Review: The Amazing Adventures of Kid Astro - Ralph's World

Listening to The Amazing Adventures of Kid Astro (2004), Ralph Covert's fifth album as Ralph's World, one can't help shake the feeling that Covert spent a lot of time listening to AM radio growing up. Because the album sounds like what kid might hearing moving up and down the AM side of the dial (and occasionally flipping over to FM).

Take one of the strongest cuts on the album -- "Fee Fi Fo Fum," which is a great little slice of bluesy garage rock. Covert sings it with a Jagger-like swagger; and even '90s garage-rock revivalists The Smithereens wouldn't do it any better. (Not to mention Covert slides in some healthy self-esteem lyrics such as ("It doesn’t matter who our friends are / if you got some Fee Fi Fo Fum / It doesn’t matter who our friends are and / let me tell you everybody got some"). "Dumptruck" has a funky countryfied sound with a slinky bridge. "We Are Ants" is a sweet piece of bubblegum pop that would sound great on any oldies station today. (Sure, it copies some of the chord structure from "Fee Fi Fo Fum," but why wouldn't you when it sounds so good?) "Sun in My Eyes," despite some clunky lyrics ("And the simple things are simple / And the truth will still be true"), sounds like a Beatles outtake.

Even on the songs I didn't enjoy I can appreciate what Covert's trying to do. "The Tea Tale" is a slice of James Taylor at his most acoustic. The lyrics and arrangement don't do much for me, but I recognize that's a matter of taste, not execution. And the title cut nicely blends the outrageous tropes of Saturday-morning adventure cartoons with the ever-popular-with-kids-genre of... prog-rock. For all those kids begging their parents to play their copy of Genesis' The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. (OK, I really don't care for prog-rock. Having said that, it's not half-bad.) On all the songs, Covert backs himself up with a crack band and well-placed soloists (the clarinet on the zippy "Miss Molly Crackerjack," for example).

With songs about dumptrucks and first kisses, it covers a wide range, age-wise, perhaps ages 3 through 10. You can read lyrics and get an mp3 of "Fee Fi Fo Fum" at the Ralph's World site here. The 36-minute album is available at many online (iTunes Music Store, included) and finer retail locations.

Over the years in Ralph's World, Ralph Covert has honed his children's pop and rock songwriting skills, coming up with great hooks while generally steering clear of lyrical sappiness. The rockers and gentle acoustic ballads combine in The Amazing Adventures of Kid Astro to make for an album which sounds just as nice coming out of your speakers in the 2000s as it would have in the 1970s. Definitely recommended.