Smithsonian Folkways is best known in kids music for releasing classic albums more than a half-century old from Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, and others. Aside from the still-recording legend Ella Jenkins and Elizabeth Mitchell, most of their kids music lineup features musicians who don't have webpages of their own, and must rely on, say, Wikipedia pages. Tom Glazer is no exception.
But just because there's no Facebook fan page doesn't mean that a musician's recorded output isn't worth keeping in print. Last week's release of Tom Glazer Sings Honk-Hiss-Tweet-GGGGGGG and Other Favorites, consisting of live tracks from three previously released and out-of-print albums, makes the case for Glazer to be considered alongside his more famous Folkways counterparts as a key early figure in the kids music genre.
Which makes it sound like a dry historical recording, which it isn't. From the very first track, "Come Down the Aisle," on which Glazer makes up verses as families arrive at the concert that's just started, Glazer is constantly inventive in his interpretations of familiar classics. "The Bus Song," better known now as "Wheels on the Bus," features the money on the bus going "clink, clink, clink, dunk - dollar bill." Glazer's introduction to "Jennie Jenkins," which features some especially silly banter, keeps the kids in stitches.
Really, you can hear how much Glazer has the kids' attention throughout the entire disk. Listen to the kids sing along -- shout, really -- on "Haul Away Joe" (they shout "JOE!"), and tell me there isn't one child in that audience who isn't having a great time. As much as the album is for kids (and it's really more of an album for kids than one which will constantly engage the adults), kids musicians ignore this album at their peril -- it's almost a master class on how to play to kids. And Glazer's voice is in fine form, too -- it's no surprise that he was asked to sing on some famous "Singing Science" albums.
This album will be most appealing to kids ages 2 through 7. You can hear samples and download the typically awesome Folkways liner notes (written by Glazer's children) here.
Tom Glazer might be best known for writing "On Top of Spaghetti" (yes, that's here, too), but on this album, he runs through a series of kids tunes with consummate child professionalism and enthusiasm. This'll probably be the only Tom Glazer album your family will ever need, but it's a good 'un. Maybe there'll be a Facebook fan page for him yet. Recommended.