Monday, August 30, 2021

You Are Magic


You Are Magic. Performed by Alison Faith Levy. CD. Approx. 26 min. Strange Little Girl Music. 2021. CD: $12; Digital: $10. Ages 3—8 

 San Francisco singer Levy performs nine songs in folk and pop rock musical styles. With foot-tapping beats and sing-along tunes, she presents songs designed to help children define their values, to connect with others, and to use their creativity to connect with the natural world and make the world a better place. The album begins with “Roots & Branches” and rises up to the ending piece, “Leaves & Sky,” both of which are lovely folk instrumentals. “Turn Around” reminds listeners that they are changing and encourages them to be kind to their neighbors. “You Are Magic” because you can greet people with a smile, you can care for the earth, and you can make the world a better place. “Putting It Back Together” is a ballad about the narrator putting together a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle of the Earth on a snowy day. In “Draw,” a pencil and a crayon explain how they can create pictures. Written when she visited Big Sur, “Canopy” tells of a jungle or forest canopy, which protects the creatures underneath it. “The Gift” explains about different types of gifts, whether wrapped in paper or dropped at the gate. “Now Is the Moment” we’ve been waiting for because it’s our time (however, Levy does not explain what “we’ve” been waiting for). This lovely album will help listeners be mindful of other people and their environment.


Sunday, June 13, 2021

All Together Now!


All Together Now! Performed by Jenn Cleary. CD. Approx. 32 min. 2021. CD: $12.99--$15.; Digital: $9.99. Ages 3 – 10

            Jenn Cleary performs ten songs on her upbeat album in rock, rockabilly, blues, zydeco, and pop musical styles. Accompanied by excellent performances on guitar, banjo, mandolin, cello, upright bass, organ, piano, accordion, harmonica, drums, and tambourine, Cleary also includes an enthusiastic children’s chorus on several songs. We need wild places to make us happy and feel free, so we need to take care of “Our Wild Family.” From the viewpoint of a honeybee, “My Sisters and Me” explains how they live in community together to accomplish their tasks. “Scat’s the Word for That” is the scientists’ word for animal poo. “Clean Water” encourages listeners to gather up all sorts of trash off the streets, so it doesn’t flow into storm drains. In order to “Love Right Now,” listeners should care, share, and love one another. It is fun to pop “Bubbles” and watch the wind blow them away. On the “Backyard Farm” ducks, goats, dogs, bees, horses, and birds make all sorts of sounds. One child’s imaginary best friend is her “Dinosaur Friend.” Life would be better with “Less Gravity” because one could move more easily. “Families of All Kinds” might consist of mommy and daddy, auntie, grandparents, siblings, single parents, or foster parents. This thoughtful album will encourage listeners to make their world a better place.


Thursday, June 10, 2021

Slow Clap

Slow Clap. Performed by Koo Koo Kanga Roo. CD. Approx. 33 min. Uniroo Records. 2021. Price: CD: $15; Digital: $10.  K – Grade 5

I will be honest—I am not a fan of the hip hop musical style. Having grown up in the 1960s, I much prefer rock and roll. However, I realize that there are many much younger people who embrace this musical style, so this album is perfect for them. “Slow Clap” is anything but slow—these 11 songs are intended to be a hip hop dance party for kids, with the goal to encourage listeners to get off their backsides and get moving. Guest vocalists Murs, Sims, and Mega Ran join in on three songs. “Sticky Icky” is honey provided by bumblebees. “Ice Cold Lemonade” celebrates that cool, summery beverage. “Putt Putt Butt Butt” encourages listeners to move their “bottoms” when playing mini golf. In “Backyard Swimsuit,” children enjoy playing on the slip and slide plastic strip. A “Forklift” lifts pallets and puts them on trucks. A child goes “Sneakin’ Downstairs” when he needs a midnight drink of milk. Children play “Pranks a Lot” when they ring doorbells and run away. “Ink” tells listeners about ink-squirting squids. “Lazy Life” is when one commits oneself to a lifestyle of chilling. “200 Worms,” each one of which he has named, actually live in band member Bryan’s compost pile. Children must know the “Password” in order to gain access to the secret club. These energetic and bouncy songs will keep listeners hopping and bopping.   



