Review: Prelude to Mutiny - Captain Bogg & Salty

PreludeToMutiny.jpgI will be upfront and say that although pirate mania seems to be taking over the world, I, thus far, have been immune. No eyepatches, no using pirate lingo, and only on the rarest of occasions do I drop an "Aaarrrrrrgggghhh." (Though that does give me tremendous satisfaction.) I do, however, make an exception for the charms -- yes, charms -- of Captain Bogg & Salty, which for nearly 10 years has been performing kids and families in their home port of Portland, Oregon and in other parts of the world. They are a pirate band, though I think it's probably more truthful to call them a pop/rock/theatrical band with a very piratical attitude. This is definitely noticeable on their third album Prelude to Mutiny, which was released in 2006. The album starts out with a more traditional vibe, led off by a rousing version of "Drunken Sailor." The next track, "Bosun Whistle," has a traditional sound, but also sounds a little bit like trip-hop -- call it "ship-hop." And its unsettled lyrics about an uneasy sky lead nicely into the third track, "Mutiny of the Hispaniola," which, as you might expect from the title, is an elaborate story song about a pirate mutiny. Captain Feathersword, this ain't. The rest of the album, while not totally happy and cheerful, backs off from the darker side explored in those first three tracks. "The Loneliest Sailor" is a love song, believe it or not. "Doldrums," while exploring the not-so-happy occurrence of being trapped in idle waters, is married to a straight-ahead rock melody. "Dead Men Tell No Tales" is the best song AC/DC never wrote. And the good captain's deranged take on "Part of Your World," from Disney's The Little Mermaid is in its own special category of "must-be-heard-to-be-believed." Darker in tone than its predecessor, the album lyrically is appropriate for a slightly older audience, perhaps kids ages 6 through 10+. Which isn't to say that younger kids wouldn't appreciate some of the tracks here, just that if you've got a three-year-old, I'd probably start out with Pegleg Tango perhaps rather than this. You can hear samples here. If you hate pirates, then I wouldn't recommend this. (Though I'd ask you, why'd you make it this far in the first place?) If you or someone in your family loves pirates, or even if, like me, they're just fans of well-crafted rock/pop songs and stories in song, then Prelude to Mutiny is worth your time. Recommended.

Record Collection: Top 10 Desert Island Disks

Longtime readers know that while I love to write lists of songs (and I promise I will finish that Top 50 Kids Songs list very soon), I haven't done much in the way of lists of albums. Well, with these occasional "Record Collection" entries, I hope to remedy that ever-so-slightly. The not-quite-out-of-beta Education.com asked me to write some articles on on kids music for them, and the first entry has just been posted: "Ten Kids CDs to Take to a Desert Island." You could probably ask me for a Top 10 list 10 different ways or at 10 different times and I'd come up with 10 different lists. This particular list is "a list of CDs (in no particular order) whose enjoyment has stood the test of time in our household." I bet a few of the CDs on my list would be on yours, too -- feel free to tell me which ones I've cruelly omitted. For a taste, here's my comment on one of the albums:
They Might Be Giants, No! – You can't go wrong with either of the two kids albums from They Might Be Giants, who've been turning out quirky pop songs for adults for more than 20 years. This collection, the first of two for kids, gets the nod over its successor Here Come the ABCs for sheer consistency of material, but, really, either would be a great addition for your sandy retreat.
More pieces of mine will be running there in the weeks and months ahead. In the meantime, if you've got a preschool through grade-12-aged child, you should stop by the site. Reference articles, community features, and expert advice. Not much for the snark, but man cannot live by snark alone.

Chicago Loves the Kids, Too (Kidzapalooza Lineup Announced)

