Nearly ten years ago, New York City musician (and parent) David Weinstone, dissatisfied with assorted kids music programs, decides to start one of his own. The result, Music For Aardvarks and Other Mammals, became a popular program in its own right in New York City, even expanding beyond New York City.
Over those nearly ten, Weinstone's put together 10 CDs of original material to accompany the classes. This week sees the release of Taxi, one of three compilations of material from the first 10 CDs. (It reflects favorites of both Weinstone and class attendees.)
I decided deliberately to listen to Taxi without finding out more about how the songs were used in MFA classes because I think the purpose of these CDs is to introduce the music to a much wider audience -- people like me who've never stepped foot inside a MFA class. So the question becomes, how does this hold up as an album?
And the answer is, pretty good. Weinstone is definitely willing to write directly to kids' interests -- getting candy at the end of a doctor's visit in "Lollipop Doc" or the eternal fascination of the belly button in "Belly Button Song". But that wouldn't mean much if he weren't able to wrap those topics in appealing lyrics and a diverse range of musical styles. "Dirt," for example, folds lines such as "I like dirt. / Dirt's what I dig. / I like pokin' around, / with a big old twig" into a loping, brass-band march. "Have You Seen My Nose?" mixes silly lyrics about discovering one's nose (and mouth) with a laid-back Brazilian melody. "Big Boom Whacker" is a nonsensical synth-heavy tune that survives an Ah-nuld reference. My favorite track, "Ruby's Friends," is a folky waltz about pretending. (And I haven't even mentioned the Santana riff.)
This isn't to say you can't tell the album's music class origins. Songs such as "Big Old Tree" and "Tango" have class participation and movement written all over them. And the "Hello" and "Goodbye" songs -- required for any kids music class -- are here, too. (They're perfectly fine to listen to.) But they don't overwhelm the album -- you could listen to them having never attended an MFA class and not feel puzzled.
I think the album's most appropriate for kids ages 2 through 7. You can hear snippets of all the songs at the album's CDBaby page.
While there are no songs here that absolutely stand out as immediate kids' songs classics, Taxi is a strong collection of kid-appropriate and parent-friendly songs. Whether you're hearing these repeatedly between MFA classes or occasionally in the CD changer, you'll probably find them worth your family's time. Recommended.