Friday, May 21, 2021

The Strawberry Band


The Strawberry Band. Performed by The Story Pirates. CD. Approx. 43 min. Face Cake Records. 2021. CD: $13.99; Digital: $9.49. Grades K – 5

             On this fourth album, the Story Pirates continue to perform songs inspired by the ideas contributed by various children. The 12 songs are performed in various styles of rock and roll, pop, and jazz. The album features top Broadway talents including Lilli Cooper (“Tootsie”), Eddie Cooper “Little Shop of Horrors”), Alysha Deslorieux (“Hamilton”), and Stephanie Hsu (“Be More Chill”); and excellent backup musicians. A band of humans turn into strawberries whenever they play music. This band sounds suspiciously like the Beatles, including the style of rock and the voices. After the first song, “The Strawberry Band,” the band members discuss creating a concept album. In “The Case of the Musical Cinnamon Buns,” a monster from the sea sneezes magic onto a bunch of bakery buns; they come to life and hypnotize people, so two detectives decide they have to break the trance. If you need a change come on down to the “Fun Crazy Weird Hair Store,” where robots serve as the hairdressers. Two new students, the “Weird Sisters,” named Weird and Weirder put on clothes backwards and speak gibberish. In “Hedgie & the Cloud Kingdom,” a hedgehog floats up to a magical cloud kingdom in a magical balloon. In “Glowy & the Friend Adventure,” the whale Glowy lives in a whale-sized cave and realizes he needs a friend, so he decides to search the sea for one. Next the Strawberry Band members talk about creating a music video. They all speak in Beatles’ accents, with one female speaking in a Cockney accent. When some sinister Jaws-type music begins, their discussion segues into a song about being eaten by a shark. “The Fairy Without Wings” also has no confidence until she meets a water fairy and is invited to play. When Mom turns one daughter’s room into an exercise room, it is “The Night I Started Sharing a Room with My Sister,” who snores. On a “Blue Night”—a night with a blue moon—everyone celebrates with blue fireworks, confetti, balloons, and fondue. After a reprise of the first song, the album ends with “I Have a Cookie,” which is a cookie so huge that it took the narrator years to eat. The crazy creativeness of the songs will appeal to young listeners. 


Thursday, May 20, 2021

1 4 3


1 4 3. Performed by Andy Z. Approx. 3 min. 2021. Label: Andyland Music. Grades K – 6

            Multi-award winning Andreas Zamenes (aka Andy Z) based his song on Mr. Rogers’ symbolizing “I love you” by the numbers 1 4 3. In the song he asks listeners to “show someone you care just because they’re there.” The background instrumentation has a rich and full sound with guitars, brass, drums, percussion, and more in a pop rock style. The music video (on YouTube) features Andy Z, sometimes with his guitar and sometimes using ASL, against an animated background of sun, moon, rainbows, flowers, musical instruments and more. For some reason, when I viewed the video, there were a couple of fuzzy, blurry spots, but most of it was quite clear. The song was released in time to celebrate May 23 (the 143rd day of the year) as a day honoring Mr. Rogers, “1 4 3,” and kindness. A lovely song and a great tribute to Mr. Rogers’ memory. Available on streaming platforms. 


