The Top 50 Kids Songs of All Time: Songs 36-40

For those tuning in late... Songs 41 through 45 Songs 46 through 50 Contest On to the songs... 40. "The More We Get Together" - traditional: "Traditional," but when the single most influential kids music artist of all time starts his very first album off with this song, it's forever owned by Raffi. (Listen to a cheesy government-funded instrumental version here. Shudder. Or another version here. I'm not even gonna try it. Clear out your brains with a 30-second sample of the classic version here.) 39. "Mr. Rabbit" - traditional: "Mr. Rabbit, Mr. Rabbit / You've been in my cabbage patch / Yes, my friend / And I ain't never comin' back / Every little soul must / Shine shine shine." Excuse me? What? That's, like, 3 non-sequiturs of a lyric. And somehow it's still catch and popular. (Sorry, no links. Johnny Keener's got a nice version on Elephants Over The Fence.) 38. "Rainbow Connection" - Kenny Ascher and Paul Williams: This would be a lot higher on the list, but I tell ya, that key change halfway through is just a difficult one to handle. Kermit's version is classic, of course, but almost too banjo-y, if such a thing can be said to exist. I think I actually prefer the Dixie Chicks' version on Mary Had A Little Amp. (Watch Kermit on YouTube.) 37. "My Hair Had a Party Last Night" - Trout Fishing in America: They've had a bunch of good songs ("Alien in my Nose" came close to making this list), but this is the one that's been covered a number of times already. "It started out friendly but there must've been a fight." (Listen to a sample of a live version here.) 36. "Pig on Her Head" - Laurie Berkner: One great thing about Laurie Berkner is that she writes kids songs that parents can actually sing. Admittedly, she's writing for toddlers, so that's on purpose, but we still sing this song with our youngest and occasionally oldest kids. Great imagery. (Imagery illustrated by the Noggin video, which can be accessed on this page.)

Review: A Curious Glimpse of Michigan - Hipp, Kammeraad, and Friends

CuriousGlimpseOfMichigan.jpgI lived in Minnesota for a portion of my "tween" years (though they didn't call them that then), and not only do I still have the Minnesota-shaped cutting board from my seventh-grade woodworking class to prove it, I still remember spending a portion of fifth grade learning all about Minnesota. Now, I don't know if in these testing-crazed times states still spend time learning about their own states' geography and history, but in case the schoolchildren of Michigan no longer get class time to do so for their state, might I recommend A Curious Glimpse of Michigan? (See also here.) Based on the book by Kevin and Stephanie Kammeraad and Ryan Hipp, the album features 49 tracks from a lots of musicians including Hipp, the Kammeraads, ScribbleMonster, and Danny Adlerman. As you might suspect with so many tracks and so many musicians, the music here is all over the map stylistically and enjoyably. In spirit, it reminded me a little bit of They Might Be Giants albums, especially Apollo 18, which included a series of brief song snippets which could be played together as "Fingertips" or played randomly throughout the CD. Truth be told, the album might almost be worth the price just for ScribbleMonster's "I Wish I Lived In Michigan," 2 1/2 minutes of family-friendly power pop that, six months after I first heard it, I still haven't tired of. Almost makes me wish I lived in Michigan, just so I could say I lived in a state that inspired that song. (Wow, that song and Sufjan Stevens. Not bad, Michigan, not bad at all.) But beyond that, there are some other sweet tracks -- the funky "Over 635 Cities" channels Mike Doughty from Soul Coughing while Dany Adlerman & Friends' contribution "Cousin Jacks" sounds simultaneously early 20th and early 21st century. As for ScribbleMonster's "The Fur Trade?," they answer their own question ("Fur! Fur! Fur!"). And I liked the Schoolhouse Rock! blatant ripoff loving homage of "Capital City, Capitol Building." At over 61 minutes in length, the album is a bit too much to absorb in one sitting. Not that any of it's bad, it's just... long. But it (like the book itself) is a fun thing to dip into here and there. I think kids ages 4 through 10 will most enjoy the album. You can here samples of each and every 49 tracks at the album's CDBaby page or 4 complete tracks (including "I Wish I Lived In Michigan" and "The Fur Trade?") at ScribbleMonster's Myspace page. A Curious Glimpse of Michigan is a hoot to listen to, and -- dare I say it -- a little educational. It's fun regardless whether you live in Michigan, wish you lived there, or have only had a brief layover in Detroit. Recommended. (Note: Bill at Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child may still have a copy or two to give away.)

