I think Alastair Moock is the rare artist for whom taking on Free To Be... You and Me, the classic 1972 album and book from Marlo Thomas, would be a safe choice. That's because Moock's last album was Singing Our Way Through, the celebrated and Grammy-nominated album Moock recorded while he and his family helped his daughter Clio fight leukemia. The album sang to kids and families going through tremendously difficult times with grace and even a little bit of humor.
But still, yeah, just about anything would seem lighter after that. And with Clio's leukemia in remission, for this latest album, All Kinds of You and Me, Moock turned instead for inspiration to that 1972 classic which celebrated gender individuality, equality, and neutrality. That album inspired him (he speaks to it most directly on "You and Me") and now he's trying to pay it forward.
My favorite songs on the album are the ones that wear that desire to honor the album and its impluses lightly. "It Takes All Kinds," which leads off the album, is an infectious song about a boy who wears a dress, a girl who loves worms, and a cat who drinks wine. It's a song about acceptance, but the chorus -- "It's me, it's you, it's us, it's true / It's life, it's fine, it takes all kinds" -- doesn't hit the listener over the head with the message of you should accept others. Generally, the idea of "should" is far away from the album's lyrics, which is to its credit. "Kenya Imagine?," which could have become a very "should"-filled song about thinking of others around the world and how everyone has the same needs, reaches its apex when Moock and Jennifer Kimball sing "Love!" repeatedly (a dozen times, to be precise) -- it's a reminder, not a command. And "Everything's Upside-Down But Me" is another strong track in which the title is not really a metaphor - it's a most Shel Silverstein-like song.
Moock gets strong assistance with his folk-with-a-hint-of-rock from 75% of Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem, with producer Anand Nayak playing on many tracks (and duetting on the horn-aided "All in a Day"), Scott Kessel, and the always-welcome Rani Arbo providing vocals on a number of tracks.
The 45-minute album is most appropriate for kids ages 5 through 9. You can stream the entire album here. (And for those of you still buying your music in the physical format, always nice to see album art from Key Wilde.)
Unsurprisingly for an album born out of an acute medical crisis, Singing Our Way Through was an album intensely focused on the here and now. With the medical crisis past, with All Kinds of You and Me Moock turns his attention to the world his daughters will grow up in. At its best, the new album features the same grace of its predecessor with a level of high spirits that encourages others to envision the same world Moock sees for his daughters. I think Marlo Thomas would be proud to hear it. Definitely recommended.
Note: I was given a copy of the album for possible review.