often an indication of the competence of the music and production itself, particularly in children's music.

So this CD, with its cover picture a giant mouth that brings nothing to mind more than, "Let There Be Lips!" (that's a Rocky Horror Picture Show reference there, folks), worried me.

Thankfully, in this case, the old adage is actually true. Monty Harper's 2005 album, The Great Green Squishy Mean Concert CD, is a fun and occasionally funny album. (It certainly exceeded my cover-based expectations.) For his fourth CD, the Oklahoma-based Harper recorded three concerts with his "Thrice Upon a Time Band" in front audiences of kids and parents. The concept brings a couple strengths to the CD: 1) the full band (guitars, bass, drums) sounds really good, and 2) the audience participation songs have an audience to participate. Both make the CD very lively.

Harper writes straight-ahead rock (think "classic rock") tunes with a sense of humor and an occasional tendency toward "educational" lyrics. My favorite songs on the CD are the two songs leading off the album, "Loose Tooth," a cute pop-rocker about, er, a loose tooth, and "The Great Green Squishy Mean Bibliovore," with crunchy guitars (and lead character). While I tend to prefer his more story-based songs (like the two above), his "educational" songs aren't bad either -- young kids will probably eat up (pun mostly intended) "You're a Dinosaur," which introduces a whole bunch of dinosaurs in song. (It's one of 5 reptile/dinosaur songs on the CD, so if that's your child's thing, definitely check it out. I'm pretty sure it's the only album in the world with two songs about horned toads.)

The CD also comes with some CD-ROM bonuses -- I did like the two healthy-eating-based songs, "I Go Bananas," and "Gimme Vegetables," the latter of which had a very '80s synth-pop texture wholly unlike the concert itself. (Both are fun -- if Harper ever releases a B-sides/rarities disk, these seem like perfect candidates. Because I don't think I'm ever actually going to listen to the CD at the computer....)

I'd recommend the CD for kids aged 4 through 9. You can find it through the usual suspects (artist's website, CDBaby, Amazon, with samples available at the latter two). If you're looking for a CD of rockin' kids songs, check it out.