There are pitfalls in trying to be objective in reviewing music, especially in the close-knit world of kindie music, where if everybody doesn't know everybody (yet), the degrees of separation are small enough that it makes Kevin Bacon look like a loner. And while I deal with that constantly here, adding a layer of "good works" on top of it all, well, consider this then your grain of salt for the two albums discussed here.
First off is Austin's Mr. Leebot, whose latest album Erratic Schematic is fundraiser for an orphanage in Ethiopia from which Mr. Leebot (AKA Lee Davila) and his wife recently adopted two babies. As I've previously mentioned, the idea of adoption is important to me, so I was predisposed to like this album from the get-go. While Mr. Leebot's sound -- think of him as DEVO's kids music side project -- may not be for everyone, he's started to ever-so-slightly fill out his sound (I like the New Wave sound of "Cleaning Theme"). As a whole, it's Leebot's best album yet. And the track at the heart of the album -- "Our Family" -- should be heard far and wide. (Listen to it here -- just scroll down the page.)
The album is most appropriate for kids ages 3 through 7. You can listen to samples here.
As for an album geared toward a slightly older crowd, how about Hamlet? That's for high schoolers, right? Well ,The Deedle Deedle Dees' Lloyd Miller would beg to differ, having helped his wife's second grade class to write a musical based on the play. Miller recruited Dog on Fleas' Dean Jones and a couple of the Dees to record the music along with kids in the class. The result, Hamlet: The Album, is alternately rockin' ("Something's Rotten!") and pensive ("Tush, Tush") -- a little bit like the play itself, no? In best Fleas/Dees fashion, the album is ragged around the edges, the Band or the Stones mixed with a Shakespeare and Sesame Street. I'd much rather listen to these kids sing than any number of auto-tuned KidzBoppers.
The album will be most appreciated by kids ages 6 to 11. And if the story behind the album isn't appealing enough, perhaps you'll be heartened to hear that all profits from the album will go to Japan earthquake relief. Listen (or order the album) below.
While neither Erratic Schematic nor Hamlet: The Musical have a broad enough appeal for me to endorse the albums unreservedly for all listeners, both are solid enough albums to merit a listen even without the totally worthy backstories. I think a lot of readers will find a lot to like here. Give 'em a spin, maybe even your ducats. Recommended.
Disclosure: I received a copy of Erratic Schematic for possible review.