So even though Lollapalooza is a good six weeks after the Austin City Limits Festival, those good folks in the City of Broad Shoulders just got around to announcing their Kidzapalooza lineup. Slowpokes. As with the Austin Kiddie Limits lineup, this one too can be divided into two camps: 1) Adults Playing For Kids 2) Kids Playing For Adults In the first category, you have the following (artists playing ACL Fest noted with a happy *): -- Peter Himmelman: Kids' singer-songwriter of the highest order -- Wee Hairy Beasties: Americana/insect-based rock from Jon Langford, Sally Timms, and other Bloodshot Records staples -- The Sippy Cups* -- Psychedelic-inspired rock and pop -- CandyBand: Punk music from four Detroit-area moms -- The Hipwaders: Occasionally retro power-pop -- Q Brothers* -- Hip-hop -- Peter DiStefano & Perry Farrell: This has nothing to do with their appearance here (replicating their appearance last year), but that new Satellite Party album cover is one of the weirdest I've seen in some time. (Note: "Weirdest" is a gentle term for "bizarre." Or "awful.") In the second category are bands made up of youngsters or recently-adulted young folks. Again, I don't know much about these bands, though I believe the Blisters and the Alvin Ailey Dance School both showed up at last year's Lollapalooza. -- Paul Green School of Rock All-Stars* -- The Blisters: Oddly enough, Jeff Tweedy's kid is playing Lollapalooza while his dad isn't. (Even though Wilco -- but not the blisters -- are playing the ACL Fest. Weird.) -- Rock For Kids Youth Jam Band: I keep having this feeling that they're gonna break into an extended version of My Morning Jacket's "Mageetah." -- Alvin Ailey Dance School -- John Yost's Rhythm Revolution Lollapalooza is August 3-5, 2007 in Chicago's Grant Park. And for those of you looking to score some free tickets, the Paul Frank Store in Chicago is hosting a party this Saturday, June 2, from 11 AM to 1 PM. You can tell me how those Paul Green's School of Rock All-Stars sound, and maybe win some free tickets.

Austin Kiddie Limits: The Early Guide

Anyone who's read Neal Pollack's Alternadad knows that Neal's family's experience 2 or 3 years agao at the Austin City Limits Festival, though not a debacle on the level of Woodstock '99, wasn't a familial high point, either. Still, that's not gonna bring the fine friends at the ACL Festival down, because once again they're organizing Austin Kiddie Limits, a separate stage just for the young folk at this year's edition scheduled for September 14 through 16, 2007. (Note: that's "young folk," not "Young Folks" -- Peter Bjorn & John are on an entirely different stage.) In any case, I'll leave the obsessive "this lineup is awesome/this lineup is sucks" discussion for the 93% of the lineup not specifically for the kids to other websites; this is the place for the obsessive "this lineup is awesome/this lineup is sucks" discussion pertaining to kids music. Now, the lineup can be basically divided into two categories: 1) Adults Playing For Kids 2) Kids Playing For Adults In the former category, you have the following: -- The Sippy Cups -- Psychedelic-inspired kids rock, with a hint of punk and Replacements tossed in. Also, costumes. As a result, those attending ACL for Bob Dylan and Bjork might find them slightly amusing. -- Daddy A Go Go -- Straight-ahead rock 'n' roll with a side of smart-aleckness. It's exactly as if ACL artist LCD Soundsystem played Southern-fried rock with teenagers. OK, it's nothing like that, but until Jimmy Buffett plays ACL Fest, I got nothin'. -- Farmer Jason -- Countryfied rock without a trace of irony. The obvious parental equivalent would be Jason and the Scorchers, but no dice. -- Sara Hickman -- I understand from the folks in charge that she'll be pulling double-duty, playing both an adult and the kids stage. -- Q Brothers -- Good-time hip-hop and rap. (Is there any other kind for kids? I mean, is gangsta rap for youngsters doomed to be forever untapped? -- Jambo Kidz -- Bluesy stuff from LA -- Bummkinn Band -- Gentle country for the kids. Not Shania Twain country, much more traditional. -- Jellydots -- If you've been reading this website for any length of time, you're familiar with Doug Snyder and his band, The Jellydots. Awesome stuff. In the second category are bands made up of youngsters or recently-adulted young folks. I really got nothing on these three except that the School of Rock has a Police song up on AKL's Myspace page (a perfectly acceptable version, and timely to boot), and the Steps is an Austin-based band. -- Paul Green School of Rock All-Stars -- The Steps -- We Go To 11 As 2 1/2 afternoons of music go, pretty good. (And the evenings, not for the kiddos, might have a band or two worth catching...) If we can avoid chucking juice boxes onto the stage, then even better. More details to come.

