Many months ago, I mentioned the Shins had recorded a new song -- "It's OK, Try Again" -- for the Nick Jr. show Yo Gabba Gabba!. And then I told you that a video for "It's OK, Try Again" had been posted. Well, for those of you who prefer to watch your kids' music videos on larger than iPod-sized screens, help is at hand. The Yo Gabba Gabba episode that actually features the video debuts on Friday, May 23rd in an episode titled "Imagine." (I doubt John Lennon had a hand in the episode.) Oooh, the Shins on a TV size of your choice! And for those of who are OK with iPod-sized videos and who don't want to watch the show (or wait for it), watch the video here.
While I think that the Asylum Street Spankers' Mommy Says No! was definitely one of the best dozen or so CDs from last year, there's no doubt that it was definitely on the edge as kids' CDs go -- it's not for everyone, and some families won't like it at all. On top of that, one song -- "You Only Love Me For My Lunchbox" -- has achieved what I believe to be a singular achievement in the kids' music genre. It is, to my knowledge, the only kids' song -- recorded specifically for kids -- to be edited for language. That's right, XM Radio is playing the song, but without the last part of the tongue-twister breakdown. Why? Well, you'll have to watch this video from a Spankers' show in Dallas back in March. So, anyway, to answer my own question - from about 4:00 to 4:30 or so, most definitely not, unless you want to have a lengthy and probably unproductive discussion with your impressionable child. (Note: the actual cursing is not part of the CD, just to make that clear.) Asylum Street Spankers - "You Only Love Me For My Lunchbox"
How many of you have ever wanted to be a kids' musician? (OK, I'm excluding those of you who actually are kids' musicians.) How many of you ever wanted to go a road trip and see your family's favorite kids' musicians in concert? How many of you ever wanted to blog about it? Well, if you're Eric Herman, you've answered "yes" to all three questions above. I should have noted this for you sooner, but for nearly a month, Herman's been documenting his travels down the West Coast in his Myspace blog. Herman writes of his days playing at schools, festivals, and libraries, and that's interesting from a "life as a musician" perspective. But he's also got his wife and two kids in tow with in his "What a Ride!" RV (conveniently named for his next album), and so, yeah, it's a blog about travelling with a wife and two small kids. (An RV in San Francisco is apparently not the easiest of vehicles to maneuver in that hilly city -- who knew?) And, as you might expect from the writer of Cool Tunes For Kids, Herman spends a lot of time running into other kids' artists. Justin Roberts, Gunnar Madsen, David Tobocman, Tito from the Hipwaders, Frances England -- and probably more I've forgotten -- all make appearances in print and photo in Herman's blog. Anyway, a fun read.
Andy Blackman Hurwitz, mastermind of the ever-expanding Baby Loves Music empire, recently released the first CD from his Baby Loves Hip-Hop brand, Baby Loves Hip-Hop Presents The Dino-5. With hip-hop producing legend Prince Paul on board, along with a whole host of well-known names from the hip-hop world telling the story of five hip-hop dinosaurs, the expectations for the project were pretty high. The end result? Well, it's a mixed bag. To be sure, the music is first-rate. I don't listen to a great deal of hip-hop, but the funky music and beats heard here are right down my alley. "Yea Me Too" has fantastic interplay between MC T-Rex (Chali 2na from Jurassic 5, who is essentially the lead rapper here and does a fine job) and Billy Brontosaurus (Wordsworth), while "Tell Me More" is a funky song with a sinewy melodic line. And "Jump," which features Pos and Dave from De La Soul will, indeed, encourage jumping. The songs, all 9 or 10 here, are lots of fun to listen to. And if the CD had stopped at that, it would've been an excellent little CD clocking in at just under a half-hour. But interspersed between the songs are a story about how the "Dino-5" came to be. The story itself is OK, your fairly standard "don't judge a book by its cover" story (T-Rex is, shock, a nice guy!). But rather than using poet Ursula Rucker to tell the story in a unique way, creating characters or dramatizing the story in her own words, the recording uses her in the role of a mother reading a story to her child, just setting up the scenes. According to the press materials, the story may be heading for Broadway or a cartoon series; I can see those settings being much better for this source material than the way it's presented here, which is a little boring. The music will appeal most to kids ages 3 through 6. You can hear tracks and samples here or here or at one of the Dino-5 Myspace pages (like MC T-Rex) -- who knew dinosaurs had myspace pages? The list of good kids' hip-hop albums is pretty short, and even with the narrative tracks slowing it down, Baby Loves Disco Presents the Dino-5 should make that list, because the music is solid. Here's hoping that it's not the last appearance of the Dino-5 and the next time around, the integration between story and song is a little better.
Newly-shorn concert/potluck promoter Bill Childs recently wrote of his appreciation for the Replacements. That discussion, along with comments in this Justin Roberts Pop Fly review about how people have "linked" me with Justin Roberts, made me think about musical antecedents and current influences. Who would be the most important musicians (of any genre) throughout your entire life -- the ones, even if you don't listen to them on a regular basis now, who profoundly affect who you listen to now and, heck, who you are, period? And who are the kids' musicians who have done the same? My answers are after the jump -- hopefully yours will be in the comments.
New York's Hayes Greenfield is the most vital person in the kids' music jazz subgenre. Through his Jazz-A-Ma-Tazz program, he brings his saxophones and a love of jazz to kids in concert. (And his 1998 CD of the same name which inspired that program is, with the possible exception of the new Medeski Martin & Wood disk, the best kids' jazz album out there, period.) So clearly Greenfield's latest project, Music For A Green Planet, released yesterday, Earth Day, had the possibility of being another excellent album. Certainly many of the characteristics of his Jazz-A-Ma-Tazz disk appear here -- the never-dumbed down playing of Greenfield and his fellow instrumentalists, the broad range of jazz styles (a New Orleans strut on "This Little World of Ours," the South American jazz of "This Little World of Ours"). And once again, Greenfield brings aboard a bunch of fine vocalists, with Joe Lee Wilson and Melissa Stylianou getting the most lead vocal time. The kids' chorus is fun and never cloying (the hopping "The Sun" is a particular high point.) In sum, the jazz is first-rate. What keeps this from being an absolutely necessary CD are the lyrics, which are set to familiar kids' tunes (e.g., "She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain" becomes "We'll Be a PArt of the Solution"). Please don't misunderstand me -- the lyrics are generally witty and it's hard to argue with the need to reduce, reuse, recycle. The difficult part is that it's 53 minutes of the same thing -- it's all a bit too much, frankly. And while there isn't much talking down or straight lecturing, I'm not sure the concept of the carbon footprint is going to make much headway with the target audience. While not dull, the album isn't as fun as it could have been. I think the album would've been served better by a few more instrumental tracks or lyrics that just celebrated nature or being outside rather than stressing the message all the time. Less would have been more in this case. I think kids ages 5 through 9 will most appreciate the messages here. You can hear samples at the album's CDBaby page or here. I do think Music for a Green Planet will be popular with (and I would recommend it to) any ecologically-minded class or family, plus jazz fans. While I'd recommend Jazz-A-Ma-Tazz over this album for an introduction to Greenfield's work, I do certainly hope it'll be less than 10 years before he makes another album for kids and families.