Ever since the New York Times used the phrase “The show is a cross between ‘Yellow Submarine’ and Dr. Seuss" to describe Gustafer Yellowgold, it's been plastered all over their promo materials. Hey, if I were them, I would too. But I always thought it was just barely appropriate -- yes, it's animated and poppy, but those weren't quite the musical and lyrical influences I was hearing on the debut DVD. But they've posted another track off their upcoming Have You Never Been Yellow? CD/DVD set, "Beard For All Seasons," on their Myspace page. And "Beard" definitely sounds like the Beatles (a clean melody, horns, handclaps) aided by a touch of Seussian lyrical whimsy. Guaranteed to put a smile on your face. (Oh, and the DVD, which comes out October 16, has an audio commentary from creator Morgan Taylor. While the idea of an audio commentary on a kids movie isn't weird at all, I'm pretty sure this is a first for the kids' music world. DVD geeks unite!)
35 posts about music is not such a big deal -- I'm pushing 700 here. But 35 posts in a week? Now that's impressive. That's exactly what the enterprising folks over at Z Recommends have done with their Music Week. There's a healthy list of reviews up, but what's interested me the most is the interviews: Veda Hille from Duplex, Tito Uquillas from the Hipwaders, and Stephin Merritt. And there's more to come -- Jason Trachtenburg, Morgan Taylor (Gustafer Yellowgold), and Uncle Rock. Worth your time. Oh, and a guest review from yours truly. File under oldie-but-goodie.
Dan Zanes takes a small step toward creating family-music empire, albeit in a very inclusive way. News from Zanes in his newsletter that the next Father Goose album, It's a Bam Bam Diddly, will be released in October. In addition to help from Dan's band and many others, Sheryl Crow also makes an appearance on the disk. I'm pretty sure Crow never said the phrase "it's a bam bam diddly," which is now my favorite album title of the year. Zanes also mentions that he's recording the next Dan Zanes and Friends CD, which will be called En Espanol, for release in 2008. He says it's "a very different type of project but even at this early stage it has a very high emotional content." No word on whether Sheryl Crow will appear on that disk as well.
Y'know, when you're trying to blog a day sequentially in less time than you really need, you don't really get a chance to add all the random thoughts and memories that you'll end up leaving with. So here are some random memories and thoughts from Austin City Limits Music Festival 2007: -- I am definitely not the first person to say this, but having a music festival in September in Austin is insane, unless it's part of some massive dehydration campaign on the part of a megalomaniacal evil person bent on taking over Texas. The heat and humidity is ridiculous. Or maybe I've just spent too long in Phoenix, where the heat is beyond ridiculous but the humidity is, well, not. -- Having said that, this is a primo-organized festival. Shows started (and ended) when they were supposed to, port-a-potties were numerous, and the sound was functional. If people decide to go to a festival based on who's performing, they decide to go back (the next day or the next year) based on all the little (and big) stuff that doesn't have anything to do with the acts. Austin City Limits Festival is worth going back to.
Though this is the best kids music album title (or at least most amusing to parents) since the Sippy Cups' "Electric Storyland," people who expect Dean Jones' Napper's Delight to be a traditional lullaby album or a goofy riff on a traditional lullaby album will be disappointed. Surprise and, not infrequently, delight are more likely feelings here. Jones is one of the ringleaders of the fabulous New York band Dog on Fleas. While it sells both this album and the band short, to call Napper's Delight a Dog on Fleas lullaby album is a good place to start in describing the CD. One of the chief attributes of a Dog on Fleas CD is its spirit of adventurousness, of lack of calculation in song selection and instrumentation. Such is the case here as well. There probably aren't many CDs that include both drum machines and traditional African instruments such as mbiras or the balafon, but they all appear here and neither of them really sound out of place. I think it takes a few tracks to get into the CD -- the drum machine on the third track "Wheelin' and Dealin'" might not be everyone's cup of tea -- but by the time fellow New York musician Elizabeth Mitchell takes over the vocals on the fifth track, "Grow Little Flower," the CD has really started to establish a relaxed but not sleepy mood. The next track, "Bygones," struck me as a long-lost Vince Guaraldi Trio track, while the reworked 18th century folk song "Turtle Dove" gets a nice assist from fellow Dog on Fleas bandmate Debbie Lan and a couple fiddlers. By the time you get to "Hush Little Baby," which sounds like it's got a tiny calliope helping to provide musical accompaniment, you're sold. (I also adore "Filly and Dilly," a duet with Amy Poux which is a reworking of the traditional "Lavender's Blue.") The overall effect is definitely not one of a lullaby album, if only because many of the songs don't deal with unconditional love as many lullabies do. Rather, the CD creates a mellow mood that will work well as the soundtrack to many a lazy afternoon reading with the kids. The 42-minute CD is fine for all ages, of course, but I think kids ages 2 through 8 will respond to it more. You can hear samples at the album's CDBaby page. Napper's Delight isn't a traditional lullaby album -- it sounds nothing like it. Although it has echoes of Dog on Fleas, Elizabeth Mitchell, and the Innocence Mission, it doesn't really sound much like those, either. It is, as I said above, filled with surprises and delights. I'm not sure kids will necessarily run to pull this off the shelves. But I think a lot of parents (especially those who are regular readers here) will find this a soothing balm for family listening and, given five or six spins, will find this working its way into their brain. It did mine. Definitely recommended.
They Might Be Giants frankly retired the category of "Best Robot Song For Kids (and Adults)" with "Robot Parade," but I'm not going to begrudge attempts by other artists to take a run at TMBG's crown. This week's contestant is The Jellydots, who've just posted another new track from their upcoming album Changing Skies at their Myspace page. "Sad Robot" is, as the title suggests, not the happiest of tales -- a lonely robot dreams of communicating with the stars. It also features a heavy bass line and lots of guitar work. It is a considerably different track than the previously referenced "San Diego." It's more like the "Adult Version" of "Robot Parade," on TMBG's Dial-A-Song collection, perhaps. And it seems like there should be some wistful Japanese animation to go along with it...