Sometimes it's easy to review kids' music -- a little of bit of this, sounds like that, there are songs about food. Then an album like The Great Adventures of Mr. David (2006) comes along, making the task much more difficult. Whatever it is (and it's many things, sometimes all at once), this is not a typical kids' album.
The second album for kids from San Jose-based musician David Alexandrou, who performs as Mr. David, The Great Adventures has, as you'd expect from the title, a number of songs about adventures and travels. But these aren't typical adventures. The very first line of the album, on the winding Bob Dylan-esque track "Sea Song," is "Golden brown peanut butter fell from the sky." And then it gets odder. (Yes, the narrator quickly gets to the sea. The sea serves as the location for other songs -- "Surf's Up All Around the World," "In the Storm Fighting the Octopus," and the Beatlesque "I'm A Fish." There's a sense of wonder and absurdity in the lyrics that sets it apart from the concrete lyrics of many other artists. Not that one is necessarily better than the other, but this is definitely the road less-traveled lyrically.
The lyrics would just make the album slightly unusual if it weren't paired with a fabulous musical approach. Instrumentally, the album employs, among other things, horns, dulcimer, washboard, and ukelele. It's very Dan Zanes-ian in that regard. Mr. David also has a rough voice reminiscent of Zanes, but is also willing to use voice almost as an instrument, as at the end of the terrific "Surf's Up All Around the World," which sounds like the Beach Boys-meet-Laurie Anderson, or the instrumentals "Dream Away; Sail Away" or "Dancing with Peter Pan," which have a touch of Peter Gabriel in them. There's also the Jane's Addiction-goes-mariachi of "La Cucaracha" or the blues-rock of "Rock 'N' Roll." Even when something doesn't work (the medley of nursery rhymes), at least it's different.
Even though I've made a lot of comparisons here, as a whole this album sounds like nothing else you've heard all year. It's got a sense of wonder and playfulness that will interest kids (and their adults) for a long time. Definitely recommended.