I'll start this review of Family Time, the first kids music album from Ziggy Marley, by saying that I'm not a big reggae fan. So, when I put my review copy into the CD player my expectations were low.
Saying that the album exceeded my expectations, then, would be somewhat like damning with faint praise. So let me put it this way: Family Time is a lot of fun, regardless of what music your family likes. Unsurprisingly, there's a pleasant, laid-back vibe to the album which is one of its greatest strengths. "I Love You Too," for example, with Marley's mom Rita and his sister Cedella, won't change the world but its simple groove will probably put a smile on your face. "Take Me To Jamaica" features a fun duet between Marley and reggae legend Toots Hibbert. And my favorite moment on whole CD might just be when Marley's daughter joins in on the singing on the title track. It certainly isn't polished, but it's exactly that feeling of recording amongst friends and family that takes this album so far.
As for the rest of the guest stars, some of it works, some of it doesn't so much. Generally, I liked the female singers -- it's hard to go wrong with two of the best voices in the kids music genre, and Elizabeth Mitchell and Laurie Berkner don't disappoint on their tracks. The male guest stars, not so much -- it's not that Willie Nelson and Paul Simon are bad, just that they don't really add much to the track. And the placement of not one but two Jamie Lee Curtis narrations (one Marley's, one hers) back-to-back at the end of the disk is just plain odd. (Interspersed earlier in the disk, and it might have worked...)
The 45-minute album might be targeted to kids ages 3 through 7, but I think a lot of adult fans will find the album eminently listenable as well. You can find samples throughout the internet, the title track on his Myspace page.
Ziggy Marley has said that he hoped to make Family Time an album which could be passed down from generation to generation. And while I don't know if it's a timeless classic, there's no doubt that it's worthy of some repeat play. Definitely recommended.