Review: Color Wheel Cartwheel - Laura Freeman

ColorWheelCartwheel.jpgI've been waiting a long time to review this album, longer than I should. I'd been waiting for Austin, Texas artist Laura Freeman to release the follow-up to her 2005 album Color Wheel Cartwheel, thinking I'd include that album in a review of the new album.

Well, forget the new album (which will come out someday, just not today), because Color Wheel Cartwheel is pretty special; to wait any longer would just be wrong.

The album is, as you'd expect from its title, a concept album, dealing with colors. Down through the rainbow the songs move, from "Red" to "Orange," on through "Yellow," "Green," "Blue," and "Indigo and Violet." ("Purple" is thrown in there for good measure.) It'd be pretty easy to make color songs just by listing things that are of that particular color, but the what makes this album so much better are the differing stylistic approaches for each song. "Red" is loud and brassy, "Orange" is sassy ("You take a little yellow / you take a little red / Mix 'em up together and voila! / Orange, oh orange / Orange makes me wanna cha-cha-cha"). "Yellow" is a mellow, bluesy little tune, while "Green" is set to classic country music.

Certainly listing different items of particular colors help drive home the point for each song, but Freeman is also using the colors for jumping off into other stories (a philosophical discussion on blue jeans in "Indigo and Violet," for example). The differing approaches, the use of color to, well, color the songs, they give all the songs life. Interspersed between the songs are friends and musicians reciting the colors of the rainbow in various languages. I don't think there's any thought that kids will actually learn colors in a foreign language, they just subtly drive home the point about colors being all around us in the world. Freeman went to New Orleans to record the album, and she's pulled in contributions from a whole bunch of musicians.

Kids ages 2 through 7 will most derive educational value from the songs. You can hear samples of the songs at the under-30-minute album's CDBaby page.

I mentioned to Laura Freeman recently that Color Wheel Carthweel was a fun little album and she replied, "Well, we had a lot of fun making it." That fun is evident on this excellent little disk. I hesitate to call it an "educational" album, because every album is educational, but also because it unfairly narrows down the prospective audience. This is one of the rare "educational" CDs your family will listen to long after they've mastered the concepts inside. Definitely recommended.