Ah, Putumayo Kids, you compiler and purveyor of music from around the world, you must be running out of themes, right? Rock & Roll Playground? Isn't there another region of the world you need to unearth some musical treasures from? What's next - Pop Playground? Hip-Hop Playground? (Actually, please get on that, stat.) Most regular readers have heard many of these tracks (or at least the artists), but credit Putumayo for having the sense to string 'em together in a happy-happy pop-rock mixtape with few if any duds. For example, Taj Mahal -> Dan Zanes -> Charity and the JAMband = win. (Or, Rhythm Child -> Rosie Flores -> Uncle Rock = win.) Best for kids ages 3 through 8 (samples here), you could probably put together your own 34-minute playlist, but why bother when they've already done the work for you? Recommended. Having said all that, Jazz Playground is my favorite of all the Putumayo "Playground" series disks, and that's saying something. The nature of jazz is such that it covers lots of styles and permits fresh interpretations of songs we've heard dozens if not hundreds of times before, and as a result, there's a nice mix of new and old, providing new perspectives -- and isn't that one of the major points of the Putumayo concept anyway? The album deftly navigates the line between over-reliance on English language voices (which you can get anywhere) and non-English language songs (which can be hard for English speakers to fully appreciate, no matter how funky the liner notes are). Beyond that, it's just plain fun through and through, from Zooglobble favorite Lewis Franco & the Missing Cats doing his swing original "Stomp, Stomp" to Chris McKhool's fiddle-based take on "Spider-Man" to the Latin jazz of Jose Conde's "Cumbamba." And on down the line. Best for kids ages 2 through 8, the 31-minute album (again, samples here) goes onto my shortlist of essential jazz-for-kids albums. Definitely recommended.
Why such a tiny review for such a big superstar as Laurie Berkner? Because it's a greatest hits disk, the future of which is somewhat in doubt in the mp3 era. After all, if your family are superfans, you'll get it just for the three new-to-CD tracks, including rerecordings of "Pig on Her Head" and "Moon Moon Moon," both previously seen on video, and the new track "Open Your Heart." (There's a deluxe edition as well, featuring four videos, including a previously-unreleased one for "Mouse in My Toolbox," which is similar in scope to Berkner's other Nick videos. You superfans will probably want that version.) The rest of you? You might just download the extra tracks from the album you don't have (there are no more than four from any particular album). But that obscures just how important a songwriter and performer Berkner is for the pre-K set. As a whole, it's a solidly constructed disk, with no major omissions -- I personally would've included more tracks from her debut Whaddaya Think of That?, but all the big tracks are here. And over the roughly 15 years or so Berkner's been performing for kids she's compiled a catalog of songs that would be the envy of just about any kids' musician. "We Are the Dinosaurs" is a stone-cold kids' classic, for example, one that works equally well performed live by a band and performed by your preschooler's teacher. "Moon Moon Moon" is the only lullaby written in the past hundred years that I actually sing to my kids. And "Victor Vito" is cheesy, dorky, and stuck in your brain for the next week now that I've mentioned it. And so on. While other artists slowly slide up to the 4-to-8-year-old age range, Berkner's continued to make music -- darn good music -- for preschoolers. So while I'm not sure many regular readers actually need The Best of The Laure Berkner Band! given the relative lack of new songs, as a collection of some of the best original music for preschoolers of the past twenty years, it's highly recommended. (Disclosure: I was provided a copy of the regular edition of the album for possible review.)
I saw "for road trips" not because these are travel-themed but because there are seven of them. Seven seems like enough to get through at least a day or two of your drive across or through the country. Let's get to it, then. I don't think the guys in Seattle's Recess Monkey actually sleep. They already release more CDs than just about anybody else, and now they're cranking out a DVD a year, too. Like their first volume, Field Trips with Recess Monkey Episodes 5-8 features a combination of band "field trips" (Sirius-XM studios, Ella Childs at Spare the Rock, illustrator Jarrett Krosoczka), live shows, and their stellar videos. The videos are the highlight of the DVD ("The Teens" and "Sack Lunch" in particular) -- should episodes 9 through 12 be in the works (knowing the trio, they probably are), the band should consider creating a menu that'll allow viewers to just access the videos. Recommended. The Nields' Organic Farm DVD is, as you'd expect, an appealingly low-fi (dare I say "organic") affair. It's mostly a collection of tunes recorded in front of a live audience, and features the Nields singing a number of hits from their two family albums. As they were on record, the Nields sisters are joined by their father on a few songs. Among the non-live tracks are a couple songs showing how a parent or teacher might use a song as a simple teaching tool. It's a nice little bonus treat. Recommended.
The last time the LA band of pop-rockers Egg hooked up with kid-hop star Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, the result was the very winning "I Like Fruit". Now the two of them are back together once more and it's just as fun, methinks. Egg brings the ska, Skidoo brings the hip-hop, and both parts will have the family bouncing, if not their whole bodies then at least their heads. The genesis of the song? In return for Egg mastermind Jeff Fuller giving 23 Skidoo "I Like Fruit" to remix as he'd like, Skidoo gave Fuller an idea to write for Egg - "Look both ways. Not just at street corners but in life." Fuller returned the song back to Skidoo, which he cut up and used parts from for his upcoming single "Road Trip." That's collaboration. (And "Look Both Ways" will also end up on the next Egg disk as well.) Anyway, however you, er, look at it, here for a limited time, courtesy of Egg, you can
stream download it (just send an e-mail to "lookbothways AT eggmusic DOT net," which is an autoreply address that'll get you the URL to download the track). Enjoy.
Egg w/ Secret Agent 23 Skidoo - "Look Both Ways"
A little bit crucnchy, a little bit sweet, they're sorta like those new pretzel-based M&Ms except they come from Seattle. It's the Not-Its!, and this is a world premiere from their upcoming album Time Out to Rock, out July 20. The song's "Welcome To Our School," and features no small amount of rock and no small amount of inclusiveness either. Stream or download it here, courtesy of the band... but just for the next week. Enjoy! [Ed: And the week's over...]
The Not-Its have a new album coming out next month -- Time Out To Rock on July 20th, to be exact -- and they're making sure that everybody knows with a whole bunch of world premieres this weekend, starting tomorrow and stretching all the way into Monday. Friday, June 25 (tomorrow!): Pied Piper Radio - "Cheetah The Buffalo" Saturday, June 26: - Spare The Rock, Spoil the Child - "Green Light, Go!" - Saturday Morning Cereal Bowl - "First Kid In Outer Space" - Ages 3 and Up - "FANTASTIC" And that's not all. On Monday, June 28 you'll have the chance to download not one but two songs from the disk. Out With The Kids will offer up "First Kid In Outer Space" and I'll have "Welcome To Our School" for you. (And, yes, you'll want to check it out.) Track listing after the jump.