Is it uncharitable of me to say I don't understand why Dog on Fleas hasn't had greater popular success? I mean, that statement implies a) that Dog on Fleas hasn't achieved tremendous success, and b) the American family-music-buying public is clueless (or, alternately, c) that I'm clueless). All the things that are part of the family-music success of, say, Dan Zanes or Elizabeth Mitchell -- the organic musical arrangements, the rescuing of lost parts of the American and world songbook, the hooks -- are right there. And certainly fellow musicians such as Mitchell and Uncle Rock know the Fleas and its chief songwriter Dean Jones and hold 'em in high esteem.
I'm hoping that The Bestest of the Best, the perfectly-titled greatest hits compilation of the New York band will help rectify the situation with the general public. It's a 20-song collection of tunes stretching all the way back to the first Fleas' album, Fairly Good Songs for Fairly Good Kids, and a fine introduction to the band's happy blend of folk, pop, and other funkier styles. I gravitated towards the selections from my favorite Fleas' album, When I Get Little, but there are other excellent tracks from other albums there, too -- the jazz-hipster "Dig" from Fairly Good Songs, for example, or the sweet, lazy, indie-pop of "Clouds" from Hoi Polloi. The album also includes 3 newly re-recorded versions of old songs plus their great rendition of "Buffalo Gals" with Elizabeth Mitchell and Daniel Littleton from the overlooked High Meadow Songs release.
In best Dan Zanes fashion, the Fleas' music is most appropriate for kids ages 3 to 93. You can hear samples of the tracks here or full versions of some of the songs here. Depending on how many Dog on Fleas albums you own, The Bestest of the Best, may merely be, well, fairly good. But if you don't have any Dog on Fleas, please get this album and find out what some lucky others already know -- listening to this band is a very pleasurable and joyful experience. Recommended.
Disclosure: I was provided a copy of the album for possible review.