Review: Mary Had A Little Amp - Various Artists

MaryHadALittleAmp_.jpgMary Had A Little Amp was originally released waaaaaaay back in, er, October 2004. OK, it really wasn't that long ago in the cosmic scheme of things. But if it's not quite the paleozoic era to the current mesozoic era, it does seem like it comes from a different time.

The big thing about the current wave of kid-comps (kids' music compilations) is that the CDs tend to be composed of songs recorded specifically for the CD. It's not a hard-and-fast rule, mind you, and some of the songs on those CDs aren't specifically "kids music," but, more often than not, when the artist or band went into the studio, they had a pretty good idea of who their audience was going to be. Or, at the very least, the track listing makes some sense.

Not so with Mary Had A Little Amp. The songs here seem to have been compiled as much by the artists' affinity for for the album's benefactors (proceeds go to support preschool education projects) as by the appropriateness of the songs. "We Walk," for example, is a perfectly kid-safe song from R.E.M. (or at least as far one can tell in Michael Stipe's earlier, mumblier phase), but its appropriateness for a kids-music album is somewhat remote. You can count Moby's "Anchovie" and "Sing Along" (the Blue Man Group along with Dave Matthews) as songs whose lyrics are reasonably kid-safe, but probably not of much interest to kids.

Which isn't to say there aren't some stellar tracks on here, they just tend to be the ones that are more suitable for a kids-comp. The Dixie Chicks' cover of "The Rainbow Connection" is almost worth the price of the CD by itself -- sweet, with sufficient banjo to make fans remember the original. Jack Johnson turns in an early, laid-back version of "The 3 R's," revved up later on the Curious George soundtrack. Madonna's "Little Star" is surprisingly good and Rosanne Cash's "How To Be Strong" is by far the best original.

The album is probably best-suited for kids ages 3 through 9, though I doubt any kid will really get into the whole CD, there's such diversity in age-range here. You can hear snippets all over the internet and here.

With an overall mellow mood and a collection of slightly older stars, this collection might make a good gift for your older sibling who had a child of their own a little after you did. While it's a decent lineup of artists, compared to some of the more kid-centered (and rockin') compliations that followed it, Mary Had A Little Amp is, well, a little unplugged.