In order to write this review, I must reveal a shocking secret:
I shot J.R.
Uh, wait, sorry, I'm confusing my shocking secrets. That wasn't me. Let me try again.
We don't have cable television.
That's right. No cable, no satellite dish, just a big ol' antenna on the top of our roof.
Why is that so important to this review? Well, Laurie Berkner is the biggest superstar in the children's music industry and I think that can probably be traced directly to Laurie's constant appearances on Noggin, Nickolodeon's preschool TV channel. Her videos and appearances on Jack's Big Music Show introduced her to the country at large and had to have been a major factor in Starbucks' decision to inaugurate their entry into the DVD market with this DVD.
And it's something that's been completely irrelevant to my experience of Berkner. So I watched these videos with the eye of someone who hadn't seen these videos a hundred times. (Heard the songs perhaps a hundred times, but that's a different matter.)
Here, then, are some notes on the videos:
1. These are very simple videos -- the band, some kids, and the occasional graphics or set design. Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video, this is not. Of course, when you think of the target audience -- 3- or 4-year-old kids -- this is entirely appropriate.
2. The band has an appealingly friendly attitude in the videos. Brian and Susie mugging to the camera, and all three (especially Susie) not being particularly concerned with matching their instrument-playing to the music. This is not a criticism as it allows them to show themselves having fun playing music.
3. The band has taken all the colors the Wiggles don't wear in their outfits, found the brightest clothes in those colors, and wear them all simultaneously. By the way, if there's a cow farmer out there missing a purple or orange cow, I think Laurie slaughtered them to make her leather pants.
4. These videos are very similar but not identical to those that are actually on Noggin. (See the originals here. I actually watched those to check.) The band rerecorded the songs and the videos for this DVD, but kept both much like the old versions. Now, they're close enough that they're likely to fool the little ones, but for adults, the difference may generate a bit of cognitive dissonance a la the switching of Darins on Bewitched. [Edit: In the comments, Laurie's "PR Mama" points out, correctly, that not all of the videos on the DVD are actually shown on Noggin. That's correct, only 4 of them are (or, at least, only 4 of them are available on Noggin's website). I apologize for not being clearer in my text.]
5. The DVD is a bit like a greatest-hits album for Berkner, containing all of her big hits -- "Pig on Her Head," "Victor Vito," "Bumblebee (Buzz Buzz)". Berkner's knack for melodic hooks and fun lyrics are on full display. When a song doesn't quite work (for me, it's "Under a Shady Tree"), the video doesn't work, either. (In addition to being a boring melody to me the lyrics mention the grass under Laurie's feet when there's no grass around.)
6. Unlike many requisite new songs on greatest-hits albums, "Walk Along the River," is a great song -- it should be a pop hit. (I cannot, try as I might, get the phrase "I take a step / I take a step / I take another step" out of my mind.)
7. The DVD is about 30 minutes long with maybe another 8-10 minutes of "bonus" videos.
In the end, reviewing this DVD is a bit like reviewing the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. You either like the movies or you have no interest, and a review isn't going to sway you either way. As an overview of Berkner's work, it's very good. As an occasional "babysitter" for mommy and daddy (raises hand), it will probably get your kids to jump up and interact with the TV. (And of course it's even more likely to do that if you join in, which I've done, too.)
Again, if you're unfamiliar with Berkner's work or the videos, check the originals out here. If you like those, you'll like the DVD. I like Berkner and I like the DVD.