But Do They Have Deedle Deedle Deetention?

Did you fall in love with "Major Deegan" by the Deedle Deedle Dees off the Park Slope Parents Album? Are you a teacher? Well, then, the band's new blog is for you. It will be "a resource for teachers who would like to use the music of the Deedle Deedle Dees in their classrooms. Lesson plans, background notes, activity and coloring sheets, and reading lists will all be here for you to use." And regardless whether you're a teacher or just a payer of property taxes to your local school district, you can hear four songs from their upcoming March 3 release Freedom in a Box at their Myspace page. The mixture of their history songs with their toddler movement songs seems a bit awkward over the space of just four songs, but they're definitely interesting. "Henry Box Brown" has got the banjo thing down pat, and "Nellie Bly" would be what you'd get if The Band ever decided to write a song about, well, Nellie Bly...

We Have Ourselves A Ralph's World Winner!

I've randomly selected a winner from all our fine applicants in the Ralph's World contest, and that winner is Lynn, who in her entry said:
My dream would be to see Ralph in San Francisco at the Fillmore because, well, just because it would be almost historic. But since we are actually lucky enough to be here in Ralph's home town of Chicago our real pick is the House of Blues in Chicago. It's impossible to choose just 3 songs, but here goes: 1. Fe-Fi-Fo-Fum because the kids have such a blast dancing to it; 2. Riding With No Hands because it captures both childhood and parenthood so well; and 3. Honey for the Bears because it is just fun.
I hope Ralph is taking notes for his March 3rd show in Chicago... Many, many thanks to all the entrants. Even if you didn't win (heck, even if you did win, Lynn), you can order tickets for the tour by clicking on the link below. rw_437x60.jpg Thanks again to Ralph for the tickets!

Review: Elephants Over the Fence - Johnny Keener

ElephantsOverTheFence.jpgThe Portland-based artist Johnny Keener released Elephants Over the Fence, but there are strong echoes of South Carolina, Seattle, and Brooklyn in the CD. The South Carolina echo has to do with the musicians on the CD. Backed by Emily Vidal on bass and Jason Greene (their alter ego is Yoyodyne, an adult pop group), Keener generally plays guitar reminiscent of Buddy Holly or Johnny Cash records. Hmmm... a trio reconfiguring itself to play kids music? Where have I heard that before? But there's no complaint as the trio gets a lot of mileage out of the mixture of traditional kids, originals, and offbeat covers here. The Seattle echo is from the leadoff track, "Miss Mary Mack," which, just as on Johnny Bregar's Hootenanny! CD, starts with the voice of a young girl singing the song, though here young Zella sings for a full 30 seconds before the band and a chorus of preschool kids join in. And the Brooklyn echo? None other than Dan Zanes, an obvious inspiration for Keener. While Keener clearly doesn't have the star power of Zanes (there's no Sheryl Crow on this version of "Polly Wolly Doodle"), Keener likes singing with kids and integrates them nicely on a few tracks. The best cut here is the cover of Woody Guthrie's "Bling Blang," which features guitar work by Keener accompanying a swinging piano by Yascha Noonberg. The two originals aren't too bad (I liked "It's Too Hot!," all about going to the local swimming pool), but the two songs that are most intriguing are the covers of Jonathan Richman ("Here Come the Martian Martians") and They Might Be Giants ("Robot Parade"). The Richman cover is pretty good and just goes to show that a compilation of kids artists doing Jonathan Richman songs is long overdue. Keener also acquits himself nicely on the TMBG track, slowing the tempo a bit to a more stately parade-like pace, and adding some robot-like spoken-word interludes. The 25-minute album is most appropriate for kids ages 2 through 7. Tracks may be available soon at Keener's website, but here, with Keener's permission, are two tracks for your immediate enjoyment: Johnny Keener - Polly Wolly Doodle Johnny Keener - It's Too Hot! There is no wheel-reinventing going on here, but Elephants Over the Fence is an enjoyable listen, a smart-sounding CD with a loose energy appealing to kids and parents alike. Recommended.