As way of introduction to the self-titled 2005 debut from Vancouver, British Columbia's, Sam's Rot'n Pot'n Pan Band, I should note that Vancouver is my favorite city in the world. This is probably due to the fact that my dad was born and raised there and our not infrequent travels there as I grew up. One of my great memories of the city is going to Expo '86, Vancouver's World Fair. What I remember most about Expo '86 is the Shuffle Demons, a jazzy saxophone-driven band who, believe it or not, are still going strong (check out their Myspace page), but who, that summer, were still pretty much street musicians. I thought they were awesome.
If Vancouver held its World Fair 20 years later (and I was maybe ten years younger than I was in 1986), I would hold Sam's Rot'n Pot'n Pan Band in the same regard.
Their 34 minute album is, I suspect, less an album than it is a collection of their greatest hits playing at festivals and markets. (If they lived in the States, they could tweak their act to tour around the country at Renaissance Festivals.) "The Treasure Map," a 4-minute pirate story is pretty good on record, but I can totally imagine how captivating it might be live. Same with the jokey "Opera Man," which does earn bonus points for including a selection from "Carmen." Which isn't to say that there aren't some great standalone tracks here. The first track, "A Turtle Named Roy" covers the essence of turtles, memories of childhood, explanation of what a 45 is, and a celebration of one of the great voices in American pop records, and all in about three minutes. The next track, "Your Parents Eat Your Candy," is a rollicking blues reminiscent of the Boston band Morphine, and is a confirmation of every kid's suspicions about their parents. After those two tracks, the rest of the album suffers a little bit in comparison. (I should also point out "Accounting Singalong," though, which is nothing but a 30-second musical joke, but a pretty darn funny one.) The trio are adept with their instruments, and the semi-regular use of kids' voices is handled well.
I think kids ages 3 through 8 are most likely to enjoy the album. You can hear samples (and buy the album, for those of you not lucky enough to live in Vancouver), at the band's website (follow the treasure map to "Samples," where you can also watch videos for "Treasure Map" that confirm my suspicion that the song would be awesome live).
So there you go. It's an album that lists among the instruments "suitcase," "doodads," and (my favorite, and immediately obvious when you hear it) "handfarts." As a result, while I recognize that my affinity for the album may be clouded by other personal affinities, Sam's Rot'n Pot'n Pan Band is a collection of fun recordings that I suspect serves as a good souvenir of what must be a hoot-and-a-half of a performance. Recommended.