If it's November, it must be time for another album from Chris Ballew's family-music alter ego, Caspar Babypants. Last November it was More Please!; this year he continues to confound Fids and Kamily voters and their Nov. 1-Oct. 31 voting year by releasing This Is Fun!, his third album for families.
The title suggests that Ballew is finally feeling comfortable in this his new skin of family entertainer. And while you never would've known that he was uncomfortable after listening to his first two tons-of-fun disks, it is a clue that Ballew has begun to figure out his calling. That calling? Focusing on preschool-aged kids and younger. It's a group that's tended to be overlooked by many of the artists in the kids music new wave, leaving Laurie Berkner to clean up. But songs like the zippy album opener "All You Pretty Babies" and the gentle punk-in-a-bouncer "Baby's Getting Up" are all about movement and music. Handclaps are big, too, such as on "Look at All These Elephants," which is just rhythm and words. The album is often little more guitar and small percussion (e.g., shakers), though it remains fresh for the most part throughout.
But lest you think the album is just a small music participation class for 2 year olds, This Is Fun! has more than its fair share of earwormy tunes for all ages. Ballew gives old songs new life -- his takes on "Shoo Fly," "The Cuckoo," and "Buckeye Jim" shake off the cobwebs and make them safe for tired parents. Of course his pure pop sensibility is still there on kid hits like the hyper (for this project anyway) "Googly Eyes" and the sweet "Little Ditty." And Ballew knows how to pick guest artists -- Elizabeth Mitchell and Charlie Hope lend their voices to "Dark of Night" and "Mister Rabbit" while the unmistakable bassline of Nirvana's "Sliver" is played by Nirvana's bassist Krist Novoselic.
The 47-minute album is most appropriate for kids ages 1 through 5, though older kids will certainly enjoy the melodies and goofier tunes on the album. You can listen to the album at the Babypants homepage (or samples at its CDBaby page).
With This Is Fun!, Chris Ballew has now produced three Caspar Babypants albums and had three successes. Call it a hat trick, perhaps, but the optimistic album title his latest is indeed appropriately named. Highly recommended.
Disclosure: I was provided with a couple of the album for possible review.