Review: Animal Playground (Putumayo) - Various Artists

AnimalPlayground.jpgI’ve long believed that Putumayo’s strength -- at least in its kids’ music releases -- is compiling good, if not entirely challenging, mix CDs. They’re not trying to compile an anthology -- if they throw in a few good songs you’ve never heard of amidst the familiar ones, then they’ve succeeded in their modest goals. On that count alone, their new Animal Playground disk, released this week, is a typical Putumayo release, mixing some familiar animal-themed songs in with the unfamiliar in a combination that will make it easy for a parent to pop in the CD and for the kids to enjoy. On the familiar side is Asheba’s “No More Monkeys,” which I will admit to loathing. I like some of Asheba’s music, but there’s something about the slightly hyperactive rhythm of this particular track that sets me on edge and my finger for the skip button. I know, the kids love it (so much so, Putumayo’s included a video for the song on the disk), but I don’t. Somewhat less familiar (but more enjoyable to me) is the Wee Hairy Beasties’ “Animal Crackers,” a fun and bouncy leadoff track. I've also thought that Putumayo's popularity (as opposed to their strength) has a lot to do with flattering mostly white middle- to upper-middle class people that they have a funky, global perspective. (Putumayo may just have best CD covers in the record business in that regard.) But just because that might be true doesn't mean that Putumayo's not good at finding fun tracks from around the globe. They are, and this album is no exception. The Be Good Tanyas, a Vancouver band which had never really interested me before, gives the album its best track, a gently bopping song anchored by the chorus’ phrase “The littlest birds / Sing the sweetest songs.” (It’s the “Sheep” of this album, for those of you who recall Putumayo’s last Playground disk, Folk Playground, and its standout Zoe Lewis track.) The foreign-language tracks are fun, though, really, Putumayo could have put these songs on a future collection called, say, Robot Playground or Sports Playground and you or your child would never have known the difference. I doubt many parents will use Putumayo’s liner notes; Ze’ Renato’s swinging “Cantiga do Sapo” is Brazilian tune apparently about a frog, though it could just as well be about a dog, or rapid inflation in South American economies. A couple exceptions -- the 30-year-old track “Nella Vecchia Fattoria” from the Italian group Quartetto Cetra is unmistakably “Old MacDonald Had a Farm.” And Ladysmith Black Mambazo does a peaceful “Mbube,” better known here as “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” They might be in foreign languages, but even your 3-year-old who’s limited to a 100 words of English will recognize and enjoy those tracks. Given the language barriers on many of these tracks, the 36-minute album is pretty much an all-ages affair, though the English-language tracks make it more of a disk for 2- to 7-year-olds. You can hear samples of the tracks here. Animal Playground is a decent collection of music and one that most families will listen to and find some favorites in. You might be able to make a better mix tape, but it’ll probably be in far fewer languages. That’s not a good reason to get this (or any) album, but it’s not a bad thing, either. Recommended.

Interview: Lloyd Miller (Ulysses Dee of the Deedle Deedle Dees)

Lloyd Miller is the chief songwriter and ringleader (Ulysses Dee) of the New York City-based band The Deedle Deedle Dees. On their excellent latest album, Freedom in a Box (review), they mix very punk songs like "Obedience School" with hook-y history songs like "Henry Box Brown." Somehow, it all works. Lloyd recently answered some questions about his musical history and history in general. Read on for his views on saving social studies from sucking, playing the double bass, Satchel Paige, and Kenny Rogers' "The Gambler." (And thanks to Lloyd for the time.) *********** What are your earliest memories of listening to music? Playing music? As a kid, music was usually something I did at church or school and I have mostly negative memories of it. Probably because "music" to me meant sitting in your folding chair and singing the same songs every week in unison. I can remember very vividly sitting on the concrete steps outside this portable where I had music class for many years -- I was sent out there on a regular basis because I misbehaved in some way, I can't remember how. The only school song I remember enjoying went "Old Roger is dead and laid in his grave, laid in his grave, laid in his grave / Old Roger is dead and laid in his grave / Hee Ha! Laid in his grave." There were a few verses, each with a related motion. In my favorite verse, Roger jumps up and gives "a fright" to an old woman who is picking apples from the tree that grows over him. I've tried to do this song at my sing-a-longs in Brooklyn but no one seems to know it. Other music that made an impression was of the mass-produced variety. At some point I got the Disco Duck album and that was very important. That Davy Crockett song was the only song I sang for a period of months in early elementary school. And, oh man, "The Gambler." At about age seven, I asked this guy with a guitar at a restaurant to play it and he did and it was the most amazing thing. I listened to this song recently and was quite bored. As far as playing music goes, most of my early history took place in the back row (I was tall) of some huge group singing some badly-written Bible song. It wasn't until junior high that I discovered -- simultaneously -- the mirror and David Lee Roth and began performing lip-sync concerts that eventually led to me joining a real band with other human beings. Naturally this first band was a heavy metal cover band and I was the lead singer. Sweet Emotion was our name and we played the first of our two gigs at a church dance.