Wednesday, April 21, 2021

We're All Fruit Salad: The Wiggles' Greatest Hits


We’re All Fruit Salad: The Wiggles’ Greatest Hits. Performed by The Wiggles. CD. Approx. 1 hour, 15 min. The Wiggles Pty Ltd. 1991-2021. CD: $12.00; also available for download or streaming. Preschool - Kindergarten

For 30 years, this multi-award winning group from Australia has been entertaining and teaching preschool children with their age-appropriate songs. Although the current group is comprised of Anthony Field, Lachlan (Lachy) Gillespie, Simon Pryce, and Emma Watkins, the “original guys,” Greg, Murray, and Jeff, are included on this retrospective album. The Wiggles perform 30 of their most popular past tunes, and they have also included 10 new recordings exclusive to this album. Most of the songs are in their iconic “cradle rock” musical style. The vocalists harmonize beautifully with each other as the background musicians give excellent performances on guitar, keyboards, drums, percussion, and more. Song titles include “Get Ready to Wiggle,” “Rock-a-Bye Your Bear,” “Hot Potato,” “Fruit Salad,” “Dorothy the Dinosaur,” “The Monkey Dance,” “D.O.R.O.T.H.Y (My Favourite Dinosaur),” Can You (Point Your Fingers and Do the Twist?),” “Romp Bomp a Stomp,” “Go Santa Go,” “Toot, Toot, Chugga Chugga, Big Red Car,” “Captain Feathersword Fell Asleep on His Pirate Ship,” “Food Food Food,” “Here Come the Reindeer,” “Wiggle Bay,” “Anthony’s Workshop,” “Getting Strong,” “Follow the Leader,” “Do the Propeller,” “I’ve Got My Glasses On,” “Ready, Steady, Wiggle,” “Say the Dance, Do the Dance,” “Wake Up Lachy,” “Apples and Bananas,” “Simon Says,” “Who’s in the Wiggles House,” “The Wonder of Wiggle Town,” “Henry’s Christmas Merengue,” “Emma’s Theme,” “Welcome to the Lachy Wiggle Show,” “I Went to the Library,” “Hey, Wags,” “The Toilet Song,” “Shirley Shawn the Unicorn,” “Emma’s Yellow Bow,” “H.O.L.I.D.A.Y,” “Here Come the Wiggles,” “Handwashing Song,” “Everybody Wiggle Along,” and “We’re All Fruit Salad.” Parents who grew up with the Wiggles will want to share these fun and lively songs with their little ones. 


Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Young Maestros Vol. 1


Young Maestros Vol. 1. Performed by Tracy Bonham. CD. Approx. 29 min. Melodeon Music House Records. 2021. CD: $13.99; Digital: $9.49. Preschool—Grade 3

            Classically trained violinist and pianist, rocker Tracy Bonham performs 11 original songs that teach musical concepts, in folk, jazz, rap, bluegrass, country, rock and other musical styles. Known for her chart-topping hit single “Mother, Mother” in the mid-90s, Bonham has most recently been teaching music concepts to preschool children. Her goal is to demonstrate that the process of making music can be more about fun than achievement. Bonham’s vocals adeptly handle the various musical styles, whether belting it out or quietly crooning. Bonham and the backup musicians perform with excellence on guitar, bass, violin, upright bass, piano, organ, clarinet, trombone, harmonica, drums, and percussion. In “Me Symphony,” the narrator has lost an entire orchestra of instruments in a variety of locations (tuba in Aruba, piano in Indiana, bongo in the Congo, etc.), but the show must go on. “Beats to a Measure” introduces children to rhythm in a measure of music. The black keys on the piano are likened to “All the Blackbirds” sitting in a tree. “Let’s Take the Subway” is a rollicking song using the names of the piano keys (C, B, G, etc.). The organization of a musical staff is detailed in “Lines and Spaces” and is compared to dancing and skipping. “I Like the Big Beats,” a parody of  “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix-a-Lot, celebrates various drums. Frightened by a variety of small animals, the reptile’s reaction is to “Shake Like a Rattlesnake.” “I Am a Movable Do” (of Do, re, mi) explains how the tonic note can begin on any pitch. Interesting harmonies and descants characterize the “Background Singers” when the lead singer is locked in a closet. “Feelin’ Pretty Major” musically explains the difference between major and minor keys. “A Song Without an Ending” is exactly that—is just stops in the middle of the song. This excellent album will be a boon to music teachers and parents, and fun for children learning to read music and play an instrument.