Review: The Corner Grocery Store - Raffi

I think with kids' artists there's no such thing as a sophomore slump. There are plenty of artists whose second albums were just as good, if not better, than their kids' debuts. But something happens on album #3 -- delusions of grandeur, perhaps, or just boredom with the formulas -- it's good, but not as good as album #s 1 and 2. Victims of the slump include Ralph's World, Laurie Berkner, and, well, Raffi.

Don't get me wrong, The Corner Grocery Store, Raffi's 1979 album, is pretty good. It has some nice renditions of some traditional songs, including "Frere Jacques" and a very simple but pretty "Swing Low Sweet Chariot." For the most part, the instrumentation consists of the fairly simple arrangements of piano, guitar, and occasional backing band found on his first two CDs.

But there's something missing overall. Perhaps it's the lack of a really good Raffi original, like "Peanut Butter Sandwich" or "Oh Me Oh My." Perhaps it's "Anansi," which jettisons all the simple arrangements for something approaching cheesy instrumentation. I don't know. It's hard for me to put a finger on, but the whole thing just isn't quite as appealing to me. Still, for those you thinking that covering Leadbelly or Huddie Ledbetter or Woody Guthrie on children's music albums is a newfound trend, Raffi did them all (Ledbetter twice) on this CD. (He does add lyrics to some of them, so perhaps it's not quite so adventurous.)

The album is best for children ages 2 through 6. I recommend the CD, though not as highly as Singable Songs For The Very Young or More Singable Songs. You can find the three CDs packaged together (slightly cheaper) as The Singable Songs Collection. Available at the usual suspects.